At the start of 2020 we could still book trips impulsively. The world was my oyster. One day I was having one of those days at work when I got a text from a friend saying
“Me and a couple other girls are going to Bologna. Wanna come?”
Well, if you ever invite me for a trip and my answer is no, something would be really wrong with me or there would have to be a VERY strong reason for me to respond affirmatively. I did not hesitate. Yes. Of course. Tickets were bought. Excitement. A nice weekend break in Italy, with nice food and scenery. Then, you know how it all rolled out – this pandemic hit and the trip was cancelled. We were given vouchers by Ryanair. And, at the start of November 2021, I was asked again. Yes, let’s use these vouchers. Again, I didn’t hesitate. And I am so glad I didn’t.
Bologna is known for having the oldest university in the world, founded in 1088. This was all I knew about Bologna, and I thought the weekend break would be around this. Yet, I couldn’t be more wrong. Yes, it is a city of students. Yes, it still holds the oldest University in the world, but this is scattered all around and isn’t an attraction per se. Now, you could imagine I would be disappointed. My idea of Bologna was wrong. Nothing we did was about the university. And still, I enjoyed so much this town, that I didn’t even care.
Like any Italian city, it is extremely beautiful. The old Italian charm, the terracotta roofs, the majestic sculptures, the big plazas. The sound of this language will always be music in my ears. This was my third time in Italy, and it was the first time I was also impressed with the Italians. Perhaps because in comparison to Rome or Florence (the two places I visited before), Bologna doesn’t face the crowds of tourists that make everyday life so difficult for locals. Everyone in Bologna was extremely nice to us, kind, helpful. And, probably the detail that won’t ever leave my head, everyone seemed to have dogs, of all sizes, all breeds, but all so well-groomed, so happy. Yes, happiness seems the word to describe Bologna. Everyone and everything just emanated an air of contentment and joy. Maybe it’s because of all of the good wine and food 🙂
Walking in the streets of Bologna is a charming experience in itself. And the best part is that, even if it rains, you basically don’t need an umbrella. The famous porticoes of Bologna allow you to walk the whole city with a roof over your head, adding to the beautiful architecture of the town.
Photographing the streets of Bologna wasn’t easy though. Saturday was the only full day we spent in the town, and the cities were full of locals. I was actually impressed with how crowded the town was, but I associated with the proximity of Christmas and the fact that it was Black Friday weekend – a shopping weekend everywhere in the western world.
One of the biggest attractions is the Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune). The bronze sculpture is majestic, but it holds a secret. If you stand from a certain position towards the statue, his hand will look like an erected penis. Yup. And when I first saw it, I didn’t even notice that the mermaids below him are holding their breasts, from where water escapes through their nipples…nothing against it!
The city is also beautiful at night, and for me, it was even better to photograph. The crowds weren’t present and I could avoid the masked faces photobombing my lens- the below photos are from the beautiful Piazza Maggiore, in the night we arrived in Bologna.
The Two Towers (Le due Torri: Garisenda e degli Asinelli) are the stars of Bologna and for a good reason. The view from Asinelli is absolutely fantastic – but you do have to climb 498 steps, a height of 97 meters (unfortunately, not accessible to disabled people). But believe me – it is worth it. It seems in the medieval ages the city of Bologna was full of towers. Historians don’t know exactly why – especially when you think that in the 13th century it could take up to 10 years to build a tower. Most of these were commissioned by noble families and, in my opinion, it was a vanity symbol. Who has the highest tower? Well, that doesn’t really matter anymore, since lots of them ended up falling off or being demolished due to the danger they represented. These two towers are some of the survivors to this day.
But there is so much more to see in Bologna. A visit to the city library will make you want to become a student again. As well as the atrium of the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio e Teatro Anatomico. Unfortunately, the latter was closed, and we couldn’t admire its magnificent interiors.
And finally, I’ll end this post by showing you a sight of the canal of Bologna from the famous Finestrella di Via Piella (Window of Street Piella). You may need to queue a little for a photo, but it’s magical – I’ve uploaded a video as well. Unfortunately, it was already late in the evening, and the light was almost all gone.
I can tell you from this quick visit Bologna is a place I’d like to go to again, even though it is so small. Perhaps it was the food, the people, the dogs. It is definitely a place worth visiting if you are exploring the north of Italy. I’ll come back here to speak about the food 😉