Capturing the Charm: First Impressions of Emilia Romagna’s Enchanting Landscapes and Gastronomy
A first impression of Bologna leaves you wanting to explore the entire city completely. From the famous two towers of Bologna to the outdoor markets of Bologna, there’s so much to see around the medieval and historic central district of the city.
I’ve always heard about this gorgeous medieval city of Bologna, the regional capital of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, but I never had the right opportunity to visit the area. Finally when the right occasion dropped into my lap, I quickly jumped at the opportunity and made plans to visit and experience all the attractions, activities, cuisine and landmarks in the city. I totally loved every facet exploring Bologna and it was more than what I expected in visiting this colorful city and its medieval center. Check out all the highlights of A first impression of Bologna in Emilia Romagna – it’s definitely worth a visit if you are in the regional capital.
What to do and see in Bologna
The first views of a city to me always makes an instant impression and coming out of the main railway station at Bologna was almost overwhelming – all the noise, the crowded exits and bustling energy – walking out into the main artery leading into the central district for the first time was quite exciting and visually stimulating. Old neoclassical buildings, mixed in with medieval architecture and then juxtaposed with 70s to 80s bland boxed buildings were all blaring out at me and giving me a wonderful first flavor of the city.
I followed my guide Catia, who was escorting me to my hotel on the outer edge of the historic district and soon enough we cross some of the many unique porticoes that the city is known for.
Walking through Bologna’s graceful porticoes
Passing through a series of arcades, I was in awe of these grand porticoes, some very simple, some very ornate and painted in fine details. It was amazing to walking through them, I wanted to stop every few steps to take a picture. But I let things sly and just enjoyed the experience and looking up at all these artistic details and flourishes. I knew that I would eventually get to explore most of them and never tire from the novelty of each arcade and destination.
The porticoes of Bologna are a defining feature of the city’s architectural landscape. These covered walkways, also known as “portici,” are a distinctive element that stretches for over 40 kilometers throughout the historic center. Dating back to medieval times, the porticoes serve both functional and aesthetic purposes. They provide shelter from the elements, offering shade from the sun and protection from rain or snow. Walking along the porticoes is a unique experience, with their arches, columns, and vaulted ceilings creating a captivating atmosphere. They also house numerous shops, cafes, and boutiques, adding a lively and bustling vibe to the streets. The porticoes of Bologna are not only an architectural marvel but also a testament to the city’s rich history and vibrant culture.
Exploring the university area of the historic district
I enjoyed exploring the university area of the historic district in Bologna on my own and checking out the beautiful details and architectural buildings in the area.This area is home to one of the oldest universities in the world, the University of Bologna, founded in 1088. As you wander through the narrow streets, you’ll encounter beautiful historical buildings, bustling student life, and a lively atmosphere.
The university area has always been a hub of intellectual and cultural activities, with numerous libraries, museums, and vibrant student hangouts. The energy and youthful spirit are palpable as you pass by charming bookshops, cozy cafes, and lively piazzas filled with students engaged in animated discussions. Immerse yourself in the rich academic history and soak in the vibrant ambiance of the university area, where the past and present seamlessly blend together, creating an enchanting experience for visitors.
Exploring Piazza del Maggiore
We entered many piazzas and then a grand piazza that I knew I would be passing through regularly. Of all the Bologna attractions, the Piazza del Maggiore stood out immediately. A grand square with many of the medieval landmarks surrounds the historic center of Bologna. Here lies the unfinished basilica San Petronio and the various pallazos that mark the government buildings and monuments that surround the piazza in all this medieval glory – I know I will be coming here regularly in the next few days and will be well acquainted with all the grand boulevards that lead into this piazza.
Adjacent to Piazza Maggiore is the another famous Bologna site, the Piazza del Nettunno which houses the grand fountain dedicated to the god Neptune and surrounded by more magnificent medieval buildings that house the main library – Sala Borsa, the tourism office – Bologna Welcome and other city government offices.
Visit the Piazza Nettuno
Piazza Nettuno, located in the heart of Bologna, is a captivating square that exudes elegance and charm. Dominated by the impressive Fountain of Neptune, the square serves as a meeting point and a central gathering spot for both locals and visitors. The Fountain of Neptune, sculpted by Giambologna in the 16th century, stands tall at the center of the square, depicting the mighty sea god surrounded by mythical sea creatures. The intricate details and majestic presence of the fountain make it a captivating sight to behold. The square itself is adorned with beautiful buildings, including the historic Palazzo d’Accursio, which houses the city’s administrative offices. Piazza Nettuno is a lively and bustling place, with cafes, shops, and restaurants lining its periphery, creating a vibrant atmosphere. Whether you’re sitting on the steps of the fountain, admiring the exquisite architecture, or simply enjoying the energy of the square, Piazza Nettuno is a must-visit destination that captures the essence of Bologna’s historical and cultural heritage.
A tunnel view to Neptune’s fountain
It seems like my hotel is on the extreme opposite of the railway station, but no worries, I’m enjoying seeing these amazing buildings, art and architecture. We pass by so many ancient and impressive structures and I’m hopeful that I will get to visit and learn a little more about them on my discovery tour of Bologna, and so far I’m quite amazed by the grandness of this city.
Hotel accommodations in Bologna
We finally come to my hotel, the Hotel Touring which is known for a beautiful rooftop garden and magnificent view of the city, so I’m just dying to make it up to see the city from high above and try to decipher the layout and landmarks of the city. But first my room is calling for me to settle in, unwind and maybe take a quick nap before I head on out again to explore in more detail. I drop all my heavy belongings and explore the bedroom interiors – its plush and comfortable. The bathroom is modern and has all the right ammenities even a dual shower head from above and coming from the side walls which I must try. The best feature is the fluffy and inviting bed and of course I jump right into the middle to test the soft bouncy factor and it is quite devine – I think I will take a very short nap just to refresh and then take on the city fully charged.
Additional places to stay in Bologna
There’s so many fantastic choices of places to enjoy and base yourself in the city which is walkable, so being central is key in visiting all the main attractions and markets in town. Here are some of our favorites below.
Located in the historic district and a four star hotel with excellent and comfortable rooms, breakfast service and even a top level hot tub with views for soaking away your tired feet at the end of the day.
Located in a two hectare park, gorgeous swimming pool and grounds, this elegant boutique hotel is comfortable, family friendly and includes a breakfast service. In a more quiet and residential area but still accessible to public transportation, it is a haven in a dense and noisy city to explore and base yourself in.
Located next to the central railway station and a short walk to the historic district, the convenience of this modern and comfortable hotel makes it an easy stay at very affordable prices.
Check out some of these other best rated hotels and inns here for current prices and availability while staying in Bologna.
Looking for a place to eat in Bologna
I’ve heard so much about Bologna being a fantastic food scene with plenty of outdoor markets, food specialty vendors and amazing restaurants to try. I asked the concierge about visiting the famous public markets and they suggested I go to the old market called the Quadrilatero just off the main square at Piazza del Maggiore.
After entering the square, it was not hard to find the side streets leading to the market area and it was quite lively even late in the afternoon to evening timeframe with market stalls still open for business. I check out the colorful stalls and enter a few food shops and check out some menus before I decide to eat at a restaurant with some outdoor seating. This definitely was the place to see and be seen at night time with music, entertainers and other live acts happen right on the streets and its fun to just explore the area and find a place that appeals to your own sense of adventure.
Finding some traditional restaurants in the Quadrilatero
- Trattoria Anna Maria: This charming trattoria is a beloved spot for locals and visitors alike. It serves traditional Bolognese dishes, including rich ragù, homemade pasta, and succulent meat dishes. The cozy atmosphere and friendly service make it a perfect place to savor authentic flavors.
- Osteria dell’Orsa: Known for its casual and laid-back vibe, Osteria dell’Orsa is a popular choice for hearty, no-frills Italian food. From classic pasta dishes like tagliatelle al ragù to comforting soups and delectable desserts, this restaurant offers an authentic taste of the region.
- Trattoria Serghei: With its rustic decor and warm ambiance, Trattoria Serghei is a hidden gem in the Quadrilatero. It specializes in traditional Emilian cuisine, serving dishes like tortellini in brodo (stuffed pasta in broth) and cotoletta alla bolognese (Bolognese-style breaded cutlet).
- Osteria del Sole: Step back in time at Osteria del Sole, one of Bologna’s oldest taverns. This historic establishment invites you to bring your own food while enjoying their selection of local wines and craft beers. It’s an authentic and convivial experience in the heart of the city.
- Ristorante da Nello: This family-run restaurant has been serving traditional Bolognese dishes since 1931. Expect homemade pasta, succulent meat dishes, and delectable desserts. The warm and welcoming atmosphere creates a memorable dining experience.
Check out this video on 10 foods to eat in Bologna
Check out this video of some of the secret places and foods to eat in Bologna
Final thoughts visiting Bologna
I’m glad I had accommodations close to the historic district and everything was walkable from my hotel. I could see that there are so many wonderful venues, museums and places to visit in the historic district and areas around the city. I’m sure you will also find Bologna to be charming, intimate and filled with fun things to do and explore in this lively city.
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Conclusion to a first impression of Bologna in Emilia Romagna
I hope you enjoyed this first impression of the city of Bologna in Emilia Romagna, stay tuned for more discoveries and exciting tours of the city in my upcoming articles. If you enjoyed this post, please do share it with any of the social media buttons around the post, thank you.
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