Exploring Pinacoteca di Bologna: The Must-See Picks

Pinacoteca Bologna

Hey art enthusiasts and curious minds: welcome to the artistic treasure trove of Pinacoteca di Bologna.

If you're planning a visit, don't miss this insider's guide on what to see.

Let's curate your perfect artistic itinerary and ensure you catch all the must-see wonders this gallery has to offer.

Ready for the ecstasy of art?

The building and a pinch of history

You find the Pinacoteca Nazionale in the heart of the Bologna University area.

It's housed within the old Jesuit novitiate of Sant'Ignazio, repurposed as the Academy of Fine Arts due to Napoleon's orders to close religious institutions.

Monsignor Zambeccari generously donated many artworks in 1762, giving a spark to the art collection.

The building itself is a piece of art, with its grand architecture and charming vibes so: eyes open.

Pinacoteca Bologna Carracci

A magnificent staircase of the Pinacoteca

What to expect and how to plan your visit

It's always a good idea to arrive at a museum well-prepared for what to look for and what to save for the next time.

Inside the Pinacoteca, you'll mostly find works by Emilian painters from the 1200s to the 1700s, with a few pieces from other parts of Italy, like Giotto and Raphael.

My suggestion?
Take an entire afternoon to visit it or, if you're art-nerds, dilute the visit over several days, to be able to appreciate the eras and schools represented.

Start your itinerary: Giotto and the Dragon

Let's kick off the art journey back in the 1300s.

A few steps in to meet Vitale da Bologna's masterpiece, "Saint George Slaying the Dragon". This piece alone is worth a visit, so don't rush to see everything else and linger for a long time in the first corridor.

Just next to it, you'll be amazed by the gazes of the polyptych by Pseudo Jacopino. I think I fell in love with a few Saints, ops.

Step into another room, and there it is – the one and only piece by Giotto still hanging out in Bologna: the polyptych called "The Madonna Enthroned with Four Saints."

Can't swing a day trip from Bologna to Padua?
Well, this is your chance to proudly declare, "Yep, I've seen Giotto!"

Pinacoteca Bologna Mezzaratta

The frescos of Mezzaratta's church

The spirit of a dead church: Mezzaratta's frescoes

Towards the end of the 14th-century section, you'll find 3 spacious rooms that play home to the rescued frescoes from the San Francesco convent refectory and Sant'Apollonia di Mezzaratta church.

These artworks were in danger due to harsh environmental conditions. But in 1949, they were delicately removed and then reconstructed right here, keeping true to the original structure.

As you step into the large room, you'll catch sight of the church's counter-façade, complete with a charming rose window and a gently sloping roof.
It's almost like wandering through the lingering spirit of a church.

And don't miss the room dedicated to the sinopias: the initial sketches that paved the way for those captivating frescoes.

If you haven't said wow yet, you will.

Pinacoteca Bologna Raffaello

Raphael's "Ecstasy of Santa Cecilia"

The ecstasy of gold: Raphael and the Renaissance

Keep going with the room dedicated to the Renaissance.
It's a circular route that has Raphael's "Ecstasy of Santa Cecilia" as its fulcrum.

That is my personal highlight of the whole gallery.
The piece that I can keep looking for hours and hours.

But other masters are yet to come: Amico Aspertini's "Adoration of the Magi", Parmigianino with the "Pala di Santa Margherita", El Greco with an early work and Titian with the late work "Jesus crucified with the Good Thief".

Pinacoteca Bologna Amico Aspertini

One of the rooms dedicated to the Renaissance

Bologna's revolution: I Carracci

Retrace your steps for a meet-up with 3 Bolognese art legends: the Carraccis. These guys own room 23.

Now, the Carraccis weren't just any artists.

They shook up the old, tired style of Mannerist painting.
Instead, they brought back some classic vibes from the Renaissance era, but innovated with drawing inspiration from life and nature.

They even set up the Accademia degli Incamminati – a place where students could relive the Renaissance studio experience and get a top-notch education.

All their paintings deserve your attention, but don't miss "The Madonna with Child Enthroned." Ludovico Carracci put Bologna and its towers in the background. It's like he plonked the scene right into reality.

The end comes too soon

It could be over.

Or you can keep browsing every corner of the Pinacoteca looking for Guido Reni, Guercino, Domenichino, Donato Creti and a lot more.

Or take a walk in Via Belle Arti, drink a coffee with the art students and buy some colours in one of the shops that supply the future masters of the Academy.

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