A virtual sea of red-roofed houses set against a striking blue horizon, Bologna is the capital city of northern Italy and is definitely not to be missed. This historical city is perhaps not so well known for its many places of interest as it is for its high level of culture and its phenomenal cuisine. Which aspect of it is the best? We'll leave you to decide for yourself!
In roughly 534 BC a group of Etruscans settled in a particular area of northern Italy that was currently inhabited by farmers and shepherds. They called their settlement Felsina and it a city quickly sprung up around the sanctuary which was built on a hill. The city survived peacefully until the 4th century when it was conquered first by the Gauls and then by the Romans. It was the Romans who gave the place the name Bononia from which the current name of Bologna is derived. The city was eventually made into a road hub and the city began to grow. By 88 BC it had become a municipium and the rectilinear street plan that these early Bolognesi created is still in use today - even after much of it's baths, temples and theater were destroyed by fire. The city was rebuilt by Emperor Nero and Bologna continued to grow. In 1088 the Studio was founded. Today the Studio is the oldest university in Europe and it has seen the likes of Irnerius, Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarca.
For many, it was the Studio that truly gave Bologna its distinctive flavor. While it may have seen many of the same problems that troubled other parts of Italy, Bologna remained a place of intellectuals. Over the years, it has even gained the nickname of 'Bologna la dotta' which means 'Bologna the learned'. Today many of the cities inhabitants are highly intellectual and people often travel from all parts of the world to attend the city's prestigious and ancient university. On the other hand, Bologna has also garnered the nickname 'Bologna la grassa' which means 'Bologna the fat' and refers to the cities fine cuisine. Much of the cuisine relies on meats and cheeses and one will often fine proscuitto, mortadella and salame as well as a variety of cheeses on the menu. Some of the local specialties are Tagliatelle al ragù, tertelline in broth and mortadella. Of course you can also expect to enjoy a fine glass of wine with your meal.
When it comes to attractions and sights, you will have a large number to choose from. Despite damage from bombing and fires there is still a wide variety of architectural delights to be found in Bologna. Due to it's strong Roman heritage, there are a large number of historically interesting fortifications and ramparts to be seen. There is also over 37 kilometers of arcades in the city which provide ample shelter when traveling by foot. Make sure you get to experience the delightful city of Bologna when you next visit Italy!