Bologna is the underrated, bustling, historic capital of the region of Emilia-Romagna, found in northern Italy. The city has been an urban centre for the ancient Etruscans, Gauls and Romans as well as an important centre of learning since the 11th century. Known as Italy’s food and cultural hub, the city is identifiable by two prominent towers, where the shorter of the pair, Garisenda, leans more dramatically than the famous leaning tower of Pisa. Bologna has really become one of our favourite places in Italy to visit as there is so much to discover. So here are some of our tips for visiting Bologna.
Here’s 5 reasons why you should visit this bustling city and surrounds:
1. Rich in food culture. Bologna and its neighbouring cities are home to many Italian delicacies. Here’s the favourites:
a. You are incorrect to assume Bolognese sauce originated in Bologna. In fact, Bolognese sauce is a western creation, you could say sort of a decedent. The true Bolognese sause is called Ragu. Ragu has more meat and minced elements, such as minced carrot, celery and pancetta. Wine, beef broth, and a dash of cream or milk are added to lighten the colour and enrich the flavours. Ragu in Bologna is traditionally served with home-made tagliatelle pasta or in Lasagna alla Bolognese.
b. Cured meats galore. Bologna and the Emilia Romagna region are the home of Mortadella and Prosciutto, particularly from the nearby city of Parma. There is also the rarer, leaner and more delicate Culatello di Zibello, which is made in the hill-towns north of Parma from the deboned heart of specially bred pig thighs. If your taste buds prefer the fattier meats then there’s Speck, equally as tender and more indulgent. All of these delicacies are perfectly paired with a glass of local sparkling wine varieties such as Lambrusco or Pignoletto. Best place to try tasting boards or tagliere of local cured meats would be in the many sulmerie in the old market Quadrilatero district of Bologna.
c. To compliment your meat palate, what’s an antipasto plate without CHEESE. The Parmigiano Reggiano (and Parmesan) cheeses are famous around the world. Hard and extremely granular in texture due to the long aging process, Parmigiano-Reggiano has been called the “King of Cheeses”. Grated over pasta, used as an ingredient in Italian dishes, or served on an antipasto plate, it’s an all-rounder cheese.
d. Known for stuffed pastas, the Tortellini, which are small dumplings, to this day are still handmade by trattorias and restaurants – and are a favourite in Bologna. Famously served with a rich, meaty broth known as Tortellini in Brodo, this alone is one reason to visit the city.
2. Gelato. Gelato. Gelato. Just outside of Bologna, in Anzola dell’ Emilia, you will find Carpigiani Gelato University, yes you read correctly, there is a school teaching students from around the world how to make gelato. Carpigiani Gelato University, established in 2003, is the 1st university in Italy and the world, concentrating on delivering the art and science of gelato making.
3. Climb a Tower. In the middle ages there were over 200 towers in Bologna for which only 22 survive today. Of these 22 towers the most well known are ‘Le Due Torri’, the two towers of Bologna (pictured below). You are unable to climb the Garisenda, for obvious reasons (it’s leaning), however you can climb the sister tower, the Asinelli, which is the taller of the two, giving you a beautiful view of the city.
4. Basilica of Santo Stefano is located on a sprawling religious site known for seven churches, although only four remain today. Built over a six hundred-year period in different architectural styles, such as Romanesque and Lombard – it’s worth seeing the different architectural designs over the centuries.
5. Take a hike. Walk along the world’s longest stretch of porticoes (3.8kms) which lead you to the beautiful basilica church, Sanctuary of the Madonna San Luca, located 300 metres above the city plain, hence the breathtaking views. These porticoes are numbered so you can track your progress until you reach the final arch, number 666.
If the above reasons have enticed you to visit Bologna and the Emilia Romagna region, Vita Italian Tours can show you the best of this region, from local culinary delights to its beautiful architecture. The boutique small group tour The Culinary Delights of Tuscany & Bologna is a must taking like minded travellers to out of the way places tasting the best Italian food and wine directly from the source. You may wish for a more personalised experience with a private tour or tailor-made itinerary for you to independently explore this wonderful city and its surrounds.