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Europe’s Rising Star: Bologna

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Bologna is the largest city in Italy's Emilia-Romagna Region. (Photograph by marco ledda / Alamy Stock Photo)

Friday night in Bologna, and the central Quadrilatero district is heaving.

But it’s not the trendy bars or boutiques that have brought what feels like half the city to these ancient streets; the biggest line, spilling out into Via Drapperie, is at delicatessen Salumeria Simoni, where customers are stocking up on great wedges of Parmesan and piles of prosciutto before the weekend can really begin.

Often overlooked by visitors, Bologna magnifies and mixes the best Italian clichés.

Historic architecture? Check—these Renaissance palazzi, terra-cotta roofs, and winding streets seem barely changed in centuries.

An intrinsic sense of style? Of course—from meticulously kept bars serving frothy cappuccinos to shops selling handmade shoes or designer labels.

Friendly service? Absolutely—Bologna has yet to develop tourist fatigue, unlike Rome and Venice.

And great food? Well, there’s a reason why Bologna is called la grassa, or “the fat one.” All Italy acknowledges: The food here ranks second to none.

  • Best For: The essence of Italy
  • Must-See Museum: Palazzo Fava, a medieval villa formerly home to one of Bologna’s most prominent families and now hosting top-notch temporary art exhibits
  • Also Try: Bergen, Norway, another small-city gem with historic buildings and great views of fjords and mountains

This piece is adapted from a story that originally appeared in the UK edition of National Geographic Traveler magazine.


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