I recently spent 2 weeks in beautiful Bologna. Now, it’s not often I get to go away for that long and really explore a place.
Bologna itself is very pretty. Known for its food, its architecture is amazing. Some Medieval and lots of Gothic around; the famous arches welcome to shade the sun and keep your stiletto’s intact (the roads are cobbled in many cases, the floors of the porticos’ marble). I was managing around 10 Kilometers a day, meandering though the web of streets that circle the main (original) university building.
You can’t go far before a bar, fresh pasta place or pasticceria interrupts you – even with all the exercise I’m sure I added a couple of kilos. Of course, you’ll know about spaghetti bolognese – or linguine with ragu as it’s known locally, but Bologna is also famous for its tortellini and tortelloni. And Mortadella. And Tigella bread. And. And. And. And now there is Eataly too.
There are too many places to recommend but the Bolpetta neat Piazza Santa Stefano serves local favourites all as meatballs (or fishballs / vege balls – you get the picture) and the service, like every other I place I went, was so welcoming. Head to the winding streets around Piazza Maggiore for the generous cold cuts and cheese plates – you don’t really know which one you are in as the tables and chairs seem to merge on the street. Not a huge fan of Mortadella myself, but I suppose it’s worth a try. There are also come sweet places round Via Marsala in the Jewish Quarter. Head here for lunch so you can see the artisan boutiques open. Hell of a job trying to find where you saw something the morning after. GPS doesnt seem to like the narrow streets much.
We found a fabulous Japanese creator who made the most exquisite bags and jewellery. She also made clothes but they didn’t take my fancy. If you can find Via Dell’Inferno and find her shop open, say hi for me. The excitement of owning a thing of such beauty was elevated further by watching her wrap the bag. I didn’t want to stop her and say it was just for me…..
There are all the high street favourites and designer dens too of course, but lots and lots of independent boutiques and hand-made shoes to be had too. I spent a fortune, but somehow didn’t go over my baggage allowance – though I did have 3 cases to check in on my return, having arrived with one.
I went for a language course which I think I did quite well at, now able to fend for myself and even exchange small talk – mainly with shopkeepers – but able to express myself in class too. If you are interested to immerse yourself in the language, I can highly recommend the ALCE school which is very professionally run, great facilities, nice and central and really welcoming. After this article, I shall immerse myself in my first Italian book. Yup, I’m pretty proud of myself getting to that stage (and its not a children’s book).
I stayed in an airbnb which was very sweet and situated on Via Rialto, a 15 minute walk to the school and a bit less to the old town centre. I would recommend it to night owls and those who sleep like logs as unfortunately, though situated close to a handful of good restaurants and bars, the municipal workers seem to work overnight and for some unknown reason, a delivery/collection is made each night around 3am to the bar opposite.
There are lots of lovely looking hotels – I’d aim for slightly away from the main area as it does get busy, and everything is walkable. I once stayed at the Orologio which is just off Piazza Maggiore but far enough from the square to avoid the noise at night.