Situated in Northern Italy, Bologna is the capital and biggest city of the Emilia Romagna region. It is about midway between two of the most popular cities in Italy, Florence, and Venice. Both of them are easily reachable by train in about an hour’s journey. On the other hand, Rome is 400 km south, which takes about 4 hours by car and 2 hours by train.
With roughly 400 000 inhabitants and a metro area of about 1 million people, Bologna is a reasonably large city, the 7th largest in Italy. Despite not being one of the most visited cities in Italy, Bologna is a fascinating destination. One that offers some of the best food in Italy (which by itself says a lot) but also several fascinating monuments, a lively vibe, and an attractive young crowd.
Bologna’s nickname is “la rossa,” or the red. This nickname has a double meaning. Originally it referred to the red rooftops and reddish buildings of the historical center of Bologna.
The best way to see why Bologna is called the red is by climbing one of the many towers and seeing the city from above. From there, you’ll find a sea of red rooftops and other buildings. It is pretty beautiful.
Another explanation for this nickname came much later in Bologna’s history. After WWII, the city was often regarded as a communist bastion and a large portion of the population supported left or far-left ideologies.
Bologna is also known as la turrita, or “the towered” because of its many medieval towers. Constructed between the 12th and 13th centuries, these were mainly defensive stone towers reaching as high as 97 meters.The explanation for this massive construction of towers isn’t fully understood. Still, most scholars believe that the wealthiest families of Bologna used them for defensive reasons, which as usual, later became like a pissing contest of who had the most prominent tower! The higher your tower, the more important you were.
At one time, there were more than 100 medieval towers in Bologna. It was something really impressive. So much that Dante even mentioned it in Inferno, the first part of the Divine Comedy. Most of the towers were demolished during the posterior centuries; others fell. Yet, some remained and became a famous sight of Bologna through the centuries. Today, there are about 20 towers you can still see in Bologna. The most famous are the twin towers, the Asinelli Tower with 97 m, and the Garisenda Tower. Though, there are a few impressive others. Fewer than twenty towers can still be seen in today’s Bologna. Among the remaining ones are the Azzoguidi Tower (61 m), the Prendiparte Tower (60 m), the Scappi Tower (39 m), Uguzzoni Tower (32 m), Guidozagni Tower, and Galluzzi Tower.
Bologna’s Food – La grassa
Despite the other nicknames, towers, porticoes, and even the legendary University, today, Bologna is most famous for the food. Bologna is known for being the best (or one of the best) cities in Italy to eat. Some people even call it Italy’s food capital, which is why it has the nickname la grassa, or “the fat one.”
As the capital of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna is one of the best places to try all the delicious dishes and ingredients that originate there. This region is renowned for having some of the best products in Italy. Parma ham, Parmesan Cheese, Culatello salami, Balsamic vinegar from Modena, tagliatelle and tortellini pasta, ragu, and Mortadella all come from Emilia Romagna, some from Bologna itself, others from nearby cities.
The whole region is the food valley and has some of the most delicious food in the world. So, when in Bologna, one must try some of these delicious foods, go into the restaurants, and sample all these delightful dishes.
Jazz may not be the first thing some people think of when talking about the most famous things about Bologna. However, music lovers know that this Italian city is home to some prestigious Jazz festivals and has given birth to some well-known bands.
In the heart of Bologna, in the Quadrilatero, there’s Jazz street (La Strada del Jazz), where you can find Bologna’s Jazz walk of fame. It has marble stars dedicated to some of the greatest Jazz players like Miles Davis and Chet Baker. This was also the location of Alberto Alberti disco club, which made Jazz memorable in Italy and where the Festival del Jazz di Bologna happened.