The bird’s eye view of Bologna, which you can get from atop the Torre degli Asinelli, is stunning. Under the blaze of the summer sun, the city is brick red. Though less popular than its neighbors Venice, Milan, and Rome, Bologna is actually known as both the educational and gastronomic center of Italy. Nicknamed “The Learned,” it is home to the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world, where the roster of celebrated students includes Dante, Petrarch, Erasmus, and Copernicus. Also lovingly monickered “The Fat,” Bologna draws foodies from all over the world with its famous ragù alla bolognese and fresh tortellini. A trip to this metropolis would not be disappointing. You can indulge your senses in the sight of soaring porticos, feast at a fancy trattoria, shop at the piazza, or chat with the students at a university cafe.
Location: The capital of culture and music
The largest city and the capital of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna is located at the foot of the Apennine Mountains, between the Reno and Savena river valleys, by the edge of the Po Plain. It is a comfortable drive away from Florence, Venice, Milan, and Rome. A well-preserved historical center and metropolitan hub, it was named the European Capital of Culture in 2000 as well as the UNESCO City of Music in 2006.
Business: A Booming Industrial Center
An important railway and motorway hub, Bologna is also the hub of a booming industrial center. It is home to several fair-trade organizations, automobile manufacturers such as Lamborghini and Ducati, textile and retail companies, and tech industries. Furthermore, one of the country’s largest food processing companies is headquartered in the city.
Culture: A University City with an Old-World Charm
Despite its fancy trattorias, expensive boutiques, and ritzy bars, Bologna still has the feel of a university city with an old-world charm. Must-sees include the Piazza Maggiore, the old square and market place. On one side, it is flanked by the medieval Palazzo d'Accursio, on the other by antique building with sweeping porticos, of which Portico di San Luca is the world’s longest. Another popular site is the basilica Santuario della Madonna di San Luca, a church on a hilltop that houses an image of the Virgin Mary that is said to be painted by St. Luke, and was transported to Italy in the 12th century. It is also noteworthy to see the Due Torri, Bologna’s “leaning towers.”
Activities: Take a Bite Out of the Gastronomic City
You cannot go to Italy’s “gastronomic center” without sampling the food and wine that everyone is raving about. So while you’re there, be sure you take the time to taste the local tortellini. A fresh egg pasta, you can opt for the version stuffed with meat or ricotta cheese and spinach. Also, try the original ragù alla bolognese, Bologna sausage, and some mortadella. And make sure you ask the sommelier for a bottle of the local vino!