One of Italy's overlooked gems, Bologna is often passed over in favor of the nearby tourist draws of Florence and Venice. But a visit to this fascinating city, surrounded by hills, reveals a city center that looks much as it did during the Renaissance: dusky red-colored buildings, wide piazzas and arched porticoes with floors laid with marble.
Despite its historic feel, today's Bologna is a thriving creative center. Since 2000, when Bologna was named European City of Culture in 2000, vast sums of money were spent on developments geared mainly at young people, including new arts facilities and an extensive new library in the former stock exchange. Thus, the city hosts an intoxicating mix of concerts, art exhibits, and ballet and theater performances.
Bologna is also Italy's food capital. From pastas and cheeses to the mortadella (Bologna's sausage) and poultry specialties, Bologna is a food lover's paradise.