La Dotta (The Learned), La Grassa (The Fat) and La Rossa (The Red) are the three “main” nicknames of the city of Bologna. Maybe you’re asking yourselves why the largest city of the Emilia-Romagna Region (in Northern Italy) has obtained these nicknames. Well, Bologna is learnt with reference to the oldest university in Europe that is located there. The city is fat because of the well-known bolognese cuisine. And why red? Due to its political leanings as well as the great number of buildings from red brick and marble in the city.
B O L O G N A
“Not even a baby can get lost in the centre of Bologna” is a line from an Italian song that describes the city. In fact, this place is a tiny example of the great medieval architecture. If you are somewhere there in Piazza Maggiore, you will be enchanted by the Gothic Basilica of San Petronio which is both imposing and majestic with its magnificent door made by Jacopo della Quercia. However, il Duomo (the main Church or cathedral of the city) is San Pietro whose entrance is in Via Indipendenza. Probably, this place is unfamiliar to you but not for the locals. It is wthin a close reach from the historic restaurants of Bologna, i.e. Diana, where the famous taglietelle al tagù could be ordered and enjoyed. What is so famous for this meal? Well, nothing but the recipe. It has still remained a secret almost a tabù which has been passed on through the centuries.
If you go back to la Piazza Maggiore you will pass by a lot of admirable and worthy edifices which date back to the medieval times when Bologna was part of the Papal States. The most antique is il Palazzo del Podestà which “locks” the square and is surmounted by la Torre dell’Arengo. The bell of this tower used to call and gather together townspeople on various occasions. The vault of the crossroads for pedestrians lies under il Palazzo Re Enzo and the adjacent small square dedicated to Neptune in the middle of which la Fontana del Gigante. The fountain of the Giant is Giambologna’s masterpiece of 1565.
For sure, Bologna is the city of towers. Every noble family of the city used to have its own tower and the higher it was, the most respected the family was. Nowadays, only a few of them could still be seen in the centre of Bologna. If you are at the famous university of Bologna (it was founded in 1088 and is the oldest university in Europe) in via Zamboni. This is the main road leading to two noble towers of the 12th century. These red-bricked giants are intact and have always “decorated and adorned” the city with its splendour up to now. The Garisenda Tower was 60 metres high while it is only about 48metres today. The other tower is called la Torre degli Asinelli which is another leaning tower in Italy and even it’s supposed to be the highest one. If you are well trained and if you dare, you could climb the 498 stairs to the top so that you can unforgettable and breathtaking view of the city.
If you wanna step back firmly back on the ground after this 360° view of Bologna from above, one of the adjacent and side streets towards la Piazza Cavour. They are dotted by numerous small boutiques, souvenir shops, French-style coffee bars, antique bookshops and so on and so forth. After having lost in this maze of streets, surely, you will reach Tamburini finally where you can order and get tortellini handmade by le sfogline (pasta ladies who prepare fresh pasta).
Being close to the Two Towers, you should visit the complex “San Stefano” which is better known as the “Seven Churches”. The complex consists of 7 chapels constructed in various historic periods of time and connected through a courtyard. What else? The city of Bologna is also famous for its porticoes and some say that if they are lined up, they will create a 40-km road. If you Head off to to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, you will inevitably pass by the longest, 3-km porticoed street which encompasses only 666 arches. Other nice and charming porticoed streets will lead you to the city’s Archeological Museo as well as to la Piazza Galvani where you might drink a cup of ristretto at Zanarini.