Bologna – A city of Wonders
«Fusing haughty elegance with down-to-earth grit and one beautifully colonnaded medieval grid, Bologna is a city of two intriguing halves. One side is a hard-working, high-tech city located in the super-rich Po valley where suave opera-goers waltz out of regal theatres and into some of the nation’s finest restaurants. The other is a bolshie, politically edgy city that hosts the world’s oldest university and is famous for its graffiti-embellished piazzas filled with mildly inebriated students swapping Gothic fashion tips.”
The Lonely Planet
If you’ve ever travelled more than a couple of hundred miles by train in Italy, chances are you’ll have passed through Bologna, the country’s busiest junction. Most travellers however, speeding down to Florence or Rome or up to Milan, wouldn’t even think of stopping in Emilia-Romagna’s capital. Those who do get off the train – or opt to fly to one of Bologna’s two nearby airports – will be rewarded. The city is small enough to get around easily on foot, is full of great shopping and culture, and offers what some claim is the best food in Italy.
Bologna is known in Italy as «La Dotta, La Rossa, La Grassa”, which translates as «the educated, the red, the fat”. «Educated” is for the city’s university, the oldest in Europe and home to such intellectual greats as the novelist Umberto Eco. «Red” refers both to the red bricks that most of Bologna’s historic buildings and porticoes are made from, and to the city’s history of leftist politics. And «fat”, of course, is for Bologna’s culinary history, one based on creamy pasta sauces and rich meat dishes.
Bologna’s historic centre has been beautifully maintained, its original Roman street plan still discernable today. The best way to explore the city is on foot, taking time to admire the architecture and digest the wonderful food that you’re sure to find.