Bologna: The Bolognaise Origin Story

Words + Photography by Luke Alland, using Leica's Q2 Reporter.

I probably led you down the garden path with the article name, as this is more about the city than the pasta dish. What's worse is that I myself didn't even realise that arguably the most bastardised of any Italian dish comes from the city... of the same name. It was only after two spritz' and walking around town that I put two and two together. I don't claim to know everything, but honestly, it's one of those things that once you know, you should pretend you always knew.

Bologna, or the Red City, is much like any Italian city. Its small, winding streets and yellow stone-washed buildings are a staple across the country, but normally there’s at least something discerning about the city proper. I expected it to be something that it isn't, but in fairness, I'm not sure what that something was ever supposed to be.

Your first task arriving into Bologna airport is to survive the monorail, which is more akin to a Disneyland ride than a shuttle service. For €9,20 you’ll get thrown around the inside of a miniature train whilst clinging onto your luggage for dear life. Then, once you arrive into the main train station, you’ve got the long fifteen platform walk to get anywhere near civilisation. Once you’re there, you might question if it’s really the best place to have made all that effort for.

Yeah the arches are cool, it’s a nice thing to look at. However, I really don't think it's a pretty city in the slightest. It's a solid 6/10: above average, but you wouldn’t want to say it to the locals for fear of getting marched to a Ryanair check-in desk. Aside from the two towers in the city centre—one of which seems to be buckling and strapped to the other for support (and also, there’s another city with a leaning tower about two hours south… at least be a bit original)—there’s not an awful lot to do.

It’s a great place for food, and my God are you going to want to open up the carb floodgates and devour your body weight in pasta, but again, doesn't that describe more or less every Italian city? Maybe not Naples, we stick to the pizza down there.

Two days was far more than enough, and the fact I was literally counting down the seconds to get to Florence probably gave me the best indication that I shouldn’t go back. The heat in the summer is normally fine to deal with, but the air quality in the city isn’t great and haziness is something that plagues the late afternoon air. The only way to combat this is a spritz out on the arched terraces to watch the world go by, but with so many roadworks going on, it doesn’t have that same dolce far niente feeling you’ll want to post on your Insta stories for your envious colleagues back home.

Granted, it is a university town which happens to boast the oldest university in the world (founded in 1088), so one presumes it might be busier during term time. Don't get it confused, however, as this isn't like a Uni town in England. That term is just to refer to towns without which you'd never remotely plan on visiting. There's some good vintage stores with quite a big selection of things on offer, but the prices aren't something that I'd be in a huge rush to come back for.

All being said, it's a decent enough place and if you happen to be in the area, it's probably worth stopping by? But if like me, you don't really march on your stomach, you're not really missing much if you don't come. Oh and, by the way, that little cubby-hole door thing that opens onto a not-so-secret river, the one that's done the rounds on Tik-tok and Instagram (if you haven't seen it, it's not so hard to find, trust me), it's been vandalised with a lovely monster face over the top of it.

Instagram vs reality? Afraid reality's won this battle...

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