The Bolognese or Dardi School of swordsmanship comes to us from the early Renaissance. The name is taken from its association with the University of Bologna, and its first recorded master Lippo Bartolomeo Dardi. Dardi, who was Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at the University of Bologna, obtained a licence to open a school of fencing in 1413. His treatise showing the relationship between fencing and geometry is now lost; however the style was recorded by his successors in the early 16th Century. Antonio Manciolino’s Opera Nova (1531) is the first published text, followed by Achille Marozzo’s massive Opera Nova (1536), which remained in publication until the mid 17th Century. There is also an anonymous text The L’Arte della Spada (“Art of the Sword”) from the mid 16th century, as well as one by Giovanno Dall’ Aggochie, who published Dell’arte di Scrimia in 1572. Other authors proposing simplified methods such as Angelo Viggiani (Lo Schermo, 1575) and Giacomo di Grassi (Ragione di adoprar sicuramente l’arme, 1570) show the domination this style had over the Italian states.
These texts provide a comprehensive martial system that covers a wide variety of weapons, single-handed sword with and without off-hand weapons such as the buckler, dagger, rotella and cape, two-handed swords, pole weapons, single dagger, and unarmed combat. However, the foundation teaching combination of the early Bolognese school is actually the sword and buckler.
The Bolognese style is a general one both for civilian and military use. The style has erroneously been identified with early complex hilted swords referred to as spada di lato (“sidesword”), but however can be used with most styles of single-handed sword. The strong narrower tapering Continental style blade predominant in the 15th to 16th Century Italian States work extremely well with the style. A fast, light, well-balanced sword (with or without any of the various complex hilts) and a blade length of about 90 – 100 cm (36″ – 39″) is optimal.