After a lovely long weekend in Ferrara with my friend Magdalena, it was time to head south, back to Bologna, where I would spend the next four nights.
Magdalena accompanied me to Bologna as she didn’t have to work until that evening, and as a newbie to travelling solo in a city, it was nice that she could come with me to help me find my feet.
Booking accommodation in Bologna had been tricky, as I couldn’t find much information about the different areas of the city. The hotels in the centre seemed to be out of my league, and I wasn’t sure I could trust that I would be able to get good enough WiFi in an Airbnb.
Eventually, I found a lovely little hotel, just a short walk north of Bologna Centrale. I felt a little apprehension creep in as we began walking from the station to the hotel as we seemed to be in a residential area, and there were one or two shady-looking characters around. When I travel solo, I’m always slightly more aware of the need to book somewhere I think I’ll feel safe and comfortable.
However, Hotel Il Guercino looked perfect otherwise, and I couldn’t wait to check out the facilities.
As I arrived at the hotel before my room was ready, I left my bags in the bag room, and Magda and I headed off towards Via dell’Indipendenza, the main shopping street in Bologna.
It was super hot that day, and we were grateful to escape to the protection of Bologna’s famous porticos to keep us out of the scorching sun.
After lunch, I bid farewell to Magdalena before heading back to my hotel for a nap and to test out the WiFi.
For this part of my trip, I wasn’t taking annual leave, aside from my travel days, as I was planning to use the experience to test how easy it would be to do my job abroad.
Working WiFi would be the most crucial part of the experience, so I was relieved to find it worked.
I had a lovely room, although it didn’t have the nice view I am accustomed to when I travel abroad. I’m usually lucky enough to be overlooking the sea or at least a hotel pool. But as this was a city hotel with no pool, there would be no such view on this trip. Instead, I overlooked neighbouring flats.
The desk was also away from the window, so it perhaps wasn’t the most creative space, as I found myself staring at a blank wall during moments of procrastination.
However, it would do the job, as I only planned to work during the mornings.
That evening, I settled into my nice comfy bed, grateful for the air conditioning and looking forward to exploring Bologna the next day.
After completing a successful morning of work, including a Zoom call with one of my clients in the UK, I headed back into Bologna with my camera to see what exciting things the Italian city had to offer.
Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy. It is said to be the food capital of Italy and is home to almost 62km of porticos, with over 40km in the city centre alone.
It has maintained much of its traditional-style buildings and small alleyways, giving it a cosy, romantic vibe.
I spent hours wandering beneath the porticos and admiring the stunning architecture around me.
As my hotel was a good 20-25 minute walk from the City Centre, I stayed in the centre until it was time for dinner and then headed back to my hotel before dark.
The following day, I had a bit more work to do, so I didn’t do much sightseeing, but I vowed to make sure I only worked in the morning on the following day, as it would be my last full day in Italy.
The Basilica of San Luca & The Clock Tower
Despite my hotel not being in the most desirable location, I slept like a baby every single night. Hotel il Guercino offers rooms on either a room-only rate or a bed and breakfast basis. So most days, because the hotel was a good walk from the city centre, I tried to stay out for as long as possible, making sure I ate lunch and dinner before returning to my hotel in the evening. Although there were restaurants nearby, I was still getting a weird vibe from the area, so I walked into the centre for most meals.
Thankfully the hotel offered a decent breakfast, so I didn’t have to go far first thing in the morning.
After finishing my morning’s work, I decided to visit Basilica di San Luca, otherwise known as the Sanctuary of San Luca.
The Basilica di San Luca sits just outside the city centre of Bologna. To reach the Basilica, you can either take the tourist train/bus from the centre or walk 4km underneath the world’s longest portico. Had it not been so hot, I may have opted for the walk, but due to the heat, I decided to hop on the tourist bus.
As I boarded the bus, I got handed a set of headphones to plug in so I could listen to commentary about the local history. As a heads up, there were several language options to choose from, but I was left to find the right channel for myself, and there were no instructions on how to use them.
The road to the Basilica followed the porticos out of town before climbing the hill to San Luca.
On arrival, you’re pretty much left to your own devices as you wander around the Sanctuary and the grounds outside.
The views are stunning, and seeing the Italian countryside for the first time took my breath away. It is a must-see for anyone visiting the area. No words can describe how beautiful it is, so I will let my photos do the talking this time.
The buses and trains run roughly every hour, giving you plenty of time to wander around. It’s free to enter, although you do have to pay for the train or bus ride. You can also visit the Sky Experience if you pay extra, offering panoramic views of Bologna.
I caught the train back into the city centre and with time to kill until dinner time (Italians eat much later than us Brits!), I decided to have a look around to see what else I could explore.
Although I had done a fair bit of research on Bologna, one place that hadn’t popped up was the Clock Tower, which sits proudly in the main square.
It’s not very clear at times whether you’re following the correct route to the Tower, as the building is also home to the local government administration and signs for the Clock Tower seemed to disappear after a while. I nearly gave up searching for it but stumbled across two other people who looked like tourists, and I decided to follow them. Thankfully, they were indeed heading to the Clock Tower. The €8 fee to enter also includes entry to the art exhibition, but whether you’re into art or not, the Clock Tower experience is well worth €8.
It was interesting to learn about its history, and the views from the top were something else.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, but it’s often the least expected places that bring me the most happiness. And the Clock Tower in Bologna was one of those places.
As I headed back to my hotel that evening, it was time to pack my bags and get ready to leave beautiful Italy.
Although I would be checking out of my hotel the next day, my flight wasn’t until the evening, so I still had a little bit of exploring to do before I headed back to the airport.
Le due Torri and Basilica di San Petronio
As my week in Italy neared its end, I checked out of my hotel, leaving my suitcase in their bag room, and headed off for my final few hours of being a tourist.
I had pre-booked a tour of Le due Torri, otherwise known as the Asinelli Tower. The tower is one of two leaning towers in the centre of Bologna. At 97.2m high, I had read that the views from the top were incredible. Pre-booking is essential should you wish to visit, and I would recommend being in a reasonable state of fitness as there are 498 very narrow stairs to climb on your way to the top!
Despite the never-ending staircase, I finally found myself at the top of the tower, and the views did not disappoint. You can see for miles and miles, and it really is quite breathtaking.
And if I thought the stairs going up were tricky, they were even worse coming back down! My knees hurt for days after, but it was worth the pain.
Before I left for the airport, it was time to make one last stop. I had spent a lot of time in the Piazza Maggiore during my time in Bologna and one of the buildings that intrigued me the most was the Basilica di San Petronio. The Basilica di San Petronio is the largest and most important church in Bologna.
It’s free to enter the church, however, there is a €2 fee to pay should you wish to take photos. I’m generally not one for taking photo’s in churches, but I paid just in case I felt compelled to take some pics (which I did, but was careful not to take too many!).
So after 7 nights in Italy, it was time to head back to the UK.
Italy was every bit as magical as I had expected. Whilst there are some tweaks I would make next time I work abroad, I’m happy it worked, despite not having the best hotel room view. There are also some changes I would make next time I go on a solo city break, such as really doing my research on the location of my accommodation, but on the whole, I had a great time and can’t wait to go back to explore more of Italy in the future.