The 5 Best Things about Bologna

One of Italy’s most underrated Cities EVER!

Oh, how the heart pines for Bologna when you have not visited in a while. It’s a destination like no other. Striking architecture, fascinating culture, food to die for, ice cold blood orange and Campari in Piazza Maggiore, boutique and delicatessen style shopping on Via Indipendenza… I could go on.

How then to narrow Bologna’s Best Bits down to just 5 things?
Well, that’s impossible, of course. But the following five aspects of this one-off city (which features early on in my debut novel, ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’) are my particular favourites. And what is travel if not a little subjective, after all?

1: Bologna is… atmospheric
Whether you are taking a cool refreshing Negroni of a sun downer in one of the city’s ancient squares, sipping strong Italian caffè in a backstreet, or wandering around the old town, stealing glimpses of Bologna’s twin towers, there is always something rustically gorgeous to stop you in your tracks. Bologna’s left-wing and culinary twists and turns surprise and delight like that, her splashes of terracotta living on long in the memory – and from left to right, pretty much everybody is smiling.

2: Bologna is… simple food, cooked beautifully
You walk into a Trattoria (preferably with an Italian friend) and there is no menu. The lady of the kitchen reels off three or four dishes, and that’s it: you eat what they have. But my, you eat well! And then there are the gelaterias strewn across the city like confetti… my favourite, just off the main shopping street, even lists its flavours as movies titles!

Bologna and food go hand in hand like that:

“We quickened our pace, only to slow it right back down to catch the scent on the air. Pretty little Amaretti morsels capped with snowy icing sugar peaks, and Torta di Riso di Bologna – the city’s take on rice cakes, selling out by midday the eve of Good Friday – streamed out the doorway of a bakery.

‘Mmm,’ I said, fluttering my eyelids. ‘How can Daisy pass this lot by without as much as a drool?’

‘She’s a boring twig who exists on green tea and goji berries, Kate; that’s how.’

Steph tossed her hair over her shoulder like a scarf and we reluctantly carried on.”
Extract from ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’

3: Bologna is… children’s books
Once a year in spring, publishers from all over the world descend on the city’s Feria del Libro for a week long book fair. Rights are sold, up-and-coming illustrators exhibited, and Northern Europeans delight in the fact they can wear T shirts, dine on truffle-stuffed ravioli, and buy limoncello at duty-free.

4: Bologna is… a little bit mysterious
We don’t know as much about her as we do the rest of her Italian compatriots. She’s Queen of keeping a little bit back for herself, but look a little closer and you’ll find it. It’s in the world’s oldest academic institution of the western world – did you know that’s located in the heart of Bologna? It’s in the gastronomy which comprises of oh-so-much-more-than-Bolognese. It’s in the people and their history, the medieval walls which guard the treasures of art and literature, the Basilica, the whispering walls and the secret bakeries.

5: Bologna is… understated
She doesn’t shout about her credentials from the roof tops, and frankly, she’s all the more appealing for it (yes, Bologna is a Mama in my book… or to be more precise, my recipe book). She doesn’t care if you haven’t sought her out yet in the way that you will undoubtedly have with Venice and Rome, Florence and Pisa. That’s how she remains a segreto.

Have you been to Bologna? What are your favourite things about Emilia Romagna’s capital?

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