On May 21, 2012 there was a major 6.0 earthquake in northern Italy centered near the town of Bologna. While the recent earthquake resulted tragically in some death as well as destruction of some historical buildings and monuments in the smaller towns of the region, as far as I have heard Bologna itself was spared.
We travelled to Bologna [averagetraveller.com] in 2010 as part of my Northern Italy trip because it is the biggest city in the food rich Emilia-Romagna region. That area is famous for being the home of products such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena (traditional balsamic vinegar). Perhaps you’ve heard of them before? Bologna was also the starting point for an amazing food tour [avergetraveller.com] that I took by Italian Days tours [italiandays.it].
Bologna is known for the meat based pasta sauce known as Bolognese around the world, ragù alla bolognese around Italy, and just plain ragù in Bologna. While it wouldn’t be served with ragù, an obscure little pasta called tortellini also calls Bologna home. Another product that they created is Mortadella, a finely ground pork sausage. In the United States you probably grew up eating a luncheon meat based on Mortadella called bologna or baloney. Now you know where that name comes from!
In addition to its rich food history, Bologna is also one of the world’s oldest University towns as the University of Bologna, opened in 1088, is the oldest in the world. Walking around town in the evening you can tell that there is a youthful vibe with many bookstores, cafes, restaurants, and bars spilling into the narrow streets and full of very well dressed people in their 20’s. On one post-dinner stroll we walked around the corner at 10:30pm on a Tuesday night to find someone directing all the foot traffic out to the sides of the street. Before we knew what was happening, a full fashion show came marching down past us! It was very cool.
Bologna is easily my favorite city in Italy. It is large enough that it has all the cultural sites and restaurants that you would want yet small enough that there aren’t really any touristy places. While we needed to use our very basic and newly learned Italian language skills [averagetraveller.com], it was nice to do some shopping at some of the well-known Italian clothing stores without any crowds and with a little extra personal attention from the staff.
If you are travelling by train between Florence and Venice make sure to hop off the train in Bologna and stay for a day or two. I will be returning there as soon as I can for more food and to hit a couple of famous gelato shops that I missed on my last trip! I also have to make sure to visit the Ferrari and Lamborghini factories that are in Emilia Romagna! Daydream……