Date of stay: 3days, July 2010
Where you stayed: Hotel/Hostel accommodation
Travelled with: As a couple
Tour or pre planned:Pre planned
Italy was love at first sight, last summer we traveled around for a month by train and though we had some rough patches I don’t think you will need much convincing to visit this beautiful country.
Bologna is perhaps one of Italy’s great unsung cities. Thus we only spent two nights in the city before continuing our journey, but we are planning to head back for another few days at some point.
Getting to Bologna from London is easy by train. The Eurostar requires only a 30minute check-in and is only two hours to Paris. I like to take an early train so that I can spend an afternoon in Paris. Enough time to grab a baguette, some brie and wine for the train journey. Then it is an overnight train to Italy stopping in Bologna, Florence and Rome. I do love the train but be careful with connections if you are heading somewhere else as after several experiences I don’t believe the international trains that go through Italy ever arrive on time. However the scheduled time to arrive in the city is around 6 so even a late train is fairly early in the morning. Like most European train stations there is a baggage check and arriving so early you can consider leaving your bags there and heading straight into the centre for breakfast. The best thing about traveling by train is that the main station is often very much in the centre and the Bologna central station is right on the top of the old city.
The first thing you will notice about Bologna are the porticos and the majority of the city’s pavements are covered over which is very useful if it is raining (which happened in the middle of summer when we were there).
Like most Italian cities Bologna’s centre is dominated by a central piazza off which many of its most important historical buildings are situated. The Asinelli Tower is one of these, Medieval Italians loved to build towers as signs of their wealth and power and you will find these in every town. At 97 metres the Asinelli Tower is over 40 meters taller than Pisa’s leaning tower, but with only a 2.2m overhang means that you can walk up it. Yes, they might have built many towers but they didn’t always get the best foundations. However, it has been standing for over 1000 years so it is unlikely to fall down while you are climbing up. The walk is quite taxing but it is definitely worth the quintessential Italian rooftop views in every direction. The main tourist attractions aside seemed to be churches. The great thing about Italian churches though is that they often house amazing art.
The city’s main basilica, also on the square is San Petronio. Unfortunately, when we went the outside was being worked on and so was covered in scaffolding (indeed the scaffolding business is one which I don’t believe will ever be affected by a recession in Europe) San Petronio is the fifth largest church in the world. Interestingly it was built by the community of Bologna and not the pope and was only consecrated in the 1950s. Evidence of this can be seen in the solar calendar with star signs on the floor of the church. Inside the church voluminous and light and also seems “holier” then other churches as there were not to many tourists.
The Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca which lies outside the town. The church is reached by walking along a 3.5km arcade with 666 arches and many steps. You can catch a bus to the Porta (gate) where the portico starts and take a gentle stroll. The church does close for pranza (lunch) so make sure you get there either before or after, although you can always have a picnic lunch in the gardens in front of the church if it is closed.
Two other Basilcas in the city are those of San Francesco and San Domenico. The latter was probably my favorite church of all those we visited. It was very light and had very few people. There are beautiful chandeliers that hang all the way down the nave and this is also home to a shrine in which the remains of San Domenico, the founder of the Dominican order, are kept. Michelangelo carved one of the angels on this.
Food in Bologna
Bologna is famous for its food and one of its nicknames is “the fat”. For a good meal you are going to pay a little bit more but peruse the menu and just try one good restaurant in the city.
Breakfast in Italy is traditionally had standing at a café counter where you order your café (Italian for espresso) and a cornetto (croissant). Note: if you don’t want to sound like a tourist don’t ask for an espresso and don’t have a latte after breakfast time.
Near the Asinelli Tower is a little market street called Via Drapperie where you can pick up some amazing Italian foods like buffalo mozzarella and olives for lunch.
A great cheap Italian eat is a pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) which can be bought from a variety of cafes which are as prolific as McDonalds in other parts of the world.
A great gelateria in Bologna is Il GelatauroSan Vitale, 98/b. It serves really amazing flavors (like spiced pumpkin) as well as ice-cream sandwiches made with what is similar to brioche.
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Would you recommend your tour: N/A
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
By: Michelle & Tim