I spent three months last summer traveling across Europe, nearly half of that time in Italy, my favorite. As anyone who has visited both northern and southern Italy knows, the areas are quite different, and I enjoy both. After spending some time in Naples and southern Italy, I traveled by train to the Cinque Terre and points north. My favorite places were Bologna and Verona, about an hour’s train ride apart.
Bologna (pronounced “Bolonya”) is the site of the oldest university in Europe, founded in 1088 — amazing! Many of the oldest buildings were destroyed by U.S. and British bombs during World War II, but quite a few are mostly undamaged or have been restored. The architecture is magnificent. There are Roman ruins from the year 300, and I was shocked to learn that its population was the same as Paris in the 13th century. It is a city of porticos, those covered sidewalks that you see all over Europe. Bologna has the longest one in the world. In the south part of the city I noticed a lot of open space and hills.
I stayed in a nice old three star hotel, Hotel Palace, for 42 euros ($53) near the main drag of Via Indipendenza, which is closed to traffic on summer weekends. Via Indipendenza and Saint Stephan are the main shopping areas. The shopping is excellent, especially for the things that Italy produces such as clothes, shoes, leather goods and glass. The hop-on-hop-off bus for 12 euros was an excellent way to get an overview of this beautiful medieval city. I stayed in Bologna for three days and wanted more, but I also wanted to see Verona.
Verona is a gorgeous little city with a great public market in a pretty plaza called Piazza Elba. There are many lovely parks and comfortable cafes. Displayed in one corner is a World War II photo of a local man showing an American soldier where the Germans were hiding.
I toured Roman ruins, including an outdoor theater that mostly in undamaged. The Adige River with its many bridges runs through the city and provides some beautiful views. It is the second longest river in Italy (after the Po).
The Capulet house with the balcony where Romeo and Juliet enjoyed their trysts before their tragic demise still stands in Verona, the site of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. There were rival families called the Capulets and the Montagues in Verona during Shakespeare’s time, and the Capulet family included a young girl named Julietta. Romeo, however, was purely a figment of Shakespeare’s imagination. It was a thrill to look up at the famous balcony.