The Basics of Beautiful Bologna, Italy

with 7 Comments

I don’t know which trip started the alliteration of adjectives and names, but when it came to write about Bologna I was stuck. Bountiful Bologna was an option, but it didn’t quite fit. I went back to the basics, so to speak. If you begin there, you’ll enhance your visit to this elegant place.

A glimpse of towers from our room
A glimpse of towers from our room

We had two days in Bologna and it wasn’t enough to see the history that lives there every day. I’d go for a week the next time.

Bologna is a simple city. Although 400,000 people live in the city proper and the seventh most populated city in Italy, everything about the old city center feels like a small town. Bologna is cozy. It’s flat, which made the walking easy. Don’t be deceived, though, step outside the walls of the city and you are in a hilly area.

Piazza Maggiore - Bologna, Italy
Piazza Maggiore – Bologna, Italy

 

Your first stop: one of the tourist centers for a free map and advice on where to start. We popped into the one in Piazza Maggiore and found the people most helpful. If you’re staying for more than a day and like museums, invest in the Bologna Welcome Card. It’s E20 and you get admission to multiple museums and discounts—for 48 hours!

Take this link if you’re carrying a smartphone or print the pdf to take along. It’s one of the most well put together city sites I’ve seen. The guide will help you pick a restaurant (Trattoria Leonida and Ristorante Victoria were two we enjoyed), find the museums, and take you shopping if that’s what you like.

Twenty bell towers will captivate you, both silent and ringing. I would have liked to have traipsed around each of them, if not up the hundreds of steps. There’s even one with a bed & breakfast in the top of it. Too many steps for someone carting luggage!

It is a city of porticos. Rainy weather? No matter, you walk for blocks under the most beautiful of coverings. Wide sidewalks, the occasional fresco…who doesn’t want to stroll about? Door knockers of multiple sizes and shapes.

We spent some time in the Basilica of St. Stefano, also known as the seven churches. It was built, in one theory, to represent seven stations of the cross. What I know is that walking on the ancient stones was captivating. I’m glad we paid E5 for the guide because it made strolling through the grounds more interesting. The site’s 2,000 year old history is winding, confusing and always, somehow, religious.

Basilica di Santo Stefano - Bologna, Italy
Basilica di Santo Stefano
Basilica di Santo Stefano - Bologna, Italy
Basilica di Santo Stefano
Basilica di Santo Stefano - Bologna, Italy
Basilica di Santo Stefano

 

The Piazza Santo Stefano was one of the quietest we’ve seen. Was it because it was mid-day? I don’t know, but it was peaceful and nice.

Piazza at Basilica di Santo Stefano Courtyard - Bologna, Italy
Piazza at Basilica di Santo Stefano Courtyard

 

The Welcome Center also has a flyer for the Hidden Canals in Bologna. Some of these date to the 12th Century and one local proudly told us they are known as the Little Venice. We found a few of them, but not all ten. I didn’t notice any gondolas, probably because too many of the canals were covered starting at the beginning of the twentieth century. Progress?

Little Window in via Paella - Bologna, Italy
Little Window in via Piella
Canal with house - Bologna, Italy
Canal with house
Long Canal - Bologna, Italy
Long Canal

 

Bologna’s train station is massive, which was a surprise. We went down multiple levels to catch our train to Siena. Allow additional time for navigating it.

Like the Athena Hotel in Siena, we picked an upgraded room with a city view at the Aemilia Hotel. It’s a deceptive place, looking small and compact on the outside, but actually boasting multiple meeting rooms and an expansive restaurant (with a great breakfast and professional staff). You’re a ten to fifteen-minute walk from the city center.

Bologna is not a place to pass through on your way to a tourist destination city. It is a place to walk, look up, look around, experience every street with purpose and intent. Take your time and let me know what you love the most.

 

 

Print Friendly

7 Responses

  1. […] check out everything Muggins and I got to do this time and then see Mom’s Blog about all the other good stuff that went […]

  2. Arleen
    | Reply

    We took a driving trip in Italy and by accident stumbled on Bologna as well as Verona. It was the best accident we had. We loved both towns

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      I’m glad to hear you say you liked it, too, Arleen. It is a hidden gem. I haven’t been to Verona–have to check that out, too.

  3. Donna Janke
    | Reply

    Bologna looks beautiful. I love the porticos and covered walkways.

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      It was so exciting to discover all those porticos, Donna. Next time, I want to find all the canals.

  4. jacquiegum
    | Reply

    For being in Bologna such a short period of time, it seems that you were able to see a lot! Great pictures! I had no idea that there were hidden canals there!

    • Rose Mary Griffith
      | Reply

      I had NO idea Bologna had so much to offer. I thought it would be a relatively small city like Parma. Ha. I was so wrong. There are few places I would repeat only because I like to see new places all the time. However, Bologna is definitely a target to get back to.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge