With a history of over six hundred years, the hotel Al Cappello Rosso in Bologna boasts an innate vocation for accommodation.
The first documents trace it back to 1375, while in his 1712 “Giuoco nuovo di tutte le Osterie che sono in Bologna” (new game of all taverns to be found in Bologna), G.M. Mitelli, a famous historiographer from Bologna, mentions the Capel Rosso as the tavern that offered its customers “delicious roast partridges, well larded and served with toasts”.
Located since its origins in the central, secluded Via Fusari, the hotel is one of the most ancient accommodation places in Bologna: it welcomed the first "foreigners" passing through town in the 14th century.
In those days it was a tavern wanted by the Bishop of Bologna, Nicolò Albergati, to ensure his protection to the Jews passing through Bologna, who were allowed to stay in town no longer than three days and only at the Capel Rosso, as this was located outside the city walls (that then were in Piazza Maggiore).
To build it, the small houses existing in Via de’ Fusari were pulled down.
At that time, Bologna was already frequented by lots of "foreigners passing through it", that were registered as guests. Among them were the Jews who, always persecuted, were under the obligation of staying at the Capel Rosso.
Being located outside the town walls, it was an ideal place because Jews were protected and also more easily controlled.
Up to the middle of the 15th century, a few steps away from the hotel was the so-called Ufficio delle Bollette, an office in charge of keeping an eye on foreigners, innkeepers and prostitutes.
This certainly explains why 16th and 17th century proclamations regarding taverns ordered that Jews passing through Bologna should stay only at the Capel Rosso but no longer than three days.
This way it would be easier to watch their movements discreetly, yet efficiently, in case they were malefactors.
Unfortunately, in those days religious intolerance still had hardly eradicable roots.
When, in the 14th century, the construction of S. Petronio started (the famous church that was left uncompleted in the 15th century in order not to exceed the size of Saint Peter in Rome), Cardinal Albornoz assigned the hotel its unusual sign in the form of a cardinal’s hat (cappello means “hat”), as recorded by Mitelli in his “Giuoco delle Osterie”.
The sign was meant to mark the lodging reserved for the architects and artists building the basilica.
In 1464 the hotel building was bought by a celebrated law professor of the University of Bologna, Andrea Barbozza, an aristocrat from Palermo who moved to Bologna where he established a family dynasty that would attain senatorial rank. The sale price was set at 1,706 picchioni or pegioni, large silver coins minted by the dukes of Milan.
In the deed by notary Giacomo Mangini, the building is described as a house occupied by the tavern “of the hat” and three shops. In 1497, two of these stores were hit by a fire that also damaged the adjoining apothecary’s shop or “spezieria del Dottore”.
Better known as "spezieria del Mondino", it was one of the first opened in Bologna and belonged to the family of renowned doctor Mondino de’ Liuzzi, one of the fathers of anatomy.
In 1467, Andrea Barbazza let out the hotel to innkeeper Bertuccini at an annual rent of 110 Bolognese lire.
Chronicles from the 17th century record the Capel Rosso as the inn where one could get the best sleep in Bologna, and in spite of several vicissitudes (today only two of the taverns and inns cited by Mitelli in 1752 still exist) the hotel in Via dei Fusari undoubtedly stays one of Bologna’s most ancient and known lodges.
The hotel underwent a major extension in 1770 when its manager Zecchi joined it to a house at the back.
The place was also renowned for its game cooking, especially the partridges that feature as the main course in plate 41 of Mitelli’s game.
Next to the inn’s entrance, a reconstruction based on an 1850 street guide shows the tavern, that is to say the eatery where one could enjoy the excellent partridges recommended by Mitelli.
In the second half of the 19th century, the hotel was run by Alfonso Cappelli together with his son who had completely renovated it.
An advertisement appeared between the 19th and 20th centuries, which also shows the moustached, rubicund face of the owner, read that "ancient and renowned hotel-restaurant Cappello" offered guests “elegant rooms from 1.50 lire, with electric light, telephone, radiators, toilets and showers” – all most modern comforts.
And also a banqueting hall, excellent home cooking, selected wines from Romagna, Tuscany and Piedmont, and the real lambrusco from Sorbara”. All at "moderate prices".
In 2001, thanks to thorough renovation, it became one of the city’s most prestigious (in demand and comfortable) hotels – for lovers of beauty, art, history, and pleasure. For lovers of privileges.