Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bologna's Pinacoteca Nazionale & Ristorante Ciacca

The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna is located in the university area, in the same historic building that houses the Academy of Fine Arts and the foundation that protects the historical, artistic and ethno-anthropological heritage of Bologna and region. The museum offers a enormous collection of Emilian paintings from the 13th to the 18th-century and other fundamental works by artists who were in some way related to the city. With its thirty exhibition halls, and a space dedicated exclusively to temporary exhibitions and to teaching, the Pinacoteca is considered among the most modern and important National Galleries in the world. It's opening hours are rather restricted, as we found, but is open all day on Thursdays, so that's when we planned our visit.

Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, the city's National Art Gallery

The Pinacoteca's 13th-century and Gothic wing

The Pinacoteca's collection has its core in Bologna's religious artifacts and icons that were salvaged from churches and convents during the Napoleonic era, as well as housing an extraordinary collection from the Bolognese and Emilian school of painting, including works from artists such as Vitale da Bologna, Gandolfi, Ludovico, Agostino and Annibale Carracci and the size recognized in the world of Guido Reni and Guercino, and other artists who had come into direct contact with the city such as Giotto, Perugino and Raphael.

Detail of St. George and the Dragon by Vitale da Bologna,
a 14th-century Bolognese painter

One of the Pinacoteca's collection highlights is this Polyptych by Giotto, circa 1330

One of the Pinacoteca's collection highlights is this Polyptych by Giotto, that dates back to about 1330, and consists of five panels and a predella. In the central panel the Madonna sits on a Gothic throne flanked by St Peter, the Archangel Gabriel, the Archangel Michael and St Paul, and was originally in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Bologna.

Detail of the Madonna and Child from the Polyptych by Giotto

The Carracci wing with art from the 16th-century

The 16th-century wing with art from Raphael, Perugino and Parmigianino

Madonna col Bambino by il Perugino dated around 1500

I was thrilled to find this beautiful painting by Perugino, an artist who we discovered when we were in Umbria last year, while visiting the small town of Panicale. Curiously, in this same room was Raphael's famous Ecstasy of St. Cecilia, a painting he did after being a pupil of Perugino years earlier. Even art is a small world, with connections everywhere.

The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia by Raphael, circa 1516-1517

Madonna col Bambino e i santi Margherita by il Parmigianino, circa 1529

In this painting Madonna col Bambino e i santi Margherita by Bolognese artist Parmigianino, the elongated figures and elegant gestures generate a circular motion to the viewer's eye, a technique already used by Correggio. The scarlet tones used became a benchmark for a generation of later Bolognese painters.

Detail of the Triumph of Samson by Bolognese artist Guido Reni, circa 1611-1612

The Pinacoteca devotes and entire room to the work of Bolognese artist, Guido Reni, who started to paint when he was just nine years of age, but later became a leader in the classical school of Emilian painters. His work is renowned for the clarity of light, the perfection of the body and vibrant colour palette. Toward the end of his life, Reni modified his style so that his paintings became airy and were almost completely monochrome, but nonetheless, absolutely exquisite. Having never heard of Reni before, discovering this Bolognese artist was a wonderful surprise.

Christ with Crown of Thorns by Guido Reni, circa 17th-century

We walked along the wet cobblestone streets from the Pinacoteca to Ristorante Ciacca

Having spent the morning enjoying Bolognese artwork at the Pinacoteca, it was time to explore another facet of Bolognese culture, it's cuisine. Just around the corner from the art gallery was a small local restaurant, Ristorante Ciacca, renowned for serving traditional recipes prepared using typical local products, known as Tipico a Tavola.

Ristorante Ciacca

Ristorante Ciacco takes its name from a character Italian writer Dante Alighieri meets in the gluttons’ circle in Hell in his Divine Comedy. Since 2004, Ciacco has been run by brother Salvatore and Stefano Ciacco, who worked in various legendary restaurants in the Bologna area before launching Ciacca. Located in the heart of the mediaeval centre of Bologna, just a short distance from the Pinocoteca, Due Torre and Piazza Maggiore, the dining room is in the former cellar of a 17th-century building with an ancient well, characteristic of the first houses built in Bologna's Jewish ghetto. Salvatore and Stefano personally welcomed us as we entered their restaurant and showed us to a lovely window table overlooking via San Simone.

A selection of homemade bread and grissini

The menu, which focuses on traditional Bolognese cuisine, also features a selection of other regional dishes such as Tagliatella Nera con Calimari, Risotto, Ravioli and Gnocchi di Ricotta, but it was their Cucina Bolognese that we chose from for our lunch. Starting with some fresh baked bread and a bottle of 2009 Celli Grillaie Sangiovese di Romagna, we then ordered the Tagliatelle al Ragu and the Lasagne Verde alla Bolognese, to fully experience Bologna's 'tipico' cuisine.

Ristorante Ciacca's menu

A 2009 full-bodied Celli Grillaie Sangiovese di Romagna

Piatti della tradizione, Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Lasagna Verde alla Bolognese

A selection of homemade biscotti

A hot and creamy Macchiato

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