Bologna is a sprawling, gritty city full of red-brick palazzi, Renaissance towers, arcaded porticos (24 miles’ worth, actually) and vast squares. Though it is a wealthy city that serves as the road and rail hub of Northern Italy, it has a very lived-in feel.
Bologna is home to Europe’s oldest university, University of Bologna. The large student population enlivens the city.
The arcades date back to the Middle Ages and were a way to add more real estate to the congested city without sacrificing valuable streets. The roofs are high enough to allow a man on horseback to pass.
In the 12th century, a healthy economy led to a building boom and every rich family threw up a tower. At the peak, there were 180 towers; 22 towers remain today.
The most well-known towers are Le Due Torri, Bologna’s two leaning towers. Torre degli Asinelli, Italy’s highest, stands at 97.6 meters and has a 1.3-meter tilt, and Torre Garisenda is 48 meters tall and 3.2-meters off tilt.
Papal troops took Bologna in the 16th century, then Napoleon arrived in the 18th century. In the 19th century, Bologna joined the Kingdom of Italy.
During WWII, 40% of the city’s buildings were destroyed. The historic center within the city’s walls survived and has since been preserved.