After my study abroad program ended, I decided I couldn't leave Europe without revisiting Florence - the city that stole my heart and where I caught the incurable travel bug. I spent the first few days going back to all my favorite spots and reminiscing on last summer when I was there with all my friends. But after a while, I realized that the center of Florence is quite compact, and once you've seen it all, there's not much to do. So, I decided to take a little break from Florence and explore outside of the city.
Two of the places I decided to visit, at the suggestion of my couch surfing host, was Bologna and Verona. Originally, I bought tickets to both cities to visit in one day. That was a terrible idea. Long story short: I missed my train, got scammed, had to take a detour, and never made it out of Verona's train station. I did eventually make a second attempt to visit Verona, which I'll elaborate on my disaster of journey in a future post!
Anyways, back to Bologna. From Florence, there are plenty of trains going to Bologna. If you buy tickets a couple days to a week in advance, you can find them for as cheap as 10 €. Ticket prices also depends on the departure time and which station you leave from. You can check the two main train operators, Trenitalia and Italo Treno, to compare prices and schedules.
So because of my poor planning, I didn't quite spend a day here, just a mere five hours. But five hours was enough to get me hooked on this city.
Departing from Bologna Centrale train station, I walked down the cobblestoned streets to the main square, with towering burnt orange buildings and beautiful archways on either side of me.
After a little stroll down Via dell'Indipendenza, I found myself at Piazza Maggiore, Bologna's main square. Dominating the piazza is, of course, a church: San Petronio Basilica. There's no fee to enter, so it's definitely worth taking a peek inside. Another landmark in the square is the Fountain of Neptune. Unfortunately, it was under construction at the time and covered in scaffolding, so I didn't bother with a photo.
After taking in all the beauty of Piazza Maggiore, I decided to just pick a direction and wander aimlessly, since I couldn't pull up Google maps. Thankfully, I picked a pretty good direction cause it led me towards food. Leave it up to my stomach to lead me the right way!
Walking down Via Drapperie, I found plenty of boutiques, bars, and cafes located on this street. It was mid-afternoon at this point, and my stomach was grumbling, so I stopped by Mercato di Mezzo. They’ve got plenty of food options, but for authentic Bolognese cuisine, you must have tortellinis or tagliatelle al ragu. Ragu, the real bolognese sauce, and tortellini are specialities of the region and should not be missed. And to avoid a common tourist faux pas, do not order spaghetti bolognese, which actually has nothing to do with Bologna!
To see where the locals shop, walk around to Via Pescherie Vecchio, where you can find a series of fresh produce and flower stalls.
With a full stomach, I walked towards the two towers you can easily spot in the skyline. Located in Piazza di Porta Ravegnana the two towers, Asinelli (the larger one) and Garisenda, are important landmarks in Bologna. You can climb Asinelli tower for a mere € 3! My biggest regret was not saving enough time to do this. I bet the view from up top would have been breathtaking...
Not far from the towers is Piazza Della Mercanzia. You can find an outdoor seating area in this square away from the crowds. Pictured below is Palazzo Della Mercanzia, which is the seat of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Agriculture and Crafts. I don't believe it's opened for touring, but it's a beautiful piece of architecture!
Other points of interest include the University of Bologna (Via Zamboni, 33, 40126 Bologna, Italy), the oldest university in the world, and there's probably five other important churches you could visit if you really wanted to kill some time – but I was kind of over churches at this point 😅.
Plus, I was running late (as usual) for my train to Verona, but as you already know, Verona did not go as plan...stay tuned to find out what happened!
*Originally published on Violets for Vivien