Italy is so full of bucket-list worthy locations that for some, Bologna doesn’t even make the cut. Rome, Florence, Naples, Milan, Verona, Venice, Amalfi Coast, Sicily, Sardinia – the boot-shaped peninsula is packed full of beautiful locations, from man-made cities to natural coastlines. With Florence dominating the centre north of the country among the minds of tourists, its neighbour Bologna often goes unvisited. But, just a half hour journey between the two on a high speed train, Bologna is undoubtedly unmissable.
Bologna is home to a university older than the University of Oxford. Founded in 1088 and having never been out of operation, the institution is the oldest university in the world. Its alumni range from popes to Giorgio Armani, and its university buildings are as beautiful as they are old.
History aside, Bologna is any foodie’s dream. I know what you’re thinking, “everywhere in Italy is great for food”. But, as any Italian local will tell you, this is not the case. The belief that pizza and pasta are the staple of Italy as a whole, is largely a westernised, tourist-fuelled, myth. Every region, every city, every town, has its own typical dishes, and I hate to say it, but if you want real pizza, you should head to Naples. Anywhere out of Naples is simply not real pizza.
Bologna, on the other hand, is best known for a selection of unique pasta dishes and cured meats. Handmade and delicate tortellini pasta served in a broth is possibly the most famous of the city’s typical dishes, as well as Tagliatelle al Ragù. The latter of the two is most commonly misconceived as “Spaghetti Bolognese”, but this does not exist in the city. Spaghetti Bolognese is yet another myth, and is nothing but a misunderstood recipe used to please tourists. Instead, the Tagliatelle recipe is so important to the culture of the Emilia-Romagna region that the recipe is copyrighted and deposited at the Bologna Chamber of Commerce.
Moving away from pasta, a type of salami is particularly characteristic of Bologna is Mortadella. As you roam the narrow side streets of the city, you will most probably find locals sitting outside and enjoying a golden hour aperitivo, sipping on a glowing orange Spritz and enjoying a salumi platter, in which Mortadella will undoubtedly be included.
If the food and its history hasn’t convinced you yet, then maybe its atmosphere will. Bologna is largely untouched by tourism outside of late spring and early summer, receiving a lot of domestic tourism instead. It is also a highly popular destination among Erasmus students, making it an emblem of Europe rather than just Italy. Its picturesque skyline is dominated by two antique towers, “Le Due Torri”, and framed by gentle sloping hills in the background known in Italian as “Colli”, where visitors can enjoy a leisurely hike.