Hot! 24 Hours in Bologna

I didn’t plan to visit Bologna, but the one-day detour was packed with a week’s worth of experiences.

All I knew about Bologna was from Lonely Planet’s Blue List. It said Bologna was home to the world’s oldest university and a central point of Italy’s slow food movement. Who can resist a college town with good food? So without guidebook, map or hotel reservations, I got on the train early Saturday morning.

Per usual, I arrived by 10 as the town was waking up, checked my bag at the station, easily got a map from the TI, and figured I’d walk around until I spotted some good hotels. When I got to the Piazza Maggiore, I got on the open air tour bus. How great – I could get a layout of the city, find the best place for a room, and learn a little too.

Soon we were passing the twin towers that mark the center of the town. Bologna used to be a city of towers built by wealthy families to prove how wealthy they were. The two in the center were the only ones remaining, one unfinished because it began to lean.

As we left the center of town, I looked for hotel areas, but Bologna is also known for its porticos – arches covering the wide sidewalks. It made signage for any stores nearly impossible to see.

No worries. It was early. We rounded the corner and I saw an antique market. You can imagine my excitement. But others on the bus were more excited about what was happening at the Church of San Giovanni across the street. A very important wedding was about to take place. Paparazzi surrounded the entrance, limos were dropping off elegant men and women with incredibly large hats. At the next corner, several of us got off. I watched the crowd at the church, but it was sideshow to my real purpose.

After looking at the antiques, I wandered around the university district. As it passed noon, I started to worry about where I would stay. Bologna was supposed to be known for its bed and breakfasts, but how did you find them? I logged on and made some calls. No luck.

Finally, tired and hungry I decided to chuck it. I would collect my bag and check into one of the Ramada-type hotels across from the station. But on my way back, I got lost….

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