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Watched over by its two medieval towers, Bologna is one of Italy’s foremost cities, not just in history but in culture too. Affectionately known as La Grossa (the fat) by locals, the city’s gastronomic heritage has ensured its place in the food hall of fame, with the much-loved Bolognese sauce famously originating here. However, there are many more reasons to visit today, with the city boasting countless medieval sights scattered throughout Europe’s second-largest centro storico.
Once ruled by hundreds of warring factions, Bologna was a remarkable jumble of teetering medieval towers, each owned by a different family. Today, the iconic Two Towers stand as proud symbols of this turbulent past, and are just two of the many impressive attractions hidden within the historic heart of the city. From lively piazzas to historic sights, there’s so much to see and do in Bologna that you’ll be itching to return again and again.
There is so much to see in Bologna, from Europe's oldest university (the symbol of Bologna) and the two great towers, to the city's superb Gothic cathedral and medieval churches. However, throughout the arcaded streets and piazzas you will find plenty to tempt you from the sightseeing path – restaurants, cafes and bars galore, plus a crowd of inviting shops, and not to mention the opera, theatre and nightspots.
Direct flights to Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport (BLQ) are available from London Gatwick and London Heathrow and take approximately 2 hours 15 minutes.
Bologna is a year-round destination but the best months to go are during spring and autumn when the weather is pleasant enough for al fresco dining and the summer crowds haven't yet arrived. The weeks leading up to Christmas can also be particularly festive with several Christmas markets offering traditional gifts and a spectacular street market on New Year's Eve in the 13th-century Piazza Maggiore.
Bologna is legendary for its cuisine – it's a real haven for food lovers. Bologna is renowned for its traditional dishes and, most importantly, it's the hometown of tortellini, mortadella and tagliatelle. Besides these delicacies, the city is also famous for Bolognese sauce – best seen in the popular ragu alla Bolognese dish. For the ultimate culinary experience, head to the Quadrilatero, Bologna's old food market. The market has been positioned here since the Roman times. Here is where you can buy all Bologna's specialities to enjoy at home – tortellini, Parmigiano Reggiano, plus a variety of local wines.
The region of Emilia-Romagna also boasts ample vineyeards, and delicious local wines can be enjoyed throughout restaurants and bars in Bologna. Some popular varieties worth trying are: Albana, the first white wine in Italy to obtain a DOCG regocnition in 1987; Sangiovese, a full-bodied red that can be enjoyed with grilled meats or roasts; and Lambrusco, a red, sparkling wine with fruity to floral fragrances. It's served chilled and is surprisingly refreshing on a warm summer's day.
Without a doubt, Bologna is one of Italy's most beautiful medieval cities. Founded in the 6th century BC and originally named Felsina, the city was the capital of the Etruscan Po valley territories for two centuries. Falling into the hands of the Romans a couple of hundred years later, then occupied by Visigoths, Huns, Goths and Lombards, Bologna's rich history has remained very prominent throughout. Walk the Giardini Margherita park and view two reconstructed huts of an Etruscan settlement, enjoy an aperitivo in one of the many old bars and, of course, climb the steps of the Garisenda tower (the more tipsy of the two) and enjoy stunning views of the city.