Cultured, generous and welcoming, Bologna is a city of intense pleasures that will satisfy your senses and your mind. Follow us on this tour through its symbols and its delights.

Young, cultured city

Bologna is probably the only Italian city to have no less than three nicknames. The first is “Dotta” (Erudite). Here, in 1088, the first university in the western world was founded and still today the university attracts students from Italy and all over the world: among its streets, its alleys, its porticos, it is possible to breathe a youthful environment in continuous ferment.

The city was the European capital of culture in 2000, and in 2006 it was listed by UNESCO as a “creative city of music”. Among the many cultural offerings, the MAMbo, the Museum of Modern Art of Bologna, site of many important temporary exhibits and a permanent collection which covers the Italian history of art from WWII to the present day.

Find out more: MAMbo

Capital of great food

The second nickname, “la Grassa” (Fat) comes from its generous cuisine, famous all over the world. You are likely planning to try the Tagliatelle with Bolognese sauce, the tortellini, the lasagna, but perhaps you have never heard of the Fritto Misto alla Bolognese or the Petroniana Cutlet. The best way to learn about the quality and variety of Bolognese cuisine is to take a trip to the Quadrilatero, the ancient market dating back to Medieval times. After dinner, we recommended visiting the historic Via Zamboni, frequented mainly by university students, or the Pratello, underground area of the city.

The city of towers...

Bologna is also known as “la Rossa” (Red) for the characteristic colour of its roofs, which you can admire from the top of its towers, one of the symbols of the city. During medieval times there were over 100, today 22 remain; among the most important, the Garisenda Tower and the Asinelli Tower are found at the city’s entry points of the old Via Emilia.

... and of porticos

Let’s get back to ground level and take a wonderful stroll, a pleasurable activity that can be enjoyed in any season in the city of Bologna: in the hot summer sun and even on rainy days. This is possible thanks to its characteristic porticos, which in the city centre alone reach an overall length of approximately 38 kilometres. The most famous of these porticos is probably the one that unites Porta Saragozza to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, located on the Colle della Guardia: measuring 3.5 kilometres and considered the longest in the world. Built over a long time spanning from the Eleventh to the Twentieth century, Bologna’s porticos are considered an outstanding heritage of universal value and for this reason, they have obtained UNESCO recognition as a World Heritage in 2021 in that they are "an identifying aspect of the city of Bologna and a landmark point for a sustainable urban lifestyle, where religious and civic spaces and the homes of all social classes are perfectly integrated.”

Piazza Maggiore: the heart of Bologna

A majority of Bologna’s monuments can be found in Piazza Maggiore, a symbol of the power of the Church like the Fountain of Neptune and the San Petronio Basilica, and of the “civil” power like the Palazzo del Podestà, built around 1200, it was the first seat of city government.  Fun fact: for a particular acoustic effect, visitors can speak to each other in a low voice from opposite corners of the columns which sustain the towers.

Also in Piazza Maggiore is Palazzo Re Enzo, which housed for approximately twenty-three years Enzo of Sardinia, son of the Frederick II, known as ‘the imprisoned king’. Today,  Palazzo d’Accursio or Palazzo Comunale is Town Hall of Bologna. Inside it is possible to find the Salaborsa, a cultural and multimedia area open to everyone, where it is possible to borrow books, e-books, DVDs and CDs, use the free Wi-Fi and read newspapers and magazines, as well as participating in group reading initiatives, meeting authors and children can enjoy taking part in creative laboratories.

Not to be missed site, near the square, the Pinacoteca Nazionale, which holds masterpieces by great artists like Giotto, Raffaello, Carracci, and the Archiginnasio of Bologna, site of the long-standing University.

The canals

If, once you have returned from your trip, you would like to brag about the discovery of a lesser-known aspect of the city, then you must set out to see its canals. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, many courses of water flowed through Bologna, most of these were discovered in the subsequent centuries. But if you reach Via Piella, a small street in the historic city centre, you will find a little window which looks out over the suggestive Canale delle Moline, one of the few to have remained.

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