Bologna, Italy

Thursday, June 2, 2016

After bopping around Sterzing we drove 3 more hours south to Bologna! We checked into the Holiday Inn and then went in search for some dinner.
Good ol' Google Maps suggested a place just across the street from our hotel called Dispensa Emilia so we walked over to check it out. It looked quick, relaxed, and good, so we ordered up some delicious treats. The region of Italy we were in, Emilia-Romagna, and the city of Bologna in particular, are known for having the best, richest, most lavish food in Italy. Famous specialities are parmesan cheese, Parma ham also known as prosciutto di parma, and this area is the only true home of pasta in Northern Italy. The famous red meat sauce everyone is familiar with (e.g. spaghetti bolognese) was invented here, as was tagliatelle and tortellini pasta. Fun stuff!
So, when in Rome... or Bologna. We ordered a big plate of tagliatelle in the meat sauce which they call ragú and topped with the local parmigiano-reggiano cheese.
This little place also specializes in tigella, which are thin, 4-inch round bread rolls that originated in this region. They serve them with tons of fillings and we got several to try. Here is Chris' tigella with salami and caciotta. The salami was very flavorful and delicious. The best part? They also served these tigella with nutella all warm and gooey.
Thanks for a great start to Bologna!

The next morning... up and at 'em!
It looked like the weather was going to cooperate with us so we were excited to explore the city.
We checked out of the hotel after breakfast and drove to a parking garage just outside the restricted traffic area of the old city and started walking down the main shopping drag in Bologna - the Via dell'Indipendenza.
Aside from its food, Bologna is famous for its porticoes. No other city has anything like the number of these covered walkways. In the city center there are barely any stretches of sidewalk not topped by an ornate, arched covering. The first porticoes were built out of wood and some 13th century examples still survive. They proved to be so popular that by the 14th century construction of stone or brick porticoes, high enough to accommodate people on horseback, had become compulsory on all new streets in the city. Today, some 38km still stand, including the longest portico in the world leading from the city up to the Santuario di San Luca (see lower in the post for that).
We arrived at the heart of the city, the joint squares of Piazza del Nettuno and Piazza Maggiore.
The Palazzo d'Accursio fronts the Piazza Maggiore and sports a huge statue of Pope Gregory XIII (covered in scaffolding so no photo here) as an affirmation of papal authority.
Looking out the east side of the piazza down Via Pescherie Vecchie. 
Also on the square is the huge San Petronio, one of the finest Gothic brick buildings in Italy. The end result looks a little strange at first glance with an unfinished facade. Money to finish the church was diverted by the Pope's man in Bologna towards a new university so plans had to be modified. 
Little Jane being cute inside the cathedral.
Light, airy interior.
Looking north over the square from the steps of San Petronio to the Palazzo Podestà and the tower of Palazzo Re Enzo behind it.
Our family in Bologna on Monday May 23rd 2016.
Quintessentially Italian street. We headed down this charming alley to the famous cheese shop on the right.
While Chris went in to La Baita Formaggi to buy a 1/2kg souvenir of parmigiano-reggiano cheese, I enjoyed the sun and ambience.
Hidden courtyad.
I'll tell ya, we loved these porticoes. It was very sunny most of the day so they kept us cool in the shade and when it rained for a few minutes we were dry. Perfect!!
Awesome door.
Bologna is home to the oldest university in the Western World and its original campus, called the Archiginnasio, is in the heart of the city.
The main courtyard.
Coats of arms of its more famous graduates decorate the area. 
There are several sights open to visitors here so we bought some tickets and started at the Teatro Anatomico. Check out this awesome wood ceiling in the room.
The teatro is the original medical faculty dissection theater. Tiers of seats surround an extraordinary professor's chair, covered with a canopy. Not many dissections went on, owing to prohibitions by the Catholic church, but when they did, students, artists, and the general public used to turn up in droves.
While you couldn't enter the old library, it was visible. Pretty dern cool.
Back out on the street with some rain clouds rolling in.
We wanted to go see some pieces by Michelangelo that were in the city so we walked down to the Piazza San Domenico.
The church was built in 1221 to house the relics of St. Dominic. The famous Arca di San Domenico which holds the relics was created by Nicola Pisano and has a couple sculptures made by Michelangelo. No photos allowed.
By this time we were ready for some more of Bologna's best: its food! We decided to try A.F. Tamburini, a famous traditional delicatessen with a great little cafe that sells plates of pasta and roasted meats. 
We got some gnocchi e brocoli and tortellini in ragú. Legend has it that first tortellini were made by a Bolognese innkeeper trying to re-create the beauty of Venus's navel. I'll never look at them the same again haha! Lunch, like our dinner, was delicious and we bought and cooked our own gnocchi several more nights while staying in our airbnb in Florence.  
The Via Rizzoli drying after the rain.
Another incredibly unique aspect of Bologna is the Due Torri, or two towers, which are two of only a handful of towers that remain out of hundreds that once were scattered across the city in the Middle Ages. Each family had their own mini-castle at the time for defensive purposes. Today, these two still stand, although the tower on the left, the Torre Garisenda, is like Bologna's take on the leaning tower.
Visitors can climb the taller (and thankfully straighter) Torre degli Asinelli so that's exactly what I did. Anything for views!
Worth it.
Selfie atop the 320 foot tower.
Beautiful Emilia-Romagna countryside.
I love the uniformity and consistency of the red rooftops. If you look closely you can see the Santuario di San Luca on top of the hill just right of center. 
"What a bunch of Bologna!" :)
Safely back on the ground.
We then headed out to the current university campus. It was grimy and crowded and not really a family friendly scene. We hurried through as fast as we could.
The Porta San Donato, a gate from the former medieval city walls built in the 13th century.
I think all homeowners and landlords have to buy their paint from the "national paint store" since there are only about 4 or 5 colors anywhere we went. True or false?! :)
More porticoes.
Supremely Italy.
I don't know what this is, but I like it!
Looking down towards the towers.
After seeing the old town, we piled in the car and drove up to the Santuario di San Luca, an 18th century shrine.
Inside the church.
The shrine is connected to the city center by the longest portico in the world. It's about 4km long and is made up of over 660 arches. Wow! We didn't walk all the way down, but we wanted to check it out.
Bologna from afar. It was a great stop.
Does the portico ever end? The world may never know.
We had a WONDERFUL day in Bologna! Next destination: Florence!


  1. we went to Italy last year and stayed close to Padova, and now, looking at your photos, I regret that we did not went to Bologna to see it! We will for sure do it next time. We want to visit Venezia again sometimes ;) love Italian food too! Just the best!

  2. In Bologna there is also a little "window" in a wall, and if you look into it, it seems like Venice: you can see a canal!

  3. How fun! LOVING all the photos!! Your tower selfie is so cute!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. It was a great stop. Very underrated as a tourist destination, I'd say.

  5. this is SO amazing! I'm loving the pictures and descriptions--LOVE that you are having a COOL adventure!

  6. Best photo caption ever! Thanks for sharing so much.


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