If there was one town in Italy that pleasantly and endlessly surprised me and The Dutch, it would have to be Bologna. The city would probably ring a bell for some people because of "baloney", but really, it is rather an insult to reduce Bologna, one of the best cities in the world for gastronomy, to sandwich meat.
Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy which lies in the bellybutton of the country, immediately north of Tuscany. If Emilia-Romagna is dubbed as the food capital of food-crazy Italy, Bologna is the capital of that capital. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Bologna has gained the nickname la grassa, the fat one. Ragu bolognese, anyone? Bolognese literally means from Bologna.
Bologna at every turn was just beautiful and the people we've encountered were as well. We had barely a day in Bologna and it was enough for us to be enamored with it. So much so that we decided that our next itinerary to Emilia-Romagna will definitely have to include more than a few hours in Bologna. Until then, la grassa!
Bologna Pick: Church of Santo Stefano
This church is remarkable since it supposedly was erected in the 1st AD as a temple to the Greek god Isis. As with all temples that survived Christianity, it was later on converted to a church. That is about 2,000 years of history right there. What I also found fascinating is that in this church, despite its history and importance, most of everything is accessible. There are no ropes barring access to certain areas, nor were there thick crowds. In other words, this felt like a true church, a real place of worship, as opposed to the mega churches in bigger cities of Rome and Florence. I'm not huge on religion, but there is something fascinating and riveting about Santo Stefano.
Here are a couple resources to help your trip planning:
1. Bologna's Official Tourism Website:
2. Blogville Emilia-Romagna, a confedration of bloggers all over the world sharing their experiences about their travels in the region: http://www.blog-ville.com/tag/emilia-romagna/
3. Once in Bologna, seek out the offical tourism office. If pressed for time, they have a three-hour self-guided walking tour which is a good way to experience Bologna in a nutshell.
4. Tamburini is a Bologna classic and a great place to poke your head in and gawk at local fare. It is in the thick of Quardilatero.
5. Much is talked about the savory glory of Bolognese food, but Bologna has an outstanding chocolatier who has been making fine chocolates since 1796. Majani is a local chocolatier and their chocolate is one of the finest I've had in my life. A little on the pricey side, but their chocolates are guaranteed to knock your socks off. Their website can be found here.