Italy is full of beautiful old cities, and Bologna is no different. A bird’s eye view reveals straight Roman roads and terracotta roofs that sit on top of crumbling medieval buildings, revolving around the central Piazza Maggiore. Many places in Bologna close down in August as residents head to the coast to escape the heat, so visit in early summer or autumn when the town is busy with life and a little cooler.
The Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca is unmissable, not for the landmark itself but for the stunning views you get of Bologna from the top of the hill. There is a bus service, but the walk through the incredible roofed arcade leading to the top is well worth the effort. The historic Quadrilatero district is a great place to browse local shops selling produce, cheeses, fresh bread and delicious chocolates.
The University of Bologna is the oldest university in the world, founded in 1088, and many of the buildings can be seen as you walk the streets. The Piazza Maggiore is one of the best places to see Bologna’s historic buildings, in particular, the City Hall and the San Petronio Basilica. The Basilica was never finished; the bottom half is decorated with pink and white marble but the top half is still exposed brick.
Bologna is one of the foodie centres of Italy – as you may have guessed it’s the birthplace of bolognese, although here it’s called ragu! Meat-filled tortellini is also popular, and a stop at a gelateria for ice cream should be a daily occurrence. You’re on holiday so make sure you test out plenty of local wine – Lambrusco is the most well-known. Another tipple to try is the Spritz, a mix of Prosecco and Aperol.