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Die Türme Garisenda und Asinelli in Bologna, Bild: Sergey Dzyub / shutterstock

Bologna – Centre of Italian Culture

The city of Bologna is one of the oldest and most interesting cities in Italy that is not overrun by international fame. Rome, Milan, Naples , and Florence are among the most popular destinations, and for good reason—but Bologna stands on its own as a center of Italian history and culture. The city is particularly known for its tall towers from the Middle Ages, which once stood for the prosperity of the city’s powerful families. Today, medieval Italy mixes with a modern hotspot for culture, art and an active nightlife. What should you have seen if you are interested in the city and planning a trip?

Bologna – between cathedrals, palazzos and a long history

Piazza Maggiore Bologna
Piazza Maggiore, Image: Yasonya / shutterstock

The historical fate of Bologna was as changeable as it is known from most major cities in Italy. Long before something like a unified Italian state was formed, the city was a center of the arts and scholars, which was sometimes contested and repeatedly drawn into the wars of the Italian empires and city-states. However, Bologna quickly developed a self-image of its power and importance and thanks to some rich families of the city and the patronage of bishops, the city continued to grow in the Middle Ages. Many of the ancient buildings that are now among the most important sights of Bologna still bear witness to this.

Until the time of the Renaissance, the history of the city was changeable and it has secured one or the other epithet due to historical developments. In addition to being the City of Wisdom – especially based on the university – it is also called “the fat one” in Italy, as Bologna has always been closely associated with rich food, which is still offered today in the city with festivals and great restaurants. Today, ancient buildings are mixed with the development of a modern Italian city, although the excesses are not as evident as in Florence or Rome. This gives Bologna its very own charm.

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What are the main attractions in the city?

Around 180 so-called gender towers once dominated the medieval skyline of Bologna. There are now only a few remnants, two of which are the city’s landmarks. The Torre degli Asinelli and the Torre Garisenda are not only impressive vestiges of a historical period of the city, but also an outstanding example of the architecture of the time. The two towers, which today have a clear inclination, can be visited perfectly in conjunction with a city tour.

Cathedrals and palazzos play a special role in the city and one of the most beautiful cathedrals can be found on a visit to Piazza Maggiore. The square is considered the center of the city. Not only are most tourists to be found here, but many locals also enjoy the flair and the surrounding restaurants. With the Neptune Clock in the middle and the world-famous Basilica of San Petronio, you have two more figureheads of the city. The Gothic church is number 5 of its kind in the world and yet has not been completely completed since the Middle Ages.

In addition to a large number of museums that deal with the art and history of the city, there is the Giardini Margherita, a city park, which is always a popular spot for the people of the city, especially when the weather is nice, and also invites you to a wide variety of activities.

Culture & Gastronomy in Bologna

View of Bologna
View of Bologna, Image: Vivida Photo PC / shutterstock

Of course, Bologna has many traditions and festivals of its own, which are also celebrated in the streets of the city on certain holidays. In addition to the art and culture that is celebrated here, it is above all the students of the city who appreciate large festivals. Traditions usually refer to one important point that has made the city famous over the past 500 years: food. Food and drink are not only associated with Bologna in the warmly meant epithets. As the inventor of tortellini and the capital of many a world-famous dish, the city naturally has a lot to offer, especially in the restaurants and taverns. You just shouldn’t make the mistake of believing that you’re giving a Bolognese here. This very German invention is not to be found in the city.

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In the restaurants of Bologna, hearty dishes are on the menu. Sauces made from minced meat and ragus are just as popular as the famous mortadella, which originated here and is arguably one of the best products of its kind in the world. Since the city is well developed for tourism, but also mainly students can be found in the city, the prices are also reasonable and significantly lower than you know from cities like Florence, Milan or Rome. Plenty of chances to work your way through the city’s rich cuisine if you’ve had a long day of sightseeing.