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Bologna is a historical city and Bologna is famous for its cuisine. Little English is spoken by its residents. It is the capital and largest city of Emilia-Romagna. Bologna is famed for having the oldest university in the Western world, a lively student population, exquisite food, typical brick terracotta-roofed architecture and porticos, theatre and nightlife.
The extensive town centre, characterised by miles of attractive covered walkways, known as "porticos," is one of the best-preserved in Europe.
When to visit
Bologna is at its best from March/April to October, when it is warm and there is much outdoor drinking and dining, or just sitting in squares such as Piazza Santo Stefano and Piazza Maggiore. However, during July and August it may be particularly hot. In August, as is the case in much of Italy in the summer, many shops and restaurants are closed for the summer vacation.
Winter can be cold, but Bologna is beautiful the two weeks before Christmas. January and February often feature cloudless blue skies, but the clear weather is often the coldest: you will need a coat, scarf, hat and gloves.
Bologna's closest airport is Guglielmo Marconi (Bologna) International Airport (BLQ), just a few minutes from the city centre, served by taxi and a special bus line called the Aerobus.
Due to its central location and geography, Bologna has emerged as the main rail transport hub of northern Italy, making it very well connected with other major Italian cities.
The city is at the junction of the A1, A14 and A13 highways, and so is easily accessible from anywhere in Italy. Most traffic from Milan exits the A1 and take the Tangenziale, but beware this road at rush hour because it is horrendously packed. It may take around two hours from the A1 exit to the Tangenziale to the centre at certain peak times over summer busy weekends, especially at the beginning and end of August.
Bologna is like any big city, parking is difficult but there are many car parks. Parking in the city centre is available, many are open 24 hours.
Layout of the city
Looking at the map of the city, the first thing to do to orient yourself is to find the Due Torri landmark in the middle of the free map. The centre of the city is surrounded by the Viali, a circular road easily recognisable. The northeast quadrant of the map is the university district.
The two southern quadrants of your city map are residential sections of the city, and not common tourist areas. However, walking outside the city centre, further to the south, you will come upon hills and Giardini Margherita, the largest park of the city.
What to see
Museums and art galleries
Archaeological Museum, Via dell'Archiginnasio 2. This building, an old hospital, houses a comprehensive collection of antiquities including Egyptian civilization, iron age Villanova culture, artifacts from Etruscan Velzna, funerary art, terracotta urns, ancient vases and items from Roman times.
Jewish Museum, via Valdonica 1/5. Located in the area of the former ghetto, this museum covers the history of Bologna's Jewish population.
MAMBo (Museo di Arte Moderna Bologna, Via Don Giovanni Minzoni 14.
National Picture Gallery, via Belle Arti 56. Containing the city's most important art, it offers an interesting panorama of the Emilian and Venetian painting from the XIII to the XVIII century. A must: the works by Giotto, Raffaello, Parmigianino.
Piazza Maggiore, Large pedestrian square located in the monumental centre of the old part of the city, surrounded by the Basilica of San Petronio, the City Hall Building, the portico dei Banchi and the Palazzo del Podestà.
Via Rizzoli One of the main streets of Bologna. It is a meeting point and strolling area. It opens up to Piazza di porta Ravegnana, where the two towers rise.
Fontana di Nettuno - Piazza del Nettuno. A fountain built in 1563 by Tommaso Laureti of Palermo later embellished by Jean de Boulogne. It is considered to be one of Bologna’s symbols.
Corte de' Galluzzi It can be accessed through a vault from Piazza Galvani, in front of the Archiginnasio. An area with strong Medieval tones.
What to do
Bologna Fiere, Via della Fiera, 20. an Exhibition Centre near Bologna, that among other things have an International Automobile Exhibition every year.
Cook Italy, Via Marsala 16. Get behind one of those huge Bologna doorways and spend a day cooking with Carmelita of Cook Italy, the longest established Bologna cooking-school. Very central location and Carmelita also customises the menu, that way you get to cook and eat the traditional Bologna meal of your dreams!
Culinary Institute of Bologna. A great place for cooking lessons.
Events and Festivals
There's a great film festival with restored silent and sound films throughout July in Piazza Maggiore. In the past, these have included especially Italian and French film, animation shorts from Annecy, archive footage of Bologna (e.g. of its liberation by British and American troops) and modern classics such as The Third Man, Raging Bull, Apocalypse Now and The Pianist.