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The city break… 48 hours feeding body and soul in the foodie paradise of Bologna
- Read our guide on the best things to do on a mini-break to the sleepy Italian city
- Head to Piazza Maggiore to see what is deemed the world’s tenth-largest church
- The Quadrilatero district is a good spot for food with its many delis and cafes
Tom Chesshyre For The Mail On Sunday
Big draw: The Neptune Fountain with Torre degli Asinelli in the background
Most people consider Rome, Venice and Florence for Italian city breaks, but sleepy Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, makes for a perfect getaway for lovers of la dolce vita.
With ancient squares, magnificent medieval churches, bustling markets and a tower to rival Pisa, there’s plenty to explore.
But Bologna, above all else, is a foodie paradise with delis and restaurants to satisfy the greediest of appetites…
DAY ONE – MORNING
Head straight for Piazza Maggiore – the city revolves around this square. Here you will find the Basilica of St Petronio, deemed to be the tenth-largest church in the world (although measurements are contested). You can’t miss the famous local meeting point – an outlandish fountain of Neptune.
Just south of the main square, a good lunch spot is 051 Zerocinquanto Bologna (051piazzamaggiore.it) which offers incredible pasta and hearty steaks.
You’ll need to buy a €5 ticket from the tourist office on Piazza Maggiore to climb Torre degli Asinelli, which rises 320ft and leans westwards by more than 7ft.
Cafe culture: Visitors to the city are never short of places to eat and drink
Asinelli is next to a shorter tower, Torre degli Garisenda, which leans towards it. Charles Dickens once described them as ‘bowing stiffly to each other’. The 498-step climb is arduous but ultimately rewarding and you’ll be blown away by the views. Take your time wandering about the Basilica of St Petronio, dedicated to the city’s 5th Century bishop and founded in 1390.
The intention was to build a bigger church than Rome’s St Peter’s Basilica but funds ran out. As a result of its partial completion, the outside looks a bit lopsided. Inside, marvel at the soaring pinkstone columns.
Enjoy a stroll along Viadell’Indipendenza, past the many fashion boutiques, to Via Voltuna and try dinner at Nino’s, a traditional pizzeria which also specialises in seafood – from delicious ravioli stuffed with shellfish, or mussels and shrimp spaghetti (ristoranteninobologna.it).
DAY TWO – MORNING
Make the Basilica di Santo Stefano your first port of call. This intriguing cluster of churches dates from the 5th Century. A highlight is the Courtyard of Pilate, with an 8th Century basin representing where Pontius Pilate washed his hands after condemning Christ to death.
It’s a winding walk from here along paved arcades – there are more than 25 miles of such pavements, making Bologna a great destination to visit come rain or shine – to Piazza Mercato.
It is home to more than 400 stalls and has been operating since 1251. You can pick up everything from hats and shirts to cured sausages for a euro or two.
Shoppers browse stalls in the Quadrilatero district
Go for a bite to eat at one of the many excellent delis and cafes in the tightly packed streets of the Quadrilatero district just west of Piazza Maggiore (good bolognaise sauces to be had, naturally).
If you want to take a few food presents home, try the wonderful Enoteca Gilberto, an old-fashioned grocery shop on Via Drapperie with ladders to high shelves overflowing with pickled delicacies, pastas, wines and sauces (drogheriagilberto.it).
Bologna is home to Europe’s oldest university, founded in 1088. And make time to look around the old quarter and view masterpieces by Raphael, El Greco and Titian at Pinacoteca Nazionale (pinacotecabologna.beniculturali.it).
Order an aperitivo in the lively Quadrilatero area – the Bebi Bar on Vicolo Ranocchi is recommended – then dine at the elegant Buca San Petronio on Via de’Musei (www.bucasanpetronio.it), which has a courtyard.
EasyJet (easyjet.com) offers return flights to Bologna from £55. Albergo delle Drapperie (albergodrapperie.com) has 20 simple rooms on a B&B basis from €105 (about £92) a night.
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How to spend 48 hours in Bologna, Italy