In Venice, it’s hard to avoid the famous canals and the glamorous gondola rides, but there’s another Italian city whose historic waterworks are very easy to miss. Bologna’s canals aren’t nearly as famous, possibly because many of them were covered, and later, roads and buildings were built over them, leaving most of these medieval channels hidden from view.
In the 12th century, canals were built on the city’s major rivers, the Savena and Reno, complete with a sophisticated hydraulic system of locks and pipes. The network was extensive, spanning more than 37 miles. The waterways through the city were used for silk manufacturing and trade, and Bologna became a major hub for silk, along with the city’s flourishing tobacco and flour trade.
Many of the canals were used for transporting goods, while others also carried people. But across the centuries, as the economy changed, the major sections of the canal system were covered with roads and parking lots, especially after the end of World War II.
Today, it’s a well-known secret that best spot to see one of the few remaining sections of the historic canals is through the small “Canal Window” on Via Piella. From the unassuming street, you can peek out over a portion of Canale delle Moline, which was an uncovered part of the network, later flanked by houses and buildings obscuring it from view. The water flows between brightly colored houses on one side and the walls of an unpainted brick building on the other. It’s a quaint and picturesque sight, which is why for a “secret” window, Finestrella di Via Piella gets an awful lot of visitors.