Immerse yourself in the colours, aromas and traditions of Emilia-Romagna with a holiday in Bologna, and discover the city's rich artistic heritage. Bologna was the first cosmopolitan university centre in Western history. It has been flooded with students since 1088 A.D. The capital of the region, Bologna is a blend of innovation and tradition. Just take a look at the city's architecture. It had a typical medieval history, but was so advanced that citizens could walk throughout the city sheltered from the rain, thanks to kilometres of porticoes, making it unlike any other city in the world.
Bologna offers a different kind of architectural fabric from Florence or Rome, where masterpieces and buildings seem to stand out from the rest of the city. Hugged by city walls, in Bologna even the most beautiful Baroque or Renaissance buildings blend into the medieval layout of the historical centre, sprinkled along the various roads leading to the very heart of the city: Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, with its two iconic towers. Our holiday offers to Bologna are always plentiful, thanks to the many things to see and do, the numerous festivals and year round events, and in view of the city's large student population.
One self-guided tour we recommend, which lasts about three to four hours, starts from Neptune's Fountain, another symbol of the city. Before beholding the splendid Piazza Maggiore, take a step back in time into ancient Bologna, by entering the Salaborsa. This multimedia library has a section of glass flooring to the centre, which offers a glimpse of the city's origins. Heading onto the Piazza Maggiore, to the Bolognese simply “la piazza”, let yourself be swept away by the broad space and by the charm of the Palazzo D'Accursio, the city's headquarters, (which houses the Municipal Art Collection), the Basilica of San Petronio, which boasts the world's largest sundial, and the Voltone del Podestà. Moving on towards the lovely portico of the Pavaglione, one of the best places for shopping, you'll find the City Archaeological Museum, just a stone's throw from the Archiginnasio Palace, the original site of the oldest university in the Western World, where the Anatomy Theatre is well worth a visit.
Retracing your steps, behind Piazza Maggiore, have fun exploring the alleyways of the ancient city market, the Quadrilatero. Here, during the day you'll come across stalls selling every kind of food, from seasonal fruit to fresh fish, tortellini, mortadella, traditional sweets and much more. Arriving on Piazza Santo Stefano, along the Corte Isolani, in just a few minutes you'll be on the Strada Maggiore, where you can discover why Bologna is the "city of towers". The magnificent Asinelli Tower and Garisenda stand at the centre of a pin-wheel, with all the major roads radiating outwards towards the five gateways in the Antica Cerchia city walls. From the two towers, head down Via Zamboni, the university street, until you reach Via Indipendenza, dedicated to shopping. Before returning to Piazza Maggiore, if you have some time to spare, visit the City Medieval Museum just behind the square, one of the city's most beautiful museums.
Bologna is also famous for its vitality. Every year there's a plethora of cultural events focused on music, cinema and theatre, and countless exhibitions to spread and promote the arts. There are many traditional festivals and celebrations, such as the Sagra della Cuccagna, the International Soup Festival, the Domenica di Primavera (Spring Sunday), the Carnival in mid-April, and the renowned Mercato della Versilia in Forte dei Marmi.
Bolognese cuisine is considered some of the best in Italy. Tortellini, mortadella and tagliatelle alla bolognese made with succulent ragu sauce are just some of the treats that await you in any typical restaurant in this capital of flavour. Antica Trattoria Spiga, though a bit difficult to find, offers a great example of excellent local cuisine, as does the Osteria dell’Orsa. We also recommend Da Gianni, the Ristorante della Grada, Grassilli, Diana (perhaps the city's most famous eatery), and the rustic two-storey Da Cesari, in business for over a century. Thanks to its fame as a university city, Bologna boasts great night-life. Via del Pratello, Via Zamboni and Via delle Belle Arti are its students' top picks. Great places for live music are the Bentivoglio cantina or the Osteria de Poeti, the oldest in the city, which was at one time frequented by Carducci and Pascoli. If you enjoy classical music, an essential visit for you is the Mozart hall in the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna, which offers a rich calendar of events. If all of this still hasn't convinced you to book a last minute holiday in Bologna, the city's endless list of pubs and discotheques might soon make you change your mind.