Preserved history in a living city
By one of Bologna's two towers (on the left). It leans a little - you'll have to see it in real like to see it's full effect. In a great location for more exploring, you can enjoy more of Italy with a Bologna car hire.
Most people heading to the country shaped like a boot flock to long-held favourites like Florence, Rome and Venice. For good reason too - they're beautiful cities. And if you're doing a bit of a tour of Italy, it's quite likely you'll have crossed Bologna at some point. Located fairly centrally in the boot's north, it's got easy access to motorways heading to other great cities. A visit to Bologna itself, however, will surprise you.
Bologna's city centre is beautifully preserved providing visitors with the chance to explore historic streets and buildings - just like you would do in other well-maintained historic cities in Italy. What is really very charming about the place though is that it's a fully fledged living city. Other historic centres can feel more like big open museums whereas Bologna breathes city life. Small and manageable so it's still laid-back. You'll be wandering its streets alongside locals going about their daily lives - working, playing and just enjoying the city they live in.
Parco della Montagnola
And the people who live there do enjoy their city. One I spoke to said that he gets why people go to Florence but he much prefers the atmosphere in Bologna. You don't find too many Florence locals in the city centre (unless they're working in the tourism or service industry), but you will do in Bologna. With a rich history of culture and music - as well as a reputation for being the culinary capital of Italy, there is plenty on offer to keep you entertained and your stomachs happily full.
It's not as polished as the historic parts of Pisa or Florence - I reckon you're more likely to find graffiti'd walls in Bologna. For me though, that just makes it all the more real to me (plus I'm a big fan of street art). With a relatively young population due to it being a university town (Bologna holds the crown for having the oldest university in the Western hemisphere!), it might be full of age-old architecture but it has a very hip vibe.
I loved walking Bologna - especially under its many porticoes. It's a city where you'll want to look more closely to appreciate the detail.
The porticoes within the courtyard of the Archeological Museum on via dell'Archiginnasio (a beautiful street to walk down!)
Perhaps the most surprising thing to me is that the Bologna you see now is built over a network of canals. Walk along via Piella - it's a pretty short street - heading north and you'll find a small window on your left that overlooks the canal…
What with a leaning tower and these canals, Bologna has a little bit of Pisa as well as a little bit of Venice about it!
Better yet, enjoy a view of the canal with some tasty food
Opera Caffe e Tulipani
You're not going to be in the culinary capital for nothing!
Head to Opera Caffe e Tulipani in via Alessandrini a very short walk north from the via Piella and you can enjoy the canal from their terrace. And here the canal positively gushes as it begins as a mini waterfall. They have a fantastic selection of food in their counter. I had the Spinach tortellini (tortellini's from Bologna!) - I never knew something so simple could be so damn good.
As well as having plates of food for you to pick from, they have platters of food lining another counter. A plate of food is €7. Open for breakfast too, have your wake up coffee with a flakey croissant and enjoy the sound of rushing water. Speaking of coffee, whilst I was there I was amused to see a guy, sat at a table nearby, polish off his lunch along with a glass of wine and after reading his paper for a bit, get up to the bar for an espresso… drunk standing up of course! It's just the Italian way…
I very much liked the decor in Opera Caffe e Tulipani too. It has a larger than expected space but feels a little farmhouse chic (I'm not entirely sure what image that will conjure up for you but it makes perfect sense to me!). It's quaint and yet the chandeliers and piano in the back (before you get to the terrace) make it grand at the same time. If you like the Italian Aperitivo, it's a great place to go - their pasta and bread is home made and they have an excellent wine selection (you could try a spritz here too!).
Opera Caffe e Tulipani via Alessandrini, 7 Bologna 40146 www.operacaffetulipani.com (in Italian)
Enjoy more of Bologna!
You can find out what else I learned and loved in Bologna below...
Rocking out under the stars
Heaven is a gelato in Bologna
A spritz and the Italian aperitivo
Spotted - cool Britannia still alive and kicking
Know what you're doing before jetting to Bologna
Arriving into Bologna Airport
Collecting your car hire from Bologna Airport
Returning your car hire to Bologna Airport
Departing from Bologna Airport