Welcome to Northern Italy’s best-kept secret: the magical town of Bologna. The lack of tourist masses makes it one of our favourite spots in the region, and yet we can’t understand just why it’s still largely undiscovered. Exceptional food, expressive culture, historic architecture and the most concentrated collection of sports car factories in the world makes this area an absolute treat to explore.
Piazza Maggiore is located at the very centre of Bologna and crammed with ancient and important buildings including the Basilica di San Petronio, Palazzo de Notai, Palazzo d’Accursio, Palazzo del Podestà and Palazzo de Bianchi. Each building has a rich history and a story to be told; luckily the visitor information centre is located right there so they can share the most interesting nuggets of information with you. Palazzo Bianchi was the last to be built here, designed to hide the narrow streets of the market behind it.
Meloncello Arch was completed in 1732 and at this point diverge the three main porticos of Bologna. The Porticoes of Bologna are a collection of 600 arches stretching nearly 3’800m; they have even been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To the north, they pass alongside the stadium to the Certosa (municipal cemetery). East, they lead to Saragozza Gate and the centre of the city. To the Southwest, lies the Portico of San Luca, and they lead all the way up to the Madonna of San Luca Sanctuary.
Via Indipendenza is the main street of Bologna and the heart of the shopping area, housing famous brands such as Apple and Zara as well as smaller boutique stores offering cute Italian fashions.
Urban Graffiti is a phenomenon that has become celebrated the world over and, perhaps surprisingly, also features prominently in Bologna. In fact, from now until 26th June 2016, the exhibition ‘Street Art- Banksy & Co.’ is featuring this kind of art at Palazzo Pepoli – Museo della Storia di Bologna. The exhibit is a special opportunity to admire some of the works of famous graffiti writers and street artists such as Dondi White, Keith Haring and Lady Pink. For more information, check out http://www.genusbononiae.it or http://www.mostrastreetart.it
A visit to the church Santa Cristina in May or June might even reward you with an unexpected opportunity to indulge your senses in music; it is concert season! A calender of famous musicians and choirs have been lined up to celebrate Bologna’s music heritage. Speaking of which…
The Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti is another must-see while you’re in the area. Pavarotti’s wife turned their house into a museum in his honour and even today it remains largely untouched. Fans of Opera generally and Pavarotti specifically will marvel at the fairly basic setup, which somehow still inspired this man to achieve great things. Located just outside Modena, the museum is open seven days a week from 10am to 6pm.
If you think that you’ve tasted exceptional Italian food, think again. Bologna and the surrounding region is the home of Italian Food. It is here that many of our most loved kitchen staples come from. I’m talking about balsamic vinegar from Modena, Parmiagiano reggiano, Lambrusco wine and tortellini. It really doesn’t matter where you eat, since everywhere offers incredible food. If you’re able to buy to take home, then wandering the small alleys behind Piazza Maggiore will dazzle your senses. Even if you don’t want to shop, this is a great area to take a seat, sip some vino and sample delicious Bolognese staples.
Cooking lessons come highly recommended; that way you can relive your amazing culinary experiences at home. Associazione Il Salotto di Penelope is one of our favourites because they work hard to share their passion for good food and local traditions. Although they can cater to any of your Italian preferences, they prefer to focus on Bolognese and Northern cuisine. Otherwise, try Carmelita’s Cook Italy; Carmelita has been sharing her passion for Bologna and its food since 1999 by running small market-to-table cooking classes (maximum 4 people per class). The hands-on classes are held in English and are intended for visitors and holiday makers so language barriers are no excuse!
Maranello, in the heart of Motor Valley, hidden deep in the Emilia Romagna region of Northern Italy is home to the legendary Ferrari. A must for all car enthusiasts, you should book a tour of the Ferrari Museum and Fiorano Test Track. Some tours also include the Gilles Villeneuve Memorial and the Monument to Enzo Ferrari. In nearby Modena, you can also visit the Enzo Ferrari and Lamborghini Museums. The Lamborghini Museum opened its doors in Motor Valley in 2011 and displays the incredible craftsmanship of the Raging Bull. The museum is open Monday-Saturday from 10am to 5pm.
The Ducati Factory and Museum in Bologna is ideal for all motorcycle enthusiasts. Start at the museum; every bike has its own history and you can travel through time and experience the tremendous evolution of Ducati’s racing legacy. After that, visit the factory and marvel at how the most iconic models of Ducati are created. We suggest that you book in advance. If you still haven’t had your fill, then stop by the Panini Motor Museum, which houses an impressive private collection of Maserati and vintage cars. Keep your eyes peeled; prototypes, racing cars and even past presidential cars are just some of the 100+ vehicles on display.
Have you been to Bologna? Share your favourite city secrets with us in the ‘Comments’ box below!
*All photos featured in this article are our own.