Recently, I ventured back to Italy, which I could not have been happier about. It is quickly becoming one of my favourite countries to visit. This time I went less south than Rome to savour and enjoy a different, well-known area of the country.
Located in the northeast, Bologna rests within the Emilia-Romagna region and is famous for a variety of exports and its natural, pastoral beauty.
Firstly, Bologna may sound familiar as it is known for bologna or more appropriately mortadella as it is called in Italian. Leagues above anything one might buy outside the area, it is served often as tagliere on a ‘cutting board’, the direct translation, with other cured meats and cheeses.
The name also in its adjectival form is the namesake of bolognese sauce, which is more colloquially called al ragù. This famous meat sauce is popular among tourists and locals alike for a quick hot meal and is found on almost all menus.
Outside of its cuisine, Bologna also boasts a vivid theatre culture as well as dance and music scenes. As a non-Italian, another aspect of the arts I noticed heavily while here, especially in this regional capital, is fashion sense and standards. Although it is not Florence (which I will get to later), Bologna is still a stylish centre for Italian design as well.
Therefore, when packing for the winter, if you have them, bring some furs (faux preferably) to dress to impress. Long scarves, leather boots, and designer handbags abound in this city, so to blend in, do as the locals do – dress up rather than down.
While I was in Bologna, it also happened actually to snow (and snow it did). During the winter season, Bologna receives a good few centimetres of the stuff, but it does not stay long. As such, the precipitation did not hinder my movement outright.
Bologna has a decent metro system that one should actually pay for unlike the one in Rome where it is possible to get away with euros to spare …
It is a small city too, which does not make the buses all that necessary to use, but when it is cold and drizzling — it is a good option to have. That being said, to get to and from the airport, I recommend the Aerobus, which takes one into the city centre as well as to the main train station that is bustling at all times by the way. This ticket will also suffice for the normal metro, but only once activated and for only about an hour. Luckily, that timeframe is generally enough to get to any destination within the city proper.
I stayed with another misterb&b host (which was lovely), but also a bit outside the centre. For this reason, I used the buses frequently. The schedules change depending if it is a weekend or weekday, so be sure to check ahead if the line is actually running.
As for activities in the city, as usual, I suggest eating of course, especially during the winter. Finding a café is easy as well as charming bakeries, which will sell wonderful desserts at low prices. A famous Italian winter sweet is of course panettone, which although comes from the more northern Milan, is a common purchase during the holidays.
Wandering through the many porticos of the city (which measure collectively into kilometres), one will encounter market stalls selling fishes, speciality stores for cheeses and meats, and of course, trattorie and osterie out the wazoo. I am pretty frugal, but Bologna beckons for indulged shopping.
Bologna also has a number of bookstores and monuments including the Fontana di Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) in the main plaza to explore. Another site is Due Torri (Two Towers), which is also a main bus stop, so it is quite literally impossible to miss.
Perusing these places will not take that much of the day truthfully, and as a result of its location, Bologna is also the perfect jumping off point for day trips around Italy.
Venice is only about two hours away, Modena is an easy 25 minutes, and Florence, one of Italy’s fashion capitals, is just 45 minutes by train. Just be watchful of pickpockets in the station.
Bologna itself is exactly what I needed after exams and a decently long semester. Definitely a city, but a compact one, it has all the amenities that one might want for a vacation – good, cheap food, beautiful scenery, and of course, a little fun.
The night clubs to visit there are Red and Bar’t in the late evenings for quite literally a gay ol’ time. That being said (refer to the tweet above), not every event will be one’s cup of homosexual tea as a result of local habits and likely repressed homophobia …
Nevertheless, Bologna is an entertaining destination to visit and at least in my case, hopefully to frequent. I would love to see what it is like in the spring and summer! Whether someone is an architecture aficionado, foodie, or low-key fashionista, this city offers an abundance to experience authentically and easily.
As an final suggestion, for anyone who might want to feel a little pampered on a cold day in this city, a great little stop to go to is Pusher Barber Shop for a cut and possible facial.
Attached to a men’s boutique, the barbers there are rugged, yet accommodating in the best of ways. Enjoy a little espresso while you wait and then get a decent haircut for about 30 euro. It is a bit of a splurge, but well worth it. Just look at my hair! Ha!
Unfortunately, my camera is on the fritz, so I was not able to use it for photos while in the city. iPhone had to suffice … regardless, more to come very soon about specifically cuisine of the region, eatery suggestions, and even a bit about Florence! Then, it is off to Morocco … Whew … It is a busy winter. What did I say before? We are going everywhere!