During the Roman times Bologna food market was called "macellum" and it was located in a complete different area which today is occupied by the Grand Hotel Majestic just accross St. Peters' Cathedral. This is the reason why in Bologna the market day was Sunday, when the farmers reached the city both for the mess and with the purpose of selling their products.
In the XI century there was probably another market called San Giovanni which was located in the area of Santo Stefano complex, but the most important was the Mercato di Porta Ravegnana, a crossroads of the main streets of the medieval city. Due to the costruction of the towers and in particular the Two Towers Asinelli and Garisenda, the market progressively moved along the current Via Rizzoli. In the XII century, when Piazza Maggiore became the center of the political and religious life, a new market established here. The other markets continued to be active and the one of Via Rizzoli was named Mercato di Mezzo, because located between the one of Porta Ravegnana and the new one of Piazza Maggiore.
This area, also known as the Quadrilatero, is the most ancient of the city. The name comes from the characteristic square shape which reminds of the Roman city. The old market is bordered by the most ancient and representative monuments of the city such the the Archiginnasio (first permanet seat of Bologna University) Palazzo dei Banchi an elegant frame which hides old medieval housee, the Merchants Palace, today seat of the Chamber od Commerce.
The narrow alleys still keep the names of the old commerces: Via degli Orefici (the goldsmiths), Via Caprarie (the butchers), Via Drapperie (the fabrics), Via Clavature (the locks), etc... Some of the stores keep even the original signs, so that one can find denim trousers where crystals were sold or pizza takeaway at the place of gold store!
In the Quadrilatero is the smallest street of Bologna which is around 1,90 mt large and links Via Clavature to Via Castiglione. It shows the orignal medieval paving in cabblestones and it is accessible only by the locals or with Amazing Italy, your local insider...!
Along Via Clavature is the Church of Santa Maria della Vita whose elegant dome protects the famous Compianto sul Cristo Morto by Niccolò dell’Arca, a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance.
No visit to Bologna is complete with an in-dept tour of the Medieval Market. The smells, the colors, the food products diplayed like artworks, the vendors who maybe don't speak Italian but would help you with their gesture in finding from the best Parmesan Cheese, to the freshest fish, to the most delicious Tortellini pasta!
Before to leave the market one can't miss to have a glass of wine or more at the Osteria del Sole, the oldest tavern of Bologna, a gathering place for locals and university students since 1465.