Amore alla Bolognese

Between love and superstition. myAustrian fans Andrea and Silvio discover Bologna – an ancient university city which just could not be any more Italian.


Viennese pop band Wanda called its song about love “Bologna” . They sing: “If anyone asks you where you’re going, say ‘Bologna’”. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves! So here are a few reasons why…

Every city has its own distinctive characteristics, of course – and in Bologna, capital of the Emilia Romagna region , a.k.a. “the stomach of Italy”, that means superstitions . The thousands of students who study here at Europe’s oldest university are particularly good at abiding by strange rules. Example? They are only permitted to walk around Bologna’s main square, the Plaza Maggiore, through the arcades – the square can never be crossed. “It’s bad luck,” a colleague from the Law Faculty at Bologna University explains to us. We’re happy to abide by these rules, of course, even though the city boasts no less than 38 (!!) kilometres of arcades – just another of Bologna’s numerous attractions.

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Back in the 12th century, Bologna was the Manhattan of the Middle Ages : full of the skyscrapers of the time – there are said to have been more than 170 of them! Today there are still something like 20 of those buildings left standing, with the most famous being the Asinelli Tower . At 97 metres high, it’s said to have been the highest building on Earth until the Stephansdom in Vienna was constructed. Even this highlight is surrounded by superstition, however. It’s said that if a student scales this leaning tower, he will never hold his degree in his hands.

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Luckily, however, we’ve already got our Bachelor’s degree in our pocket, because the climb – and especially the view across the city’s thousands of gleaming red and brown roofs – is worth all that effort!

There’s still good old ‘amore’, however; and there are certainly countless opportunities for that in Bologna. Love of food, love of ice cream… and just love in general. In Italy, Bologna is often referred to as ‘La Grassa’ – or “the fat one”. That may have something to do with the fact that so many of the country’s speciality dishes come from here: tagliatelle al ragú – the dish known to the world as spaghetti Bolognese, tortellini and tortelloni, Parma ham, “real” Parmesan, mortadella and fried bread, exquisite wines, gourmet balsamic vinegar… We taste our way through these Italian specialities, all of which originate in Bologna and the surrounding region. This is also where the aperitivo was invented, which is served in many bars and restaurants in this lively student city, not just with small snacks, but also with fully-fledged dishes.

Bologna’s also the capital of the gelato, however: Gelato University has its main campus here, and not without good reason. It aims to share the Italian art of ice cream-making with the rest of the world. As a result, the city boasts one ice cream parlour after another – with more diverse (and tastier) ice cream varieties than anywhere else on Earth!

If you want to taste all these culinary highlights under professional instruction, you might want to try the services of Andrea at Taste Bologna , who can give you one of a diverse range of food tours.

In Bologna, though, the way to your heart isn’t just through your stomach. On some days, indeed, the famous ‘Meridian’ in Bologna’s largest church, San Petronio Basilica , casts a heart-shaped shadow . If couples walk in front of this huge ancient measuring instrument and the shadow is heart-shaped, then their love will be eternal, so the superstition says. It’s all beautifully romantic, we think – here in Bologna, the city of amore.

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