Travelers looking for an authentic slice of Italy should look no further than the Medieval and Renaissance period architecture of Bologna. A walk along the streets of Bologna is like a trip into the past. Bologna is one of those great cities in the world that is overlooked due to other major tourist centers being located nearby. Milan, Florence, and even the more southernly situated Rome are destinations travelers seek out instead of Bologna.
Famed for its exquisite food and cuisine, Bologna has earned a reputation for its restaurants, bars, and cafes. Nicknamed La Grassa (The Fat), Bologna is an ideal vacation spot for travelers looking for something old and something new. It's proximity to cities playing host to world famous Italian car manufacturers makes it a hub for Motor Valley. It is an additional incentive to visit Bologna.
Local Favorite: Spaghetti BologneseBologna has laid claim to spaghetti Bolognese for years, but it is believed that the dish did not originate in the city. It just so happens that Bologna has made the dish popular, and it can be found across the Red City. While everyone seems to cook spaghetti Bolognese around the world, the authentic dish is made with specific ingredients. Minced beef is combined with streaky pancetta (some chefs use ground pork), onions, celery, chopped tomatoes, and chopped carrots. Red wine and spices are added to build a tasty ragu that is served over tagliatelle pasta. Red wine and crusty bread make the dish a full meal.
Fountain of Neptune
Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca
Biblioteca Comunale dell'Archiginnasio
Top Tourist Attractions
The leaning tower of Garisenda
The Italian city of Pisa is known the world over for its famous leaning tower. Yet, Bologna is home to Garisenda, a far more dramatic leaning tower. Garisenda is so prominent in Italy that Dante referenced it in his book, Divine Comedy.
Located next to Garisenda is its sister tower, Asinelli. While you cannot ascend Garisenda, you can climb Asinelli’s stairway for amazing aerial views of Bologna.
Piazza del Nettuno
Piazza del Nettuno buzzes with life at nearly all hours of the day. People come and go to meet friends, have lunch, or just enjoy the bright Bologna sun. The Neptune Fountain can be found in the piazza and the sound of water splashing can be heard throughout the square. It is a beautiful location to visit and see Italian culture at its finest. Of course, the 16th-century fountain is a key reason tourists visit Piazza del Nettuno, but travelers can also explore the adjoining Piazza Maggiore as well. The squares are the center point for most tourists as nearly every major attraction can be reached by foot in just a few minutes.
Bologna is the perfect destination for petrolheads. The city is in the Motor Valley and some of the world’s most famous sports car manufacturers’ headquarters are very close to Bologna. The Ferrari (Maranello), Maserati (Modena), Lamborghini (Bolognese), and Pagani (San Cesario Sul Panaro) main offices are within a short distance from the hotels of Bologna, making the city an optimal base for a vacation.
Modena is just an hour’s drive from Bologna, giving visitors the chance to spend a day exploring the Ferrari Museum located in the town. Petrolheads looking for longer day trips or even an overnight adventure outside of Bologna can find the Vespa Museum located two hours away in Pontedera or the Alfa Romeo Museum in Arese.
Museum for the Memory of Ustica
In June 1980, Aerolinee Itavia Flight 870 was on its way from Bologna to Palermo when a missile struck it, killing all 81 passengers on board. The flight and wreckage of the plane have lived in infamy ever since, and the Museum for the Memory of Ustica showcases the remnants of the disaster.
Many theories have been presented as to why the plane was brought down. Although it is believed that the Italian military fired the missile, the circumstances that led to the crash have been shrouded in mystery. The museum pays homage to those who lost their lives and illustrates the conspiracy theories surrounding the event. Visitors can walk within the wreckage to get a sense of the extent of the damage to the plane.
Autodromo di Modena
The Autodromo di Modena is just 40 minutes away from Bologna. The famed circuit not only offers an exciting schedule of automotive and motorbike races throughout the year, but it also provides car enthusiasts with the chance to get behind the wheel of their favorite supercar or racecar.
Visitors to the track can choose from a number of driving experiences that put them in the cockpit and out on the tarmac. Whether you fancy taking the Ferrari 458 Challenge, driving a Lamborghini Gallardo Super Trofeo, or cruising in a Lamborghini Huracan, you’ll have an opportunity to test your skills out in whichever of those you desire during a day trip to the Autodromo di Modena.
Italian Food Theme Park
Explore all the tastes of Italy at FICO Italian Food Theme Park. With plenty of attractions, including food tours, factory visits, markets, and shops, there is plenty for you to keep occupied. FICO also has a stunning garden with a farm, orchard, truffle garden, and vineyard. Book a course and learn how to make pasta, famous Italian sauces, or explore the on-site breweries.
National Art Gallery of Bologna
Located in the city's University district, the National Art Gallery of Bologna (Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna) houses a collection of 13th-18th century art from leading Italian artists during the period. Whether you visit the gallery alone or as part of a walking tour, this is one of Bologna's must-see sights.
Bologna may not be the first city one thinks about when booking a vacation to Italy, but the city is perfect for car enthusiasts seeking motorsports activities in a relaxing environment. From fast cars to delicious foods and amazing history, Bologna is a great city to visit this year.