The Oldest Alma Mater: University of Bologna Private Tour
- Archiginnasio Palace: The first permanent seat of the university was built in 1563, and perfectly embodies the architectural beauty and colors of the surrounding city.
- Teatro Anatomico: On the marble-topped slab at the center of this marvelously macabre space, medical students dissected the corpses of executed criminals from the nearby "Hospital of Death."
- Poggi Palace: The former home of a 16th-century papal aide now houses several university museums; peruse a uterus preserved in wax at the Obstetrics Museum, giant tortoise shells in the Natural Sciences Museum, historic weapons at the Military Museum, and more.
- La Specola: Explore the astronomy museum inside the tower observatory built three centuries ago to study the movements of celestial bodies. Many important discoveries were made here.
- Bologna city center: This private tour includes a brief orientation to one of the best-preserved historic areas of Europe, offering deeper interaction with your guide and a more flexible itinerary.
About this Bologna Tour
If higher education is the pursuit of knowledge and truth, you'd think some things are known and true by now. Like whether the University of Bologna is the world's oldest university.
Look around online and it's hard to tell, although the Guinness Record Book's site sounds definitive. It says Morocco's University of Karueein, founded in 859, is "the oldest continually operating educational institution in the world." The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization concurs. And it has "educational" in its name.
UB itself says only that it's the oldest university "in the Western world." Your tour guide may scoff at that; for one thing, Bolognese concede top standing in cultural matters to no one. For another, things just aren't that definitive.
Karueein was founded as a religious school. UB was founded specifically as a place where learning of all types was unattached to dogma and undominated by any political power. So it was the first independent university. It was also the first literal "university," assigning itself that term from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium: "community of teachers and scholars." Just as its motto – alma mater studiorum, or "nurturing mother of studies" – makes it the first alma mater.
So when you pass through the Archiginnasio Palace, think about luminaries like Dante, Copernicus, Marconi, Enzo Ferrari, Giorgio Armani, countless Italian politicians, and at least four popes registering for classes. Think about this being a center of enlightenment that, just 68 years after its founding, spurred Bologna to become one of the first cities to outlaw slavery.
But is it really the world's oldest university? Well, at a ceremony in 1988 – dawn of its 10th century – it was formally recognized as the "alma mater of all universities" by rectors from 830 universities. To them, the question was academic.
Celebrity plastic surgeons of Bologna
The Teatro Anatomico is gorgeously theatrical. Its spruce-paneled walls are lined with statues of medical notables; cedar benches surround the slab where would-be surgeons sliced and diced executed prisoners. Two skinless bodies carved in wood tower over the lecturer's chair. And there's a statue of Gaspare Tagliacozzi, a 16th-century pioneer of reconstructive surgery, holding a nose; in his time, they were often hacked off as punishment or revenge.
Please meet in the lobby of your downtown-area hotel or a nearby central location. Let us know the name of your hotel/preferred meeting location when you reserve this tour so we know where to meet you. Your guide will be holding a GoBe sign with your name.
Program includes the service of a private licensed local guide, monument entrances and required reservations.
Travelers must be able to walk approximately 1.5 miles over varying surfaces with steps and inclines. This tour is not suitable for travelers with limited mobility.
Walking Tour, Cultural, Scenic
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Suitable for children ages 6 years or older as they may find 4 hours of walking/standing difficult.
Special Medical Restriction
Participants must be in good health, disclose their physical fitness and advise any conditions that might impact their participation in the tour.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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