Among the many nicknames bestowed on Bologna are ‘La Rossa’ and ‘La Grassa’; la rossa, meaning red, refers to the colour of its buildings and its politics, la grassa, meaning fat, referring to the fact that Emilia Romagna is considered to be the food capital of Italy. Tour the ancient markets and food shops with your guide tasting local products such as fresh pasta, cheeses, hams, salami’s etc.
Pre-dating the Sorbonne in Paris and Oxford in England, Bologna has the oldest university in Europe and has the sort of youthful vibrancy that universities bring to a city. During the Middle Ages, noblemen vied with each other to build the tallest towers, both for defense and to show off. Florence has lost most of its towers but in Bologna, many have survived, including one with a decided lean to it and it is here that you learn that Pisa is by no means unique. Piazza Maggiore has been at the heart of Bologna for 2500 years and dominating one side of the square is the Basilica of San Petronio, one of the finest examples of Italian Gothic architecture. On the other side of the square is the Palace of the Podesta, What we would call today a city hall but in the Middles Ages, very much the seat of government.