22/04/2019

THE DOS AND DONTS FOR VISITING BOLOGNA


If you're planning on visiting Italy's red city, Bologna, you really are set for a treat. With its authentic culture, friendly locals, and truly classic cuisine, it's 100% a place that I reckon I'll be revisiting in my lifetime. And, of course, if you're anything like me, you'll be doing all you can to research what the city is really like before you get there to ensure you have the best time. In fact, if I had an article like this, explaining what to do and what not to do, to read before I went, I would have been set up for everything - hopefully, you will be too.

THE DOS

DO... BE CAREFUL ON THE ROADS
I read this little pointer before my visit so was sure to adopt it whilst I was there and I was certainly glad that I did. The Italians, like many European drivers, are maniacs on the road - in our time there, there were multiple occasions where motorists drove through red lights or beeped at perfectly placed pedestrians. The thing is, though, nothing really gets done about this so you pretty much only have yourself to rely on. Make sure to exercise that green-cross-code before you head there and keep yourself safe.

DO... DONATE TO TAKE PICTURES INSIDE THE BASILICA
When inside the church that stands proud of place in the centre of Bologna, Basilica of San Petronio, there are one or two signs asking visitors to donate €2 if they wish to take photos. Once I had donated the €2, I was given a bright orange wristband so that other workers around the church could clearly see that I was eligible to use my camera. What I found a bit irritating, though, was the fact that big tourist groups would enter the church and snap away until their heart's delight. When others are paying money that will ultimately only be going towards the upkeep of the magnificent building, I think it's only common courtesy that you join in too. 

DO... TRY THE LOCAL CUISINE
Does this just go without saying? Bologna is known as the 'stomach' of Italy so it's surely a given that you have to try their local cuisine. From Ragu (or bolognese to you and I), Tigelle (a flower-shaped flatbread served warm and stuffed), Tortellini, Mortadella ham, Lambrusco wine, and even Lasagne, the city itself is packed full with amazing foods and surrounded by areas such as Parma (for Parma Ham and Parmesan Cheese) and Modena (for Balsamic Vinegar). If you visit Bologna, you'll definitely be indulging on a lot of amazing foods.



DO... FEEL SAFE
On my time throughout the city, I was pleasantly surprised at how safe I felt. I noticed things like locals walking around with open handbags, shopping bags being left outside shops while their owner went inside, and even one guy chatting away to his friend while his brand new Apple Desktop stood behind him in plain sight. Obviously, you must still keep your wits about you, but if you are someone who is sensitive to safety, you should have no problem here.

DO... USE A TAXI FROM THE AIRPORT
A lot of people seem torn between whether to take a taxi or bus into the city from the airport when they arrive but my recommendation would definitely be to get a taxi. The Bus comes in at around €6 each per single journey, and a taxi is around €10 each per single journey. The difference is that the taxi will be able to drop you off directly in the city centre on weekdays as well as being quicker, more private, and generally more comfortable. If I was you, especially if you're taking luggage, I'd just be hopping straight in a taxi.

DO... BE AWARE OF COPERTO
In many, many restaurants across Bologna, there is a mandatory charge per person for service, called a 'coperto'. This changes from restaurant to restaurant, one was €1 and one was €3.50 each but is generally unavoidable. Some say that refusing complimentary snacks as they're brought to the table is one way to avoid it, but others take the coperto as a fee for customer service and/or general restaurant standard upkeep. Whatever you chose to do with the coperto, make sure to be aware that attitudes do differ from restaurant to restaurant so you should be prepared to pay it sometimes.


DON'T... TRY SPEAKING ITALIAN
Okay, I admit, I took a holiday to Italy only actually knowing about 5 words of Italian (aside from my background knowledge of languages) and to be honest, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a lot of well-spoken English while I was out there. I'm not sure if it was due to the fact that it's a very student-lead city, with young intelligent people, or just because of the way English is across the world. Either way, I found there's a real great sense of English across the city so you shouldn't struggle too much or feel too intimidated.

DON'T... ASK FOR SPAGHETTI
As spaghetti is a more southern used pasta, and apparently the Emilia Romagna region look down on it a little, you'll probably want to avoid asking for it or even using the word. Unless it's stated on the menu, which I doubt it will be, you'll most likely be served Tagliatelli when ordering a ragu dish. Tagliatelli is thin, long ribbons which tend to hold the sauce a lot better, Bolognese locals seem to love it!

DON'T... CROSS THE PIAZZA PLATFORM
... if you're a student. Local students in the city believe that walking across the raised platform in the centre of the Piazza Maggiore means you'll never graduate. Now, I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but either way, we avoided it!


DON'T... SKIP THE QUEUE
All this time, I thought the UK was the queuing nation but, from my observations, the Italians don't seem to like it if anyone pushes in or cuts the queue either. We found this when walking up the side streets covered in vegetable stands - here, if you want to be served, you have to wait your turn. Similarly, some of the more popular shops have a ticket system, making sure that everyone gets a fair wait.

DON'T... RELY ON CARD
It might be a city modernised by its student culture, but it certainly remains a little bit behind with its card system. Being the millennials that we are, we opted to take more money on our cards that we took in cash and ended up having to work strategically, taking into account the fact that not everywhere took card payments. Also, be aware that the maximum contactless amount is €25.

Watch out for more blog posts on Bologna and, if you're thinking of visiting, let me know!

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2 comments

  1. What brilliant tips! There's little superstitions like the piazza platform in my student town too. "If you cross over the PH sign on the road, you'll fail your next exam", whether there's truth in the saying, I stay well away from it!

    https://shameta.blogspot.com

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    1. I would too! Definitely not risking it, haha :D

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