When we dream of going to Italy (and we all dream of going to Italy at some point), we don’t typically spend much too much time thinking about Bologna. Naah, it’s usually the ‘big three’ of Rome, Venice, and Florence that tend to star in our Italian fantasy films, with places like Cinque Terre , Lake Como, Verona, and wherever that place was that Diane Lane lived in ‘Under The Tuscan Sun’ playing supporting roles.
Nope, Bologna typically gets passed over on most Italian itineraries, but you could always still go there. Why? Well, after spending a little time there while back, I’ve come up with a few reasons.
The Food, the Food, and, Oh Yeah, the Food
Alright, let’s get the obvious out of the way, first. Yes, the questionable meat-like substance that you find at your local supermarket’s deli section called bologna (but pronounced balon-ey by most of us of course) is inspired by Bologna’s famed mortadella. In Bologna though, you’ll find delicatessens fresh-shaving and cubing the real thing and bars serving it as an hors d’oeuvre at happy hour, and your taste buds will be thrilled to find a snack that is more fit for an extravagant feast than the lunch meat aisle.
This, my hungry friends is just the tip of the iceberg. Rich egg pastas like tagliatelle and tortellini are both Bolognese specialties, and the tagliatelle here is typically served with another specialty of Bologna: Bolognese sauce, or if you prefer, ragu or ‘spaghetti sauce’. Yes, the rich red sauce of minced beef and stewed tomatoes started right here in Bologna, Italy, and you will find a fantastic version on nearly every restaurant’s menu, never served with spaghetti though, as the people of Bologna prefer an egg noodle to spaghetti’s ‘wheaty’ composition.
The Plentiful Porticos
Are you down with porticos? Porticos are these arched walkway things that were plentiful in medieval cities of yesteryear. After a trip to Bolgona, you will be down with them, and maybe even a little infatuated with them. Bologna has over 40 kilometers of these quintessentially European arcades; including a stretch of 600-plus that leads uphill to the famed Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca. In addition to being easy on the eyes, porticos provide fantastic shelter during dicey winter weather or the beating summer sun.
The Leaning Towers
Sorry Pisa, but Bologna is home to not one, but two famous leaning towers, and these towers are older and taller than yours. The two towers of Bologna are located directly in the city center, and you can even climb one – the Asinelli Tower- if you are up for it. The leaning towers of Bologna were built in medieval times as a form of security for wealthy families, and history has it that the city used to be home to over 150 of them.
The Fabulous Fontana di Nettuno
This fountain located just off Bologna’s main piazza is grand, and presents a slice of exactly what you came to Italy for in the first place. In fact, if I blindfolded you and revealed this statue, you’d know immediately what country you were in, it’s just that ‘Italian’. Gracing the city since the 1500’s, the fountain is perfect for picnics during the day or having a glass of wine by at night.
Bologna has always been a university town, and this laid back yet hip vibe permeates the city. And since Bologna only gets a fraction of the tourists as some other Italian cities, it still feels overwhelmingly ‘Italian’. A walk through the Giardini Margherita Park full of school kids in the afternoon or grabbing gelato at night at the drool-inducing La Sorbetteria Castiglione here still feels like an authentic experience, not a camera-flashing cattle call.
This post originally appeared on TravelPulse