Bologna: la Dotta, la Grassa, la Rossa

La Dotta

The Learned

Bologna the Learned: the Archignnasio
  • "La Dotta" refers to the city University, which is the oldest in the Western world and was founded in 1088. 

  • Over the centuries, many famous scholars attended the University: from Dante and Petrarch to Thomas Becket, Erasmus from Rotterdam and Nicolaus Copernicus.

  • The first centralized seat of the University of Bologna was the palace of the Archiginnasio, which you can still visit today.

Archiginnasio | Learn Italian and discover the history of Bologna | Private Italian tutor in Bologna
  • On the first floor you can admire the carved wooden Anatomy Theatre, where anatomy lessons and dissection of corpses took place. The theatre was almost completely destroyed during World War II, and later rebuilt using all the original pieces recovered from the rubble. 

  • Today the Archiginnasio hosts the main City Library, while the University is spread over a number of historical locations, with its headquarters in the central via Zamboni. 

La Grassa

The Fat

  • The second nickname, "La Grassa", is due to Bologna's outstanding local cuisine based upon quality products of the Emilia-Romagna region, such as prosciutto di Parma, parmesan cheese, mortadella and aromatic vinegar. 

  • Tortellini, tortelloni, lasagne, tagliatelle al ragù and passatelli are just some of the traditional dishes that you can taste here, but please do not ask for "spaghetti alla bolognese" or you may raise some eyebrows (as shown by this BBC video)

  • To experience Bologna "the Fat", just wander through "Il Quadrilatero", an area in the very city centre which has kept its trade vocation since medieval times. In the narrow alleys of the ancient medieval market,  you will find fruit and veg market stalls, delis, fish market stalls, bakeries, wine bars and eateries with a great choice of typical food.

La Rossa

The Red

  • Bologna's third sobriquet, "La Rossa",  refers to the terracotta colour of its brick buildings. Indeed, the first thing that you notice when you arrive in Bologna is the colour of its porticoes, towers and rooftops, shading from pale pink to deep red. A wide range of warm colours evoking the open and welcoming attitude of the city.

  • Nearly 40 km of porticoes line the streets, offering shelter from rain and sun, and giving Bologna its unique architectural structure. The portico connecting the city to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca is the longest in the world: 3.796 mt with 666 arcades. 

  • Bologna had more than one hundred towers in the Middle Ages. They were built by noble families and used as lookouts and defense in time of war. About twenty of them are still standing today, the most famous being Le Due Torri, which are a symbol of medieval Bologna throughout the world. You can climb to the top of the tallest one, the Asinelli tower, which is also the tallest leaning tower in Italy, with its height of 97 mt and its 497 wooden stairs.