Bologna Travel Guide

Though not as famous as Rome or Venice, the tragically overlooked northern city of Bologna is an important cultural and artistic centre in a country that's full of them.

Designated a UNESCO City of Music in 2006, there are always concerts and other performances happening in any number of concert halls, rock venues and electronic clubs. The oldest university in the world is another of the city's features, and a lively student population keeps it young at heart.

The medieval city centre has been faithfully preserved and the original Roman street plan is still visible. Visitors can see countless landmarks and historic buildings, including the Palazzo Comunale, the Basilica of San Petronio and the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca, which offers panoramic views of the city. Most famous are the Two Towers of Bologna: the Tower of the Asinelli and the Tower of the Garisenda, whose 10ft (3m) lean is obvious compared to its twin.

The city boasts dozens of world-class museums, and visitors are advised to get a Museum Card for free or discounted access to many of them. Aside from a number of archaeological, art and cultural institutions, Bologna has three Italian car museums devoted to its most famous brands: Lamborghini, Ducati and Ferrari, which has an excellent Formula One exhibit.

Foodies should note that Bologna is the capital of Italy's most important food region, Emilia-Romagna, where the passing centuries have yielded a long list of world-famous specialities such as parmesan cheese, mortadella, balsamic vinegar, lasagna, and tortellini. Voted European Capital of Culture in 2000, Bologna is a lively cultural hub settled at the foot of the picturesque Apennine Mountains, and well worth a visit on any holiday in Italy.