Here I am on my first ever trip to Italy. Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna Region and it’s known as the gastronomic capital of Italy. Besides the amazing Italian cuisine, Bologna impressed me with its rich history, the beautiful architecture and the hidden skinny streets. Here’s a list of what to do, try and see in Bologna.
How to get from Marconi Airport to Bologna city center?
- With a shuttle: There’s a shuttle BLQ Aerobus, which connects Marconi Airport with the city center. The ticket costs €6 and the journey lasts around 25 min. You can purchase tickets online, buy them from the ticket machines or from the bus driver.
- LittleBigTip: Ticket machines accept coins only so be sure you have some.
Bologna is known as la dotta (the learned) because of the oldest existing university in the world, la grassa (the fat) because of the great cuisine and la rossa (the red) because of the reddish color the buildings and the roofs.
Most of the buildings are painted in different variations of red and orange and some of them – in yellow. There are shutters on the windows to protect from the heat during the day. Front doors are quite impressive. They are actually huge gates and I spent quite a long time wondering if a not so strong person, such as me, would be able to open it. Honestly, I really hoped to have a chance to try.
One of the things I was impressed with was the fact that in Bologna the walkways are covered almost everywhere. Some of the passages are so beautiful that you have the feeling you are not on the street but in a museum.
What to see in Bologna?
One of the first sites we visited in Bologna’s historic center was the Fountain of Neptune on Piazza del Nettuno. This is also one of the symbols of the city.
Just next to the fountain is located another square – Piazza Maggiore or the Main Square. There you can find Palazzo d’Accursio. The building served as a town hall but nowadays it houses a museum and gallery. Just next door can be found La Biblioteca Salaborsa – the main library in Bologna. Interesting fact about the library is that part of the ground floor is covered by glass so the visitors can see remains of the Roman Empire.
On the same square is located the main church – the majestic Basilica San Petronio.
Basilica of San Domenico
Close to the main square can be found another important church – Basilica of San Domenico. When you visit the basilica, take a look at the Arca di san Domenico where the remains of St. Domenico rests. It’s a true masterpiece. Some of the best Italian sculptors worked on the beautiful marble sarcophagus including Nicola Pisano and Michelangelo.
Basilica of Santo Stefano
I believe I was most impressed by the Basilica of Santo Stefano. It was actually a complex of seven churches but only four remained. That’s why the local people call it Sette Chiese (Seven Churches).
During the Middle Ages in Bologna were built more than a hundred towers. Almost every wealthy family owned one. It was a way to demonstrate power. Many of them were destroyed and others were not stable enough and collapsed during the ages.
Two of the most famous towers in Bologna are Asinelli (97 meters) and Garisenda (47 meters) and there’s a curious story about them. The Garizenda’s family so desperately wanted to outdo the Asinelli’s family. They underestimated the importance of the pillars so their tower tilted and the construction stopped. So much for the dominance but these two towers became one of the most prominent symbols of Bologna. If you gather the courage to climb 500 narrow steps to the top of Asinelli tower, you will enjoy a great view.
Food… or how to gain some extra kilos while in Bologna
Probably the first dish you imagine when you hear Bologna is Spaghetti alla Bolognese. Well, that’s wrong. I didn’t see it on the menus at all. While it’s true that the Bolognese cuisine is well-known all over Italy however, it’s not because of the famous bolognese sauce. Therefore instead of spaghetti try homemade fresh egg Tagliatelle al ragu. It opens a whole new world.
In the gastronomic capital of Italy, the food it is everywhere. From the large and luxurious restaurants to the small family trattorias where you can feel the comfort of your home.
Wherever you are in Bologna, you can easily find meat and cheese shops. Locals are really proud of the fact that they gave to the world the Mortadella. You can also find all kinds of cured meat. The most famous shops are called Tamburini, but there are so many other family shops in Bologna. You can’t just go window shopping. It’s not possible to resist the temptation to try a piece of that beautifully arranged hams, prosciutto or salami.
One of my favorite things to do in a new city is to visit the local markets. They are places where you can truly absorb the atmosphere of the city. And what I saw in Bologna – friendly informal talks, neighbors greeting each other, fresh fruits and vegetables and fish that smells of a sea.
Dessert? Un Gelato, per favore!
This is something I can not get enough. Surely you can find Gelaterie (gelato shops) in almost every big city in Europe but it’s a real pleasure to enjoy a gelato in a hot summer day chasing the dolce vita.
Taste Bologna: Interesting facts about the Gastronomic Capital of Italy
- Bologna, La Grassa: As an Italian traveler, I’ve always admired Bologna, “La Grassa” (The Fat One), for its rich food culture. In 2022, it was even named the “Food Capital of the World” by Condé Nast Traveller readers.
- Culinary Icons: Bologna, the heart of Emilia-Romagna, gifts the world with culinary treasures like parmesan cheese, mortadella, and the authentic ragù alla bolognese.
- Pasta Paradise: In Bologna, pasta isn’t just food; it’s an art form. From the classic tagliatelle al ragù to the sumptuous tortellini in brodo, pasta here is a true culinary masterpiece.
- Mortadella Mastery: Bologna’s mortadella, with its DOP status, is a marvel of flavor and texture, reflecting the city’s dedication to culinary excellence.
- Market Magic: Bologna’s food scene extends to vibrant markets like Quadrilatero, where the air is rich with the aromas of fresh produce and local specialties.
- Social Dining: In Bologna, meals are a celebration of community. From leisurely lunches to lively aperitivi, food is the heart of social connection.
- Culinary Heritage: Bologna’s history is a feast for the senses. Discover ancient spice towers, dine at the world’s oldest trattoria, and explore the Anatomical Theatre’s impact on gastronomy.
- Innovative Flavors: Bologna’s culinary scene is evolving, with young chefs infusing traditional dishes with contemporary creativity.
- Artisanal and Sustainable: Embracing sustainability, Bologna’s food scene prioritizes local, seasonal ingredients, supporting both the environment and community.
- Gastronomic Journey: Visiting Bologna is an unforgettable culinary adventure, where every bite tells a story of tradition, passion, and innovation.
I really loved Bologna. I loved it because of the history, the food, and because of the wonderful natural Italians I’ve met. I’m so looking forward to going back there.
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Eve, the heart and soul of Littlebigtraveler, has been a dreamer and explorer since age three. Her early fascination with Strasbourg blossomed into a life of adventure. Through her blog, she shares budget-friendly travel tips, captivating stories, and guides to hidden gems, inspiring others to explore the world's vast beauty without breaking the bank.