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Bologna is not the most famous city in Italy. It has no world-famous monuments or museums. There are no destination resorts or breathtaking seaside.
But Bologna is our home. And we love it. For good reasons I might add. Actually, for reasons so significant they beg the question: What makes a city famous? And what should make a city famous? Is what we need for living so different from what we want when we travel?
We think no. Because if there is anything we can be sure of when we travel, no matter where we go, no unforgettable travel story every started with, “So we were standing in front of this monument.” Ha! Instead, how do these travel tales that you tell for the rest of your life begin? Perhaps, “We wandered into this amazing restaurant,” or “We made some new friends that showed us the town….”
These are the experiences that you are going to find in Bologna. So if you are concerned with seeing some of the world’s most famous monuments, definitely don’t come here. But if you want to eat some pretty awesome food and make some new international friends, all on the backdrop of a undeniably medieval city, then don’t miss it. Seriously. Because what more can we ask from life than great food, new friends, and some medieval eye candy?
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And for those of you who still aren’t convinced, here are Lena and I’s top reasons why we can’t live without Bologna…
1. The food
Bologna is internationally famous for its cuisine. And with good reason. The food here is, well, excellent. Spaghetti Bolognese (tagliatelle al ragu), tortellini al brodo, lasagna, and mortadella (aka Baloney). Rich and decadent, don’t come here if you are on a diet. And if you do try the mortadella, you better bring some home with you…unless you are worried about making Oscar Meyer jealous. For a classic Bologna mortadella experience, try Tamburini (via Caprarie, 1), which is in the heart of the center of Bologna, and popular with the Bolognese. Another favorite of ours for mortadella is Marsalino (via Marsala, 13), with a hipper feel in contrast to the classic Tamburini, and a super cute staff that always makes sure you are taken care of.
2. Fun to be found at all times (except in August)
In our humble opinion, what makes a city great is when the streets are filled with people enjoying life. And this is truly a signature of life in Bologna. Taking an afternoon stroll, hanging out with friends and family and enjoying the scene, almost nothing is powerful enough to keep people off the street in Bologna. Pick up a bottle of wine at one of Bologna’s plentiful enotecas, and head to the nearest piazza to relax and people-watch like the locals do.
3. Beauty in every nook and cranny
Bologna boasts the typical Italian beauty – narrow, winding streets painted in bright warm colors, shuttered windows, wrought iron terraces. But what sets Bologna apart from the rest of Italy are its portici, otherwise known as arcades. These portici are multifunctional – easy on the eyes, and a godsend when bad weather abounds. Thanks to the portici, I don’t even own a functional umbrella. 🙂
4. The people
We at Gracefully Global believe that traveling is about getting into the heart of the places we visit, which really means getting to know the people who make these places unique. Bologna is no exception – actually, Bologna’s heartbeat is undeniably the people who are on the streets every day and every night, in every shape and form, from around Italy and around the world. If you want to avoid large hoards of tourists and immerse yourself in the European experience, Bologna is a great place to begin. Once you’ve finished your bottle of wine and enjoyed the ambiance of the piazzas, just follow the crowd to the nearest pub. You’ll make friends in no time.
5. The aperitivo
This is the simplest of explanations. We love Bologna because it is one of the few places in the world that a drink can buy you access to an all-you-can-eat dinner buffet. Buy one drink, and a light dinner buffet is included, for free, at many of Bologna’s most popular bar destinations. What more could we ask for (as starving students and English teachers that is…)? 😉 One of our favorite aperitivo destinations is Lab 16 (Via Zamboni, 16), located very close to Bologna’s famous two towers. They have copious amounts of food (the pizza is great!) served between 7:30pm and 10:00pm, with just a small surcharge on top of your drink purchase (and they have great fruit drinks for those that don’t drink alcohol). The best part is during the summer they set up tables in the small piazza in front of Lab 16, which happens to be one of my favorite perches in all of Bologna.