Bologna might be the home of Italy’s most traditional pasta dish – its much-loved 'tagliatelle al ragu Bolognese’ – but it has a distinctly progressive vibe. This north Italian city, which sits in the heart of prolifically foodie region of Emilia-Romagna, teems with students from the Universita di Bologna, Europe’s oldest university. Traversing the city on Bologna city breaks is easy in all weathers, as 40 kilometres of porticos cover pedestrians. Architecture ranges from the medieval, through Gothic and Renaissance.
Churches and basilicas are operatic in their beauty – even the unfinished Basilica of San Petronio. Piazza Maggiore, Bologna’s central square, was the city’s original ‘platea communis’ or gathering spot, and people still flock here to bask in the sunshine. It would be remiss to talk about city breaks to Bologna without mentioning the food. Here you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to dining options, with everything from traditional trattorias to stylish modern restaurants.
The list of foods you must try is a long one. Absolutely unmissable are polpette dumplings, locally-produced Balsamico di Modena vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and Prosciutto di Parma and Mortadella hams – ask for the highly inauthentic spag bol at your peril. The tipple of choice here is sparkling red Lambrusco, and if you reach dessert with any room to spare, ice cream and pastries feature heavily. Whether you want to eat your way around the city or feast on its impressive architecture, Bologna is sure to leave you hungry for more.
Madonna di San Luca
A 3.8-kilometre uphill walk, along a portico of 666 arches, leads to the hilltop Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, an impressive basilica church.
Le Due Torri
Bolognese noble families once had a tradition of competing to build the tallest tower. These days you can climb two of the last ones standing.
Spend a few hours at MAMbo – the Bologna Modern Art Museum. An ever-changing roster of experimental art, including performances, film and multimedia, is on show.