How many times have you eaten pasta with Bolognese sauce? Have you ever wondered where does it come from? Bologna is a city in central Italy and the capital of the region Emilia Romagna. If you love history, architecture and food this is a city that should be included in your Italian holidays. Do you need more reasons? Here are 10, but I bet you will find more.
1. The food
Let’s start with Bolognese sauce that we call ragù, a tomato sauce with meat. If it is only tomato sauce, we generally call it sugo.
But here you also come for the incredible varieties of pasta like tortellini, lasagne and tagliatelle. Without forgetting crescentine, fried pasta that you generally eat with cold cuts and cheese.
2. And the street food
Although it is not from Bologna, but from other cities in the same region, you cannot come here without trying piadina. This round flatbread is generally filled with local cold cuts, but in the most creative ones you can also find meat and fish.
Piadina is perfect for a quick lunch, to eat on the go, or anytime you feel hungry.
3. The medieval heart
Many are the palaces and buildings which recall a medieval past. The beautiful Palazzo di re Enzo, dedicated to a king who spent many years here in prison, was built between 1244 and 1246. Located in Piazza del Nettuno, it seems a movie set. You come here and immediately start looking for knights and horses, chatty ladies in their brocade gowns and a boy screaming the last dictate of the local lord.
4. And the green one
The city is dotted with parks and gardens where you can take a stroll, play sports, go running or simply chill with your friends. Here staycation can have the flavour of a beer and a piadina under the trees of Giardini Margherita, or along the lovely lake of Parco Cà della Bura.
4. And its beautiful University
The Alma Mater Studiorum – Università di Bologna was the first university of the western world founded in 1088 by a guild of students. In 1237 Bettisia Gozzadini graduated here and was also the first woman who taught in a university.
In the amazing Archiginnasio palace, which was the seat of the University since 1563, there is a heraldic complex, the largest in the world, with almost six thousand student coats of arms. This witness the university origins as an institution linked to the constitutive role of nationes, ie student organizations that personally chose and financed teachers through a system of donations.
5. The hills
Italian musician and songwriter Francesco Guccini wrote: “Bologna is like an old lady, with flubby hips, the breast on the Po valley and the butt on the hills”. And the hills are those surrounding Bologna. Stretched between Bologna and Modena, these hilly area presents lovely hamlets and villages, castles, vineyards and chestnut groves. Many are the itineraries this area offers. Consider at least a couple of days to discover a land full of tradition and, one more time, good food.
6. The arcades
Waiting to become a Unesco World Heritage, Bologna’s porticoes definitely make the city one of a kind. When you think of a unique city, the mind flies to Venice, but Bologna with its 40 km of porticoed streets has nothing to envy to the so called Serenissima.
The longest and, to me, the most fascinating one is that of Via Saragozza. With its 4 km, it is the longest arcade in the world leading to the Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca. Here there are 664 arches, that I suggest to admire at sunset, when the sun plays with architecture in a spectacular dance of shadows.
7. Oh, I almost forgot the wines
Talking about sunset, I notice that I still havent mentioned the wines. Pignoletto and Trebbiano are the local white wines, but you can also find lovely Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot. Perfect to drink during a pic nic in a park (see point 4), eating a piadina (point 2) or while ordering tagliatelle (point 1).
8. The Maserati dream started here
Remember when I mentioned Piazza del Nettuno? The name comes from the statue in the middle representing Neptune, the God of the seas. Look at his trident. Does it remind you of something? Many people do not know that the Maserati brothers started here their adventure in a little workshop located in Vicolo Pepoli in 1914. And it seems that artist Mario Maserati draw what became the logo of the company taking inspiration from the Neptune at that statue.
9. The churches
You cannot leave the city without a visit to its Cathedral dedicated to San Pietro. But many are the Basilicas such as the one dedicated to San Petronio or to san Francesco.
10. And the museums
MamBo is the place to go if you love Modern Art. But also the Music Museum is worth a visit, as well as the one dedicated to Archeology. Contact Bologna Welcome, the tourist office, as with their museum card you can save money (to reinvest in wine and food).
11. Ops I forgot the Asinelli tower.
Symbol of the city, this tower, together with Torre Garisenda, is located in Piazza di Porta Ravegnana was erected between 1109 and 1119 by the Noble Gherardo Asinelli.
The tower leans towards west, but not as much as that of Pisa. The view on top is breathtaking for two reasons:
- Bologna is beautiful
- the 498 steps will eave you out of breath.
But hey, remember point 1 and 2. What better excuse to stop for a well deserved dinner.