Oh my Bologna – what a surprise you turned out to be! Our little Italian summer adventure had the best possible ending with our two-day stay in Bologna, the Emilia-Romagna’s capital. (you can check my Milan Travel Guide here) Most tourists don’t even think about stopping at Bologna en route to Florence or Pisa but I must say that this is a huge mistake. I did not expect much but Bologna turned out to be so much more and I am extremely happy to share with you today my top three things to do in the city.
Bologna is known in Italy as “La Dotta, La Rossa, La Grassa”, which translates as “the educated, the red, the fat”. I could not think of a better description of this beautiful red city. Here is what La Dotta, La Rossa, and La Grassa actually mean to me.
La Dotta – Alma Mater Studiorum University of Bologna
The University of Bologna is the oldest university in Western Europe and, although it is located a little out of the central area, it is so worth visiting! Firstly, the university building is quite remarkable in terms of its architecture – you can see long quotes about famous intellectuals on the walls which are, in most cases, accompanied by a statue of the person. At the university’s main building (or the Rectorate) there is a spectacular museum (Museo di Palazzo Poggi) which turned out to be the highlight of our two-day stay in the city. The museum boasts magnificent scientific collections on various topics – natural history, military history, physics, anatomy (you cannot miss the wax anatomical models), geography, etc. The museum is a fascinating examination of how we have evolved in the ways we see the natural world and the human body. However, as a book lover I admired the university’s library the most. The spacious room is filled with books and books and books from the floor up until the ceiling. Most of these books are extremely old and the rustic pages give the room an Oxford vibe. If you are a bookworm, like me, you must not miss visiting the library – it is at the heart of the museum and probably its most fascinating part.
La Rossa – Bologna’s historic center
Bologna’s historic center is preserved quite well and you can fell the authenticity almost at every corner and at every street. The city has developed a longstanding love affair with the flaming orange and red colors to the extent that the two colors cover not only major tourist attractions and public institutions but also private house walls and roof tops. Since Bologna is quite a compact city, you can take long walks and explore it on foot – believe me, the small off-the-beaten-path streets hide some of the city’s biggest gems. However, if you do not have the time for long walks, you can stop by some of the major tourist attractions – the two towers Gariselda and Asinelli (bear in mind that you have to climb up 498 stairs in order to get to the top of the Asinelli tower which is open for tourists to visit), the San Petronio Basilica (which is dedicated to the patron saint of the city, St Petronius) and the Piazza Maggiore. Everything is pretty easy to reach so just walk – do not use the public transport as you cannot buy tickets on board and the drivers generally do not speak English.
La Grassa – The best lasagna bolognese that I’ve had in my life
Bologna is well-known for it amazing cuisine – at the core of it, undoubtedly, is the fresh pasta. Tortellini, Tagliatelle, Lasagne, you name it! And everything is extremely delicious and generally at a reasonable price. We explored the options through tripadvisor.com in advance in order to get the general picture of what the restaurants are offering. The first evening we had dinner at the Caffe Zamboni in the shadow of the two towers. Dinner and a drink cost only 8€ per person which makes it a ridiculously good value. Dinner is served on the basis of apperitivo – there is a huge buffet with a variety of dishes and you are free to choose whatever you like, with no limits! The second evening we stumbled upon a cosy restaurant at one of the side-streets next to the two towers – Bolpetta Restaurant. There I had the best lasagna in my life, I swear! Prices are reasonable even though the interior might suggest a pricey place – don’t be tricked. After a delicious meal, be sure to check out the numerous gelato places in the central area. Overall, even if you spend a single day at Bologna, don’t miss the chance to taste some of the most delicious meals in Italy.
Have you ever been to Bologna?
See you soon.