From Togas to Telegraphs: The Fascinating Evolution of Bologna's Salaborsa

Salaborsa Library Bologna

Have you ever heard of a building that’s been a telegraph office, a basketball hall, and even a puppet theatre? If you’re scratching your head, don’t worry.

You’re in the Salaborsa library, right off Piazza del Nettuno. A place that’s transformed countless times over the last 2000 years.

The History of Salaborsa

Back to the Age of Empire: The Birth of Salaborsa

Look through the transparent flooring of the main hall and imagine dressing in togas and sandals. You're ready to start your journey back to 189 BC when the Romans founded Bononia.

Romans built a basilica, a hub for public gatherings and justice.

Over time, this activity dwindled as the Roman Empire fell, leading to centuries of decline. Nothing was built, and existing structures fell into ruin.

Today you can walk through the archaeological excavations under the covered square. Just take the stairs down and follow your Indiana Jones instinct.

Now take the toga off and fast forward to the 12th century.

Salaborsa Bologna

Inside the kids are of Salaborsa. You can still see the sign of when it was a bank

A flower blooms: Salaborsa becomes a Garden

Bologna’s history looks like an episode of Game of Thrones, but let's make it short.

During the Middle Ages Ghibeline families set their buildings in the area, which later became a fortified citadel, a military stronghold.

Then comes the Pope who destroys everything to build his palace and our dear Salaborsa becomes a large garden called viridarium.

Another century later and naturalist Ulisse Aldrovandi transformed it into a Public Garden for
medical plants called Orto dei Semplici.

If you're looking for the best parks and gardens in Bologna you're just 500 years late, I'm sorry.

The Modern Age: From the Telegraph to the New Salaborsa

Can you hear an electric ticking?
No, it's not your iPhone's alarm. It's 1870 and that's a telegraph, a kind of ancestor.

The circular lobby where you entered was the city’s first telegraph office, which later became the Royal Post Office.

But business is calling and the old garden becomes the Commercial and Agricultural Exchange. They built a grand and elegant hall with an iron and crystal ceiling, offices for economic agents, and a restaurant-café-chantant equipped with electric light.

The ancient cistern of the botanical garden becomes the bank’s vault.

However, by 1903, trade declined, and Salaborsa closed.

The new Salaborsa opened in 1926, and post-WWII, it became a sports hall, hosting popular basketball and boxing matches.

In 1976, the building found a new purpose as a permanent puppet theatre.
Fast forward to today, Salaborsa is a vibrant multimedia library and a meeting space for Bologna’s future projects.

Bologna with family Sala Borsa

Students between the liberty-style decorations of Salaborsa

What to Visit at Salaborsa

If you've read so far you already know that Biblioteca Salaborsa is one of the best libraries in Bologna.

With a catalogue of 200,000 books, 55,000 for kids and teens, and thousands of DVDs, and music CDs, Salaborsa has something for everyone.

The first gallery hosts a newspaper library with a wide selection of Italian and foreign newspapers and magazines, along with comfortable 1960s-style chairs.

If you're looking for a place to relax in Bologna city centre, warm during the winter and chilling in summer, this is it.

Are you on a family travel to Bologna?

The children's section offers activities in English, theater performances, and even a chance for young users to be librarians for a day.

On the second gallery you can find Sala della Musica, a free-entry exhibition about Bologna's pop music history.


Biblioteca Salaborsa

Piazza del Nettuno, 3, 40124 Bologna
Tel. + 39 051 2194400

Open Monday to Saturday 9 am to 8 pm

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