Lay of the Land
Seen from the air, or on the map, Bologna is a rather battered bicycle wheel, with the rim marked by the line of the former town wallsnow replaced by tree-lined avenues, with only some of the defensive gates, like Porta Saragozza and Porta Galliera, still standing. At the center of the wheel is the city's civic and spiritual hub, Piazza Maggiore; from here the spokes radiate, with busy, shop-lined Via Indipendenza heading north to the train station, while Via d'Azeglio heads south past the fashion shopping district to Porta San Mamolo gate, beyond which begins the series of rolling, olive- and vine-covered hills that locals refer to simply as la collina ("the hill"). To the east of Piazza Maggiore, beyond the landmark Asinelli and Garisenda towers, is the University district, one of the city's oldest, which spreads along Via Zamboni and Via San Vitale; characterful Via Santo Stefano, with its cluster of ancient religious buildings, and winding Via Castiglione are also well worth exploring.
WHEN TO GO
Bologna, like much of Italy, is best avoided in July and August, when the weather is extremely hot and sticky. Spring and autumn are the best times, but the city is atmospheric in winter, too, if you don't mind the cold. And all those protective arcades provide shelter from even the most torrential downpours.
HOW TO GET THERE
Aeroporto Guglielmo Marconi is just over three miles from Bologna (Via Triumvirato 84; 051-647-9615, www.bologna-airport.it). Buses run every 15 minutes from the airport to the central rail station. A one-way ticket costs 5 ($8).
Located just north of the Porta Galliera town gate, Bologna's main train station offers high-speed connections to Milan (one and a half hours), Florence (one hour), and Rome (two and a half hours). It's also well connected with Venice (two hours on the regional train), via Ferrara and Padova. For information and tickets, see www.trenitalia.com.
Most of the Old Town is off limits to vehicles. Walking is the best way to get around, and most attractions are near Piazza Maggiore. City buses are frequent and cheap; tickets can be purchased in tabacchi (look for the "T" sign), newsstands throughout town, or (single fares only) from roadside parking meters and dispensers on board buses. The single fare is ԁ ($1.60); 3 ($4.70) buys a day pass (ATC-Public Transport Bologna; 051-290-290; www.atc.bo.it/english/index.asp). Taxis are best picked up at designated ranksor call CAT-Consorzio Autonomo Taxisti (051-534-141, www.taxicat-bologna.com). Visitors intending to drive into the center of town to hotel parking lots should call ahead to their hotel for instructions. Note that daily hotel parking fees can be steepas high as 30 ($47).
In fall and spring, visitors compete with trade fair attendees for the best rooms and tables in town. Check the list of Bologna trade fairs before planning a trip (www.bolognafiere.it).
The main tourist office is located at Piazza Maggiore. Branches can also be found at the airport and train station. For more information about Bologna, check the official tourist office Web site: http://iat.comune.bologna.it.View Italy Factsheet