If you have decided to take a tour of Bologna, you cannot miss a visit to the ancient Porta Santo Stefano to take a walk among the porticoed corridors and the majestic buildings that will lead you straight to the wonderful Piazza di Santo Stefano, right behind the complex of the Seven Churches.
The Gate in a Nutshell
You will realize that you have arrived near the Gate by the shouting of the students, always numerous, and the tourists sitting between the tables of the cafes in the area.
Your first glance will be captured by the entrance: a simple structure containing millennia of history told through its faded walls and the indelible writing “Sanca Sanctorum”.
It is a little-known but very evocative place in Bologna from both a spiritual and historical point of view.
The story reports a very particular anecdote about the Gate featuring the Bolognese noblewoman Lavinia Colonna, whose father, Lord of Zagarolo, had promised her marriage to the Knight Marsili.
The event happened in 1540 when the woman, accompanied by 39 men of the Bolognese nobility to meet her future husband, made her triumphal entry at Porta Santo Stefano, passing through the drawbridge among the multitude of the crowd who looked at her enchanted, musicians and numerous harquebus shots.
The event was so notable that historians remember it like this: “never has such a nobility of gentlemen been seen going to meet any Grand Master, or I mean, prince, nor a Pope, nor an emperor, nor a king”.
From this and other stories we can understand the importance that this place had both from a social and cultural point of view already in ancient times.
The History of the Porta Santo Stefano A Bologna
From a geographical point of view, Porta Santo Stefano is connected to the famous Via Toscana which leads to Florence.
In 1843 it was demolished and rebuilt according to the project of the architect Filippo Antolini and destined to be the seat of the toll house under the name of Gregorian Barrier, to pay homage to Pope Gregory XVI. The place was well suited to this purpose since there was a large gate and two pillars that closed the door, making it a private but easily accessible environment for such business.
The last solemn event that is remembered is the entry of Vittorio Emanuele II as the new king of Italy who passed through the door amidst the acclamations of the people.
Subsequently, the area underwent various changes, the last of which was the demolition of the walls at the beginning of the 1900s following which the local administrations assigned the buildings of Porta Santo Stefano to various purposes: from the headquarters of the traffic police to public toilets, up to hosting the Euridice choir and the Berneri anarchist club, which have made it a meeting place for young politicians and activists.