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Bologna - top recommendations for one two nights and one full day

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Jan 8th, 2011, 07:49 PM
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Bologna - top recommendations for one two nights and one full day

We will arrive in Bologna on a Tuesday afternoon/evening and depart on Thursday, two mornings later. I have seen a number of posts on suggested restaurants, but not much written on the most recommended sights. With our limited time, we can't begin to see it all. What are your top suggested sights, both outdoors, such as the leaning tower, and indoors, such as churches and museums?
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Jan 9th, 2011, 04:47 AM
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We visited Bologna on 28th/29th December, 2010, and I've extracted from the trip report that I'm writing. In real time, sort of.

Bologna.
I was probably a bit unfair in my comments about Dubai, the Freudian “Mine’s bigger than yours” style of architecture, because Bologna started the whole thing with building towers, big towers, Freudian towers. I saw an engraving in Bologna that showed about fifty towers, but now there’s only one intact tower, plus another tower that has developed a list to starboard of about four metres, so has been shortened to avoid collapse. I suppose that erectile dysfunction can even strike brick towers, and Sigmund would sympathise.

Bologna is a serious health hazard. Rome is hazardous because of the insane traffic, but Bologna is a hazard to health because of the food.



Food, glorious food!
Eat right through the menu.
Just loosen your belt
Two inches and then you
Work up a new appetite.
Etc, with apologies to ”Oliver”


Yep, there’s food to be had in Bologna, and we escaped with just slightly raised cholesterol levels. Food shops on every corner, and it’s good.

We stayed at the Abergo delle Drapperie. I’ll give the web address, because we liked it. www.albergodrapperie.com, and it is on a small street, Via Drapperie, very close to the Piazza Maggiore. Right next is a big building that seems to have combined a love of books with a love of food – it’s called “Eatily”. Via Drapperie is in part of the old Medieval market area, and that area still has lots of small food shops, a couple of fishmongers outside our door, vegetable vendors, a horse butcher, sausage, cheese, ham, tortellini, pastries, the full diet that would have your GP shaking his head and prescribing suitable medication. Yet Bolognese people do not appear overweight – a miracle that should invite sainthood for someone.

We visited the Basilica San Petronio, which has a brick façade, as the funds were never found to complete the marble works. The museum in the church is worth taking the time to visit – it has a couple of models of how the church was meant to look, both different, probably submitted as part of the architectural competition when it was either first constructed (1390) or for renovations (17th Century). Two other things that fascinated this engineer – a Foucault pendulum, demonstrating that the earth actually rotates (being able to see evidence of rotation is quite something) and a Zodiacal sundial, some 67 metres long, created by the astronomer Domenico Cassini in 1665, which traces the meridian line through the church. The axis of the nave, for those astronomically interested, points approximately NNE by E. The noon sun shines through a tiny window in the apse, illuminating the meridian line. Dominico’s instrument, that he used to trace the line, is in the museum.
The church of San Stafano is really a cluster of churches and temples, with cloister attached, a religious campus. One cannot escape the feeling of antiquity – it dates from the eighth century, with 11th and 12th century cloisters.

We liked the statue of Neptune in the Piazza Maggiore, and liked it even more once we understood what it was all about. In 1563, Giambologna wanted to make a statement about the power of the Pope. It won’t work if you use a statue of the current Pope, because when he dies, then it becomes a bit meaningless, just another statue. But allow Neptune, ruler of the waves, as the pope rules the land, and it will work. Place cherubs at Neptune’s feet, representing the big rivers of the continents known at that time – the Ganges, Nile, Amazon and the Danube – and this assumes a degree of geographic knowledge on the part of the Bolognese people.
Lou wondered what the meaning might be of the four neo-mermaids at the base of the statue, gushing water. Were they maybe meant to indicate the fecundity of the oceans surrounding the continents, or of the continents themselves? We don’t know, but the mermaids were certainly most generous, expressing water from appropriate orrificii.

When you order a coffee in Bologna, they serve a small glass of soda water with it. That’s a new one for us.

We had a meal at Ristorante Teresina, Via Oberdan, 4. It was good. Fish entrée, tagletelle Bolognese, wine, coperto et al, and 50 euro. The place was packed, our order was lost somewhere between dining room and kitchen, and I liked the way they handled it. The maitre d’ put a couple of pieces of cheese on a plate, with a little confit, I think maybe a confit of persimmon, and had the waiter deliver it to us. Sort of an unspoken acknowledgement that they’d caused us to wait a little, and very deftly handled. A great meal, and we’d go there again when we next visit Bologna.

I’d read somewhere I think on Fodors – about Giorgio Morandi, a Bolognese artist. I’d thought that Morandi had spent about 30 years painting still lifes of the same set of five bottles, and thought that, as we had an hour to kill, we’d look at his collected works, for a laugh, a joke. Anyone who can do that has to be a bit of a joke, right?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen the collected works of a single artist displayed so well, showing the development of his art, his way of viewing the world, almost a view inside his brain. It’s great. I’m pretty ignorant in art terms, uneducated. And so it was a complete revelation for me to be able to witness how someone changed over the course of about four decades. Pretty special, and so I consider myself lucky to have seen that exhibition.

My grandfather was a minor artist – more accurately described as a painter rather than artist, and I have a number of his etchings. My grandfather made etchings almost as theough he was drawing, pencil sketches on a copper plate. Morandi’s etchings are geometric, the density created by hatching, cross hatching, and multiple hatching, to create light and shade. The way that straight lines can become three dimensional is something that I don’t understand, but Morandi certainly understood.

Having that hour to kill was amazing luck!
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Jan 9th, 2011, 11:19 AM
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Thanks for the good report Peter, it comes handy for our next trip to return to Bologna. Just bookmarking for now.
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Jan 9th, 2011, 12:43 PM
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Been in Bologna since mid-August and think one of its greatest charms is walking around, taking in the porticoes, some of the churches, etc. When I have had guests, most have done (and enjoyed) the 2 hour or so walking tour that starts near the tourist office right at Piazza Maggiore. It gives a great orientation and overview of the city and the architecture. The tourist office is a wealth of information on what is going on in town.

I have not gone to the Morandi Museum but a friend did and thought it was terrific. The area described above By Peter is a must-see, walk around area (Via Drapperie,Clavature, etc.)that could also be combined with a fun lunch at Da Gianni, right in the center of things. I m also a big fan of Teresina and like the street it is on, Via Oberdan, a lot.

Walk along Via Farini, stop for coffee or apertivo at Zanarini, notice the different ages and stages of the porticoes. Get a gelato (you can eat it inside) at La Sorbetteria. Wander around Santo Stefano. Have a hot chocolate at a cafe in Piazza Maggiore. Stop in the church on Via Clavature to see the amazing sculptures (OK Zeppole, I am tired and forgot its name!)Swoon at the pastas and pastries at Atti on Via Orefici, the cheeses at La Baita, everything at Gilberto, the meats and cheeses at Simoni.

Bologna is not Venice, Rome or Florence in the sense of the top 5 things you HAVE to do. You'll see the towers because you see the towers. If it is a clear day, walk to the top for the view. Lately it has been foggy and drizzly so could be a wasted effort. Bologna is a great walking town---relax, enjoy, eat.

Happy to help if you want more info.
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Jan 9th, 2011, 07:59 PM
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We will be in Bologna this October. Lots of great information totake in.
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Jan 9th, 2011, 08:02 PM
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I'm taking notes too. I'm already booked in Bologna for 3 nights March 31.
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Jan 10th, 2011, 02:05 AM
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Thankyou for posting and taking notes as well! We're staying at the Albergo delle Drapperie at the beginning of June for 3 nights - sounds great.
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Jan 10th, 2011, 04:11 AM
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Four_maccas, I was frustrated trying to find Albergo Drapperie because I printed off a map from Google, which was pretty hopeless, but once we found the location, it was great.

The staff were good, the location is great, and it is about 15 or 20 minutes walk from the station.

We would choose to stay there again. Eatily, next door, is fun.
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Jan 11th, 2011, 09:09 AM
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The New York Times published a great travel piece about spending 36 hours in Bologna:

http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/09/23...l/23hours.html

I found it helpful when I spent a week in Bologna. BTW, pay close attention to the opening and closing hours of places you want to see. A lot of places really do close from noon to about 3:30 (even when they say they'll close at 12:30, it's often noon, so plan carefully!)

San Stefano is fascinating, with several cool layers of history. And the Basilica of San Pietro is also extremely interesting, and so easy to access (right on the main square!)

I thought it was great fun to climb the Asinelli Tower (which is the only one of the two twin towers open to the public; the Garisenda Tower is not accessible.) It's not an especially long or steep climb and there are landings with little windows if you want to stop to look out and get a bit of a break. You can also get fabulous photos from the top of the tower, with all of Bologna's beautiful red rooftops spread out at your feet.

As others have mentioned, it's so interesting just to stroll around the city centre under miles and miles of beautiful porticos, the sheer volume is kind of unique.

And if you're really energetic, the walk under 666 porticoes up to the Sanctuary of San Luca is steep but really interesting. Breathtaking views (if you have any breath left after the hike.)
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Jan 11th, 2011, 02:14 PM
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DH and I based there for 4 nights and these were our faves (check in your guide books and see if any appeal to you):

We loved Hotel Sofitel opposite the train station. Even though it was about a 15 minute walk to the main square, it was very convenient for day trips and our room on a back courtyard was perfectly quiet. Nice breakfast room and good bar.

Piazza Maggiore is the main square and you could spend hours and hours there. Basilica de San Petronio, Fonte Neptune and nearby Piazza Cavour with very beautiful portico. I've omitted galleries/museums but there are some (again, look in your book).

If you are interested in the porticoes, the oldest are in the old ghetto area and the university, oldest in Europe, is in that area also. We enjoyed the area. Art gallery near university.

We took a cab to Basilica San Luca (nice inside) and walked back to our hotel. The first part of the downhill walk was 3.5 kilometers of portico! We worked our way over to Basilica San Franceso and thought the area was very inviting.

Desk clerk suggested Ristorante da Bertino one night. It was a 15-minute walk from hotel (you'll need to look it up, I don't have directions in my notes) but the best meal we had. We had a sampling dinner from the boiled and grilled meat trolleys. We were brought a "green sauce" for the boiled which include veal tongue, beef, cotecchino, pork and veal cheek. It was served with potatoes, fagioli, onions and stewed tomates. The grilled portion was proscuitto, veal, pork and a galantine. It was served with potatoes, fritters (apple and cream) and a cauliflower that tasted like scalloped potatoes! The portions destroyed us. We watched in awe as an Italian family got the same thing plus pasta and dessert! The other eye-catcher was a gentleman whom we decided was the owner's grandfather as he teetered from the front of the restaurant to the back. Each diner along the way freed up an arm to catch the old guy should he fall.

Please let everyone know about your trip.
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Jan 11th, 2011, 02:15 PM
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ps-We passed the towers but that was it. I don't even remember if one could go in/up.
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Jan 11th, 2011, 04:05 PM
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bemanne,

Recommended (by me)

Santa Maria della Vita for its striking and unique terracotta statues, one of a kind and part of an important tradition of theatrical statue making in the region

The Anatomical theatre in the Archigennasio (pizza Galvani) -- an extremely important and fascinating example and legacy of Bologna's status as Europe's oldest university city, the lecture/dissection room of anatomy studies in the historic center. (Note also the statue of Galvani, the scientist, in the piazza Galvani, another marker of Bologna's unbroken commitment to the life of the learning).

The Basilica of San Domenico for its tomb of San Domenico (part of which was carved by the youthful Michaelangelo) and for the extraordinary artistry of the inlaid wooodwork in the choir stalls behind the altar (follow the signs or ask)

The Pinocoteca (gallery of fine arts) on the via belle arte, which has many exceptional a delightful works (a knockout St George and the Dragon, an exemplary Perugino) but above all, rooms full of works by the Caracci brothers, very operatic and ravishing paintings that very much real the operatic character of Bologna

The civic museum of medieval art -- again, something that only could exist in Europe's oldest university: beautifully carved tombs of beloved professors, with realistic portrayals of their students listening (or not)

There are many beautiful buildings and piazze in Bologna. If you are near the two towers, walk the few extra steps to stand and admire the Palazzo Mercanti, and add on a few steps to stand and admire the tranquil and atmospheric piazza Santo Stefano, where Charlemagne is known to have stood as well -- and especially note the palazzo who face is covered with terracotta heads peering back at you.

Have a great time opening doors in Bologna.

Piazza Maggiore's memorial to the Bolognese who were killed by Nazis (near the fountain)

The Palazzo Communale -- it's worth sticking your head inside to see the lovely interior space, which includes a Bramante staircase wide enough to accommodate horses and, if you climb the staircase, entrance to the historic and richly frescoed rooms of the papal legate, now a municipal museum of painting and decorative objects. It is free to enter the museum and even if you don't want to study the paintings, strolling through the ornate rooms, each more ornate than the next is a treat, plus out the windows are lovely views of red Bologna and the piazza Maggiore

The Oratorio of St Cecilia, a recently discovered and restored chapel of lovely frescoes (I believe its on the via Zamboni, ask your hotel)
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Jan 11th, 2011, 04:09 PM
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Sorry for typos:



archiginnasio, piazza galvani

via belle arti
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Jan 11th, 2011, 04:14 PM
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zeppole

Antica Casa Zucchini was booked for my dates in Bologna. I booked Hotel Paradise. Tripadvisor was my only only source of info on that one. Do you know it? Location good?
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Jan 11th, 2011, 11:07 PM
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The location is excellent for touristing, both in Bologna and getting to the train station, plus there are several good eats quite nearby. The cafe Terzi is very close (on the via Oberdan, 10), so if the hotel's coffee isn't inspiring, head there, In fact, try to visit Terzi at least once to have its cappucino. They are fantastic.

Also close to you is the bar Le Stanze ( via del Borgo di San Pietro, 1) which serves wonderful cocktails and nibbles in a room with 14c frescoes on the ceiling. Hang onto your receipt when you pay because you'll be asked to show it at the door in order to leave.

Ristorante Diana is nearby (on via dell'Indipendenza), and if you choose to go there, the passatelli in brodo they serve is really wonderful. They also bottle their own wine called "Diana" (it's a Sangiovese) and I think it's a bargain and tasty. (I'm less taken with their house specialty of bollito misto.) The ambience and service is very old fashioned and a bit formal.

The less formal restaurant Teresina is also nearby (on via Oberdan) and I've yet to meet anybody who doesn't like it, but they specialize in fish rather than the Bolognese classics.

Best sights closest to your hotel (although you are close to everything) are the Civic Medieval Museum and the Pinocoteca Nazionale. Since you may end up walking back and forth in front of the Cattedrale San Pietro several times, you may want to stick your head in. It's got a Caracci "Annunciation" above its main altar, and a grouping of terracotta statues not as dramatic as the ones in Santa Maria della Vita, but interesting to see another example of the local mania for these things . It's also got a very old pair of pink lions inside the front door.
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Jan 11th, 2011, 11:08 PM
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PS scatcat,

You can find lots more reviews of Hotel Paradise on booking.com and venere.com
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Jan 12th, 2011, 09:22 AM
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Thanks zeppole!!! I really appreciate your information. I may have enough things to do without doing a day-trip to Ravenna. I am happy to hear that the hotel is in a good location. I will likely take a taxi from the train station.
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Jan 12th, 2011, 09:59 AM
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scatcat - the following is from our Jan 2009 TR and may be helpful.

We stayed at the Hotel Paradise, located a block off the main drag midway between the train station and the Piazza Maggiore - about a 10 minute walk from each. Some reviews have said the street is a bit scary, but we did not think so at all - the street is old and there is some graffiti and a sex shop but that is all. There are also other shops and several restaurants and 2 wine bars - one that is upscale attached to a specialty food shop. The Paradise is a small hotel and the rooms have differing decors. Our room was on the top floor and rather than windows, had skylights that could be opened if one wished to do so. The skylights also had a remote control shade to keep out the light at night. We preferred the shade opened so we could see the moon and stars from our bed. The Paradise also has several apartments in different nearby buildings for about 10% extra. We saw one bedroom around the corner in a nice building with a courtyard entrance. It was very tempting, but we passed on it. What the Paradise lacks in luxury it makes up for with a group of the most helpful and friendly staff you will ever want, lots of little touches in the rooms such as a plethora of easily reachable outlets, switches controlling everlything from bedside, and toilet amenities that included a shaving kit and a travel toothbrush and toothpast. The breakfast was fine with the usual selection of yogurt, breads and pastries, coffee, cereals etc. The is also free internet with a workstation set up in the lobby.

Also from the TR: "Trattoria dal Biassanot." It is not a tourist restaurant and serves typical Bolognese dishes. The dal Biassanot is not only an excellent restaurant, it is just around the corner from the Paradise. Usually you will need a reservation as it is small and fills up quickly.
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Jan 12th, 2011, 10:20 AM
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basingstoke2--Thanks for that post! I am really looking forward to Bologna now. I will be solo, so it's nice to have information from real people other than posters from Tripadvisor. I'm not a foodie at all. I guess because I am VERY picky about what I eat. No red meat, no fish or any seafood. Basically just chicken, but I do love pasta and veggies. And of course...gelato! I will check out the trattoria around the corner.
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Jan 12th, 2011, 11:06 AM
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scatcat, DW has the same diet as you do except she will eat fish and she adored that trattoria. The gnocchi are fantastic -made in-house by the owner chef's husband. For dessert, go for the poached pear in wine sauce with a scoop of ice cream on it - it is wonderful. They have an excellent prosecco by the glass too.
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