The way to a tourist's heart is also through his stomach and Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy, has smitten millions of visitors with its cuisine, which is acknowledged as the best in the country. But there is much more to the city than food. There are the red-brick palazzi, miles upon miles of porticoes and charming piazzas that are just as lovely and far less commercial and crowded than Venice or Milan. Which is not to say that Bologna is lethargic. (Well, maybe after lunch.) Thanks to Europe's oldest institution of higher learning, the University of Bologna, the atmosphere of the city is energetic and was fiercely political in the past. Such passionate displays of political fervor are few and far between nowadays but the city still throbs with a vibrant music scene, art galleries and lots more culture. In fact, it's not uncommon for a one-day visit to stretch to a week as visitors find themselves hooked on Bologna.
The piazzas of Bologna are a good place to start your sightseeing, as many are flanked by unique attractions. In the old part of the city, the Piazza Maggiore is surrounded by City Hall, the large Basilica of San Petronio, the Palazzo del Podesta and the Portico dei Banchi. The Fontana del Nettuno is a watery site of grand proportions and is definitely picture-worthy. In the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, the two drunken (leaning, that is) towers of Torre degli Asinelli and Torre Garisenda are a less-crowded alternative to Pisa. There are many museums around Bologna for the art enthusiast. Check out the Archaeological Museum, the National Picture Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art of Bologna and the huge Lamborghini Museum. There are also many parks in the city where you can simply relax and make a picnic of the delicious deli food you can buy almost anywhere. The Giardini Margherita, Orto Botanico and the Parco Montagnola are just a few. For a more contemplative experience, walk under the 666 arches of the world's longest portico, from the Piazza di Porta Saragozza to the 18th century Basilica Santuario della Madonna di San Luca. (Here even the attractions are a mouthful.)
As the gastronomic center of Italy, you'll never lack for good food in Bologna--even bologna. Check out the restaurants along Via del Pratello and Via Indipendenza. For drinks and a fun night out, the pubs and clubs are numerous along Via Zamboni and Via Mascarella. If you want to buy your own ingredients, there are many food shops in Piazza Maggiore, especially along the way to the leaning towers.
High-end fashion shops are numerous in Galleria Cavour near Via Farini. Via San Felice also has many quaint stores and art galleries. If you want to shop for antiques, head to the Mamanca Market and the Mercato di Antiquariato, which is only open every second Sunday of the month.
Corso Matteotti 56
Via AugustoRighi 8
Strada Maggiore 23/c