The Italian city of Bologna is known by three names. All three of these names ring true and with good reason.
1. The Educated City – The city is home to the worlds oldest University – educated
2. The Fat City – The city is rich in culinary history and somewhere to eat is never ever far away – fat
3. The Red City – And lastly the city is a very distinctive red colour – red
If you don’t already know, I was recently lucky enough to visit Bologna on a social media based trip. I spent three days exploring Bologna and its surrounding area with my better half and on our last night in the city we discussed how lucky we were to have had 3 full days in the city … but, what if we hadn’t? What if we’d only had two days? Or only a single day? We discussed at length over dinner what we would categorize as the ‘must see’ sights whilst visiting Bologna and based upon that wine induced conversation I have put together a little itinerary for anyone that might only be visiting Bologna fleetingly. It looks a little something like this …
Your starting point is the central railway station, conveniently marked with a little train symbol at the top of the map. From there just follow the blue line and you’ll encounter the following incredible sights …
1. Canale delle Moline (Little Venice)
When I say little Venice, I really do mean little. Tucked away in the red city, just a few streets from the Via Indipendenza lies Bologna’s answer to Venice. Unfortunately you cannot take a gondola ride here, but if nothing else its pretty to look at and not something that you’ll find anywhere else in the city centre.
2. Cattedrale di San Pietro
Located on the Via Indipendenza lies the grand Cattedrale di San Pietro. Rebuilt on three separate occasions due to first a fire, second an earthquake and third a radical restructuring ordered by Cardinal Gabriele Paleotti, the Cathedral is more commonly referred to by locals as the ‘Metropolitana Church’.
Make your way inside and marvel at the architectural and artist genius that forms the interior of the Cathedral. Also, why not also light a candle and say a small prayer.
3. Fontana del Nettuno (Statue of Neptune)
The Roman God of freshwater and the sea stands proud amongst the Piazza del Nettuno. And why wouldn’t he when below him perch four semi-naked nereides straddling fish and lactating (A nereide is a sea nymph). Completed in 1567, the somewhat bold Statue of Neptune and fountains below now attracts interesting looks from locals and tourists alike, and also acts as a great meeting place.
4. Le Due Tori (The Two Towers)
Two of only a handful of medieval towers left in the region, Le Due Tori are a symbol of Bologna. Comprised of the Asinelli Tower (the big one) and the Garisenda Tower (the small one), the towers were once upon a time connected. Today they stand alone, but it is possible to climb one of them and get an amazing view of the city from the top.
To climb the 97+ metre tall Asinelli Tower will set you back a very reasonable 3 euro. Once paid its only 498 steps to the top … but you will be rewarded for your efforts upon reaching the top of the tower.
Read the full article -> http://www.backpacksandbunkbeds.co.uk/italy/the-two-towers-of-bologna/
5. Basilica San Petronio
Towering over the Piazza Maggiore (see below), the Basilica San Pertronio is the 15th largest church in the world and unsurprisingly the central church of Bologna and the Emilia Romagna region. Dedicated to the former bishop of Bologna and patron saint of the city Saint Petronius, the Basilica is a huge 132 metres long and 60 metres wide.
6. Piazza Maggiore
The heart of Bologna? If not the heart then maybe the central hub. A vast piazza of significant history and beauty, the Piazza Maggiore is quite often home to a mix of exhibitions, tour groups, pigeons, buskers and locals all mixing.
Whilst visiting we were invited to a (huge) screening of a classic silent film called Carmen. The previous month the Piazza had housed more than 300 different Lamborghini’s, as it played host to the Lamborghini 50th Anniversary Grand Tour.
Either way, whether there is an exhibition on in the Piazza or not, pull up a chair, order a beer and take in your surroundings and the Italian lifestyle (or go buy a beer from the supermarket and sit on the Basilica San Pertronio steps, its much cheaper).
7. Piazza Malpigbi
Nowhere near as grand as the Piazza Maggoire, but with its own unique charm, the Piazza Malpigbi is a great place to stop for something to eat on your whirlwind tour of Bologna, and it is also the gateway to your next sight – you have two to choose from. Choices Choices.
Now, depending upon your own preferences, as mentioned you have two choices as for your next stop. Unless you are super speedy I very much doubt you would be able to visit both of the below sights I am about to describe AND all the sights above in just a day, so you must choose!
The first involves little effort for a lot of reward, but is a longer journey and wont do your waistline any good (but you’re travelling/on holiday so calories don’t count anyway right?).
The other involves a relatively large amount of effort, but in return you get a big old workout (obviously) and incredible views over the Emilia Romagna region.
So here they are …
Hop on bus number 30 back to the central train station and then get buss number 87 to Carpiginai Gelato Lab and Museum.
PURPLE line on the map below.
Hop on bus number 20 to Mellonchello and then start your ascent to the summit of Monte della Guardia via the worlds longest Portico. Six hundred and sixty six arches line your stair case to the summit and arrival at The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca.
GREEN line on the map below.
**If you have more than a single full day in Bologna, you should obviously visit both!**
Carpiginai Gelato Lab and Museum
Do you want to know the difference between Gelato and Ice Cream? Do you want to know how we first became blessed with such wondrous desserts? Do you want to make you own and they devour them with a smug yet satisfied look on your face? If you have answered yes to any or all of the above maybe this should be your choice. I loved the Lab and Museum so much I wrote a whole article on them, so click the link for a bit more detail and a couple more photos of that sweet gelato.
Read the full article ->Gelato heaven at Carpigiani
Basilica di San Luca
Its a bit of a slog to the top but its totally worth it. Depending on whether you ascended the Asinelli tower earlier in your day, you may have already spotted the The Basilica di San Luca off in the distance. Otherwise known as the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, this church also offers amazing views over the region, but you’ll have to work to get them. Unless you cheat and get a tacky looking tourist train thingy, the Basilica is reached via the worlds longest Portico, made up of 666 arches … luckily by travelling to Mellonchello on the bus you have skipped the first 350.
Its still a lot of steps to the top, but the journey is beautiful and the arches exquisite (minus the mindless graffiti which is rife in Bologna). There’s also a legend waiting for you at the top, the The Madonna di San Luca. Give the linked article below a read to find out a bit more.
Read full article -> Madonna di San Luca
So there you have it, Bologna in a day (or two). As mentioned the city centre is small, easily walkable and totally beautiful. By all means make you own walking route or take an organised tour (a food tour is highly recommended), but this post will hopefully give you some idea or inspiration for your trip to the clever, fat, red city.
My visit to Bologna was supplied by Bologna Welcome as a part of their#SocialMediaFreeTrip initiative to promote tourism in Bologna through social media users like myself. I am under no obligation to write this post or any others that may follow, but have done so purely because I believe the towers to be a significant point of interest in Bologna. As such all opinions are my own. I tell you no lies!