Located in central Italy, Bologna remains one of the off-the-beaten-track places in Italy, though the city is an important point for connections between popular destinations such as Pisa, Florence, Venice, Verona and Milan. This city, birthplace of the famous Bolognese sauce, is attracting an increasing number of visitors for its historical beauty, amazing nightlife and the local hospitality. Read on to get a deeper insight of why now is the best to visit Bologna.
1. The historic centre’s atmosphere is unique
The main events of the city usually take place at its main square, Piazza Maggiore, where you can find the City Hall. In the winter, Bologna’s atmosphere can feel very mystic and calm. Bologna’s historic centre is the home to the two highest symbolic towers of the city: the Tower of Asinelli and Tower of the Garisenda. Symbolizing the medieval structures of Bologna among many other towers, the Asinelli and the Garisenda were used to represent the power of the two noble families in the city, Visconti and Signoria. The two families were in conflict to become the rulers of Bologna. Nowadays, you can visit the Asinelli Tower for 3 EUR (about 3.5 USD). The Signoria tower is not accessible.
2. You can also visit the famous Neptune statue
The gigantic Neptune statue in the middle of Piazza Maggiore is a common meeting point. Built during the mid 16th century in the Renaissance European Art style, the statue symbolised the election of Pope Pius IV. Even during the cold winter months, street artists gather around the statue to play different sorts of instruments – from drums to guitars and so on.
3. There are many arcades and medieval houses
Walking around Bologna, you can easily spot another symbol of this city – the arcades. The 38 kilometres (23.6 mi) of arcades were originally built by the town authorities to house temporary visitors. Nowadays, there are dozens of cafes, restaurants, clothing shops, art and craft shops (e.g. Arteggiando) and chocolate stores (e.g. Majani) built in these arcades.
4. The city offers lots of art and culture
Bologna also has a lot of art and culture to offer. The annual art festival, Arte Fiera, in February and the IL Cinema Ritrovato annual film festival in early July both attract thousands of visitors every year. Many museums, such as the archeological museum (Civico Archeologico) and the museum of history of Bologna (Palazzo Peppoli), are open for free during the Art Festival. Throughout July, there’s a great open-air cinema with classic movies shown for free in the Piazza Maggiore.
5. The local nightlife culture is special
Bologna’s people are known for being relaxed and enjoying a good work-life balance. Hundreds of people sit in crowds outside of bars, squares or terraces to drink spritz (a typical Italian wine-based cocktail), talk and laugh all night long. When it’s warm, people also just like to sit in groups in squares, such as Piazza Maggiore or Piazza Santo Stefano, for a chat. The nightlife atmosphere of Bologna is genuinely lively and unique. Keep in mind that the streets downtown are full of crowds during the festivals. Plenty of bars, pubs and restaurants surrounding the Piazza San Fresco make a great area for a fun night. Don’t forget to taste different Italian wine and try the wine-based cocktail spritz - a typical Italian alcoholic drink.
6. Shopaholics will love the city
Walk a few minutes south from the Piazza Maggiore to the Galleria Cavour. This shopping center houses some of the grandest brands in the world including Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Tiffany & Co, Armani, Michael Kors and so on. This is paradise for a luxurious shopping experience. If these shops are not within your budget, walk around the surrounding areas and enjoy shopping at numerous affordable clothing and cosmetic shops such as Kiko Milano and Sephora which are some of my favourites. January and February are the best months for shopping discount products because of the winter sales season.
7. Bologna is famous for its cuisine
The Bolognese people are also known for their original Bolognese sauce served with pasta. Tortellini typically served in chicken soup is also a specialty here. Come taste these traditional dishes at the Osteria dell’Orsa restaurant in Bologna!
Getting around Bologna
The people in Bologna are typically very relaxed and friendly. Though English is not the main language in Italy, you would not have a problem asking for help or directions. The city is walkable with good bus connections. Keep in mind to bring some coins with you so you can buy the bus tickets directly from the machine right on the bus.
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