Last fall we visited the city of Bologna, in north-central Italy. Bologna is known as the “foodie” capital of Italy. Also in this area are Parma (parmesan cheese) and Modena (balsamic vinegar). One of Bologna’s nicknames is “la grassa” (the fat one).
Although we felt Bologna was a great destination for us, it doesn’t have the “Wow” factor of other Italian cities. It was perfect for us … it gave us a convenient central location to tour other area cities, pedestrian friendly streets, great restaurants and only a few other American tourists!
Our first afternoon we took a walking tour. It helped fight jet lag and we hit some of the high points in town which we later returned to at a slower pace.
The Basilica di San Petronio was hard to photograph as a mortadella (we call it bologna is the US) festival was setting up. Begun in 1390 and intended to be larger then St Peter’s in Rome, it was never finished. From the back side you can see the ragged brick edge where the construction ceased and the university building next door was built instead.
The University of Bologna, founded in 1088, may be the first university in Italy. It began as a center for the study of medieval Roman law. This palace was the seat of the city university from 1563 to 1805. Now the university is spread all across town, adding as many as 500,000 to the city population when classes are in session. We met an American exchange student in a laundromat!
Bologna is known for its porticoes and towers. Wikipedia says there are 24 miles of porticos in the historical center of Bologna. They are a charming feature that distinguishes Bologna from many other Italian cities. We also found them extremely useful one rainy day!
The most famous towers in Bologna are the Due Torri (Two Towers), Asinelli and Garisenda, which have been settling unevenly over the ages and are leaning at very visible angles.
Bologna had a system of canals that allowed the transport of goods through the city. They’re mostly covered by streets now but we found a few places to peek at them.
My favorite site in Bologna was the Abbazia di Santo Stefano. Four churches remain of the original seven. The brickwork, chapels and cloisters are very picturesque.
Could it be that I liked this place because I found my name on the wall?
Here are a few more pictures from our wanderings through Bologna.