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Bologna/Florence compare and contrast

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Feb 9th, 2015, 04:00 PM
  #1
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Bologna/Florence compare and contrast

We 4 (2 older adults and 2 younger adults) have 4 full days (travel additional) in Bologna/Florence. We've heard Bologna is a lively university town and may not be as stuffy or crowded as Florence. But we also know we have to spend at least a complete day or 2 in Florence for the main sights. Any thoughts on the vibes of the two? The older 2 adults will have a chance to stay in the area for another 3-4 days and are thinking of transitioning to Siena and then Volterra before heading to drive to and along the coast for 3-4 full days, flying home to the states from Florence after day 5. Any thoughts on all of this welcome.
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Feb 9th, 2015, 06:02 PM
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What time of year is this trip? Is this everyone's first trip to the area?

Were you thinking of sleeping in both Florence and Bologna or visiting Bologna as a day trip by train from Florence? If it was my trip, I wouldn't change hotels, but I might consider a day trip by train to Bologna. However, I'd wait until I got to Florence and figured out how much time I needed to see everything on my list before I committed to time for Bologna. I love Florence, Bologna not as much.
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Feb 9th, 2015, 06:08 PM
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I do not understand your "stuffy" reference in terms of Florence. Yes, there are lots of art works that might require a bit of contemplation/concentration. Florence is, IMO, just as "lively" as Bologna and I suggest you follow Jean's advice.

Lots of people GO to Florence for a REASON and it is, for most folks, a GOOD one.
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Feb 9th, 2015, 07:50 PM
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Thanks for the comments and suggestions.

Time of trip is mid-June 2015. Jean, we are thinking of sleeping in both Bologna and Florence.

Word used by a friend of ours who knows us who suggested Bologna more to our taste was "fancy". My bad translating that to stuffy.

Good to have Florence re-confirmed by both of you.
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Feb 9th, 2015, 08:08 PM
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I love it here! As Jean and Dukey stated, Florence is far from stuffy. It is a big city with a small town feel.
Great waking city and not very expensive. I would just take a day trip to Bologna to cut down on moving.
I am actually going to Bologna to have lunch today.

I hope you guys enjoy Florence.
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Feb 10th, 2015, 02:58 AM
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I love both cities and go to both as often as I can. I can be happy in either city for a week without leaving. There is more than one REASON many people GO to Bologna and the REASONS are all GOOD ones.

Bologna is very different from Florence in feeling. One of the biggest differences is that Bologna gets about 1/100th of the number of tourists and is far less commercialized for tourism, so many people enjoy the feeling of going to Italy and being more among Italians that foreign visitors. I have had more than one person comment to me that they felt hoteliers and restaurant or shop owners in Florence were tired of tourists and not so welcoming and friendly as those in Bolgona.

Bologna is not a luxury shopping/for the affluent destination, but a market and trade town, filled with economic variety, so a lot of people feel more comfortable there as living experience of Italy Many younger people also like the casual university vibe, and the overload of bookstores and cafes. Bologna, with its opera house, jazz cafes and clubs and street buskers can have more of a musical feel.

If you are interested in art and history, I think Bologna requires a more studious approach when it comes to even finding where the artworks and important sights are located.

People like different things when it comes to eating, but the food of Emilia Romagna is a big reason why people choose it over Tuscany.

The personality of the different cities of Italy is always a subject of dispute and often rancorous argument, and I think to most tourists it is really not discernible, especially if they are just daytripping or lunching in a town. But to start the screaming going, I find Florence (and almost all towns in Tuscany) pretentious in an almost comic way, and Florence is pretty assertive in its sense of superiority (as is Rome, as is Napoli). Bologna has more of a sense of humor about itself, and a bit more gusto in the enjoyment of life. Florence drives a a hard bargain.

I love both of them, quirks and all, so can't help you choose!
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Feb 10th, 2015, 03:34 AM
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We spent two nights in Bologna, and it was one night too many. As sandra suggests it is not a town that offers itself up easily to the visitor. As to lively? Perhaps if you are a student. It does have good food, and the arcades in the town centre are a wonderful idea.

I would love to be able to go to Florence like the 19th century travelers in "A Room with a View", a month or so surveying the town and countryside with a knowledgeable succession of guides. I am about 21 days short!
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Feb 10th, 2015, 03:47 AM
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>>the arcades in the town centre are a wonderful idea.<<

The origin of the arcades were to solve a 15th century housing crisis. As Europe's first university city, students from everywhere came to Bologna looking for inexpensive rooms, and people began building extensions from the first floor of their homes, over the street, and renting them as sleeping porches. It got so egregious, the city finally started regulating them, reuqiring more permenent arcades of support under them.

Maybe a knowledgeable succession of guides would have helped you enjoy Bologna more. But it is all true that Bologna is simply not as in your face as Florence and several other Italian art cities. Another part of Bologna's civic history is that it actually forbade "excessive" decoration of private homes out of the belief it fomented discord between the classes. So tourists today need to know to go look inside places because not everything is on sidewalk display.

Siena, Florence and Bologna all have quite interesting histories and completely different aesthetics growing out of those histories. Of the 3, Siena is my least favorite and less than a night was plenty for me but it is other people's all-time favorite. So there is so little that is objective about any of this.
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Feb 10th, 2015, 04:00 AM
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Phyllis_Orrick

I wanted to add that your friend knows you and we don't and we also don't know if your friend is someone who has previously given you good tips in the past about things you might enjoy, based on knowing you and your preferences. It is tricky, because a lot of people advising about Italy really, really, really want other people to go to their favorite places and do a lot of steering, subtle or not so subtle. But if your friend is somebody who isn't like that, who would think of you first, rather than their little world and mindset, then that's a factor.
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Feb 10th, 2015, 04:29 AM
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I agree with everything Sandra said. I'll just add that Bologna has plenty of places where you can shop for luxury items. Many of them are little artisanal shops rather than famous labels.

The two cities are so different, it's hard to compare and contrast. I like both of them very much, but Bologna is the city where I'd consider living.

Both Bologna and Florence can be excessively hot in the summer.
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Feb 10th, 2015, 04:32 AM
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I have been to both and can't disagree with a thing Sandra says. We stayed several nights in Bologna and took a day trip by train to Verona which is well worth that.

Bologna's food is incredible.

Florence is full of tourists but there's a reason for that. It is amazing. Just seeing the David in person: oh, my!
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Feb 10th, 2015, 04:50 AM
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>>I'll just add that Bologna has plenty of places where you can shop for luxury items.<<

Yes, that's true. I didn't mean to imply that didn't exist in Bologna, but rather was pointing out that Florence is internationally famous as a luxury shopping destination, with a lot of high-end amenties to attract the upper-tier traveler.
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Feb 10th, 2015, 07:20 AM
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I agree with the advice above to stay in Florence and, if you don't find enough to occupy your days, take a day trip to Bologna. We have been to Bologna twice and to Florence 8 times. I can't wait to return to Florence but will be unlikely to visit Bologna again. Florence is splendid and exciting and Bologna, IMO, is meh. Florence is neither fancy nor stuffy. Florence has so much to see and do and is so walkable and approachable. Bologna has great food but Florence does, too.

Enjoy Italy - it is wonderful!
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Feb 10th, 2015, 08:38 AM
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A year or two ago I spent a week in Florence and a week in Bologna. The difference? In Florence I was not allowed to finish a sentence in my pigeon Italian. In Bologna I was.
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Feb 10th, 2015, 10:41 AM
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Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful replies. These are a real help. (Feel free to embroider or keep adding, if more ideas.)

sandralist

Yes, our friend knows us well. He spent jr year in Florence studying art and has more of a student vibe. It sounds as if both places will be a delight.

Any restaurant/art/neighborhood recommendations for Bologna extremely welcome. It looks like we'll be spending 2 nights and 2-plus days, after training from Paris and then on to Florence.
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Feb 10th, 2015, 02:21 PM
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I think it's impossible to know the "feel" of any city through the eyes of strangers. The only way to know how you will truly feel about a place is to visit it for yourself.

Italy is a rich-cultured country, so I can't think of one major city in Italy that is a complete bust. Honestly, what's not to like?

I will say this, Bologna is not my favorite city for a variety of reasons. I found a lot of it unattractive, not enjoyable to photograph. The city-center lacked a certain charm quality. Unfinished churches do nothing for me. And I found the litter/trash from students in the streets appalling. I've never seen a city with so many beer cans/bottles just thrown into the street. Perhaps the filth depends on the month you visit.

IMO, a two-night visit and the concept of mingling with local Italians is an oxymoron.

There are certain works of art that have had a huge influence on my life, and no number of foreign tourists or Italian tourists will prevent me from seeing the art that I love. Florence is a treasure trove.

If you do your homework, you can find fabulous food in any Italian city. Personally, I find the food of Emilia Romagna to be particularly rich and heavy. I can be in the mood for such leaden Italian delights, but I'm always in the mood for fresh Tuscan fare.

Many of the artisan shops in Florence may have changed addresses, but the custom-made boutiques are still going strong. Some of my favorite hand-made shoes are from Florence, and it's still a great place to find an artisan leather handbag or jacket that no one else has.

Good luck with your planning.
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Feb 10th, 2015, 02:53 PM
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I agree with all of NYCFoodSnob's comments about Bologna, but I'd add very widespread graffiti to the description. It's the only city in Italy where we have come close to being pickpocketed (one block off Piazza Maggiore at 7:00p).
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Feb 10th, 2015, 03:41 PM
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Phyllis Orrick,

If you can stay in Antica Casa Zucchini in Bologna, it is a really wonderful place, but anywhere in that neighborhood -- it's called Santo Stefano -- is very much a treat. There are lots of choices for fun places to eat. For an exemplary meal of Bologna, make a reservation at All'Osteria Bottega. For pure fun and charm, along with the classics, Giampi e Ciccio. If you have ever wanted to eat grilled mortadella with balsamic vinegar -- it is delightful -- than Da Gianni in the market area.

But something I would very highly recommend is spending one morning in the historic markets buying whatever strikes your fancy in terms of cheeses, sliced meats, prepared foods, fruits, vegetables, pastries, and taking your purchases to Osteria del Sole, which isn't really a restaurant but is instead a place where market workers go to have a glass of wine. But there are long, capacious tables there and so long as you buy a glass of wine you can eat the food you bought in the market. Osteria del Sole has been open since the 15th c. and scarcely changed.

As you can see from the above posts, everybody has different reactions. It's interesting but fiarly worthless information. I pretty much dislike Tuscan food start to finish. So what? You might like it. (I do like Tuscan wine.) I live in Italy and am getting on a train tomorrow to go on a two-day eating and food shopping spree in Bologna and Modena. I could just as easily go to Tuscany, but I think the food is more interesting in Emilia-Romagna. One of Italy's crown jewels.

As for pickpockets, I have 'come close" to being pickpocketed by the pickpockets of Paris, Rome, New York City -- actually those were more threatening than mere pickpockets -- and Athens. I almost had a cop shoot me in Los Angeles. I assume you know the world has its troubles. There are pickpockets in Bologna like there are in the rest of Italy including all the other places you are going with the possible excepttion of Volterra, because it has a very, very large national prison in the middle of town. But I wouldn't let scare stories about them being somehow more rife than you will find in Florence -- they are there too, along with the aggressive beggars -- deter you.

I adore Florence. I spent Christmas eve and Christmas day there. It is the most beautiful city in Europe in my eyes. Sad to say, many of the historic shops are closing, being replaced by internatonal chains -- but you see that everywhere in Europe (even in Bologna). It is so much different from Bologna I think you are fortuanate to see both. Italy is not just one place, where you cream off the tourist "wows". Italy is very much about variety, and the unique personalities of each city and region, and somehow it (barely!) stays glued together as one country. Just like you don't cotton to every person you meet in life, you might not cotton to every city and town you see in Italy. Fun to figure out the chemistry between you and Italy. I wouldn't pay any attention to people who tell you one part of Italy is "better" than another. They are talking about themselves, not about something beyond themselves.
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Feb 10th, 2015, 03:47 PM
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here is a recent trip report from someone who spend this past Christmas in Bologna -- and actually found the graffitti refreshing as a sign of life and thought! (I would prefer placards!) But I believe she also went to Florence, as it is a favorite of hers. Many of us do like and enjoy both places.


http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...rip-report.cfm
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Feb 10th, 2015, 04:03 PM
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Thanks again, to all of you. I feel as if I owe everyone a trip report when we get back. And keep any thoughts coming.
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