Often neglected by international visitors, Bologna is a big draw for Italians – yet rarely features on foreigners’ itineraries. This wealthy city of 380,000 is known nationally as a light industry centre that also has one of Italy’s most handsome historic cores, one of its busiest nightlife scenes and a local cuisine that’s excellent even by Italy’s high standards.
Home to Europe’s oldest university, the city is also dubbed “Red Bologna” by locals, both for its red brick medieval centre and its tradition of left wing politics. While Bologna’s monuments and museums don’t match those of Florence or Venice, there’s still much to see. Bologna’s old city is Europe’s second largest, overlooked by the Due Torri’s lopsided medieval twin towers, its streets flanked by porticos, vaulted arcades dating back as far as the 1300s. Bologna’s food is also a draw, with local specialities including dishes as simple as tagliatelle with ragù – Bolognese sauce’s local name – and as complex as turkey sealed with pecorino cheese, Parma ham and white truffle. A student city for almost a thousand years, Bologna nightlife is also good, with late night bars thriving in the University Quarter area and a well-established gay scene.