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Bologna - Walking Around the Foodie Capital of Italy

People claim to come here for study, politics or quirky medieval architecture. Secretly, it's for Italy's best pasta.
Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 5.6 miles
Duration: Full day
Family Friendly

Overview :  Bologna is self-described as 'la dotta, la grassa e la rossa' (the learned, the fat and the red). The city claims to have laid the... more »

Tips:  Bologna is one of the easiest cities in Italy to reach by the fast rail network from most parts of the country - it's about an hour... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Piazza Maggiore

The trail starts in Bologna's expansive city square, where it seems most of the population will gather at some point in the day.

Like most major Italian piazza, it's a place to settle into a cafe and people watch but Maggiore also has some unique attractions. Dominating from the south side is the huge 14th century church, the Basilica di San... More

2. Food shops and markets

For lovers of Italian food, Bologna is Mecca. In very un-Italian fashion, this is not a city that places appearance above substance, so while it has its fair share of 5-star restaurants, even the simplest dishes in cheap and cheerful trattoria can be gourmet delights.

In that spirit, all the restaurants recommended later in this guide are in the ... More

Book ahead because this is one of Bologna's most popular restaurants - and for good reason. It's a small, intimate trattoria, tucked down an unmarked side alley of the city's most foodie of foodie streets - Via Clavature. They focus on Bologna and regional specialties. The pasta in particular is consistently exceptional.
Telephone: 051-229 434

This complex of churches became a monastery in the 8th century, beginning 400 years of restoring older religious buildings on the site.

Among the present collection is the 5th century SS Vitale e Agricola, the oldest church in Bologna, but worship here has been traced back to Roman times with evidence that empire built a temple here dedicated to ... More

5. Godot wine bar & restaurant

This is one of Bologna's more recent gourmet highlights. It's a modern and stylish (yet informal) place that gets rave reviews for its wine list but the food is excellent too. Why not start with the wine decision for a change, and then choose food to match?
Telephone: 051-226 315

6. Twin (leaning) towers

These medieval skyscrapers are the remnants of an era when dozens of such structures dotted the Bologna landscape. They were built by noble families, partly for protection (it was also the era of the family vendetta) and partly as status symbols.

The taller of the remaining two, the 318-foot Torre degli Asinelli, was built in 1119 and is still... More

7. University and university museums

Bologna's university was officially founded in 1088 and claims to be western world's first. It's a hard claim to prove because of the informal beginnings of most medieval schools, but there's no doubt that todays 80,000 students are part of a long and proud academic tradition.

Bologna and Paris were considered the most important centres of... More

This ornate porticoed building is the municipal library, but it's also the former home of the university, which explains why its walls are decorated with images and memorials to famous scholars.

The university didn't have a central building until it was moved here in the 16th century by a former student, Pope Pius IV. To do this he diverted... More

9. Porticoes

Challenging the leaning towers for the title of Bologna's most quirky architectural feature are the 70km (40 miles) of porticoes attached to various buildings throughout the city.

The trend began in the 12th century when the influx of 2000 university students caused a housing shortage. The commune's solution was to allow extra rooms, overhanging ... More

10. Santuario Madonna di San Luca

If you have made the portico pilgrimage, you may as well have a look at the church at the end. The sanctuary began life as an 11th century pilgrims hostel, before becoming a church 700 years later.

The church was designed to house a precious religious icon, the 'Black Madonna' which can still be seen in the decorative interior today. There are... More

Bologna has several excellent gelateria, but generally the ones close to Piazza Maggiore are not amongst them. This is the exception, as evidenced by the queues waiting to taste the heavenly homemade ice cream. As well as being the city's most popular gelateria, it is probably the one with the most flavors - you need the time in the queue to make ... More

This small traditional hole-in-the-wall is filled with locals most nights. A pleasant, family-run business that has excellent service but it's the food that keeps the customers returning. It specialises in Bolognese and Umbrian cuisine - anything with cinghiale (wild boar) is worth trying. Getting complimentary lemoncello at the end of the meal is... More