The capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna is completely off the beaten track.
During my first weekend in Italy, I visited Bologna! Often overlooked by tourists, this city is lovingly referred to as La Dotta (The Learned), for its oldest university; La Rossa (The Red), for the warm colors of its roofs and houses, and La Grassa (The Fat), for being a foodie’s paradise!
The medieval identity of Bologna is evident at every step in its brick buildings and its long porticoes, which is the main characteristic of the city that in the center reach a total length of about 23 miles thus rendering Bologna the city with the most arcades in the world.
I explored this arcaded city on foot starting from the Piazza del Nettuno.
Then, I headed towards the beautifully preserved Piazza Maggiore, which is located at the very center of Bologna that was originally a market. The Piazza has always been the heart of the city, as well as the venue for civic and religious events and celebrations. It is flanked with many important buildings: Palazzo dei Notai, Palazzo d’Accursio, Palazzo del Podestà, Palazzo dei Bianchi and the Basilica di San Petronio, housing the largest sundial in the world.
I wandered inside the Basilica di San Petronio which is a perfect example of Gothic Architecture.
Following the road that runs alongside the Basilica San Petronio, I reached Piazza Galvani. Here you can find the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio, which was the seat of Alma Mater Studiorum – the University of Bologna, from 1563 to 1805. The Teatro Anatomico (Anatomical Theatre), where anatomy lessons were once held, is also worth visiting. Nearby is the Basilica di San Domenico, a true treasure chest of Italian art.
After discovering Bologna “La Dotta”, I explored Bologna “La Grassa”, the Bologna of good food and excellent cooking. A region famous for many of the Italian specialities introduced to tables around the world, Bologna is a foodie’s paradise. I really enjoyed wandering through the narrow streets of the old city market, the Quadrilatero. It offers an incredible array of Italian specialties sure to please any palate.
During the day, you will come across many stalls filled with all kinds of food products, from seasonal fruit to fresh fish, from Tagliatelle al Ragù and the speciality of Bologna, Mortadella, to various sweets. In the evening, these streets are transformed and shops give way to bars and drinking places, where people can enjoy an aperitif.
After this refreshing interval, I proceeded for the Bologna’s most conspicuous landmarks, commonly known as Two Towers (Due Torri): Garisenda and Asinelli Towers. I climbed the 498 steps Torre Asinelli for looking out over the city of red roofed-streets.
From the Two Towers, I walked along Via Zamboni, the main university street, with its various departments, the historical Teatro Comunale (City Theatre) and the famous university museums. From Via Zamboni, going towards Via Indipendenza, I discovered another unexpected side of Bologna: the underground waterways that were open canals until two centuries ago. Under the arcade of Via Piella, Reno Canal makes up Bologna’s own “Little Venice”.
I got back to Piazza Maggiore, walking along Via Indipendenza, from where I took a bus to visit the Birthplace of Ferrari, Maranello.
If you do have time, you could visit other cities in the Emilia-Romagna region like Maranello, which is the home of supercars; Ravenna to marvel at the early colorful Christian mosaics that adorn the buildings; Parma to spur your taste buds with Parmeggiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese tasting.
Get thee to Emilia-Romagna!!! Push off that trip to Venice, or Florence, or Rome…and put Bologna on your itinerary instead!