Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio (Teatro Anatomico dell'Archiginnasio)
The University of Bologna was established in 1008, and its headquarters were in the lavish 16th-century Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio for centuries. Today, the palace is home to a library and the historic Anatomical Theater (Teatro Anatomico), an amphitheatre-style room built in 1637 and paneled entirely in spruce, with a coffered ceiling and wall niches holding carved wooden statues of the most influential physicians in Western history. Of particular note are the wooden muscle models on each side of the professor’s throne-like chair known as gli spellati (the skinned ones) and the enormous table in the center of the theater’s floor where dissections took place.
This beautiful if slightly off-beat university hall is one of the most fascinating sights in Bologna, and included in most walking and bike tours of the city. Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio is set directly on Bologna’s main Piazza Maggiore, making it easy to visit along with the nearby Basilica di San Petronio and highlights like the Two Towers and the churches of Santo Stefano and San Domenico. Bologna’s rich cuisine is one of Italy’s most famous, so gourmands should opt for a food tour that combines sightseeing with tastings of local specialties.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Though its history is rather macabre, there is no hint of the Anatomical Theater’s former use in its spectacular interiors. A visit here is appropriate for travelers of all ages.
- Dress for the weather and wear comfortable shoes if you visit Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio as part of a bike or walking tour.
- The Anatomical Theater is located on the upper floor of Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio and is accessible to wheelchair users via an elevator.
How to Get There
The Anatomical Theater in Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio is set on Piazza Maggiore, Bologna’s main central square. You can easily reach it on foot from the Bologna Centrale train station or the major attractions in the city center.
When to Get There
Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio and its Anatomical Theater and ornate Sabat Mater historic lecture hall are open daily all year round, though close on Sunday afternoons.
The Archiginnasio of Bologna
One of the most notable historic palaces in Bologna, Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio was commissioned by Pope Pius IV in the 16th century during a major overhaul of the city’s main Piazza Maggiore. An elegant arched portico lines the facade, and there is a central courtyard encircled by two levels of loggias. The interiors are decorated with six thousand painted coats of arms, honoring outstanding students over the centuries.
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- San Petronio Basilica (Basilica di San Petronio)
- Bologna Piazza Maggiore
- Fountain of Neptune (Fontana del Nettuno)
- Basilica of San Domenico (Basilica di San Domenico)
- Two Towers (Due Torri)
- Basilica of Santo Stefano (Basilica di Santo Stefano)
- Prendiparte Tower (Torre Prendiparte)
- Oratory of Santa Cecilia (Oratorio Di Santa Cecilia)
- Albergati Palace (Palazzo Albergati)
- Bologna University Quarter
- National Gallery of Bologna (Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna)
- Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (Santuario della Madonna di San Luca)
- Ducati Museum (Museo Ducati)
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