Lots of backpackers overlook the charming little
city of Bologna in favour of the big-names like Rome, Florence and
Venice. But it’s a big mistake. From its great food, to its
attractive old streets and its wonderfully relaxed feel, Bologna showcases
much of what makes Italy so attractive.
accommodation options in the city are excellent. Bologna
hostels include the city’s youth hostel, the highly reasonable
Hostel Due Torri San Sisto, while a couple of B&Bs – the
Ducks B and B, and Cristina Rossi B&B – offer comfortable
beds that don’t break the bank.
Outside the city, Agriturismo Cavaione offers
something just a little bit different. Surrounded by rolling hills
and row after row of grapevines, it’s a rural idyll that’s
still just a stone’s throw from the heart of the city.
Top Language Students’ Destination
Whether it’s a part of your university course,
a quick couple of weeks before you strap on your backpack again,
or a lengthier sabbatical, like fellow Italian cities, Genova and
Padova, Bologna is almost uniquely suited to the demands of the
The University of Bologna is the oldest in Europe,
and is held to be one of the most prestigious modern seats of learning.
Many of the older campus buildings (worth seeking out for their
grand porticoes) are in the Old Town between Strada Maggiore and
For European students, the Erasmus Centre (on
Via Zamboni) will almost certainly be the first point of call for
handy settling-in tips. Quite a few American universities, meanwhile,
offer students placements in the city, and there are any number
of excellent private language schools to choose from.
Offers for ‘intercambios’ (language
exchanges) where Italian English language students want to practice
their English in return for some precious Italian oral practice
are commonplace, and phone boxes and university notice boards are
often plastered with contact details.
And the university helps keep Bologna
nightlife buzzing. There are a host of places around Via Zamboni
where you can go to practice your Italian, or drown your sorrows
at your lack of progress!
Away from the books (and tongue-tied conversation!),
Bologna has a raft of great sights. The city even has its own ‘Leaning
Tower’ in the uneven form of the Torre Garisenda, which, soaring
mightily above the city, makes up half of the Due Torri, or Two
Towers, that are the city’s landmark sights.
Churches and palaces abound on and around
the two central squares of Piazza del Nettuno and Piazza Maggiore.
The city also has a cluster of good museums and galleries in the
Museo Civico Archeologico, the Museo Davia Bargellini and the two
art galleries in the Palazzo Comunale – the Museo Morandi
and the Colezoni Comunali d’Arte.
But what really makes Bologna stand out is
(arguably) its food. From swanky restaurants to the more humble (but
no more delicious) ‘osterie’, the city – and the
surrounding region of Emilia-Romagna – is considered outstanding
even by Italian standards.
local produce – that simply must be tried! – include
the prosciutto di Parma (Parma ham), parmigiano-regiano (parmesan
cheese) and tortellini (stuffed pasta), washed down with one of
a handful of excellent regional wines.
So, whether it’s a couple of months’
stay learning Italian or a fly by night backpacking stopover, Bologna
fits the bill. It’s quite simply the perfect place to sit
back on a balmy summer evening with some great food and a glass
of wine, and watch the constant spectacle that is Italian life unfold