The historic city of Bologna in Italy, home of the western world's oldest university, is not known as a popular tourist destination, but more as a landmark located between Milan and Florence or Venice. However, Bologna has much to offer its visitors and is well worth getting to know over a leisurely break. Bologna is extremely proud of its historic roots and cultural heritage, as well it should be.
Bologna's first settlers were the Etruscans in 6th century BC; followed by the Romans, the Germanic Lombards and then the Papacy, until Italy unified in 1860. Needless to say all these influences left their marks on the architecture, culture, language and cuisine of the region. All these make Bologna an exciting place to visit.
Bologna is known to Italians by four different nicknames. Bologna la Grassa, meaning 'the fat' was bestowed on it because of its famous dish of bolognaise, beloved throughout Italy and deemed to be superior to any found elsewhere; and also because of the prosperity of the city. It is also known as Bologna la Dotta, or 'the learned' because of its prestigious university at which prolific scholars like the astronomer and mathematician Copernicus, the poet and father of Humanism Petrarch and Italian poet, Dante all studied. Bologna was also known as la Turrita or the 'City of Towers' because of its abundance of monumental towers built by Bologna's wealthiest patrons to signify power and defend the city. Lastly, Bologna is also known as la Rossa, or 'the Red'. This is partly because of colour of the buildings which give the town its warm terracotta blush and partly because of its political ideals.
For culture lovers, Bologna has some excellent museums and galleries. The Morandi Museum is a sleek and modern exhibition of the city's cultural heritage. There are also many concert halls for serious music-lovers, offering performances of the very best in opera, chamber music and symphonic series all year round.
There are many great eating places in Bologna as befits the city's reputation as the gastronomic capital of Italy. The fine restaurants are too numerous to list but reliable guides listing the culinary delights are readily available. There is also a great variety of intimate cafes and wine bars for more casual dining. For a place held in such high culinary esteem by fellow Italians, there are clearly many delights for other visitors to discover in Bologna.