It took me three tries to be allowed into the Basilica di San Petronio, the most important church in Bologna. The first try was in middle of August, the temperature was in the 90’s, and the humidity was almost unbearable. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and when I walked into the basilica I was quickly scolded by two male attendants who gestured at my shorts then pointed to the door. No shorts allowed in the church. I tried again the following week, opting to wear a to-the-floor dress that completely covered my legs. I got the same reaction when I entered the basilica the second time. No exposed shoulders allowed in the church.
On my third try I was determined to see the inside of the basilica and despite the heat, I wore jeans and a t-shirt (and brought a jacket along, just in case) which granted me entry. This didn’t prevent me from keeping an eye on the two attendants during my entire visit, waiting for them to find some other reason to kick me out, but apparently the third time truly is the charm.
The church is somewhat controversial since it houses a 15th-centry fresco that depicts Muhammad in Hell being devoured by demons. Unsurpisngly, it is strictly forbidden to photograph this area of the church, as well as many other parts of it. There is always a heavy police presence (complete with machine guns) outside the basilica since there have been several terrorist threats claiming that the painting is insulting to Islam. Nevertheless, it’s a beautiful, gigantic church and I’m glad that I was finally allowed inside.