San Lazzaro di Savena first developed in the 12th and 13th centuries around a leper hospital founded by the Order of the Knights of San Lazzaro, along the Via Emilia to the east of Bologna. It was actually believed that the wind, blowing in that direction, would also carry diseases away.
In the hills to the south of the county town, it is worth visiting the Abbey of Santa Cecilia della Croara. Of medieval origins, its present structure dates back to the 19th century, while the frescoed cloisters still have the 16th-century structure intact. It also houses some very interesting painting, in particular a beautiful altar piece with the infant Jesus attributed to Annibale Carracci.
It was here, in the summer of 1915, that the 19-year-old Filippo De Pisis stayed, destined to become one of the major 20th-century European painters, as well as being a poet and writer. During his short stay, De Pisis wrote most of the prose-poems later published under the title "Canti della Croara" (Croara's Songs).
The hills between San Lazzaro, Ozzano and Pianoro are of karst formation and of exceptional environmental value, so much so that in the heart of these hills, there is the Regional Park of Bolognese Gypsums and the Abbadessa Gullies. The Park is full of caves, the most famous of which are the Farneto and Spipola. The Grotta della Spipola, discovered by the great Bolognese speleologist Luigi Fantini, is the largest European cave to have been dug in chalk, while the Grotta del Farneto is famous for the discovery of relics from six thousand years ago, today preserved in the Archaeological Museums of San Lazzaro, Bologna and Budrio.
In the territory of San Lazzaro, there are some beautiful Renaissance country villas, in particular, on the Via Emilia, Villa Cicogna. Built to a project by the Vignola in the second half of the 16th century by the Boncompagni family, it today hosts meetings and cultural events.
Villa Bellaria is also 16th-century, situated on the road of the same name, property of the Furla society.
On a chalk outcrop, on the right of the River Idice, there is the ancient village of Castel de' Britti: of the original castle belonging to Matilde of Canossa, there remains only the entrance arch in the square in front of the church, while nearby you cannot fail to notice the neo-medieval form of Villa Malvezzi. In the same area, at No. 30 Via Idice, Villa L'Abbadia, previously the Abbey of San Michele, is a centuries-old construction which belonged to the Camaldolesi monks until 1090 and then to the Gaudenti friars in the period of Dante, 1262-1586. Today it is a private residence.
In San Lazzaro in early August, there is the famous festival, the Fiera di San Lazzaro, mentioned in a traditional Bolognese song, made famous in a version by Francesco Guccini.
From the Bologna Bus Station, ATC Public Transport Company (for information on timetables and fares visit www.atc.bo.it):
From the Bologna Central Station (for information on timetables and fares visit www.trenitalia.com): railway line railway line Ferrara-San Pietro in Casale-San Lazzaro di Savena-Imola, San Lazzaro di Savena stop.