Trip to Bologna, Italy  - July 2010
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Due torri - the two towers, the cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano, Mortadella ham, the fountain of Neptune, Spritz, long sections of porticoes, the city and region known as “la grassa”, Piazza Maggiore, Mercato di Mezzo, Tamburini, fresh pasta such as tortellini for sale, covered canals, expensive drops of aceto Balsamico traditionale, Sala Anatomica, Etruscan artefacts, food tours – these are all elements of this trip report from Bologna and the surrounding cities (Modena, Ferrara and Ravenna) in region of Emilia Romagna in Italy.


A short summary
This trip report will focus on the trip that my wife, Nikki, and I took to Bologna in Italy from July 21st to July 30th 2010. In Bologna we got a chance to check out a walking tour, we went to the two towers, ate a lot of good food, rented a car to visit Ravenna and Ferrara etc. The trip report is split into section and this first page will focus on the stay in Bologna and our sightseeing there. On the next pages you will find a page about eating out in Bologna, an interactive Google map of Bologna, more photos from our stay in the city and reviews of the hotels we used (Hotel Touring and Savhotel).
Please get in touch if you have any questions or comments. All pictures are taken by Nikki and Gard with our Canon EOS 450D and Canon IXUS.


Prelude and planning

Map provided by:

We have been to Italy before and we have enjoyed out trips to Florence, Rome, etc. So when we looked for a short summer vacation it was natural for us to look at Italy again and this time we decided to go for Bologna and the area as it has a reputation for good food and not that many tourists. I sorted out the tickets and bought them online on the Lufthansa homepage and I had to pay about 5500 NOK (935 USD) for the tickets for both of us (round trip from Stavanger in Norway). To plan the trip I bought the Insight Pocket Guide for Bologna in order to get some information about history and what to see/do in the city and the surrounding area. It did give use some good information but it was not great in any way. I would have loved to see an eyewitness guide book for Bologna.

We decided that spending 9 days in just Bologna would be a bit much. Due to this we decided to spend the first few days without a car in the middle of town (Hotel Touring) to explore Bologna and after that we would move to Savhotel to make it easier to explore the region by car but still being close enough to Bologna to eat there at night. We booked a car from Avis in advance and as we didn’t get a convertible we went for a small car and had to pay about 140€ for 4 days.


The trip begins
On July 21st we went to the airport outside Stavanger. For once the weather was behaving and it was almost like summer had arrived in Norway. Check in was pretty fast and as usual we had packed a bit too much – to start with the guy who checked us in said that we had to pay a fee due to our heavy suitcases as we were flying economy but we told him that our Frequent Flyer gold card entitles us to a bit more weight – it is a good thing that we know the rules ;-) Security went fast and at about 7 PM we were on our way to Frankfurt in Germany in an Airbus A319. There were not that many people on board so after we had gotten a sandwich and some wine they took another round to ask if people wanted refill of both food and drinks. The flight is only 2 hours and we only had an hour in Frankfurt before we continued to Bologna in Italy – a flight that only takes about 1 hour.

Arriving in Bologna
We landed at Marconi airport at about 11.30 PM and we had to wait a bit for the luggage even if the airport seemed to be quite small. But soon we got the big suitcases and we grabbed a taxi outside and we were on our way. The drivers have a reputation to live up to here – this is Italy and it is even Ferrari territory and the driver made sure to live up to the expectations that we had. He was speeding on cobblestone streets, almost running over people on their bikes and scooters while gesticulating and at the same time having a conversation with us. David (our driver) was very friendly and he had even been to Norway a couple of times. The drive was only about 15-20 minutes and we paid 20€ for the trip


Note: The currency in Italy is Euro and at the moment 100 Euro (code EUR or €) is about 138 USD. In Bologna there are lots of ATM’s so getting a hold of cash was not a problem.


The location of Hotel Touring in Bologna is great – located just a few minutes’ walk away from the Piazza Galvani and Piazza Maggiore. The city centre of Bologna is small enough to be covered on foot.


Buon Giorno Bologna
As we arrived late at night it was hard to get a proper impression of Bologna. But when we woke up the next morning and walked out on our large balcony we had an incredible view of the terracotta rooftops of Bologna. The city centre is dominated by relative low building with a few towers still remaining from the past and churches here and there. The hotel entrance is located a few meters from the Via Giuseppe Garibaldi so after a quick breakfast we were ready to start exploring Bologna. Walking out in the streets of a new city is something I love – all of a sudden you are in the middle of a new town with lots of stuff to see and do. And even if I had taken a virtual walking tour before going by using Google StreetView, there is nothing like actually stepping out into a busy street and seeing it with your own eyes. On the street men and women were rushing to work and probably found it annoying to have to deal with tourists walking slowly, taking photos and blocking their way. As always in a busy Italian town there were hundreds of scooters parked along the street and it didn’t take us long to find the first coffee shop. Even if Italians rush to get to work they still take their time to stop for an espresso. As Nikki said “There are no one here with takeaway cups” :-).


The hotel was only about 600 meters from the heart of Bologna, Piazza Maggiore so it didn’t take us long to get there – well, actually we were a bit distracted by shops as all had big signs announcing “Saldi” (sale). But we did try to follow a route described in the guidebook. Due to that we soon walked past the two towers, the market area, Piazza Maggiore, the piazza del Nettuno and so on. One major difference compared to places like Rome and Florence was the number of tourists – even at the major attractions there were hardly any tourist. Another thing that we noticed right away was the porticoes. Porticoes are roof structure over the pavements or walkways and there are lots and lots of them – apparently someone has taken the time to measure as it is claimed there are 38 km (23 miles) of porticoes in Bologna – that means that you are sheltered from the blazing sun in the summertime and from rain during winter.


How to get around Bologna
The city centre of Bologna is actually quite small so getting around by walking was not a problem. The city centre is only about 2 km in diameter (about 1,2 miles) so walking from one end to the other doesn’t take more than 20 minutes if you walk fast. If you have access to a bike even better – we had access to bikes when we stayed at Savhotel and it was easy to get to the restaurants at night on our bikes. Just make sure that you lock your bike properly. There are also some city bikes located at various places around town and I was trying to figure out how to “unlock” the bikes. When I asked at one place I was told that it was only for the people living in Bologna and not for tourists – hmmm, so do all inhabitants of Bologna get a key to get access to the bikes? If you want to drive in Bologna...well, stay out of the city centre. There are lots of one way streets, streets that are not open to everyone (like one of the main streets called Via dell'Indipendenza) - it seems to be mainly for taxis, buses, transportation of goods etc.


Food market
Right next to the Piazza Maggiore you can walk into alleys and find all sorts great food. When walking in here it is not hard to understand why the city has the nickname “la grassa” or "the fat one". One thing is for sure...I would be seriously fat if I lived in Italy. Well, I would at least have gotten a lot heavier during the first year as I would have to try everything. Start by walking down Via Pescherie Vecchie and you’ll see what I mean. Here you will find little shops selling freshly made pasta such as tortellini and tortelloni, the parma and Modena hams are hanging from the ceiling, the large and typical Bolognese sausage Mortadella is on display everywhere, large chunks of Parmegiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese), large bags of dried porcini – well, the list goes on forever. You can also eat in some of the shops like Tamburini and La Vecchia Malga and we tried both of them of course and you can read more about it in the “Eating and drinking in Bologna” section of this trip report.


Note: Our experience was that prices were considerably lower when buying various food products on a food tour.


The two towers
No, we are not talking about Peter Jackson’s Lord of the rings movie based on J. R. Tolkiens book but the two towers of Bologna. In the good old days (we are talking 12th and 13th century) towers were erected and maybe it was used for defensive reasons or maybe it was just a symbol of status. Building towers is not unique to Bologna – you can find lots of towers in the small city of San Gimignano in Tuscany too (see our Tuscany trip report). The two towers of Bologna has become a bit of an icon for the city as it is portrayed on lots of postcards and tourist souvenirs. So what is so special about them? Well, both of them are leaning and it is very obvious for the shorter one - is tilting like the leaning tower of Pisa. The highest tower is called Asinelli and it is 97 meter high (about 320 feet). For three Euro you can actually climb the Asinelli tower and you get a great view from the city from the top. We went there one morning and it was getting hot outside – and it felt like it was even hotter and more humid inside. The staircase of wood can be a bit narrow, steep and slippery in some places but we didn’t have to many problems climbing the stairs to the top – both Nikki and I was breaking out in sweat but it was 30+ degrees that day ;-) So if you get a chance, visit the Due Torri and climb to the top – the view is great. When we were going to climb the last steps up to the top this girl came down and she was holding on to the rails like her life depended on it – I asked her if she was OK and she said yes. So I said “I guess you are just afraid of heights?” and she confirmed this by a nervous nod. The tower is split into sections but note that in some places you get an impression of the height ;-)

Note: the smaller tower, torre della Garisenda, is not open for climbing.


We sat down outside the two towers to have an ice cream and a guy was standing there drinking white wine straight from a bottle. A woman that looked a bit tipsy walked past and I guess she asked if she could get a sip and he handed over the bottle. Obviously the lady was thirsty as she gulped down quite a lot of wine and the guy actually had to grab the bottle from her eventually ;-)


Walking tour – or personal guide
On the first day we walked past the tourist office located on Piazza Maggiore and we stopped by to ask if they had a walking tour to offer - and they sure did. At 4 PM they had scheduled a walk and we indicated that we were interested. About 15-20 minutes late the guide came running in and it was just Nikki and I that were going for the tour – there is nothing like having a personal guide :-). Our guide was knowledgeable and she wanted to show it because when she first started, there was no stopping her. We didn’t have to walk very far to get to her first stop: Piazza del Nettuno. This piazza contains the fountain called Fontana di Nettuno, a bronze statue by Giambologna from 1563! But is this the original? When we went to the Museo Civico Archeologico there was a marble statue claiming to be the original Neptune. Anyway, the statue on the piazza in beautiful but apparently it was also a bit controversial back in the day – maybe due to the lactating nereids (sea nymphs) at the base of the fountain squirting water from their breasts.


Note: have you ever noticed the Maserati sports car logo? It looks a lot like Neptune’s trident doesn’t it? Maserati was actually founded in Bologna and has it’s headquarter in Modena right outside Bologna.


Maybe you haven’t been to Bologna but I have to tell you that today it is a typical inland city. So does it make any sense having a statue of Neptune, the god of the sea, in the middle of the city? It turns out that back in the days, Bologna was actually filled with canals (and you can still find one or two if you know where to look) and they had a port connecting them to Venice. It is hard to imagine this when walking around in the streets on Bologna today.

We also walked into the Sala Borsa now the Biblioteca Sala Borsa – a multimedia library built on top of roman ruins. It is weird to think that this has been a stock exchange, an arena for playing basketball and now a library. When you walk on the glass floor you can look down on the roman pavement below. But really, who came up with the idea of using glass that gets scratched up when walking on it? It was hard to see through it due to all the scratches.


Note: did you know that the calendar that we follow today, the Gregorian calendar is named after Pope Gregory XIII? He was born in 1470 in the city of Bologna.


We also walked into the Basilica of San Petronio located on Piazza Maggiore. The first thing that I noticed when I came to Piazza Maggiore was this church as the entire front was covered up due to maintenance. Well, this is nothing new...I have experienced the same when coming to places like Milan, Berlin, Paris etc. In cities with lots of old building there will always be refurbishing going on so we might as well accept it. The Basilica of San Petronio is impressive as it is the 5th largest church in the world and I guess it could have been even grander. Some sources say that they ran out of money and some say that the Vatican didn’t want this church to compete with St. Peter’s basilica in Rome (see our Rome trip report) – whatever the reason was the construction was halted and hence the church does not have the traditional shape of a cross. But the first stone was laid down in 1390 so it is a church with quite a long history – from an engineering point of view one of the fascinating items in the church is the sundial designed by Cassini. The inlaid meridian line from 1655 is supposed to be the longest sundial in the world.


Note: you are not allowed to take photos within the church and there is a dress code to get in.


We also stopped by the Sala Anatomica in Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio. This used to be one of the buildings used by the university of Bologna and the Sala Anatomica was used for training medical students I guess with a table in the centre for dissections of bodies and seating all around it. The room is beautifully decorated but if you look closer you will notice that they stick to the theme of the room...hence the figures with no skin displaying the muscles underneath. I think this room is a replica as the original one got damaged during World War 2.


Note: did you know that Bologna has the oldest university in Europe, founded in 1088!


After this we took a walk through the food market and we got recommendations on where to go and which places to avoid and our tour ended at the two towers of Bologna. All in all I would say that the walking tour was very interesting and if you have time it is well worth the 13€ per person at least when we were walking around alone with our guide as it was very easy to ask questions along the route.


Note: it seems like it is common to greet people that works in e.g. stores when entering. You can use buongiorno or salve.


I have already mentioned the Italians love for coffee and one places to stop by is e.g. Zanarini on Piazza Galvani. We stopped by there several times and as we have short term memory, we went over to the counter and asked for the coffee. The barista just looked at us and said “You have to pay at the cashier first” while he was probably thinking “these ignorant tourists” ;-) But yes, if you just want to enjoy the coffee Italian style (meaning just having at the counter) you pay at the cashier first and then you get your coffee made afterwards. Zanarini also has a great selection of small and sweet artworks ;-). I also stopped by the Nespresso store to buy some capsules to bring back home – the store was basically empty but I guess it is no wonder when they can get coffee everywhere.


Italians can be quite lively when they speak – at least when they get into a heated discussion. We walked past one young woman one day and she was talking loudly on her cell phone and it seemed like she was having some sort of argument with her mum. We could hear long after we past her and I guess the rest of the people waiting at the bus stop got the hear the whole argument ;-)


Going back to Etruscan time - Museo Civico Archeologico
One day we decided to stop by the archaeological museum which is located on Piazza Galvani. When we walked in we were the only ones there and the guy behind the counter seemed less than interested by our visit. It turned out that the entrance was free but you can pay 4€ to get an audioguide. The museum turned out to be more extensive than expected and after passing by the original Neptune statue (from Piazza di Nettuno) we walked in to Etruscan times. There were hardly any people in the museum apart from the old museum guides situated in some of the rooms. They were busy reading a book, newspaper or magazines and just nodded as we passed them. The collection is quite amazing and I think some of the artefacts dates back to 9th century BC. In the museum you will find big vases, jewellery, burial artefacts, artefacts from a typical home at the time etc etc. As usual the information in English was limited (read nonexistent) and hence it was great to have the audioguide to give us some information as we were walking around in the museum.


Note: if you need a toilet in Bologna there is a public toilet on the south side of Palazzo Comunale close to Piazza Maggiore. I think the charge was 0.2€.


In the basement of the museum there is an Egyptian department with mummies, mummified animals, sarcophaguses, masks etc. The collection might not be as grand as the Egyptian display at the British museum in London (or maybe the museum in Cairo) but it was still quite interesting. A visit the museum is well worth the money (well, it is for free ;-) but do remember to invest in an audioguide unless you know your Italian and can read the information in the museum. You can find more information about the museum on their homepage.


Go on a tour with a Personal Food shopper!
Before we left home we used the internet to see if we could find some sort of tour that could take us to factories and see how cheese, ham etc is made. One of the companies that were recommended was Italian Days (see ) featuring Alessandro. When reading the description on the websites, I had a fear that Alessandro might be “too much” for me as a quiet and calm (and stiff?) Norwegian. But we decided to sign up anyway and the tour description was a visit to a cheese factory to see how Parmigiano Reggiano is made (also known as parmesan cheese), a visit to see how Balsamic vinegar is made and a visit to a local vineyard with lunch included. So one morning, bright and early at 7.20 AM we were waiting in the hotel lobby when Alessandro came running in. Even if it was early in the morning he was already bubbling of energy and it was soon obvious that it is hard not to like Alessandro. After picking up another couple we drove out of Bologna towards our first stop: the cheese factory. Alessandro was speaking more or less non-stop and it was great to get lots of info about food, traditions etc. We were driving a new minibus and Alessandro had brought a driver which meant that he could focus 100% on providing us with information ;-)


Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of my favourite cheeses and when we went to Milan years back (see the Milan trip report) we actually thought about taking a tour but we never got around to it. So I was very excited to get to the factory and after getting into our white robes we were allowed in to see them working on the cheese that morning. I’m not go into detail when it comes to the process as Alessandro will give you all the information. But basically the milk is heated, they add whey and rennet (an enzyme from stomach of calves) and then the cheese is lifted out and put into their forms and taken through a salting/drying/aging process and after a minimum aging of 12 months it is inspected to see if it qualifies to be a Parmigiano-Reggiano. The cheese has long traditions and it seems like they have been making it since the 13th century. What I’m wondering...who came up with the idea of putting an enzyme from the stomach of calves to produce cheese?? ;-)


Anyway, Alessandro let us from room to room and explained the process step by step and we were also joined by Marko, one of the guys working at the factory. We even got into the “cheese bank” where cheese is stored from floor to ceiling and I guess there was cheese worth millions of Euros in

 there. We also got to tap the cheese to evaluate if it was of good quality or not. To round it of we got to see a movie of the process and we got to taste

 parmesan cheese, fresh ricotta (made that morning) and we got to flush it down with Lambrusco wine – the typical sparkling red wine that is typical for the region. Breakfast of champions in other words ;-) Before we left we also had time to stop at the “gift shop” – the shop selling cheese to the local farmers. And for once in my life I was happy that there was a gift shop towards the end of a stop. We didn’t really have any plans to buy anything but when we looked at the prices it was hard to resist - 1st grade Parmigiano-Reggiano was about 14€ pr. kg (about 8 USD per pound) which is a lot cheaper than back home of course. I think I can find cheese that is about 54€ per kg here at home!! As you might guess – I came out of the store with 4 big chunks of cheese :-).


Note: Allesandro speaks Italian, German and English!


We got back in the car and drove to a place called Villa San Donnino to look at how balsamic vinegar is made. This is another fascinating product that I like and I was looking forward to see how it was made. At the house we were met by Davide (the owner) but he let Alessandro take us the attic to explain the balsamic vinegar making process – we are not talking about any kind of balsamic vinegar by the way. We are talking about Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena...phew, quite a mouthful that name. As the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the balsamic vinegar is also a 100% natural product. Basically to make the vinegar you just have to boil grape juice and put it in barrels and store it. Sounds simple of course but the juice is put into a series of different sized barrels (called a “batteria”). As one season passes by some of the liquid has evaporated and they top up the barrels by starting with the smallest one. This is topped up by using the next barrel in line and so on. In the end you also have to add new boiled grape juice to top up the largest barrel. And after 12 years you can take out 10% of the smallest barrel and send it to the consortium for approval any maybe they will accept it. So making balsamic vinegar the old fashioned way does not seem to be a money making machine...more a hobby to keep traditions alive.


Once again we got a detailed description from Alessandro and once again we got to visit the gift shop to test out some products. And once again I was tempted to buy of course ;-) We came out of the store with a 14 year old vinegar and 30€ per 100 ml (which is about 90 USD per cup) so this is not the kind of vinegar you sprinkle generously over a salad. I was joking to Nikki when we walked out that this bottle is going into the vault :-) The villa on the estate is actually a bit famous as the movie “1900” by Bernardo Bertolucci featuring Robert De Niro and Gérard Depardieu was filmed there. This is the private home of Davide but we got to take a look at some of the rooms in the house and it is quite stunning to see a private home with frescoes in the hall! The only sad thing is that there is quite a busy road not far from the house. You can find more information on this page.


Note: want to know more about Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale? Check out


We moved on once again and the next and last stop was Corte d’Aibo vineyard and agriturismo located outside Bologna. When driving up the vineyard we came across a deer standing in the middle of the small road that we were driving on. As we got out of the car we were met by a small, fat dog that seemed to be thrilled to have guests. Alessandro just referred to the dog as “mortadella” (referring to the thick sausage typical for Bologna). The land around the farm reminded me a bit of the landscape in some places in Tuscany and it was beautiful. We got a short tour of the vineyard and got some information about the wine production there before we moved in to have lunch. The lunch was simple yet  delicious – we started with some pasta in a tomato sauce and then we had cold cuts of ham (parma ham, coppa, salami etc) and cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano, ricotta with honey (and pepper?) etc) and it was rounded off with some sweet stuff. Along the way we also got to taste a bit of the wines that the place can offer and we could buy wines as well. See the Corte d'Aibo homepage for more info. After dessert and some grappa we were slightly tipsy and moved to the car to drive back to Bologna. I think we were back at the hotel about 3.30 PM.


Note: normally there is a stop at a prosciutto factory but on this day the stop was cancelled. Well, hopefully we can visit that another time.


The tour with Alessandro turned out to be one of the absolute highlights of this trip. He has a lot of passion and knowledge about the food and it was great fun being in his company. It seems like he gives a lot of himself in this tour and hopefully people appreciates this. If you are interested in food then the tour is highly recommended! Send my regards to Alessandro if you take the tour ;-) The tour was 95€ per person (about 120 USD). You can read more about the tour and book your tour on


Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna – National art gallery
One day we were out walking in the University district and we decided to stop by the National Art Gallery as it was mentioned in the guidebook. When we first walked in we were not sure if we had found the right place as there was no one else there apart from an old couple behind a counter. The couple didn’t speak any English but with some body language we understood that we had to leave the backpack there and that it was 4€ per person and cash only. The museum is not that big but it contains works from the region from the 13th century to the 18th century. I don’t know much about art and painters but it was amazing to see how the techniques improved from 1350 to 1550 – well, at least by the end of this period it seemed like they were getting perspective etc right. In the gallery you will find work by Giotto, Guido Reni, Rapahel etc. Check out more information on the museum homepage. Note that there is basically no information in English at this gallery.


Italian roadtrips – Modena, Ravenna, Ferrara
When planning the trip we decided that 9-10 days in Bologna would be a bit much. Due to this we decided to rent a car so that we could explore the region a bit on our own like we did when we explored Florence and Tuscany a few years back. As it can be a bit tricky to drive inside Italian cities (like Bologna) we also decided to move to a hotel a bit in the outskirts of town. So on Monday 26th of July we checked out of Hotel Touring, took a taxi to Bologna Marconi airport to pick up our rental car from Avis and we drove to Savhotel to check in.


Note: the Avis counter is inside the airport terminal and you pick up the car yourself from the nearby parking house.


We did get a bit of panic when we started driving as the hotel street was not in our GPS. But by checking the hotel website we found a street nearby that we could use as a target destination. And in case you are wondering...having a GPS is highly recommended when driving in Italy. After dumping our bags at our new hotel we decided to visit Modena and we plugged in a street in the GPS and drove out of Bologna. It didn’t take long before we saw some ladies in challenging outfits along the road – I had heard that there are lots of “working girls” in this area but I guess I didn’t expect to see it in broad daylight. We choose to take the scenic road and not the toll road but the landscape was not as beautiful as in Tuscany in my opinion. When getting closer to Modena I saw a big SUV in my rear view mirror and he was driving in an “Italian way” if there is such a thing ;-) He was overtaking lots of cars, squeezing in when he had to and he was smoking and using his cell phone. When we stopped at a red light we all of a sudden felt a bump in the car! It turned out the guy in the SUV had rear ended us and we had only had the car for like 3 hours! But luckily there was not any damage to our small Fiat Punto – I guess the guy just forgot that an automatic rolls forward if you don’t step on the break.


Note: Driving with a GPS can be tricky. All of a sudden you have to listen to your better half, look at signs, listen to the GPS and watch out for other cars. Practice before you leave home if you can ;-)


We only spent a few hours in Modena – after parking the car we walked to Piazza Grande to check out the Duomo and the bell tower as these are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. But once again we were met by a church that was covered in scaffolding and it was not easy to get a proper impression of this building dating back to 1099 AD. And the bell tower was completely covered due to ongoing restoration I guess. We were in Modena on a Monday and it seemed like a lot of things were closed – maybe the summer vacation had started already for some ;-) So all in all, we didn’t get that much out of the visit to Modena.


Ferrara on the other hand, had more to offer. Ferrara is about 50 km northeast of Bologna and it didn’t take us long to drive there. Right by the old city walls there was a huge parking place and it was great to not have to drive around to find parking in the streets. It only took us a few minutes to walk to Piazza Cattedrale but once again it was not as picturesque as the portrayed by the guidebook. They were doing roadwork and hence there were lots of fences. But we did stop by the church called Cattedrale and the façade is quite detailed and beautiful. I’m not sure that I agree with the guidebooks statement about the interior being disappointing.


We also walked over to the d’Este Castle (Castello Estense). The castle has been restored and after crossing the moat we paid the 10€ each for the entrance. We walked from room to room and there was information in both Italian and English. The only “problem” is that there was quite a lot of information so it was hard to cover it all. In the old kitchen one of the employees came over to me and started explaining the kitchen Italian of course. Yet again it would have been great with a babel fish – in the end I just had to say “Sorry, I don’t understand anything of what you are saying” We also checked out the dungeons, the view from the orange tree garden and the view from the torre dei Leoni (lions’ tower). Some of the rooms had beautiful ceiling decorations and they had installed mirrors on the floor at an angle to give you the opportunity to study the ceiling without having to break the neck – that is quite brilliant and I think this is the first time I see it. We (read Nikki) even had time for some shopping in Ferrara before we had to get back to the car to drive back to Bologna.


The following day we decided to visit Ravenna and this small town which in renowned for mosaics, is located about 80 km (about 50 miles) south east of Bologna. We took the scenic route once again but the landscape was not really that exciting. When we came towards Ravenna we had plotted in a parking place that look suitable – but when we reached our destination we didn’t see any parking! And if you have been driving in an Italian city you know that it can be a bit stressful – all of a sudden the GPS was nagging “Recalculating. Make a u-turn”, we were forced to drive one way streets and it felt like we were driving right through the historic city centre of Ravenna. So when we all of a sudden saw a garage with a parking sign, we stopped and handed over our keys. I didn’t think they had valet parking in Italy ;-) All this driving in circles and across town had left us totally dizzy and we had major problems getting oriented to our whereabouts in this small town. But after studying the map...well, actually I whipped out the GPS, we found our way to San Vitale and Gallia Placida.


San Vitale is a 6th century basilica and we had to pay 8.50€ to get access to both the basilica and the mausoleum Gallia Placida next door. When we walked into the basilica I started looking at the artwork in the ceiling and I was convinced for a while that it was painted – but look closely and you will see that this is actually mosaics and it is beautiful. When we walked out of the church to check out the Mausoleo de Gallia Placida I was stopped by a young Italian guy and he wanted to see my ticket. He said something to me in German and I replied that he had the wrong country. His face then lit up and he asked “How do you say I love you in your language”. I could of course not resist joking about this so I told him I was flattered but I was not like that ;-). But I told him the line in Norwegian but then he seemed very disappointed as he pointed out “but it is the same as in Danish”. So you girls out there...beware of the young Italian Casanova outside the Gallia Placida ;-). Outside the Gallia Placida I think it said that you were only allowed to be in there for 5 minutes and no flash when taking photos. But it seemed like people were ignoring both – so it is not exactly like visiting “Last supper” in Milan ;-) According to the guidebook the mosaics in this tiny little building is some of the finest ever made. I don’t have that much to compare it to but the mosaics are spectacular.


It is only a short walk to another interesting place: Domus di Tappeti di Pietra (carpet of stones). Under a 14th century church they have found a mosaic floor of a classical Roman villa – how amazing is that? We paid 4€ each for the entrance and also took an audioguide to get some more info. It is really quite spectacular. We also stopped by the Duomo before we had to get into the car and start our journey back home – once again we had trouble finding the way but after going a couple of circles around town we got onto the highway ;-)


If you want to drive the main highway the speed limit seems to be 110 km/h (about 70 mph)and there is a fee. We paid about 4€ driving from Ravenna to Bologna.


Time to go back home
All good things come to an end I guess and on Friday 30th of July it was time for us to go home. As we had a rental car, we drove to Bologna airport (or Aeroporto Guglielmo Marconi di Bologna) and returned our Avis rental car. After a short flight we were back in Frankfurt and from there it was a short trip back home to Stavanger.


We had a great time in Bologna – the city itself does not have that many major attractions to show off I guess and maybe that is why there are so few tourists there compared to Florence, Rome etc. But it is an ideal destination if you just want to take a long-weekend away from home (at least for us living in Europe) to escape the crowds and enjoy some food & wine. Our plan of staying a bit in the city centre to start with and then moving to a hotel a bit outside of Bologna worked out quite good in my opinion and there are lots of places to check out if you have a car. Of the places that we went to I would say that Ravenna was the city that has the most to offer even if we had lots trouble finding parking there – there is even beaches nearby if you want to bring your swimwear. During our stay there was a lot of focus on food and I’ll get into that in the next section of this trip report. If you do get a chance, take the food tour with Alessandro (Italian Days). It was lots of fun, we got to learn a lot from this passionate guy and we got to shop excellent products and a very good price. Highly recommended in other words.


Some “useful” tips
So what do you need to bring to Bologna? And how do you plan a trip? Here are some useful tips:


  • Wondering about the weather in Bologna? Check out to get some weather stats so you know what to expect.

  • A good guidebook: yes, you can find a lot of useful info on the internet. But get a good guidebook with a comprehensive street map. Which one to buy is up to you :-) We bought Insight Pocket Guide Bologna and we didn’t find that to be great.

  • Which forums to ask questions: Try TripAdvisor, Fodor’s, Frommer’s and Travelers to Go!

  • Are you bringing a laptop? We did and it was great to use this to check out attractions and opening times, maps, restaurant information etc. Just make sure you find a hotel that offers internet...or even better: free internet ;-)

  • Do you wonder how far it is from one place to another in Bologna? Why not use Google Earth/Google Maps to measure? I find this to be a great tool.

  • Here is a interactive Bologna Google map where I have highlighted some of the places that we went to.

Feel free to check out the next section: Eating and drinking in Bologna :-)



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