If you were dropped into the Plaza Maggiore in Bologna, blindfolded, and had to guess where you were…you might guess Rome, Florence, or Milan, or another more popular Italian city. There are crowds (in many alleyways filled with bars and restaurants, there was not a table to be had). There is every conceivable high-end retail store you can think of. There is world-class food, especially tortellini, a city specialty. And there are the porticoes, the covered walkways (that we unknowingly called arcades, at first) that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site – if you can believe it, 25 miles of porticoes run through the city. Since we had rain off and on throughout the days we have been here, the porticoes were a godsend, keeping us dry. And walking through them for hours is one of the best things to do in Bologna. Seeing how they change in construction as the city grew is quite interesting.
Our entire lives, all that we knew of Bologna is that it was a “university town,” so we looked forward to arriving, as we suspected we would find more diverse food choices and more choices in stores. In fact, the University of Bologna was founded in 1088, and is the oldest university in the world. There were lots and lots of people here, and many groups of teens sightseeing and going to the front of the line because they had a group reservation. At one point we decided to skip the ticketed portion of the Archiginnasio (the oldest university building) because of so many tours going in ahead of us. We didn’t know what the Anatomical Theater was, but we skipped it, only to find out that it was where cadaver dissections took place for medical students. At any rate, as you will see in the photos, what we could see for free was impressive enough and much less crowded. Maybe we’ll see the rest on our next trip to the city. We never feel we have to “do it all” in one trip, as we always assume that, like MacArthur, we will return!
It is easy to envision staying here for a longer time in the future, as the city has so much to offer. Our first night here, we enjoyed Pakistani food, as during our last two stays in more secluded mountain towns, all we could find was pasta and pizza. So the diversity here was most welcome. But now that we have had some variety, there will probably be quite a bit of traditional Italian food in our near future. We are only going to be in the country for a few more days, and there is nothing like real Italian food.