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Bologna Travel Guide

About Bologna

As a regional economic hub, that sits nowhere near the sea, Bologna isn’t Italy’s most obvious holiday destination, but it’s one of the country’s very best cities for food and culture.

With an enchanting blend of Renaissance and medieval-era architecture in the historic city centre, the capital of the Emilia Romagna region is compelling both for its visceral past and lively present.

Home to arguably the oldest university in the world, there’s a large student population here, giving the city plenty of verve. Countless bars cater to them on and around the main arteries like Via Zamboni and Via del Pratello. Many roll out generous buffets for aperitivo, where a pre-dinner drink gets you any number of delicious snacks.

If you’re careful not to fill up too much, dinner will be memorable. Known as 'La Grassa' (the fatty), Bologna has an incredible culinary legacy and is home to some of the finest restaurants in Italy. Choose from dozens of trattorias in the centre serving tagliatelle al ragù – or spaghetti Bolognese to you and me, though the pasta is a little different (1cm-wide strips). Be sure also to try handmade tortelli (filled parcels of pasta) and try the region’s assorted breads, hams and cheeses.

Once you manage to drag yourself away from the dinner table, this multi-faceted city has plenty else to offer. There are several world-class museums and galleries, including the renowned MAMbo (Museum of Modern Art). There are also beautiful churches to explore, including the recently restored 600-year-old San Petronio in the beautiful central square, Piazza Maggiore. And you can’t fail to avoid the Two Towers nearby – the soaring brick skyscrapers from the Middle Ages, one leaning precariously towards the other.

Set in the picturesque Po Valley, Bologna’s pleasing patchwork of blushing-peach buildings is surrounded by green hills, one of which hosts the impressive Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca – definitely worth hiking up, not least for its views of Bologna below. From here you can take in the city that has everything: beauty, culture, intriguing history and incomparable food.

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Featured Hotels


Il Convento dei Fiori di Seta

In a 14th-century convent, this chic boutique combines the building's original features and traditional style (exposed brickwork, beams, oriental rugs and religious frescoes) with elements of contemporary design, such as Perspex and chrome chairs and blown-up modernist floral photographs. A spa area offers a Jacuzzi and Turkish bath.

Grand Hotel Majestic Già Baglioni

This 109-room hotel, on one of Bologna's main shopping streets, is the city's most luxurious. It was designed during the 18th century and built on orders of a pope. Murano glass chandeliers sprinkle the ceilings, while expansive corridors lead guests to beautifully decorated rooms containing antique furniture and modern amenities.

Hotel Corona D'Oro

Situated by the Two Towers in the heart of the historic centre, this luxury hotel is housed in an historic 14th-century palace and is within walking distance of all the major sights. Rooms are grand and elegantly furnished with spacious bathrooms. Particularly popular is the aperitivo buffet at happy hour and its plentiful breakfast.

Hotel Metropolitan

With minimalist decor, white walls, clean lines, candles and South East Asian art, Hotel Metropolitan is something of a calm oasis. The buffet breakfast is stocked with organic produce and there is a little courtyard to relax if the weather is good. The central square is just a short walk along one of the city's main shopping streets.

Hotel Ideale

This good value hotel close to the railway station has small but clean en-suite rooms, and pleasant staff. It has tea and coffee making facilities but doesn't offer breakfast. It also has the option of a room in a nearby apartment.

Hotel Porta San Mamolo

Excellent value, this comfortable, quiet and central hotel is close to Piazza Maggiore. Rooms are light and prettily decorated with period fabrics, elegant furnishings, floral oil paintings and candy-stripe wallpaper. The bright breakfast room is set between two courtyards. There is free Wi-Fi, satellite TV and complimentary bike hire.