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Bologna - historical northern city with the oldest university | Print |  E-mail
Written by Antonio Violante   

Bologna -  in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy

Image of Bologna Italy with its characteristic red roofsBologna is a historical city in Northern Italy, but is less known among foreign tourists.  However, it still makes for a great alternative to other famous northern cities because of its charming medieval feel.  Think of red-brick palaces, Renaissance towers, and arcaded porticoes, and you have a picture of Bologna.

Bologna is best known for housing the oldest university in the world, the University of Bologna, which was founded in 1088.  This explains the city’s large and lively student population.  It is also known as the culinary capital of Italy and Bologna cuisine is known worldwide.

Getting Around Bologna

Bologna is considered a main transportation center for train lines because of its easy access to Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice, and both coasts.  What’s more, the city’s historic center is just a few minutes’ walk or bus ride from the train station.

It is best if you get a map of the city and familiarize yourself with its layout.  Start by locating the Due Torri landmark, which stands at the center of the city.  The center is surrounded by the Viali, which is a circular road.  The map’s northeast quadrant is the university district, while the two southern quadrants are residential sections.

Tobacco sign in Italy where you can buy bus ticketsThere is relatively good public transportation around Bologna.  The ATC Company operates the city’s buses in Bologna.  Commuters can purchase bus tickets from ticket centers and tobacco shops (look for the black T - image on right) before boarding or on the bus where a ticket machine is available.  Tourists can also avail themselves of bus maps to know their way around if they plan to take buses.

And because cars are banned during the day, tourists can also opt to go around the city on bikes, which are quite popular among Bologna residents.  There are bikes that you can easily hire and ride on the numerous bike rails around town.  Another option is to go around in scooters or small motorcycles.

Enjoying the Sites in Bologna
The city’s compact medieval center is home to a few magnificent churches, monuments, and buildings. You must make sure to visit these venues for a complete tourist experience in Bologna:

- Piazza Maggiore, which is one of the city’s central squares and which is lined with arcades.  Around this pedestrian square are the Palazzo dei Notai, the Gothic Basilica of San Petronio, the portico dei Banchi, the Palazzo del Podestà, and the Archeological Museum.
The Via Rizzoli, which is one of the city’s main streets.  It opens up to the Piazza di porta Ravegnana, where the two towers rise.
The Fontana di Nettuno or Fountain of Neptune, which is a fountain built in 1563 by Tommaso Laureti of Palermo and later embellished by Jean de Boulogne.   
- Portico Walk to San Luca Walk via the historic 666 Porticos.

You also must not miss the Corte de' Galluzzi; the University Quarter - Via Zamboni; the University of Bologna; Via Clavatura; Torre degli Asinelli, which one of a few surviving medieval towers; the Piazza Santo Stefano, where you can find an interesting cluster of four interlocking Romanesque churches; the Pinacoteca Nazionale is one of the best galleries in Italy and houses several works of art of important Italian artists; the Palazzo Poggi, which has two museums worth visiting; and the Palazzo Comunale .

There are also a bunch of museums and parks or gardens that you can visit.

Bologna’s Cuisine

The city is considered as Italy’s gastronomic center, mainly because the Bolognese use only the best quality local produce.  As such, you can choose from a long list of great restaurants, which includes the Gamberini, Da Leonida, Enoteca Italiana, Da Gianni, Mariposa, Meloncello, Camminetto D’Oro, Marco Fadiga Bistro, and Casa Monica.

Bolognese food specialties that you truly must try include the handmade egg pasta, the stuffed pasta, tortellini, and the renowned spaghetti alla bolognese (pasta alla bolognese recipe) with meat sauce.  And yes, Bologna is also famous for its selection of ham and salami.

Right in the heart of northern Italy, Bologna is a must-see destination if you are planning on a vacation in Italy.

 

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