Bologna was the third stop on my three week trip in Europe, and of the Italian portion. I discovered Bologna (sounds like Bologna the sausage doesn’t it?), after trying to find somewhere to visit more northern in Italy that wasn’t Milan (ended up going there anyway, that’s another story, read about it here).
I wasn’t able to find accommodations online in Bologna, but instead found the small town of Imola ‘next door’ to stay at. Read about my arrival and half day in Imola here!
Bologna was a quick 25 minute train ride, through the country side to get to from Imola. I feel like the equivalent of coming from Abbotsford into Vancouver haha, but way more beautiful (nothing against VGA). But my guess is this must be a normal commute for many. It was a Sunday when I planned to visit Bologna, making it a goal of mine to make it into town for 9am mass.
In Bologna, I never even took transit, except for the train in and out of the city. It’s small enough to walk around (assuming you’re prepared to walk), and with a handy map from my Airbnb host, I had no problems. Well, that’s until it started to pour and my map was a wee bit soggy, haha!
Heavily Italian, but, you can get by with some English. The city felt like they were expecting more tourists, and you can tell who speaks English quickly, most likely because I was pronouncing everything incorrectly.
I had thankfully eaten breakfast at my Airbnb, saving myself from scrambling to find something in the morning. The train station is also in a very central location in Bologna, making for an easy find.
The goal was to make it for 9am mass. I was raised Catholic, and was excited to sit in a cathedral and attend mass, even if it was in Italian. I also thought it was a universal rule mass started at 9am…but I was wrong.
Once I found the cathedral I wanted, I walked in, to find myself in the middle of mass…turns out it started at 8:30am, whoops! A personal and enriching experience nonetheless.
Next I walked around the main square, waiting for the Twin Towers to open. You have to buy tickets (I think only 3 euro), and book a time slot, because there is not a lot of room for people! You also have to be down by a certain time, and with 498 steps, you really have to time it right to not wind yourself. But! The view is so worth it, a great overall view of Bologna, from a height where you can still make out the people on the streets below.
I started to explore the city, and as talked about above, it was super easy by foot. I entered The Archaeological Civic Museum of Bologna, why you ask, well it was free and ALL the buildings in Bologna are worth looking at. It also contains some of the most important pieces of history to Italy, and just by looking at the walls you can tell.
As I was walking by to my next destination, which by the way would have had no clue what to do if it wasn’t for my Airbnb host, the fountain Neptune, Fontana del Nettuno. It looks like most Italian outdoor sculptures look like (sorry but it’s true), still a cool thing to bucket list see.
Okay…now I was hungry, or just needed a little warmth as the rain had been off and on spitting all morning. I entered into a cafe that looked like I could sit there for a bit (Vancouver style cafe vs. the quick espresso type) AND it was vegan!
A pleasant surprise to find, a fully vegan cafe in the middle of Italy, they exist! I was warmed by a homemade almond milk cappuccino and a vegan chocolate croissant…yep… a vegan croissant…with chocolate! YUMMY!
I was headed this direction anyway, but really to eat lunch. My Airbnb host recommended Osteria Dell’Orsa, which even after a croissant I ate a delicious bowl of ravioli, 10/10 that dish.
Quick easy service, very student like feel, but English speaking and extremely tasty —> located here.
It was freezing, rainy and oh so muggy the whole day while in Bologna. I had to keep moving from sight to sight to stay warm! Next up were the Seven Churches!
The first church was built around 80 d.C. (which stands form 80 years after Christ)…can you even imagine what life was like then, definitely no form of blogs around! Until the 1900s they continued to build churches attached to the building, hence where the name the 7 churches came from. All intertwined into one another, a unique piece of construction and architecture to explore (plus it was free!).
My next place to visit was a piece of information shared by my Airbnb host. He taught me that Bologna used to look a lot similar to Venice, with full canals and boats floating through them but has since dried up, and been built above the water line. There’s only a couple places through the walls you can see this!
One more stop before the train station was visiting St. Catherine of Bologna, a nun who passed away in 1463, a few years ago. *However, her body remains in-corrupt, and has not decayed. She is in a special side room within the cathedral, sitting upright, with texture and fullness to her body. He skin was blackened only due to exposure from oil lamps and soot. It was one of the most amazing, slightly disturbing but fascinating experiences to have. The others in the room were observing her with such delicacy, it was a beautiful experience to be witnessing this in a Catholic cathedral. A must see for Catholics, anyone interest in biology, or history.
Then it began to POUR as I was making my way back to the train station. This started with walking in the wrong direction for 20 minutes or so, and with no umbrella, everything was soaking. Once I arrived at the station it was MAYHEM. Not only the rain squeezing everyone inside, but an attendant warned me some of the employees were potentially going to go on strike at any moment, which would have stopped the trains. I thankfully made it on the train and back to Imola safe and sound!
Bologna is a fantastic city to visit in one day. No need for a vehicle, everything is accessible by foot and if you have even 10 hours to spare, you can see almost everything. For a smaller town, it is quite tourist heavy even on such a miserable day, but I would visit it again.
Steps for the day (according to my iPhone): 31, 978 | 20.4km | 46 floors
Next stop a day trip to Milan! This one you’ll want to read about…it was something.