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A History Lover’s Guide to Bologna, Italy

Bologna, Italy is a country of rich culture and ancient civilizations. Many localities not just centuries ago, but ages ago – literally. This makes it a history lover’s paradise – with plenty of places to gaze in awe at the majestic structures of years past.

A History In Brief

Bologna, Italy has origins tracing back to the Bronze age. After a population of unknown origin settled the area over three thousand years ago, they slowly began to develop their own culture.
By the Iron age, they were authentically known as the Villanovan Civilization and had greatly influenced the distinct culture you see today – not to mention left behind some of the historical sites you can witness.
As with all other great culture-rich regions, there were outside influences through the years leading to today. The first influence came from the Etruscans around the 6th Century BC. In 350 BC the Celts conquered the area and dubbed it Bologna, meaning “city.”
Two hundred years later the region was conquered by the Romans and officially adopted into what is now modern-day Italy.

Modern Notoriety

The ancient city of Bologna is modernly known as the center of Italian culture and artistic heritage. Both the Caracca and Reni Schools for the arts were founded there.
In 2000 the city was given the title of “European Capital of Culture.” In 2006 it was called a “city of music” by UNESCO.

Must-See Historical Sites

There are numerous examples of well-preserved architecture throughout the city which history lovers will not want to miss.
The amazing thing about ancient buildings, sites, or even artifacts is that they provide a living example of history. It takes the black and white pages of historical text and turns it into something substantial.
A word of warning: it can be very overwhelming for the first-time history traveler. In a good way, of course.
A bustling modern world sitting inside this old, compact Roman district. As you walk streets which have stood for centuries, you can peruse market stalls, cafes, and delis. You can find beautifully maintained examples of historic architecture anywhere you look.
Torre Degli Asinelli
Built in 1119, these twin towers are considered the region’s primary tourist attraction. Like the tower of Piza, these towers both lean considerably, thanks to a shifting layer of earth as the towers settled. You can even walk up one tower, although the other has been closed for quite some time because it is far too slanted to be considered safe.
San Colombano Collezione Tagliavini
A restored church with original frescoes and a medieval crypt, this place is a history lover’s paradise. Housed inside the beautiful building is a collection of musical instruments dating back to the early 1500’s. Unlike many other churches, photography is welcome here. You may also luck out and witness one of the unscheduled concerts hosted here.
Basilica di Santo Stefano
There were originally seven interlocking buildings built here, but now only four remain. Each building presents an opportunity to view religiously-themed art housed in historic architecture. The main building, for example, is called the Church of the Crucifix, where Jesus is depicted hanging on the cross while his mother watches. The solemn morbidity of the scene is an accurate depiction of the local religious beliefs.
Basilica di San Petronio
Although construction began over 700 years ago, this church remains unfinished. As it stands, it is the sixth largest church in all of Europe, despite sections of missing façade. One can’t help but wonder just how big the church was meant to be.

Must-Visit Museums

Lamborghini Museum
This unique attraction portrays the history of Italy’s infamous (and much sought after) luxury car company. Among the numerous cars on display, there is an original 350 GT from 1964.
Gelato Museum Carpigiani
Did you know that people ate frozen desserts all the way back to ancient times? No? Then you have to taste test – I mean, visit – this delicious museum. Not only will you learn about the ways people would make and eat frozen desserts, but you’ll also get to eat some yourself!
Museo della Storia di Bologna
This museum is perfect for people of all ages. The last 2,500 years of Bologna history is in a chronological showcase of interactive 3D displays. It brings the region’s history to life.

Must-Eat Indulgences

No trip to a city nicknamed “La Grassa” (AKA “The Fat One”) would be complete without indulging in some of the foods that have historically defined the culture. Some dishes are very local while others are Italian classics born from this region.
Tagliatelle al ragu
Known to the rest of the world as Bolognese, this is the culinary masterpiece which  the region gastronomically famous. The best place to get it? Trattoria Anna Maria. The food is always handmade, using authentic cooking techniques – all overseen by Anna Maria herself.
Seafood Pasta Dishes
Although the region of Bologna is very heavy in meat dishes, seafood has become an integral part of the diet also. Much of this is thanks to a Sicilian influence. Speaking of Sicilians, Da Maro restaurant operates a family of them. You can get a plate of pasta con le sarde or a variety of other seafood dishes – created with locally caught fish!
This is the most famous dish originating from the region, and the best place to get it is in the Trattoria Meloncello. This eatery has been around for over a century (which is how you know the food is good)! If the tortellini in brodo isn’t your thing, the gnocchi comes highly recommended!
Traditional Bologna fare features an array of delicious appetizers before the main course. At Ristorante Alice you can choose a bowl of antipasti filled with locally sourced cured meats, Pecorino cheese, chickpeas, marinated eggplant, and balsamic vinegar.
Between the fantastic historical sites, unique museums, and delicious culinary indulgences Bologna, Italy is a history lover’s paradise. Don’t miss the experience to immerse yourself in the rich culture of the region during your next Italy vacation!

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Eating your way through Italy

Feast Through Italy

The food alone is one of the best reasons to visit Italy, as the list of mouthwatering delights is endless! Continue reading our “Foodie’s Guide” for a taste of Italy that will be the ultimate in culinary experiences!

Naples for Pizza

Naples Pizza

Let’s start with the city where it all began. Pizza got its beginnings in Naples, and this amazing Italian creation has been a favorite for many years. By the late 18th century, the people of Naples were adding tomato sauce to their flatbread, and thus, this tradition got started. When you arrive in this incredible city, head straight to Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba for a slice that will knock your socks off! Established in 1830, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba is the oldest pizzeria in the world. Here, you will find traditional Neapolitan pizza, which has a thin, chewy crust covered with a robust tomato sauce and a light layer of cheese. You’ll see why eating pizza is an absolute must while in Naples!
Another staple in this Italian city is coffee. Known mostly for espresso, you’ll find countless cafe’s lining the streets of Naples where you can enjoy this hot beverage at it’s finest. Most often brewed by hand, you’ll want to do as the locals do, and quickly drink your espresso sweetened with plenty of sugar, then be on your way!

When in Rome

Pasta alla Carbonara

Whether you are spending the day in Rome or you will be there for a few days to weeks, the food is not to be missed! Roman cuisine is known for being simple and bursting with flavor. Famous for pasta dishes, as well as vegetable and offal stews, you’ll need extra time in Rome just to try all of the delicious food offerings. “Must-try” foods in Rome include the following: Suppli’, a deep-fried delight filled with mozzarella cheese, and covered in risotto, egg, and tomato sauce, Crostata di Ricotta, which is the Roman version of the traditional cheesecake, the ever-popular artichoke, and many more.
While artichokes are enjoyed worldwide, Italy is responsible for over two-thirds of the world’s production. Be sure to try thePasta alla Carbonara, which is spaghetti topped with a sauce made of pecorino cheese, eggs, black pepper, and bacon. Some restaurants to go to while in this fantastic city? Try Angelina, located nearby the Trevi Fountain, Glass, fine dining in the heart of Rome, or Salotto 42, which is convenient to the Pantheon.


Of course, no trip to Rome would be complete without gelato. The first gelato was made by the Romans when they decided to add fruit to snow from the mountains for a unique frozen dessert. Gelato, the Italian version of ice cream, is rich and decadent and comes in an array of flavors, including strawberry, chocolate, and lemon. The most popular flavor in the city? Pistachio!

Eating in Venice

Be prepared for Italian food as you’ve never had it before. Venice is known for specialty foods that you absolutely must try while there. The cuisine consists of flavorful dishes made with fresh fish and vegetables. Sarde in Soar, a sweet and sour dish made with fried sardine fillets marinated in vinegar, onions, raisins and pine nuts, dates back to the Middle Ages and continues to be a Venetian favorite to this day. With another staple of the region being rice, it only makes sense that Risotto is a specialty of Venice. One of the most widely served versions is seafood based risotto, made from squid ink that appears jet black. Don’t let the appearance of the dish startle you. This is by far the best risotto you’ll ever eat!
With the Venetian Lagoon being home to crustaceans, Venice is a seafood lover’s dream. Small green crabs, called Moleche, are a seasonal delicacy that is eaten after the shell is shed. These crabs are used in all sorts of fried dishes and salads.
No Venetian meal is complete without Baicoli, a dry, oval-shaped ship biscuit that is perfect for dipping into cream and enjoying with coffee. Most importantly, don’t forget the wine! The region has a varied landscape and is home to many red and white varieties. Some of the best wines to accompany all of the fresh fish in the region are Soave, Valpolicella, Amarone, and Orto di Venezia.

The Region of Tuscany

Focaccia Bread

Arriving in Tuscany is an adventure in itself. Suddenly, you find yourself surrounded by an incredible amount of food that you must try before leaving. Like most regions of Italy, Tuscan cuisine is made from simple ingredients, such as legumes, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables. One of the local favorites, focaccia, found its way onto Tuscan tables over 2000 years ago. Focaccia is a bread is baked on hot coals or on a hearth. Eat it alone, dipped in oil and herbs, alongside a dish of pasta, or use it for a sandwich. No matter how you slice it, there is no wrong way to enjoy focaccia, and Tuscany is the best place to get it. Don’t forget one of Tuscany’s best offerings, the salumi and cheese.
When enjoying a meal in Tuscany, it is best to start with an antipasto with cured sliced meats. Tuscans are known for excellent soups, so fill your bowl with ribollita, a vegetable and bread soup, or the best tomato soup you’ve ever had. Pasta lovers can delight in tagliatelle al Tartufo, which is pasta covered in a truffle sauce, or pappardelle alla Lepre, wide egg noodles in a sauce made from wild hare. Whatever your preference, the pasta in Tuscany is not to be missed. Which restaurants to try? How about Bracali, a lovely restaurant with homemade cuisine, Caino, known for locally-inspired dishes, or Piccolo Principe, with an open kitchen and flavorful meals.

Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna Region


Also referred to as the “Breadbasket of Italy,” this region is famous for some of Italy’s most well-known pasta dishes. Dining in Bologna will allow you to taste some of the best lasagna, gnocchi, tortellini, and ravioli you’ve ever had. Eat like a local while in Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna region at one of the many porticoes that line the streets, and don’t forget to head to a local cafe for a cappuccino that you won’t believe. With the Italian nickname of the city being “The Fat One,” it is no surprise that this region knows what good eating is all about!
Along with the pasta dishes, don’t forget the prosciutto, made from cured and salted pork and sliced thin. Paired with cheese and olives, you’ll want to sit and eat this food all day! The perfect place to do just that? Dal Nonno, where you’ll get the best prosciutto in the region. All in all, the food in this region is something to indulge in and remember.
Now you know why Italy is known for being a country where great food is of utmost importance! Make sure you are ready to eat like never before when you visit Italy. Taste the local cuisines that every region is famous for, and see why Italy is the ultimate foodie’s dream!