Bologna is the lively, historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, in northern Italy. Its Piazza Maggiore is a sprawling plaza lined with arched porticos, cafes and medieval and Renaissance architecture, the Fountain of Neptune and the Basilica di San Petronio. Among the city’s many medieval towers are the Two Towers, leaning Asinelli and Garisenda. Bologna is also very famous for being a foodie paradise and whoever gave it this title wasn’t wrong. So lets see what’s so special about Bologna.
The Two Towers
Located at Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, the Asinelli Tower is just short of 100m high, the city’s tallest. To reach the top, you need to take about 500 steps up a steep wooden staircase that winds its way round the tower.
You have to have a reasonable level of fitness but there are plenty of stopping places on the way up and down where you can take a breather. For approx €5 its well worth it as the views from the top are spectacular. It can get really busy at peak times so book in advance so you don’t miss out.
Food Lovers Paradise
Bologna is truly a foodies heaven. Home of Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Mortadella as well as other delights such as tortellini you are never very far from the sights and smells of some wonderful food.
As well as the many restaurants & Salumeria’s to choose from there are a couple of popular indoor markets with little units selling all sorts of sandwiches and dishes that you can either sit and eat or take away. As with all areas that attract tourists you have to do your research and find out where the locals go. In Bologna that is easy as you’ll find most of the cafes and restaurants filled with locals most nights of the week.
One of the Salumerias we chose was Salumeria Simoni and here you could eat upstairs, shop downstairs or just stand outside and gaze at the array of delights in the window. Just off the Piazza Maggiore are winding little streets that in the daytime are normal shops and market vendors but at nighttime transform into street cafes and restaurants serving the locals and tourists alike.
Prepare to have your senses completely overwhelmed.
The Mercato delle Erbe was one of our favourite places to have a wander, with food stalls, market stalls, little restaurants and anything an Italian Nonna could want for her daily shop.
Just outside was a little shop, that seemed to appear on many of the food tour lists, which was an old establishment which made tortellini. The ladies here had worked here for years and it was featured on on of Rick Steins Long Weekend programmes.
We waited until the coast was clear and the tours had left so, selfishly, we could have the place to ourselves. We bought some freshly made tortellini to have with Brodo and Bread later that day. It was delicious.
As well as having some fantastic architecture, did you know that there are walls that whisper in Bologna?
Go to Piazza Maggiore and enter Palazzo del Podestà, just behind the Bologna Welcome Tourist Office. Stop at the intersection where you will see four corners. Go to one corner and have a friend go to the corner diagonally opposite of yours. Each of you should face the corner (you have to get really close) and then say something.
Can you hear what the walls are whispering?
This is an ancient old tradition that is said to have come from a place where ancient secrets were disclosed without being overheard. It really works, try it.
This has to be on of my favourite places that we visited in Bologna. The oldest bar in town and very little has changed over the centuries. Its been standing in that spot and open since 1465 and its just so quaint.
They don’t serve food only wine really and their speciality is the regions Lambrusco Rosso which is a wine we’d recently found at home and were eager to try again. The lovely thing about this bar is that you can take your own food in and essentially have a picnic whilst drinking the local wine.
When we were there we got a mortadella sandwich from a deli nearby and accompanied that with our favourite wine.
There was a right mix of clientele when we were there from some local men who looked like they’d been there since 1465, a food tours and some other people like us that had just wandered in for lunch.
So there you have it. 5 things you don’t want to miss in Bologna. Let us know what you think. Good luck climbing those stairs at the tower, enjoy the food and drink on offer at the markets, go see the tortellini ladies making their pasta, whisper something secret to a friend at the walls and pop into the oldest bar in Bologna for a slice of history.
Enjoy it all, its a fabulous city.