Most often when people visit Italy, they go straight to the top few famous cities of Rome, Venice, Florence, and Milan. These four cities are incredible, and each has a different quality to it; however, if you want to see a smaller, intimate, less-touristy Italian city, you should make a trip to Bologna.

Bologna is located in northern Italy and can be conveniently accessed by train through the other major cities. It is one of the most important cultural and artistic centers in Italy and has a young, hip population mostly students of the local university. Of course, it is also famous for its Bolognese sauce and cured hams. If you are looking for cheap eats, make sure to visit the area near the University of Bologna. Places here cater towards students, and you can find cheap local food.

Piazza Maggiore, Bologna, Italy
San Petronio, Piazza Maggiore and Palazzo d’Accursio in Bologna, Italy. Taken by Wikimedia Commons user S. Brinkmann.

The city is relatively small and can be explored in a few days. It is very walkable, and during the weekends cars are not allowed to enter the city center. There is a main street where you can find all sorts of shopping and countless coffee bars and gelaterias. Here you will find local street artists, street musicians (ranging from guitar, harp, and sometimes even the piano), street actors, etc. Every few steps you take, you will want to stop and enjoy the vibrant street life.

One of the main sights to see in Bologna is The Towers of Bologna. Despite the  Tower of Pisa being the most famous tower that leans, there are many others in Italy that also lean. The Towers of Bologna are one such example. However, it is hard to tell until you see both towers together. Once you are in the right position though, it is quite evident. You can climb to the top of the tower and see the beautiful view of the whole city. At some point, you will also undoubtedly find yourself in Piazza Maggiore. Piazza Maggiore is the large square that is surrounded by several of the main Palazzos, as well as the Basilica of San Petronio. The Basilica of San Petronio is one of the largest churches in the world and is the main church in Bologna.

If you are interested in classical music, you should visit The International Museum and Library of Music, where you can find an in-depth center of ancient musical instruments ranging from the 16th to the 20th century. The city of Bologna is a UNESCO City of Music. Make sure to check to see if there are any local cultural events you can attend. There are often concerts of all musical genres, as well as local events such as poetry readings. Bologna is often the host city for festivals, ranging from the JAMBO Festival in the summer that celebrates urban sports and music, to the week-long electronic music roBOt Festival in October.

The quality of life is extremely high in Bologna, and its economy is better, compared to many other Italian cities. This has helped transform it into a destination as people all over Italy and the world come to visit and live in the beautiful and culturally-rich city of Bologna.

Anna McMillenAnna is a wandering artist and explorer. She was born in California but spent most of her childhood growing up in China. She is passionate about lifestyle change and sharing her artwork and stories of her travels. Visit her website to learn more about her work.

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