Bologna is the capital of the Italian region called Emilia-Romagna, located in the north part of the country. The first settlements date back to 1000 BC, which is not that interesting since we are talking about Italy, a country where every rock is at least a couple of thousand years old. The distinct feature of Bologna is its well-preserved historic center. Parts of the city that are filled with renaissance architecture are among the largest in Italy. The main attraction are definitely the two high towers, Torri degli Asinelli e Garisenda, that are also the symbols of the Bologna. Another thing for which Bologna is famous worldwide is its University. It is the oldest University on the planet.
We took the early morning train from Rimini to Bologna so we could have the whole day wandering through the city. I wish I had at least some of the knowledge from the paragraph above when we arrived. It was one of those rare times when we got to a new place we knew absolutely nothing about. I always hated that kind of traveling, but this was a surprise excursion so we didn’t have time to prepare. The first thing I do in a situation like this is go to the main square, find the tourist information center and get a tourist map. They usually give them for free and the maps almost always have all the most important landmarks on them.
The first thing I noticed in Bologna is the architecture. The well-preserved city center looks like a trip with a time-machine back to the 16th century. The collection of brick-built structures and colonnaded walkways through narrow streets make it very easy to get lost while wandering around. Finally, we arrived at the two connected central squares – Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Nettuno. There, I could find a tourist information kiosk where I got my map so we wouldn’t get lost.
Among the many architectural treasures of Bologna are its towers. Apparently, during the 12th and 13th century there were about 180 towers built throughout the city. The reason behind constructing these high structures was for the most influential families to show their wealth and protect their legacy. In the coming centuries many of the towers were demolished or they collapsed. The ones that remained were used as prisons, city towers or residential buildings. From the original 180 towers less that twenty are still standing. The most famous ones are the Two Towers, or Torri degli Asinelli (97m) e Garisenda (48m).
As I said before, maybe the most important thing for which Bologna is known around the world is its University. The University of Bologna, founded in 1088, is recognized as the oldest University on the planet. The most notable alumni from Bologna are: Dante Alighieri, Thomas Becket, Nicolaus Copernicus and many more… Today, with more that nine centuries of operating continuously, it has 29 faculties and 68 departments on campuses located in the whole region of Emilia-Romagna. When the classes are in session more than 20% of the city population are students.
When we came to Bologna we felt a great relief since there were not many tourists. This was a big change from the overcrowded Rimini where we stayed. The amazing architecture and restaurants hidden in the narrow medieval streets made this excursion a delight. Just walking aimlessly through the historic center was a special experience. I know Italy can be overwhelming most of the time, but Bologna felt like a city with absolutely no pressure.