Last December I had the great luck of spending a day in Bologna, located in Northern Italy about an hour from Milan and not far from the coast. My partner and I fell in love with this remarkable city almost instantly and even returned a few days later because we just couldn’t seem to get the town out of our system. I’d love to spend some more time exploring what has become a favorite city, but until I do here are a few reasons why you should add it to your travel list.
1. Food – Bologna is known as ‘The Fat, the Red, the Learned.’ The red comes from the brick used in building the city, the smart from the ancient university and the fat, well the fat comes from a long and vaunted tradition of making some of the best food in Italy. It’s no mean feat to be recognized as a gastronomic giant in a country known for amazing food, but Bologna has earned that right through a long tradition of delectable dishes and culinary innovation. Before we go any further I have to set something straight – Spaghetti Bolognese DOES NOT come from Bologna. It’s not even Italian, it’s instead a simple dish concocted in London and attributed to Italy. What Bologna did first develop is a meaty ragu sauce, used most notably in two regional dishes: tagliatelle and lasagna. That’s right, you can order a lasagna in Bologna and not feel bad for copping out. Regionally, Bologna benefits from amazing ingredients including Parma ham, Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar. With this bounty, it’s easy to see why Bologna is indeed a hot spot for any culinary traveler.
2. Walkable City – Not every city is fun or interesting to explore on foot, be it for the size or infrastructure, very few are in fact truly a joy to explore on foot. Of course, Bologna is lucky enough to be one of these walkable cities. Leaving the train station, one is pulled almost magnetically towards the historic center of town. Here a large square opens up to numerous side streets, all hiding restaurants, cafes, shops and more. Bustling about are also thousands of college students, creating a vibrant atmosphere that never seems to dissipate. In fact, when my partner and I returned for a second visit that’s all we wanted to do was walk and explore; find new places and learn about the feel of the city by experiencing it.
3. Day Trips – Very few cities can entertain for more than a few days, at least that’s been my experience. So whenever I travel I love taking day trips, exploring nearby towns and villages and seeing what life is like beyond the city walls. There are many fantastic day trips available from Bologna, which lies in the heart of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. From beaches to mountains, there’s something for everyone no matter what you like to do. If you’re a motorhead, then a visit to the Lamborghini, Ferrari and Ducati factories are a must. Foodies can explore Gelato University, the vinegars of Modena, the hams of Parma and so much more. Active travelers can enjoy the great outdoors from hiking to river rafting. But if all you are looking for is a little rest and relaxation, then the beaches of Rimini are the place for you. No matter what you’re looking for, it’s been my experience this region can usually accommodate.
4. You Don’t Have Much Time – Tourists getting tired of the same circuit from Rome-Florence-Milan and Venice are beginning to discover just how wonderful Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna region are to explore. Of course that’s great, I love when people get out and find the great travel treasures out there. But that also means you don’t have much time before they turn into mega-crowds, arriving by the coachload with cameras in hand. I think we’re still a few years away from that, but given its easy access to Milan and Florence that innocence won’t last forever. So stop equivocating, plan a trip to Italy and make sure that Bologna is at the top of your list.