Bologna is the capital of the Emilia Romagna region in the north of Italy. It has a population of 400,000 and is home to the oldest university in Europe(1088).
Amidst the raging Italian traffic and bustling crowds you'll find yourself in one of the most fascinating architectural wonders of Italy. With its 26km of portici (archways) and buildings some of which date back to the 11th century. Bologna unlike Florence and Rome is not overflowing with tourists. Therefore one can just go exploring without the fear of being drowned by millions of camera crazy tourists.
Places to visit: The Piazza Maggiore is the heart of the city where one can find the Basilica di San Petronio 1426 one of the biggest basilicas in Italy. The architecture is incredible and there are famous pieces of art work. The Archigianisio can also be found in Piazza Maggiore, this is where the first human autopsies were carried out. The building is open daily and is now a library. However the anatomy theatre is still in existence and open to the public, the theatre which is completely made of wood is covered in sculptures of people or saints who were somehow involved in the study of the human body. In the centre of the room lies a wooden platform where these studies where done. It is worth going to see the building itself as one can still see and appreciate the remains of alfresco paintings on the walls. Connected to Piazza Maggiore is La Fontana del Nettuno created and designed by Jean Boulogne, also known as Giambologna in 1563. The statue is also known as Il Gigante meaning the giant as it towers over the piazza and can be seen from a distance.
The Due Torri are two extremely well known towers which date back to the beginning of the 12th century one of which is leaning. In fact the towers have become the symbol of Bologna. They can be seen from almost anywhere in Bologna and are a central point in the city as there are 7 main roads which branch out from them.
Bologna was originally surrounded by walls as it was bombed and invaded so often.There are still some remains of the original city walls left today. In the walls where 12 Portas out of the 12 original 9 are still in existence, these are, the Porta di Saraggozza, Lame,Sant'Isaia, Mascarella, San Felice, San Vitale, Castiglione, San Donato and Galliera
Going back to the University of Bologna(Alma Studorium),this is one of Italy's best universities renowned for its law department, for those whom are legally inclined. However this does not mean that the other departments are useless. The university isn't particularly well organized and the departments are not in contact with each other. However the staff tend to be quite helpful.
There are hundreds of foreign students doing Erasmus student exchanges or other exchanges. The University organizes lots of Erasmus parties and events such as visiting other cities in Italy. You'll get to know lots of foreign(not Italian) people as they tend to be friendlier than the locals. The locals being northern Italians tend to be more arrogant and generally colder than the southerners however this is not always the case. The people working in restaurants and takeaways, are quite friendly and enjoy asking questions about your native country. Their faces just light up when they hear a foreigner speaking Italian as they really don't expect people to be learning their language.
Bologna is extremely popular for its gastronomy. Once you try the Italian cuisine you'll want to eat out every night. Tortelloni al Ragú (Bolognese sauce) is the typical Bolognese dish which you can eat at most restaurants.
Most restaurants in Bologna are quite good but I seriously recommend visiting La Brace meaning the grill, you can find this in via San Vitale which is one of the roads branching off the Due Torri. It specialises in fish but does fantastic pizza's and fresh pasta. If its ice cream your after the 2 best Gelaterias in Bologna are Gianni's near Piazza Maggiore and the Castiglione one towards the end of Via Castiglione.
Bologna is quite an expensive city to live in. Accommodation is extremely expensive and very hard to find. There's a youth hostel but its out of the town centre and has strict rules.
The night life in Bologna is quite good with night clubs of all sorts. There are quite a few around town for cheesy nights such as Capital town and hype club(the name says it all) oh and women be extremely cynical about Italian men especially in these places. There is an extremely good night club called Livello 56 which is actually underneath a bridge by Porta Mascarella. Raves are organised here and people from the north of Italy travel to Bologna just for this. it starts at about 2 am on Saturday and carries on until well into Sunday afternoon. I am told that at one stage whoever went in was handed an envelope containing weed. But apparently they've stopped doing this now even though drugs are still available once inside.
Bologna is also a good place for shopping and a very expensive one at that. There is also a market held on Fridays and Saturdays. There is always somthing or other happening here and it's a fantastic place to be based if your wanting to travel around Italy.
Trust me I know I spent 5 months living there and it's a fantastic lively place. So if you're bored and want to get out I seriously recommend visiting Bologna.