Italy: Bologna

Bologna, what a beautiful and calm, yet underrated city in Italy. It’s probably one of those cities when you say I’m going to Italy, the first thing that people will associate Italy with is Rome, Venice, Pisa or even Naples, but never Bologna. Well, I’m fortunate enough to have visited this beautiful city  without the hustle and bustle of the crowds.

This city has three nicknames: La Dotta, La Grassa, La Rossa.

  • La Dotta – “the learned one” for its historic university
  • La Grassa – “the fat one” for its delicious food
  • La Rossa – “ the red one” for its red rooftops within the city

Stayed here for a long weekend and decided that the weekend isn’t long enough for this trip. You need a good few days here to see the outskirts of this wonderful city filled with porticoes and vibrant history. The food alone is incredible and worth coming back to that.

Places To Go:

  • Piazza Maggiore – this is the town square, as with all European cities, there will always be a town square. Surrounding this area are cafes, basilica di San Petronio, and Fontana del Nettuno. The tourist information is just across the church. There are loads to do here, so take your time and walk around.
  • Basilica di San Petronio – this is the church in the Piazza Maggiore, worth going for a quick mass on a Sunday, be sure to check timings. The mass we went to on Sunday was quaint and quick. I didn’t understand anything as it was all in Italian but it was quick and calm.
  • Asinelli’s Tower and Garisenda Tower – the famous two towers, one that’s leaning and one that you can climb up. I need to come back to Bologna just to climb the Asinelli Tower on a great day. It was quite foggy during my visit and I think the fog would have just ruined the views and give it the justice it deserves. But I heard that the top is breathe-taking. Plus the spiral wooden staircase seems to be Instagram-worthy!

  • Basilica di Santo Stefano – now this place is unique, first of all, its free, donation boxes everywhere so be sure to donate something to keep the church going, but this is basically 7 churches in one. They say the church dates back to 430 when the Bishop Petronio – Patron Saint of Bologna decided to build a building which can then be divided into 7 churches.
  • Bologna Canals – want to feel like you’re in Venice? You can! Believe it or not but Bologna actually has canals running through the city. You can get a Venice like view by typing Finestra sul Canale Bologna in your GoogleMaps. Worth seeing this in the daytime obviously.
  • Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vita – Church of Santa Maria della Vita, this church was founded by the Congregation of Battuti or Flagellati, whereby the name refers to them flagellating themselves. Now, seeing this tradition in the Philippines growing up we call it, “penitensya”, also called Penance. Flagellation is a form of penance in the Catholic church, to show remorse for sins committed. This church houses the famous Italian sculpture – Compianto del Cristo Morto (Lamentation over the Dead Christ), depicting 6 figures within Christ’ life and their emotions over his death. The visit to the church and entry to the Italian sculpture is included in the payment you paid for in the working tour.
  • Porticoes of San Luca – now this is is definitely one of the places I want to go back to when I go back to Bologna. As explained before, the weather was pretty foggy during our visit so we never got round to going to San Luca, however, the porticoes, there are so many around the city of Bologna, you won’t have a hard time trying to find one.

Places To Eat In:

  • Trattoria del Rosso
    • Via Augusto Righi, 30, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy
    • Family run business in Bologna and probably my favourite dinner during the nights we were in the city. We had a three-course meal, as a starter we had the Crescentine. I can’t begin to explain what this is but its fried bread, with a mayonnaise like sauce but its not mayonnaise! With amazing pieces of salami, mortadella and prosciutto.
    • I had the tagliatelle fatte a mano al ragu, as my main, I can’t begin to explain how amazing it tastes. The pasta was so good and the meat so so good. I can’t find any words to explain it but GOOD, AMAZING, YUM! Definitely a must try.
    • For my dessert I had the mascarpone cream dessert, out of this world.
    • Don’t forget the red wine with all of this!
    • Don’t expect a big menu for this restaurant, it’s a plain and short, but that’s all you need. No frills just great food!

  • Trattoria Soverini
    • Via Guglielmo Oberdan, 1, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy
    • We had lunch here and to try other Bolognian dishes, I tried the Tortellini en brood (“in broth”), and wow, I was a bit sceptic about this, I thought it was going to taste bland with the look of the soup, but my oh my, this dish is perfect for the weather we were in. I was freezing walking around the city of Bologna that afternoon that this was the great fix. The tortellini was fresh, the meat was great and the broth was just on point.
  • Miyako All You Can Eat Sushi
    • Walking in the cold evening, tired from the day’s escapade, we broke the evening with a non-Bolognian meal. This sushi place was near the Bologna Canals, and was a great find. It’s a conveyer belt, like the concept of Yo Sushi! except you pay one price and you can eat as much as you can. It wasn’t too bad.
  • Aroma
    • Via Porta Nova, 12/b, 40123 Bologna BO, Italy
    • Cute little café and definitely perfect place to spend a good hour or so just relaxing and chilling. If I lived in Bologna, I would have loved to hang out here to just read a book and drink my coffeee. They are famous for the Caffe ‘Allo Zabione. I went for this as I’ve read they used egg to create this coffee mix of espresso. I suddenly thought of the Egg Coffee in Hanoi, Vietnam. Caffe ‘Allo Zabione is more of a sweet wine and egg mix however and unfortunately, I wasn’t a fan. I guess having Giang’s Egg Coffee, what other egg coffee can beat that?

Quick Tips:

  • They do not always use AMEX, unlike Rome where AMEX is widely use.
  • We arrived here during the weird week of weather changes, where the mix of snow and rain has been constant. Porticoes are your go to places to stay sheltered and the whole city is covered in it so you should be fine.
  • Food Walking Tours – they only happen mostly on a Thursday, Saturday or some Mondays and Tuesdays. So bear in mind, if you’re going to wing a trip to Bologna, plan ahead and book the Food tours way in advance because they easily sell out.
  • City Walking Tour – the one we booked from the Tourist Office was a quick 2 hour walking tour, both Italian and English. If there’s an option to do a much longer tour with just one language, go for it, better yet just do a food tour. I feel like I didn’t get much information as I would have liked from the tour guide. Prior to the tour we went to Basilica di Santo Stefano, which is a good 10 minute walk from the Piazza, but the walking tour doesn’t seem to cover the outskirts of the city and just focuses on the nearby areas.
  • Remove your headwear the moment you enter the basilica or you will have an annoyed Italian telling you off and asking you to remove your headwear for respect in the church.
  • During our weekend stay here, we stayed in B&B Carosello (Via S. Felice, 26, 40122 Bologna BO, Italy), just perfect. Breakfast was included in the rate and Roberto who owned the B&B was very helpful and explained to us all the places we should go and visit. Rooms and bathroom are immaculate and couldn’t ask for a better place to stay in. Definitely recommended.
  • We were told that during the middle of the summer, Bologna is unbearable with the beating sun, as such the peak of the tourists seems to go down during July/August. Depending on how you prefer your travel preferences, this might be usually the best or worst time to go. 😊


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