>  Trip 2023   >  Bologna

Bologna is often described as an ‘overlooked’ destination for visitors to Italy. Even in our planning, we knew we wanted to come to the broader Emilia-Romagna region, but vacillated quite a lot between Bologna, Modena, and Parma, with the idea that we would visit all three famous foodie places. In the end, we’re ever-so-glad we picked Bologna and ended up spending a full three days in the city.

Bologna has very charming laneways, where red, yellow, and orange buildings cluster together.

Ambling up a back lane in Bologna

The city is famous for its porticos — there are dozens of kilometres of covered archways, winding through most of the city centre.

And if laneways and porticos aren’t your thing, there are even a few hidden bits of the city that are built on a canal.

A “hidden” Bologna canal

The most prominent city landmark are the twin towers of Bologna, built nearly a thousand years ago. The smaller Torre Garisenda leans even more dramatically than the leaning tower at Pisa. The taller tower, the Torre degli Asinelli is also on a slight lean, but is still sound enough for tourists to climb to the top. Undaunted by the 500 steps, we were rewarded with some wonderful views of the city.

At left, the Torre Garisenda, leans 3.9º, while the Torre degli Asinelli (right), leans a somewhat more structurally sound 1.3º
Descending the stairs feels much more perilous than heading up
Admiring the views from the top of the tower.
Looking out over the Piazza Maggiore and environs

Tower aside, Bologna certainly doesn’t lack for landmarks. The main cathedral, Basilica di San Petronio has a half-finished façade…

Lonely Planet claims this is the sixth-largest church in Europe, but Wikipedia fails to substantiate the claim.

The University of Bologna boasts many delightful buildings and quads

Palazza dell’Archignasio at the University of Bologna

And there is the usual Italian quota of outré fountain sculptures

Neptune’s mermaids are leaving little to the imagination.

All this, and I haven’t even mentioned the food. We fell hard for croissants filled with pistachio cream, superb gelato, tortellini in brodo, ragu Bolognese, and one of my children is now the self-declared “king of mortadella.”

All-in-all, Bologna was a delightful place to visit — a sort of best-of-Italy in microcosm. We’re already plotting to come back to the region, rent some bikes so we can explore further afield, and linger for a week or three.

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