Bologna: A pocket guide

Most people associate Bologna with the pasta sauce—which, incidentally, Italians call al ragu and eat with tagliatelle, not spaghetti. But Bologna is so much more than this. The town is home to Europe’s oldest university, founded in 1088 by Federick Barbarossa and famous for, among other bragging rights, its eminent women professors: The earliest recorded, in the fourteenth century, was so beautiful that she had to lecture from behind a screen! A seventeenth-century travel writer wrote that Bologna was famous for lutes, sausages, and “little dogges for Ladyes.” Today, although its sausages (baloney!) are legendary, Bologna is more famous for the colonnades that thread throughout the city, many of them constructed from medieval brick. Visitors are drawn to the Pinacoteca (the national art gallery), the Piazza Maggiore, the Teatro Comunale di Bologna (one of the most important opera venues in Italy), and the famous Due Torre, the two twelfth-century towers from which the views over the countryside and the city are spectacular. Mostly, however, Bologna is a town where you stroll. It doesn’t have the art galleries of Florence, the canals of Venice, or the ancient landmarks of Rome, but it does have miles of stunning arcades and striking medieval architecture, one of the oldest universities in the world, and such a lack of tourists—in the colder months, anyway—that you can almost believe you’re the first outsider to discover this enchanting place.

Meet the Experts for Bologna