7 Reasons to Get Off the Beaten Path and Visit Bologna

A leaning tower, check. Venetian style canals, check.  Mind-blowing cuisine, check.  These attractions and more are found in the foodie capital of Italy, also known as Bologna.  It’s a vibrant college town rich with culture and cuisine.  Here are the 7 must stops for travelers:

1. Secret Canals

Bologna used to look a lot like Venice, with a series of canals connecting the city to the Po River. The canals were built in the 12th century for the city’s bustling textiles industry.  At least five canals remain in the city, and are often overlooked by tourists.  So if you are ready for a little adventure, start exploring at the most popular canal.  It can be spotted on Via Piella.  Just look through the window next to Trattoria Biassanot.

2. Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca

For the best view of Bologna, head to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca.  The walk up is a steady climb with 666 archways along the portico. This number may seem unusual for a destination for many religious pilgrims, but people say this is no accident.  The architect of the portico to the church had an argument with the Vatican while working on the project in the 1670s, and the 666 was his revenge.




3. Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Neptune

These two adjoining squares are the heart of the city.  It’s a popular meeting spot for both locals and tourists.  It’s where you’ll find Neptune Fountain, one of the finest fountains built in the 16th century.  The magnificent statue of Neptune is known at The Giant.  And it’s hard to miss the massive Basilica of St. Petronius and its unfinished façade.  The church was designed to be bigger than St. Peters in the Vatican, but it was never finished.


4. The Whispering Walls

While in Piazza Maggiore, walk into Palazzo del Podestà and stop at the four archways.  Because of the acoustics, two people can stand at diagonally opposites corners, face the wall, and talk to each other.  Just be sure to stand really close to the wall.  Legend says this gallery allowed lepers to confess during the Middle Ages, without causing the disease to spread


5. Leaning Towers

Travelers head to Pisa to see the famous Leaning Tower, but Bologna has two towers that look even more alarming.  Torre Garisenda leans by more than 3 meters.  The taller tower, Torre degli Asinelli has 498 steps to the top, that you can climb for a birds-eye view of the city.  More than 100 towers were built in Bologna in the 12th and 13th centuries, but fewer than 20 are standing today.  Look for the leaning towers in Piazza di Porta Ravegnana.


6. Oldest University

University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world, was founded in 1088.  The university’s oldest main building, which is now the municipal library, is open to the public.  Archiginnasio of Bologna is near Piazza Maggoire.  The old anatomy theater is on the second floor, which was built like an amphitheater.  The walls are covered with dedications to professors and students.



7. Finally, FOOD

When in Bologna, you must feast on the city’s specialties.  Look for handmade egg pasta and stuffed pasta, especially tortellini.  The tortellini is served in a brodo, or broth, and it is Oh So Good.  The famous pasta bolognese is tagliatelle with ragu.  Restaurants serving spaghetti bolognese are likely catering to tourists because that is not the authentic dish.  Bologna is also known for its salami and ham, so enjoy!



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