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  • Writer's pictureAmar Dhaliwal

Bologna, Emilia-Romagna - June 2023

Updated: Apr 7

Bologna's has three nicknames : La Dotta (the learned one). La Grassa (the fat one). La Rossa (the red one):


  • La Dotta reflects it's place as Europe’s oldest university town (it was founded in 1088)

  • La Grassa makes very clear that food is a very big deal, as it is throughout the Emilia-Romagna region – the home of parma ham, balsamic vinegar and parmesan

  • La Rossa refers to the colour of the bricks with which its towers and buildings have been built since the Middle Ages but people also use it to refer to Bologna's leftwing politics - it was proudly the anti-fascist capital during the Second World War.


Arriving by train from Milan you disembark at Bologna Centrale (AV) and one of the four underground platforms built especially for high-speed trains.


The first thing a visitor to Bologna will notice are the city’s porticoes, along with the many towers they represent a lasting cultural and architectural heritage.



There are more than 38 km (24 mi) of porticoes in the centro storico alone and up to 53 km (33 mi) if those outside the medieval city walls are included. In 2021 they were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


We only had two days in Bologna and so this post reflects the smallest of morsels of all that this beautiful city can offer.

 

Staying


Starhotels Excelsior, Bologna (map)


The Excelsior is directly opposite Bologna Centrale train station. In much of Europe this normally implies a not so great location but that is not the situation here. The neighbourhood is clean and safe and the hotel is well placed for seeing the main sights of the city. The hotel is modern and after a long travel day it was calm and welcoming. The rooms are spacious and comfortable. Paid €220 per night via hotels.com

 

Eating


Starhotels Excelsior, Bologna (map)


  • After a long travel day, was feeling a little under the weather on the first night in Bologna so decided to stay close to home and eat in the hotel restaurant, Avorio. We shared a salad to start followed by a tagliatelle al ragu and a lasagna Bolognese - along with a nice bottle of wine it was just what the doctor ordered. The food was perfectly acceptable and the service was very courteous and attentive. We paid €90 (including a cocktail before and bottle of white wine).

Trattoria di Via Serra (map)


  • Trattoria di Via Serra is literally on the other side of the train tracks from the centro storico. Situated in a modest building in a modest neighbourhood, Trattoria di Via Serra has established quite a reputation for excellent regional dishes, great service, and fair prices.

  • We had starters of piada and a deconstructed cheese flan, followed by their classic hand made tortellini in broth and tagliatelle with a white ragu Bolognese. Including a bottle of white wine and coffee we paid €85.

  • The place is full all the time, so a reservation is essential. Be aware that they do not take reservations online or by email so you will have to phone (I had a friend in Italy do this).


 

Drinking (prices are from June 2023)


Osteria del Sole (map)


  • Having been around since the 15th-century, it's probably fair to call Osteria del Sole a Bologna institution. They serve a selection of Romagna region wines at around €7 per glass. Try the Lambrusco.. so good!

  • Osteria del Sole does not serve food (almost proudly!) but does encourage you to bring your own.

  • The move is to visit Salumeria Simoni (map) first and get a selection of cheeses and cold cuts to take away (they will include bread, napkins and cutlery) and make the one minute walk to the Osteria. Order a couple of glasses of wine and enjoy a unique lunch experience in a unique location!!


Il bar del Pallone (map)


  • Stumbled upon this indoor/outdoor bar as we were walking around the Parco della Montagnola area. They were just opening up for the evening (and still brushing away the leaves) but welcomed us onto the shaded patio for reprieve from the sun and a cold beverage. Really nice and welcoming staff. Lovely location that clearly becomes a lively student spot later in the evening. Glass of prosecco was €6.


 

Doing


As mentioned at the outset, we only had two days in Bologna and as a result we spent our time walking the porticoes, squares, and parks of this lovely town.



Bologna was the anti-fascist capital of Italy during the Second World War. This striking memorial in the Palazzo d’Accursio (map) recalls the thousands of Bolognese men and women killed fighting fascists in World War II. Please pay your respects.


This really is a foodie city and the food markets and stores are tourist attractions in their own right. Make sure to try the mortadella, prosciutto di parma, parmigiano reggiano, and balsalmic from the many salumeria and formaggeria you will walk by. In a trattoria you need to try the tortellini in brodo (broth), tagliatelle al ragu, and lasagna bolognese.



Bologna is a city to be walked, even in the summer heat when the porticoes provide relief from the sun. The university (map) was founded in 1088 and is the oldest university in continuous operation in the world. We walked the university district early in the morning and the quiet streets allowed time to linger and enjoy.


I look forward to going back and spending more time to enjoy both Bologna and the countryside that surrounds.


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