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Choose Bologna for an Italian city break, just don’t ask for spaghetti bolognese

Though oft-neglected in favour of other great Italian cites, Bologna deserves your attention. Its medieval core is remarkably free of tourists, and local restaurants serve some of the country’s finest food. Most places are within walking distance, so you can saunter between sights and shops, via endless ice-creams and fizzy booze

The Perfect Weekend BOLOGNA


TRAVEL ESSENTIALS British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair fly direct to Bologna from the UK (from £90 from Stansted; The Bologna Welcome Card gets you free admission to attractions such as MAMbo, and the choice of an airport transfer, 24-hour bus pass or a two-hour walking tour (£15.50;

The walk

The porticoed walkway to the basilica of San Luca (inset) was originally built to protect the procession of its Virgin icon down to the city’s cathedral, a ritual that still takes place annually

Bologna’s abundance of terracotta roofs and buildings earned it the nickname La Rossa: the red one. This rich palette comes alive in the sun, and is best appreciated from the 18th-century hilltop Basilica Santuario della Madonna di San Luca. The walk there from Piazza di Porta Saragozza, under the world’s longest portico, is a weekend ritual for locals. Some jog up its 2½-mile length, others stroll with pugs and Pomeranians in tow. Though the path is named for a Byzantine icon of the Virgin, displayed among later ecclesiastical bling at journey’s end, for most this is a pilgrimage of pleasure, a chance to enjoy the shifting views of city and country framed by 666 perfect arches.

The museum

Gianni Colombo’s interactive work is a striking centerpiece at MAMbo: Bologna’s modern art museum. Inset, A visitor studies a 1972 painting by Renato Guttuso

Occupying the site of a former municipal bakery, the place that once provided the city’s bread now serves Bologna’s avant-garde cultural needs. The bright white rooms of the Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, MAMbo, still show the skeletal remains of its industrial past: in the Sala delle Ciminiere the factory’s old chimneys reach up to a steel-strutted ceiling. Both geographically and metaphorically, MAMbo sits outside the city’s historical core, its collection focused on post-WWII Italian art and hinting at the radical politics for which Bologna is also known. One wall is devoted to Renato Guttuso’s depiction of the funeral of Palmiro Togliatti, leader of the Italian Communist Party – no doubt a nod to Bologna’s long-held left wing values.

This strident work, showing the ashen faces of mourners cut through with red fags, sits in stark contrast to quieter pieces by the city’s most famous artistic son, Giorgio Morandi. His subtly toned still-lives occupy their own gallery: a long, quiet corridor designed for contemplation.

● Admission £4.70;

The dish

Bologna’s famous pasta sauce is always served with taglietelle.
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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Lonely Planet - July 2016
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