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Bologna, a city rich with cultural jewels, has long been one of the best-kept secrets in northern Italy. Tourists in the know can bask in the shadow of its leaning medieval towers and devour the city's wonderful food.
The charm of the centro storico, with its red-arcaded passageways and sidewalks, can be attributed to wise city counselors who, at the beginning of the 13th century, decreed that roads could not be built without portici (porticoes). Were these counselors to return to town eight centuries later, they would marvel at how little has changed.
The feeling of a university town permeates the air in Bologna. Its population is about 373,000, and it feels young and lively in a way that many other Italian cities do not. It also feels full of Italians in a way that many other towns, thronged with tourists, do not. Bolognesi come out at aperitivo time, and you might be struck by the fact that it's not just youngsters who are out doing the passeggiata, or having a glass of wine with affetati misti—the pleasure is shared by all Bolognesi.
Known as "Bologna the Fat" from as early as the Middle Ages, the town's agricultural prosperity led to a well-fed population, one that survives into the 21st century. Bolognese food is, arguably, the best in Italy. With its sublime food, lively spirit, and largely undiscovered art, Bologna is well worth a visit.
Bologna at a Glance
- Basilica di San Petronio
- Fontana del Nettuno
- Le Due Torri
- Museo Internazionale della Musica
- Palazzo Comunale
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