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Bologna A Window Into Italy's Food, Political Divide

Looking out over Bologna, Italy.

Bologna is in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. It’s famed for its food (Bolognese sauce anyone?) and is often considered one of Italy’s culinary centers.

“And yet there are hardly any tourists here,” says KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley. “You walk through Florence and it’s elbow to elbow. Same with Rome and Venice. But you come here and you get a little slice of real Italian life.”

It’s also a good jumping off point for short trips to other famous Italian locales.

Ravenna: A UNESCO site known for its mosaics, dating back to the 6th and 7th centuries.

Credit Thanate Tan / Flickr
The Casa di Giulietta draws fans of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" to Verona, where he set the play. Although fictional, people flock to see "Juliet's balcony."

Verona: Shakespeare’s used “fair Verona” as the setting for Romeo and Juliet, and the town definitely takes advantage of its centuries-old claim to fame. “There’s a little house called the Casa di Giulietta,” Brumley said. “Of course she was a fictional character, but who cares? Everyone writes graffiti and love letters and tucks these little notes into the crevices of the walls there.”

Modena: All the balsamic vinegar you could possibly want.

Florence: The heart of Tuscany, an hour and a half down the road. See Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the Uffizi, or Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia. Or just enjoy some gelato as you walk alongside the Arno River.

Political Divides

Italy’s history is ancient, but the country as we know has only existed since 1871. It’s modern borders took their latest shape in 1918.

“Before that it was a collection of small kingdoms, each with its own culture and food and wine and language,” Brumley said.

Those divisions are still on display in Bologna. Many in the wealthy northern regions, like Emilia-Romagna, have called for separation from the south.

“They don’t really want to share that wealth with the south,” he said. “They see it as kind of unjust, somehow. There are strong political movements today calling for the division of Italy once and for all.”


Going Places is KPLU's weekly exploration of travel. Matthew Brumley is the co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which provides small-group travel to clients including KPLU.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.
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