A Taste of Bologna Italy

Warning! This post has nothing to do with the horrible sandwich meat.

Nutmeg LOVES the Italian language.  After fighting rush-hour congestion, some GPS misinformation, tiny crowded streets and a retail strip thronged with groups strolling on a Saturday evening – There is something immediately soothing to hear “buonasera signora“!

Allora that is how the visit to Bologna began.  Arrival on a Saturday, at the height of late-day shopping and the start of the “apero” (cocktail) time, was an adventure.  However, once settled in the very centrally located Hotel Metropolitan, a city map in hand and some restaurants suggestions, Ginger and Nutmeg ventured out into the crowded streets.  Bologna is located in Northern Italy, it is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. Bologna was called Felsina in the time of the Etuscans and later renamed Bononia under the Romans. Bologna is home to the oldest university in the world, which dates back to the 1088. Today Bologna continues to have a strong student population.  It is also known as a gastronomic capital in Italy.


Ginger and Nutmeg walked along Via del l’Independenza to the famous Piazza Maggiore.  This street is wide and lined with inexpensive retail stores and a mix of snack bars and fast-food chains – it is not that impressive. Piazza Maggiore is a beautiful medieval square, surrounded by several palazzos and the Basilica di San Petronio.  The buildings were constructed in Romanesque and Gothic style between twelve hundred and fourteen hundred.  Piazza Maggiore and the Fontana del Nettuno  are beautiful during the day and at night, however the area is also very crowded (even in March).  Continuing along to Piazza Galvani, the shopping moves distinctly upscale and the crowds thin out, except at the very lively Cafe Zanarini.  This cafe/bar was crowded and inviting so Ginger and Nutmeg joined the group standing at the bar – Processco and Sperol Spritz (like Campari with Processco and soda) grazie!  It was then that Ginger noticed the snacks, little bites of pizza, tasty local prosciutto, olives, tuna bites, risotto balls etc…one could dine for free as long as you continued to order the odd cocktail.  Nutmeg eyed the expresso machine and declared that a return visit in the morning was in order.  Dinner was a bit of a bust as the three restaurant suggestions were either closed or full.


The next morning after some fortification from the hotel’s buffet breakfast and a decent cappuccino, it was time to explore. Bologna has a well-preserved historical centre, despite heavy bombing damage in WWII.  There are old towers, churches, large squares and 37km of porticoes.  This very photogenic city, make sure to take your camera along to capture changes in light and shadows along your way. The historical centre can easily be visited on foot as most of the sights are fairly concentrated together.  There are countless museums that appeal to all tastes and fetishes; such as the Museum of Human Anatomy, Museum of Physics, Museum of Military Architecture etc..  Given a time constraint on a single day Ginger and Nutmeg ruled out museums (besides it was sunny).

Here is a short “must-do” list:

bologna-porticosPiazza Maggiore – for the sheer size and level of activity

  • Basilica di San Petronio – Although not the most beautiful (according to Nutmeg), it is one of the largest of medieval construction
  • Due Torri – constructed in the 12th century, there used to be 100 towers forming a defensive system – only 20 remain today.  You can climb to the top of Torre degli Asinelli (beware if you suffer from vertigo or claustrophobia) – the view is worth it!
  • Porticoes – there are 37km of arcades offering protection from the elements and summer heat. Some of the porticoes are in better condition that others but most offer some unique photo-opportunities
  • University Area – worth a walk through although it is not the biggest attraction
  • Old Streets: Via Santo Stefano, Via San Vitale, Strada Maggiore – walk these streets and the small lanes in between to get a sense of Bologna ‘then and now”
  • Tamburini – a classic Bologna deli, restaurant and cafe – to get a taste for typical Bolognese ingredients
  • View from San Luca – located at the top of a hill, this cathedral is joined to the old town by a long series of 666 porticoes (we suggest you drive up the hill) with a wild car race each year.

Skip the following (it is not worth the walk):

  • Piazza XX Septtembre
  • Parc Montagnola

Ginger and Nutmeg covered many kilometers in their one day in Bologna and topped it off with a “typical” dinner – Tortellini in Brodo anyone?  One more piece of advice, you should stay in Bologna longer that two nights – there is lots to see in this beautiful city.


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