Parmesan, tortellini, Ferrari, Fellini — many quintessentially Italian things come from the country’s north-central Emilia- Romagna region. Bologna, the region’s capital, is a stylish town celebrated for its vibrant culinary, art and music scenes. The University of Bologna, one of the oldest universities in the world (it was founded in 1088) gives the city a lively atmosphere.
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Bologna is famous for its elegant porticoed passageways, so the best way to get a feel for the city is to wander its avenues and alleys. In the historic center, you can learn about the city’s past at the recently opened Museum of the History of Bologna, set in a stunning palazzo, then wander the arch-topped sidewalks to check out the cafés, designer boutiques and artisan workshops.
Don’t miss the grand Piazza del Nettuno square, with its ornate Neptune fountain, and the adjacent Piazza Maggiore, watched over by three historic palaces and the Basilica of San Petronio.
Where to eat:
The Quadrilatero neighborhood is packed with specialty food shops and markets. Lunch at La Baita, a historic deli/restaurant famous for its incredible cheese selection, then pop into nearby stalls to pick up freshmade tortellini and tagliolini, local wines and mortadella cold cuts.
For dinner, book a table at Cantina Bentivoligo, a traditional osteria (informal eatery) featuring live music. Or get a taste of authentic regional delicacies through the HomeFood program, which invites you to dine in a private home, hosted by an approved cesarina (home cook).
Where to stay:
The Bologna Art Hotels offer six hotels in the city, at various price points and locations. The intimate, four-star Hotel Corona D’Oro is a sure bet for its central location, understated charm and homemade buffet breakfast, while at three-star-plus Hotel Orologico, you’ll find classic Old World decor and views of the Piazza Maggiore (room rates start at about $183 a night and include breakfast; bolognarthotels.it).
From Bologna it’s an easy hop to some of Italy’s best-preserved historic towns. Ravenna is home to stunning Byzantine mosaics and, in the summer, a world-famous music festival, and Modena is best known for its traditional balsamic vinegar houses. In Ferrara, you can rent a bike to peddle through the quaint center, through the parks and atop the wide, ancient city walls.
Just 30 minutes from Bologna, Motor Valley is home to the HQs of Ducati, Lamborghini and Ferrari; all three have excellent museums. Ducati and Lamborghini can arrange for production line visits, too.