Italy – Experience Bologna, Italy
Bologna was founded by the Etruscans with the name Felsina (c.534 BCE) in an area previously inhabited by the Villanovians, a people of farmers and shepherds. The Etruscan city grew around a sanctuary built on a hill, and was surrounded by a necropolis.
Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy. Bologna is less than an hour inland from the east coast and about halfway between Florence and Milan.
The weather in Bologna makes this city an ideal destination for a holiday or short break, throughout most of the year. Between May and September Bologna can become very hot and there can also be regular showers of heavy rain, particularly in spring and autumn. During mid-August, at the height of summer, many of the city’s buildings, museums and restaurants close as many locals leave the city for the summer holidays.
The territory of Bologna Province is beautiful and varied. A topography that spreads over the plain of Po River Valley, along the Reno and the Panaro Rivers, in the hills and in the mountains, along the backbones of the Santerno and Senio Rivers to the east, and glides past the Dardagna in the west.
Numerous are the plains, hills and highlands that surround and compose the Bolognese Apennines and its highest peak, the Corno delle Scale, reaching an altitude of 6,562 feet.
The Province boasts a great number of naturalistic areas, such as the Park of Bolognese Gypsum and Badlands of Abbadessa, the Park of the Suviana and Brasimone Lakes, the Abbey of Monteveglio Regional Park, and more.
Bologna and its environs offer landscapes and nature, of course, but also art and culture. Cultural tourism is highly-emphasized and widespread, with particular attention paid to the visitor’s needs and to increasingly improving the grand heritage of the Province and its Capital.
What to See
An Etruscan settlement first, then Gallic, Bologna was also a Roman colony and, later, a Roman city. Inside its walls – of which only a few ruins remain today – the first University in the world was established, in the 11th Century. A main characteristic of the city are its porticoes that in the center reach a total length of about 23 miles, thus rendering Bologna the city with the most arcades in the world.
Another of Bologna’s defining traits are its towers – in the Middle Ages they were as numerous as two-hundred. A tour of the Emilian capital commences in Piazza Maggiore, a rather large piazza that was originally a market. The Piazza has always been the heart of the city, as well as the venue for civic and religious events and celebrations. It is flanked on one side by the impressive Basilica of San Petronio, with its incomplete façade; despite its magnificence, the Cathedral of San Pietro plays the role of Duomo. Also in Piazza Maggiore are the Palazzo del Podestà, the Palazzo dei Notai and the Palazzo dei Banchi.
Piazza del Nettuno, attached to Piazza Maggiore on its northwest, exhibits the Fountain of Neptune and its bronze statue of the god Neptune, by Giambologna. The most famous of those raised in the Medieval Ages are the two towers, Asinelli and Garisenda, offering a fabulous panorama over the city (that is, if you can handle the climb to the top). Not far away is Piazza Cavour, with its porticoes and a gallery of beautifully-colored frescoes.
In the area directly behind San Petronio, you can visit the Church of San Domenico on the homonymous piazza, one of the most important monumental complexes in the city, with paintings and sculptures of great import.
The Santo Stefano Complex (referred to as “the Seven Churches” by locals) is, rather, a place of exceptional historic and religious interest, and is divided into seven holy buildings: churches, chapels and a monastery. Santo Stefano lies in the lovely same-named piazza, site of concerts in summertime, and an evening rendezvous point preferred by students year-round.
The Church of San Giacomo Maggiore impresses for the elegance of its lateral colonnade and interior frescoes. Also in the area is the National Art Gallery, where it is possible to see works by Giotto and his school, Guido Reni, Guercino, along with the famous Ecstasy of St. Cecilia by Raffaello.
Just outside the walls and in the hills is the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, the most important sanctuary in the history of the city; it is connected to the city by a long arcade that begins in Piazza di Porta Saragozza. The Complex of San Michele in Bosco, in Bologna’s environs, is equally-worth a visit.
Walking along the streets that line the River Reno, we can reach Casalecchio di Reno that neighbors Bologna; the River, traversing Casalecchio, is channeled by the Reno Lock, constructed 1100 and later strengthened.
Sasso Marconi is a town that goes back to Etruscan times, of which remain a few tombs; meanwhile an impressive aqueduct testifies to the Romans’ passage. Marzabotto, also an Etruscan-archaeology trove, was also the site of a Nazi massacre of over 1,800 Italians during the Second World War, to which a Memorial to the Dead has been dedicated.
Budrio is an interesting ancient city where we can see signs of the Roman and Medieval periods, particularly in its urban plan. Budrio is rather well-known around the globe for the musical instrument invented by Giuseppe Donati, the ocarina. Learn more about it at the Museum of the Ocarina and Terracotta Musical Instruments. Also here are the Puppet Museum, the Domenico Inzaghi Municipal Art Gallery, and the Archaeological and Paleo-ecological Museum.
Outside the city walls, in Bagnarola, it is possible to visit the complex of the Bagnarola Villas, also called “the Versailles of Bologna;” of these villas the Floriano stands out for its dimensions and architectonic beauty.
Finally, take an itinerary to explore the Parish Church of Cento; Castello d’Argile; Imola with its historical center; San Giovanni in Persiceto; San Giorgio di Piano; the village of Bentivoglio with its impressive fortress; and Medicina.
What to Do
In a land which offers hills, plains and mountains the lovers of outdoor activities can choose their preferred destination. The lovers of the mountains will steer toward the pristine nature of Mount Bibele, a massif composed of three main peaks: Mount Bibele, the Tamburino and Monte Savino which takes its name from the multitude of spring waters. Another itinerary includes the overhanging rocky spur which towers the valleys below, the Sanctuary of Santa Maria di Zena, best known as Mount of the Ants from which you will be delighted by a marvelous sight onto the Zena and Idice Valleys.
The name comes from a strange natural phenomenon, the migration of clusters of males of flying ants. From Central Europe they move toward the peak to make their flying wedding. After mating, the ants die in the sanctuary area. The peculiarity of this event has lead people to assign to the phenomenon a miraculous value and to connect it to the Madonna’s Day. This mount is perfect for the lovers of trekking and mountain biking, with different itineraries along the valleys of Zena and Idice.
For the lovers of free climbing it is suggested to visit Badolo and the rock face which climbers call the Fortress of Badolo; perfect for bird watching is Bora di San Giovanni, an area of environmental upgrade in which many bird species can be found.
The lovers of skiing and snowboarding can find in the territory of Corno alle Scale in the Bolognese Apennines high quality skiing stations and sport activities to practice all year round deeply close to nature, with excursions on horseback for discovering the countryside and local traditions.
The Historical-Naturalistic Park of Monte Sole in Marzabotto has a natural habitat in which different kind of wildlife live together. The reserve is divided into 5 big areas so to create 5 different itineraries to cover, walking, by bicycle and horse-riding.
Those who love the thermal centers can find in Porretta Terme a place in which to spend relaxing holidays regaining their forces in the modern thermal resorts. It is important also to remember the thermal resorts of Castel San Pietro, with an ancient origin and not far away from Bologna, with waters of precious characteristics.
The Enogastronomic Route of the Hills of Imola is another pleasant meeting with history, the natural beauties and the wine and food culture of this country. Through itineraries which cross different towns of the province it is possible to visit cities and taste products typical of the country used in the traditional cooking.
In Bologna, in the week-end before Ascension Day, the Procession of the Arcate takes place while in Casalecchio di Reno takes place the Festival of San Martino, in honor of the patron saint, with music, shows, street artists, gastronomical stands and a trade-fair. Amusing, always in Casalecchio di Reno is the Kite Festival and the Storytellers Festival.
In Imola the event Lumi di Marzo, is a traditional festival of late winter, with bonfires, propitiatory ceremonies of peasant heritage, which welcome the arrival of the March month.
In Medicina there’s the Barbarossa Festival with the Palio della Serpe, in Monteveglio the Festival of the Saracca, in Castel del Rio takes place the Renaissance Festivals, a blast from the atmospheres of the 16th XVI century with historical parades, renaissance dinners, horses and knights, and with the Palio of Biroccio.
Also the funny Carnival of San Giovanni in Persiceto and Borgo Tossignano are amazing, with carnival floats and masks marching along the streets of the town through music and colors.
A point of reference for truffle buffs is Savigno, which gained the title of “Regional Capital of the Truffle” for the particular attention in promoting the truffle culture. The Festival of the Rare White Truffle of the Colli Bolognesi is the perfect place in which to learn how to know, taste and buy this product.
The Province of Bologna is also the perfect capital for those who love motors. Besides events such as the Motor Show, every year the Imola Racetrack holds important car and motorcycle races.
In the streets of Bologna it is possible to see tortellini production. This area is in fact the paradise of the fresh egg pasta which is the major pride of the region. Mostly, it is stuffed pasta except for the tagliatelle, which differ for their shapes recalling rings, hats and candies.
In Bologna tortellini are mostly stuffed with meat, mortadella and ham, and are served in capon or hen broth or without anything, if you want. In the towns of the province, the tortelloni are served stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach, seasoned with butter and sage. Among the first courses the green lasagna cooked in the oven, seasoned with the famous ragù alla bolognese.
Among the meats, pheasant, duck, wild boar, hare, roasts and mixed, boiled meats, from the cotechino and zampone to different pieces of beef, chicken, veal, and tongue, served immersed a very hot broth.
Another typical specialty of the Bolognese area is the mortadella which gained IGP quality recognition. It is served in cubes, tasted as aperitif, such as all the other salami cut in thin slices as starters or used as ingredient for the stuffed.
It is important not to forget the asparagus, specialty of Altedo, cooked in different ways, and the potatoes of Tolè, of high quality and highly preservable.
A typical dessert of this cuisine is the certosino Bolognese, a Christmas sweet prepared with flour, honey, candied fruits, almonds, dark chocolate, raisins, pine kernels, butter, aniseed and cinnamon.
Finally the wines. The name Colli Bolognesi comes before the name of the DOC white wines: Bianco Pignoletto, Pinot Bianco, Riesling Italico, Sauvignon. Among the red wines: Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
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