Located in the northern part of the peninsula, Bologna is often overlooked on Italian holidays. However, this ancient city offers a wealth of unforgettable experiences.
While not as large or famous as cities like Rome or Venice, Bologna is an important cultural and artistic centre in Italy. Designated a UNESCO City of Music in 2006, there are always concerts and other performances happening in any number of concert halls, rock venues, and electronic clubs. Home to the oldest university in the world, Bologna also has a lively student population which keeps it young at heart.
The medieval city centre has been faithfully preserved, and the original Roman street plan is still visible. Visitors can see countless landmarks and historic buildings, including the Palazzo Comunale, the Basilica of San Petronio, and the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca, which offers panoramic views of the city. Most famous are the Two Towers of Bologna: the Tower of the Asinelli and the Tower of the Garisenda, whose 10-foot (3m) lean is obvious compared to its twin.
Bologna also boasts dozens of world-class museums, and visitors are advised to get a Museum Card for free or discounted access to many of them. Aside from a number of archaeological, art, and cultural museums, Bologna has three Italian car museums devoted to its most famous brands: Lamborghini, Ducati, and Ferrari (which has an excellent Formula One exhibit).
Bologna is also considered one of the gastronomic capitals of Italy, and visitors will find no lack of excellent Italian cuisine made fresh from local produce.
Voted European Capital of Culture in 2000, Bologna is a lively cultural hub settled at the foot of the picturesque Apennine Mountains, and well worth a visit on any holiday in Italy.
Bologna's climate is humid subtropical, with large swings in temperature from summer to winter. Summers are hot and muggy with temperatures higher than those found along the coast. In the hottest months, July and August, average temperatures range between 88°F (31°C) and 63°F (17°C). Visitors should note that in August many locals take their holiday and a number of restaurants and businesses close down for at least part of the month.
In the coldest month, January, the temperatures range between 50°F (10°C) and 34°F (1°C). Rainfall prevails in the winter, with cool to cold temperatures and occasional snow. November is the wettest month but visitors should anticipate rain in October, December, March and April as well. The best time to visit Bologna is in spring (April and May) or autumn (September) when the weather is warm and the crowds are small.
Bologna's city centre is compact, and the narrow cobblestone streets are great fun to wander through, so walking is a great way to see the sights. Bicycles and motorbikes are also a common sight. Visitors worried about getting lost in the labyrinthine passageways can take advantage of the excellent bus system, which runs from 6.30am until late. A City Pass is a cost-effective way of taking multiple journeys. Taxis and rental cars are also available but much of the city centre is off-limits to cars, negating much of the convenience.