The lovely city of Bologna in the north of Italy is where I spent the first half of my year abroad, so you’ll have to forgive me for being a little biased in my utter admiration of the place. Bologna is also known as La Rossa, la grassa e la dotta (the red, the fat and the learned). Red because of its sprawling terracotta and russet buildings, fat because of its rich food tradition (namely bolognese sauce) and learned because it is home to the oldest university in the world. If you ever decide to pay a visit to this little Italian gem then here is everything you need to know…
Where to eat
You can’t go to Bologna without trying the traditional Bolognese dish. Contrary to popular belief, Spaghetti Bolognese is not actually an Italian invention but rather an American variation. The true Bolognese is called Pasta Ragù and is made with tagliatelle and a meaty sauce, with only a little bit of tomato. My favourite restaurant in Bologna is Il Doge, which was introduced to me by a local and is off the beaten track, tucked away on Via Caladrese. I’m actually a vegetarian but luckily there are lots of meat-free food options too including various types of pasta – lemon and mint ravioli anyone? I also love this little vegan/vegetarian street food place called cento3cento veg on Via Centotrecento – the vegan hot dogs are to die for.
What to visit
There are plenty of museums in Bologna, but for me the best things to visit are San Petronio Cathedral and the Due torri. San Petronio is quite an imposing building which stands in the main square and is the 15th largest church in the world. The most interesting thing to see inside is the controversial frescoe by Giovanni da modena which depicts Muhammed in hell being devoured by demons. The Due torri stand nearby in the centre of Bologna and were once two of many similar towers which were constructed by wealthy families to assert their influence. Today it is possible to climb up Torre Asinelli from the top of which the panoramic views are breathtaking.
Where to go out
On Saturday nights the main street Strada maggiore and the central piazza come alive with street performers and entertainers. There are plenty of clubs like Soda Pops which play standard European chart music. My favourite bar has to be Osteria dello Scorpione on Via Santa Caterina, which stays open till 6am and has numerous scorpion references including a poster of sting and some live scorpions in a tank.