A Stopover in Bologna

Eat, sight-see and chill in the Italian city of Bologna for just a few hours.

Ahh, Bologna. It’s charm, history, art and music make it so truly Italian. But, Bologna is one of the few cities in Italy that isn’t teeming with tourists at every corner. Don’t get us wrong, there are tourists and you’ll find them in the main square and at the restaurants, but the amount just isn’t at the same level as you would find in Venice, Florence or Rome. Which, makes a day spent in this historic city feel more like a local visit than you get in other cities. So make sure you have a charged phone for pics, an empty stomach and ready to get your caffeine fix on and you’ll be good to go in Bologna. 

The city centre

Once you land, get yourself to the centre of the city, right in the heart of the historic district. It’s small enough to be easily walkable and you can spend your entire time right here. Tiny cobble-stone streets provide great photo ops, tiny coffee shops and local restaurants. The main streets and square offer up museums, art, churches, towers, shopping and of course, more food options. 

Visit the medical university

Bologna grew and became popular thanks to its focus on schooling. It’s always been known as a hub for education in the country, particularly in the medical field. They even hold the title of having the first university in Europe here. Today it’s still a city built around students. They make up a huge part of the lively and vibrant feel you get in the main squares, and they keep the university going. The university buildings and grounds themselves are stunning with frescoes lining the ceilings, a library that has a secret passage way to an incredible book collection, and a room that was once dedicated to the autopsy learning of the human body (you can also see wax anatomical models in the museum portion of the building). Walls are lined with the coat of arms of every family who have attended the university and there are literally thousands and thousands to see. 

Stroll under the canopy

A lot of the city centre is centered around the university. At one point, the university needed to make more rooms for students, so they extended the buildings over the street, creating a covered walkway that is still there today. The bonus of this for those walking around is you don’t need to worry about rain, because you can get around much of the core under these canopies. And don’t forget to look up, most have incredible artwork painted on the ceilings. 

Tour through the old market 

It’s not very obvious or well known, but Bologna is a city that was built around water (most people associate a water city in Italy with Venice). But thanks to an abundant underground water system below the city, it helped keep this city and the local market flourishing. Today a stroll through the market will take you back in time with fresh fruits, veg and of course an endless supply of parmigiano reggiano and cured Italian meats that this region is known for. Stop by for samples, pick up a picnic lunch and to soak up the atmosphere. 

Tuck into a local lunch

Trying to find bad food in this region of Italy would be quite a task. Most restaurants in the Bologna area have incredible food on offer, but to really get into the Bologna vibe you need to order up the local delicacies. Stuffed pasta (think tortellini and tortelloni), pasta Bolognese, and zuppa iglesias are all things you cannot go wrong with. And do not pass up on the parmigiano reggiano… it flows from graters like coffee from an espresso machine. 

Grab a post-lunch coffee

There is nothing quite like a coffee in Italy. Do as the locals do and join in on the post-lunch coffee rush. Yes, it’s busy and the counter will be packed with people speaking fast and furiously in Italian, but it moves quickly and sipping on an espresso next to locals is probably the best way to perk up after filling up on stuffed pasta. 

Visit the towers

Bologna is a city of towers. Although many of them no longer exist, there are still the main ones that you can take the stairs up to get incredible views of the rooftops of Bologna. The two most prominent ones, known as the Two Towers, are the most popular for visitors. Yes, the steps are steep, and windy, and you might need to fan yourself a few times, but it is worth it, and one of the top things to do in the city. 

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