Bologna definitely left us spellbound and bewitched, I can’t shake it out of my head with a yearning to return like a homesick child. It’s a modern metropolitan city but at the same time you feel like you’ve been dropped into one of Shakespeare’s Italian plays; Romeo and Juliet, Othello or a Midsummers Night Dream. Its architecture is medieval grandeur at its best that will have you spinning trying to see everything around you in 360 degrees. It’s a little rough around the edges, beautiful and boisterous, raw and gritty but elegant and grand. Try as I might to describe it you’ll just have to come see for yourself one day, if you’ve been you’ll know what I mean.
Bologna is an easy city to visit. We first came by train back in January when we were based in Imola as a day trip, I remember because it was the day before Epiphany (Jan.5th with Epiphany on the 6th). This is the day that kicks off the discount season for all the stores that only happens twice a year, its like our Black Friday and it was nuts! So….. busy, the crowds were overwhelming but we still loved the city and decided to return when we finished school for another four nights. We used it as a base to see Ravenna and was about the half way point on our next journey to Venice.
The train system has been fantastic, so easy for us to explore all of northern Italy and Bologna is a larger hub that connects to everywhere making it a great base. From the Bologna station you can easily travel to Ravenna, Ferrara, Imola, Modena, Parma, Florence or even Milan and Venice. After you arrive at the Bologna train station it’s just a short walk and you are in the heart of the historic city center. We found a great Airbnb that had us setup in an apartment right next to the historic center, we just walked out our front door and had everything we needed for daily life, a grocery store, an amazing bakery, a favorite café, a discount dollar store and around the corner sightseeing to our hearts content.
Almost all of the tourist sites are in the city center where you can wonder for days exploring the historic neighborhoods starting in the Piazza Maggiore lined with its arched colonnades and architecture from the medieval and Renaissance periods. You’ll walk past the Fountain of Neptune (that was unfortunately covered under repair), city hall and the Basilica di San Petronio and the Two Towers, leaning Asinelli and Garisenda.
Make a point to visit the atmospheric ‘Osteria del Sole’, it’s the oldest pub in Europe dating back to 1462 AD. You can bring in your own food as they don’t serve any but you have to buy a drink from a large selection of wines by the glass (or bottle) as well as Prosecco, Grappa and Italian liqueur’s. Then continue threw the foody streets where you’ll find a small Eately (the famous chain of Italian food stores), threw a gastronomic heaven of delis, bakeries, restaurants, cafes, food vendors and shops. Bologna is a mecca for food and you can find all the best of Italy here! After drinking and eating yourself into a rapture you can nurture your soul in the fantastic monastery, basilica and sanctuary of Santo Stefano. Its all of those things because its more of a Franciscan complex that connects a number of these historical buildings, its amazing.
I could go on for pages as we could have spent a lot more time in this mesmerizing city. So much to explore on foot and then all the things further out in the city and surrounding it. We did jump onto one of the ‘hop on off’ trams that took us up to the famed Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca but we didn’t have time to visit the inside-next time!
Here is a link to our picture gallery. Any questions send us a note, we’d love to hear from you!