The Learned, the Fat and the Red
Again the time has arrived for a last trip of the year. Many so far, to incredible places and countless pictures and memories, so let’s add with another one to Bologna, and considering how near is Modena, both would be the plan for this weekend. Making it all possible thanks to the bargain flights, although nowadays nothing to compare to these “almost fore free” flights once Ryanair had some years ago. Still, cheaper than three pints in a normal bar in London that’s what we paid this time.
Days before our arrival it has been snowing quite heavily, therefore we prepared ourselves to cope with the weather and for the freezing temperatures. Thankfully we could land on-time right in the middle of a blizzard which, luckily for us, stopped once we were outside of the airport. We cannot say the same for our returning flight the day after… flights were severely disrupted, delayed and cancelled. I must say I was only lucky by chance at only 2 hours delay, but managed it back home.
The city, 7th largest in Italy has also one of the largest and best preserved historical old town centre in Europe. There is always some great architecture and history everywhere you walk, although this is a fact repeated across the entire Emilia Romagna region, which capital city is, as you could imagine by now, Bologna. And if something makes it very unique is the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed incredibly system of porticoes covering no less than 38 kilometres across the entire city. Once can walk under the arches for several kilometres without even getting wet if raining.
How long time you need to plan for the city is another plus. Since the historical centre and surroundings can be easily done in one day, that means you can plan for the following day or days, going somewhere else. A weekend is the perfect time to visit both Bologna and Modena. A flight landing in the morning on a Saturday and returning Sunday evening was also perfect for us to make the best of both cities. But if you have more than just 2 days, then there are so many more places nearby that you could easily spend weeks travelling around. With just an extra day I would suggest you going to Parma.
Food, like anywhere in Italy is good with great prices. You are never too far from a local pizzeria for example. But something really from this city is Bolognese sauce. Tagliatelle alla Bolognese is the dish found almost everywhere. And if dinner is what you’re up for, then nothing can beat the “happy hour” places where you buy a drink and get a food buffet included! They call it apericena. OK, do not expect having a huge choice of food, but it is great enough. For around 8 Euros for a cocktail as an example, then you can eat until you wish, although the general will be around 10 to 12 Euros. A fantastic alternative to a proper restaurant, and in truth, a much better way to chill out with friends or rest after a long sightseeing day.
For more information about the city check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Italy’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Bologna
- Piazza Maggiore The very heart of the city where the most impressive buildings are located.
-Basilica of San Petronio One of the largest churches in the world, construction started in 1390 and lasted for centuries. Open from 9.30am until 12.30 and then from 14.30 until 17.30. Among the treasures it host is the sundial by Cassini and Guglielmini.
-Portico dei Banchi Likewise most of the streets within the historical centre, the buildings are over porticoes with the pedestrian walk-way underneath. This is one of the most notorious.
-City Hall Building Named Palazzo Comunale is a 14th century palace.
-Palazzo del Podestà With its impressive architecture.
-Fontana di Nettuno Although not straight in Piazza Maggiore, it is on the side of it on a smaller square, Piazza del Nettuno. This fountain is one of the symbols of the city.
- Torre degli Asinelli and Torre dei Garisenda Both located in Piazza di Porta Ravegnana. Part of the original Medieval system of defensive towers, only 20 out of 180 survive. Due Torrie are the main symbols of Bologna. Torre degli Asinelli is an astonishing 91 meters bearing in mind it was built in 1119. It’s current incline is 1.3 meters. You can adventure to the top if you willing to climb its 498 steps. Open from 09.00am until 18.00pm and costs 3 Euros. Torre dei Garisenda is 47 meters tall and leans over 3 meters, for which it is closed to the public.
- Basilica of Stefano In Santo Stefano Square, also named as Sette Chiese (Seven Churches), has a nice cloister which you can visit.
- Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi Founded in 1346 has a beautiful portico and façade.
- Basilica of San Giacomo Maggiore Another of the many basilicas and churches in the historical centre, construction started in 1267. Has a characteristic portico with 36 Corinthian columns.
- Porta Maggiore Located on Strada Maggiore, to the east of Piazza Maggiore, is one of the 12 Medieval gates. Currently lies lonely in the middle of the square.
- Porta Saragozza Is another of the 12 Medieval gates, much larger than Porta Maggiore and located to the south west of Piazza Maggiore.
- The Porticoes In Italian Portici, are another famous landmark in the city in the sense that you can walk an astonishing 38 kilometres under the arches of the buildings. It is for this unique fact the UNESCO has listed Bologna as a World Heritage Site.
- Portico of San Luca Composed of 666 vaults arcade (over 3km long all together), you can walk all the way up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca from Porta Saragozza where you will get great views over the city.
- Teatro Comunale Is the Opera Hose. The current reincarnation dates back to 1935 and still shows its grandeur.
- Teatro Arena del Sole Is another of the grand theatres in the city centre. Bologna was appointed UNESCO World Heritage Site City of Music due to its rich musical tradition.
- National Art Gallery For those into paintings it has a great collection from 13th to 18th centuries.
- University of Bologna The oldest in the world founded in 1088. You can admire the 16th century Archiginnasio which is the historical seat of the University.
- Modena At just 40km away from Bologna is this cute and historical city whose Cathedral and Bell Tower are UNESCO World Heritage listed. Check Modena travel guide for more information.
Guglielmo International Airport is only few kilometres from the city centre and the Aerobus connects it with the Central Station for 6 Euros per way, very frequently until late at night..
Coming overland Italy is very straightforward since Bologna is an important rail-road hub in the north. Whether by train or via bus, the connections towards Venice, Padua, Ferrara, Ravenna, Rimini, San Marino, Florence, Pisa, Modena, Parma, Verona or Milan to just name the nearest cities, is easy, fast and cheap. Yet nowadays distances in Italy are incredibly shortened by the high-speed trains criss-crossing the country.
Within the city there is no need for public transportation within the historical centre where all the sights are, but since the city is long it might be the case your hotel is not right next door to the old town. Is this is the case there is a good network of public buses costing 1.5 Euros and allowing you to interchange to another within one hour after validating the ticket.
Finding a good deal was not complicated at all, but the good hotels around the centre were not coming cheap either. You don’t really need to get a hotel right in the middle of the historic area as you can easily opt for something more modest and still nice just a little bit outside from the main core of the city. You will be still at walking distance from the sights or an easy local bus drive away. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo or Ebookers.
We stayed at the Suite Hotel Elite on Via Aurelio Saffi 40. Some 15 minutes away from the train station and 10 minutes walk to the inner ring road of the historical centre. It won’t take you longer than 25 minutes walking to Piazza Maggiore while enjoying the buildings and porticoes along the way. Simple but comfortable, clean and quiet hotel.