The first thing that strikes you is the fiery colour palette. The tangerine walls, scarlet shutters and sizzling terracotta roof tiles are warm and welcoming. Befittingly, Bologna is nicknamed “la Rossa” (the Red) – though it’s not derived from the colour of the city’s buildings, but its political history. Since the turn of the 20th century, Bologna has been predominantly governed by the left and was a communist stronghold during the postwar years. Bologna is also known as “la Grassa” (the Fat) for its Baroque cuisine rich in meat, cheese and butter, as well as “la Dotta” (the Learned) for its university, which is one of the oldest and most important in Europe.

Architecturally, the city is characterised by its elegant marble porticoes and soaring red-brick towers. In the Middle Ages, Bologna was a sort of medieval Manhattan, with hundreds of towers punctuating its skyline. Only a handful survive today, including the leaning Torre Grisenda and its neighbouring Torre Asinelli, which you can climb for breathtaking views over the city and its surrounding hills. Back on street level, covered walkways snake around the city. There are 53km of arched porticoes that keep pedestrians, café dwellers and shoppers cool in summer and dry on rainy days.

Being relatively untouched by the tides of mass tourism, the capital of Emilia-Romagna is refreshing and authentic. Gorgeous on the eyes and delicious on the plate, Bologna is a very well-kept secret, and it’s ripe for the pickings.


Torre Prendiparte

This is a unique hideaway in the heart of town. There’s just one suite, which is laid over the first three floors and decorated in a transitional style. Thanks to a painstaking restoration, all 12 floors can now be visited giving access to the roof terrace and astonishing 360 degree views.

I Portici

This is a bright, modern hotel set in a 19th-century palazzo. Located under the porticoes on Via dell’Indipendenza, it’s right in the heart of the heart of the city and just a short walk from the train station and the main hub of Piazza Maggiore in either direction.

Torre Prendiparte

I Portici

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