09:00 It goes by three monikers: ‘La Grassa’ meaning fat, a reference to all the top grub on offer, ‘La Dotta’ meaning learned, a nod to its famous university, and ‘La Rossa’ meaning red, inspired by the rouge roofs in the city’s historic centre.

Begin unravelling the culture with a 3.5km-hike up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca.

En route you’ll pass through a total of 666 arches connecting the Saragozza Gate with the Church of San Luca.

At the peak visitors can get their breath back while they admire the baroque structure, parts of which date back to 1194.

And the view over the city beneath from here is enough to take your breath away all over again.

12:00 Next make your way to the cultural epicentre of the city. The spectacular Piazza Maggiore Square is considered the heart of Bologna.

Here you’ll find the fountain of Neptune, which dates back to the 16th century, accompanied by a rather racy water feature, the lactating woman. Do your best not to blush.

Cafes line the square and, though prices are slightly inflated due to the touristy location, this is a great place to grab a bite to eat and soak up the atmosphere.

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Try the elegant Caffè Zanarini (Piazza Galvani 1, +39 (0)51 275 0041) for afternoon tea and croissants stuffed with Parma ham or freshly made brioche vuota (custard doughnuts).

13.00 Bologna is the ultimate university town. Western Europe’s first uni was built here, and opened in 1088. Soak up the city’s academic atmosphere at its library in the square.

The Archiginnasio Public Library houses a wealth of historic manuscripts, antique photos, maps and chronicles.

The interior is also something to gawp at, as the walls are adorned with the coats of arms of more than 7000 former students. Makes you wonder how your own university’s alumni matches up …

15:00 Continue getting your cultural fix at the Gallery of Modern Art (entry £5).

It’s easy to spend hours within these walls, viewing the 3500 modern works which trace the artistic path from WWII though to the present day. Many of the pieces here are from edgy, up-and-coming artists.

18:00 Make your way to Piazza Santo Stefano , the site of the seven churches, during the early evening.

There are often concerts and cultural shows taking place outside and the restaurants offer a romantic setting between the spires. At the top of the street you’ll find fine dining restaurant Il Pappagallo (approx. £20 per head).

The walls are scattered with portraits of socialites who have enjoyed its gastronomic creations over the years. It’s also got a decent local wine list and serves a mean bolognese – which must be at least one of the reasons you came here, right?


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10:00 Start the day with a good shopping session, at the cute boutique-peppered area Via Oberdan.

Pop into Calling Hoffmann for cool kids’ toys in an artistic setting, or the alternative Smooth (Via Oberdan 17, +39 (0)51 236 028), where the bohemian hang out, and admire the collection of trendy street wear.

12:00 A short and scenic route through the city’s charming lanes will lead you to the Archaeological Museum. Filled with objects found by Italian explorers, the building includes Italy’s largest Egyptian collection.

Cases hold preserved mummies and original sarcophagus stone burial tombs.

Sculpture fans will be in their element; the ground floor has great copies of many classic Greek and Roman works.

14:00  Get some fresh air at Giardini Margherita (Viale Libero Lossanti), beautifully cultivated gardens originally designed in 1875. Watch fashionable Italians promenading around the lake.

At lakeside cafe Chalet dei Giardini Margherita (dishes approx £6) you can grab a reasonably priced and tasty bowl of tagliatelle al ragu.

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16:00 Still hungry? Head over to a brilliantly fun pasta-making class where they’ll teach you to make tortellini parcels, under the guidance of a pasta chef.

19:00 Wash it all down at the romantic Le Stanze (Via del Borgo di San Pietro, +39 (0)51 228 767) bar.

In the 16th century, its incredible fresco-painted interiors were used as nobleman Palazzo Bentivoglio’s private chapel, and are sure to leave a lasting impression.


Return tickets from London direct to Bologna cost from £98 with easyJet and £129 with British Airways.

Photos: Getty, Thinkstock