A city where medieval elegance meets radical ideas, Bologna is home to the oldest university in the world and a collection of exciting galleries, museums and historical buildings. Bologna is today one of the liveliest, most dynamic destinations in northern Italy to visit. Situated in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, visitors from all over the world enjoy city breaks in Bologna.
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Bologna has a heritage reaching back to the 9th -century BC, and there are therefore plenty of historical attractions to enjoy during your stay in the city. It’s hard to miss the 14th-century Basilica di San Petronio, the fifth-largest church in the world. When visiting the church, make sure you look out for the 67.7m sundial, dating from 1656 and vital to the discovery of anomalies in the Julian calendar, which led to the establishment of leap years. Another key religious site in Bologna is Abbazia di Santo Stefano, a complex of four churches including the city’s oldest, Santi Vitale e Agricola, which features masonry that can be dated to the Roman period.
The University of Bologna is the oldest in the world, originally founded in 1088. You could very easily spend an hour or two simply wandering around this stunning historical complex, and there are a number of interesting museums to find along the way, including the Museo Navale and the Museo della Specola, set in an 18th-century astronomical tower. If you’re looking for more history, Bologna has many excellent museums. The Museo della Storia di Bologna features a number of engaging interactive exhibitions that cover 2,500 years of history.
No trip to a great Italian city is complete without witnessing sublime Renaissance art. The Pinacoteca Nazionale is the city’s main gallery space, and here you’ll find work by Bolognese artists from the 14th century onwards. As well as Renaissance works, there are also important Baroque pieces here by the late-16th-century Carracci cousins. To see work in-situ, head to the Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio, an intricate building that was used as an anatomical theatre. Or if you’d rather see something a little more contemporary, MAMbo is an avant-garde art space housed in a former bakery complex.
For many, Bolognese is synonymous with the rich tomato sauce used in Spaghetti Bolognese. This is partly why the city has the nickname of La Grassa, or The Fat One. You can learn how to make authentic Bolognese cuisine at Cook Italy or the Culinary Institute of Bologna, which both offer short lessons for beginners through to advanced chefs. If you’d rather just enjoy eating the food, Bologna is home to a staggering variety of world-class restaurants, such as the unpretentious Osteria dell'Orsa and the rustic Trattoria dal Biassanot.