Discover Bologna: La Dotta, La Grassa, La Rossa

Discover Bologna: La Dotta, La Grassa, La Rossa
| 4 min read

Some Italian cities have a nickname that reminds them of a particular historical origin, or that describes the city itself: Rome is the “Eternal City”, Florence is “the Beauty”, Venice is “La Serenissima”. But Bologna is the only city that has gathered three nicknames, and this is one of the many signs of its incredible originality. Let me show you that there is really much more to love about this city than its famous Bolognese sauce.

La dotta (the erudite one): go to a University like in the Middle Ages

The Archiginnasio classroom

This first name derives from the famous University of Bologna, which happens to be the first and oldest University in the world, founded in 1088! Even today it is still one of the most respected places to study in Italy. The University buildings are positioned all along the notorious via Zamboni, under the numerous porticos that characterize the whole city. These porticos are usually the first things that all tourists notice in Bologna, and they will let you visit the city even in the worst weather conditions with no need to open the umbrella!

If you want to know how the main medieval poets studied in Italy many centuries ago, visit the Archiginnasio Palace, the ancient University location that hosts today a suggestive library, and the still existing classrooms where the medical and law lessons took place time ago.

The University of Bologna keeps attracting many international and Erasmus students, that will always be positively surprised about the beauty of this incredible city; pretty unknown outside its region.

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La grassa (the fat one): let yourself be tempted by the delicious food

Bologna's pleasures

Bologna is probably known above all for its culinary tradition. However, the famous Bolognese sauce – a meat based sauce with tomato, onions, carrots and celery – is not the only thing that the city offers. In fact, the regional economy here is based mainly on the food industry. The best typical products of the zone are the Parma ham, the Parmesan cheese, and the aromatic vinegar and a cooked ham known as “mortadella”. From the union of some of these ingredients it is possible to obtain the main typical dish of Bologna: tortellini, known all over the world.

The traditional shops serving local specialties are the perfect example of bolognese’ hedonism, offering every kind of cold cuts and cheeses, strictly artisanal. To immerse in the real world of The Fat Bologna, it will be enough just walking along the Pescherie Vecchie Street, in the very city centre, where every corner offers a great choice of typical foods you simply can’t resist!

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La rossa (the red one): discover how this colour makes the city unique

The old town centre

This characteristic refers to two different aspects: the typical red colour of the roofs, due to the terracotta bricks used to build towers and palaces during the Middle Age, and the red of Ducati motorcycles and Ferrari automobiles. These aspects give honour to the whole region, known for this reason as “the motors-land”. Before you start to visit the so-coloured ancient edifices, I suggest that you stop for a while in the middle of Piazza Maggiore, the real pulsating heart of the city. Sit down on the crescentone (the large raised platform on the floor), exactly like real citizens of Bologna, and enjoy the great beauty of the Palazzo Comunale, Palazzo d’Accursio, Palazzo Re Enzo, and many others, together with the majestic façade of San Petronio Church.

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Bologna seen from above

The two towers: Torre degli Asinelli and Garisenda

Bologna is also the city of towers. Ancient skyscrapers that seem to rise up to the sky, painting a unique skyline in Italy. Unfortunately, today it’s possible to admire only twenty of the hundred of towers that dominated the city time ago. The most famous are two, set in the historical centre and considered the most representative symbols of the town. The highest is the Asinelli Tower, which kept its name from a rich Bolognese family in the XII century. In case of you decide to go up to the top of this tower, be ready and be brave! Going up means to face 498 steps, but once you have arrived at the top, the view is worth the effort. The tower next to this is called Garisenda and shows an incline much more visible than the other. The rich families in the Middle Ages used to build a tower next to their house as a symbol of power and prestige, but what destroyed the towers most were the nobles’ attempts to reduce the power of other families.

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Bologna seen from the outside

San Luca Church

Another thing that every Bolognese has done at least once in their life is walking to the San Luca Church, set on the top of a hill and visible from every point of the city. The greatest thing is that you can reach the famous church in every kind of weather condition, just walking along the itinerary that starts under the two central towers and, from Porta Saragozza, continues with 666 porticos, proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage in 2006. The itinerary includes 15 small chapels where the pilgrims celebrate festivities every Sunday. The legend narrates that these incredible architectures were built thanks to the collaboration of all the citizens, and this is the reason why Bologna’s inhabitants are really attached to these works of art still today. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the view of the city from the outside, and choose a very sunny day to do it!

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A perfect destination for all the senses

In short, Bologna is the perfect city to visit if you are looking for a destination to please all the senses. The combination of the city’s medieval architecture and the historical scholar tradition will surely stimulate your sight and your touch, once you’ve touched the old red bricks; while the irresistible local cuisine will please both your taste and sense of smell with its delicious fragrances.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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I’m Sofia, student in literature and publishing and travel lover. I love original ideas, having breakfast and flight tickets. I really like long-lasting calls and the old pictures with dust, I...Read more

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