Bologna is a distinctive city that is an architectural gem and Italy's culinary capital. It is a vibrant city that is home to Europe's oldest university which gives it a contemporary hipness that melds with its history and architecture. It is a terra cotta-colored spectacle with its expanse of burnt-red rooftops and brick buildings. Bologna has an elegance thanks to its piazzas and porticoes, 40 kilometers of covered arcades in all. It is a foodie's paradise, with some of the country's most prized products coming from the area. There are upscale restaurants, casual trattorias, brimming markets, and cozy cafes to enjoy.
The heart of the city is the expansive Piazza Maggiore, a monumental space that gathers not just the citizenry but the important buildings like the cathedral, the Palazzo Comunale, and some Renaissance palaces. The Palazzo del Podesta' was a power seat in the 1200s while the Palazzo dei Banchi, designed by Vignola, was home, as the name implies, to bankers and money changers. In the middle of the piazza is beloved Fountain of Neptune, an exquisite and playful bronze sculptural masterpiece by Giambologna. The Basilica of San Petronio is an enormous Gothic church that was never finished and yet is completely captivating with its graceful columns, pointed arches, and plethora of chapels. The Palazzo Comunale has been the city hall since 1336.
Other points of interest include the Basilica of San Domenico, the founder of the Dominican order who died in 1221. The church was built to entomb his remains The carved sarcophagus was started by Nicola Pisani and added to by others, including an angel by Michelangelo. The Oratorio di Santa Cecilia has vibrant frescoes depicting the life of the saint. The church complex of Santo Stefano is an intricately interconnected grouping of seven buildings and cloisters. The piazza of the same name is paved with river stones and is a lovely spot.
But probably the best known attraction in Bologna is the pair of perilously leaning towers that reach up high toward the sky, the only ones remaining from the city's forest of towers that once dominated the skyline. It's reported that Bologna had as many as 200 of them during the Middle Ages. The Torre degli Asinelli offers a leg-challenging climb of 498 steps, with panoramic rewards from the top. The lower Torre Garisenda was cited by Dante in the Inferno.
Bologna is a delightful place, one of central Italy's great cities, with plenty to see and do, exquisite architecture, charming atmosphere, divine cuisine, and friendly folks.
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Explore nearby towns
Just a few miles outside Bologna, Castenaso is a quiet town set in the countryside.
San Pietro in Casale sits on the fertile agricultural plains that stretch between Bologna and Ferrara, in Emilia Romagna.
Located just 38 kilometers from Bologna, Vergato is a mountain town in the Appenines.