Bologna is the capital of the Italian region Emilia-Romagna located in the north of the country with a history spanning centuries. Bologna is one of Italy’s best-preserved treasures, with an amazing and incredible variety of cultural events and activities, traditional food offerings, and opportunities for good shopping. For all these reasons she is also famous as La Grassa (The fat – for obvious reasons: lasagne, tortellini, tagliatelle, mortadella etc…), La Dotta (The Learned – for the university) and La Rossa (The red – in reference to the color of the roofs but also the close interconnection with the Communist party and its progressive and alternative left-leaning society).
So why not explore more of this city? Here are some reasons to visit Bologna.
Bologna is home to the oldest and most important university in the Western world, which was founded in 1088, as well as the first according to modern academic standards. Its official name is “Alma Mater Studiorum – University of Bologna,” and the Latin locution (English: The Mother who nurtures studies) gives a good idea of what its role is. Be sure to visit Archiginnasio (the first seat of the university), the amazing Teatro Anatomico, where dissections and anatomical studies took place, and the library, which houses the largest collection of texts and manuscripts in the entire country. Popes, Dante and Copernicus are examples of illustrious students who attended the Alma Mater Studiorum. The university still plays a key role in Bologna’s culture, and its students add a lively, bohemian touch to the academic atmosphere.
The elegant and graceful arcades are some of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Bologna boasts 53 kilometers of arcades (many dating back to the 11th century) that snake throughout the city, giving it a unique character, as well as being perfectly useful as shelter during sultry summers and rainy winters. Walk under the world’s longest portico (666 arches!) to the Basilica of San Luca. It is a bit of a strenuous walk, but once at the top it will offer you breathtaking views.
The towers of Bologna are one of the most famous features of the city, known in fact as Bologna Torrita, due to the large number of towers that characterized the skyline. Symbol of the power of wealthy families, in addition to having a defensive and sighting function, Bologna once boasted over 100 towers of which, to date, 21 survive. The two most famous towers of Bologna, the Torre degli Asinelli and the Torre Garisenda they are considered the symbol of the city. Climb the 97m-high 11th-century Torre degli Asinelli for breathtaking views over the town’s terracotta rooftops and surrounding hills. Together with the nearby Garisenda, the medieval tower is one of the city’s most recognizable architectural symbols.
You can enjoy many famous foods in Bologna: tagliatelle al ragù, Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, mortadella, prosciutto… The entire region of Emilia Romagna is the birthplace of some of the best-known gastronomic delicacies both in Italy and abroad. You should also try the very famous piadine, or a nice plate of tortellini with meat sauce, or one of their rice cakes for lunch.
The evening aperitivo is a bit of an institution in Bologna. It’s a serious affair. Bars compete to offer the richest buffets. For a few euros you can relax with a spritz and an almost unlimited amount of appetizers with cold cuts, cheeses, sandwiches, and French fries. The aperitifs are so rich that many students substitute it for dinner.
You cannot leave Bologna without buying some of its typical gastronomic products. You will find numerous specialty food stores in the narrow streets between Piazza Maggiore and the towers.
Bologna is the richest city in Italy, and you only have to take a look at the windows of the exclusive stores that line its marble porticoes to realize that.
If you want to buy clothes from exclusive brands (or just keep window shopping!), head to Via Farini past Piazza Maggiore, then stop at Zanarini’s (one of the city’s trendiest spots) for coffee or ice cream. The high-fashion stores are right on the nearby arteries of Via Indipendenza and Via Francesco Rizzoli.
If you are interested in engines, cars and motorcycles, know that Lamborghini, Maserati, Ducati and Ferrari are important brands whose origin is from this Italian region and the production is based in Bologna and its surroundings.
The Emilia-Romagna region
Emilia Romagna is a vast region with so much to offer. And if you are in Bologna, getting to the other northern regions is a breeze.
Modena, Ferrara, Parma and Rimini are all popular destinations and are perfect day trip destinations. Rent a car and set out to discover the region on the road.
Alternatively, public transportation is excellent, with frequent fast trains from Bologna to all over the country. You can reach Florence in 45 minutes, Milan in an hour or Venice and Rome in about two hours.