Bologna is an underrated city that deserves a spot on any travel bucket list. While its lesser-known status is a drawback for some, Bologna offers a host of advantages like fewer crowds, affordability, and captivating experiences. CNBC recently conducted a study consulting 175 travel enthusiasts, experts, and agents to determine the most underrated city to visit. The resounding answer was Bologna, Italy.

According to Tom Marchant, the founder of the luxury travel company Black Tomato, Bologna is rapidly emerging as the new “it” destination in Italy. “Bologna is very up-and-coming and poised to be the new hot Italian city to visit,” Marchant remarks.

With the nickname “La Grassa” (the Fat), attributed to its sumptuous cuisine, and being the birthplace of Bolognese pasta, the city has become a haven for food enthusiasts. The city’s vibrant food scene is unparalleled, offering a tantalizing array of culinary delights.

From exploring open-air markets to savoring traditional dishes like Bolognese and Tortellini pasta, Bologna is a foodie’s paradise. Additionally, a visit to FICO Eataly World, a 20-acre theme park dedicated entirely to Italian cuisine, is a must-do for any gastronome.

brown building in Bologna - underrated hidden gem in Italy
Photo Credit: Arno Senoner

What Makes Bologna A Must-Visit Destination In Italy?

Bologna’s allure extends beyond its culinary prowess. The city boasts a rich architectural heritage and historical significance that rivals other Italian cities. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bologna mesmerizes visitors with 38.5 miles of porticoes and exquisite arched walkways that adorn the cityscape. The city is also home to 24 medieval stone towers, including the iconic Two Towers that symbolize Bologna’s past.

Ann-Marie Cahill, a renowned travel writer, recommends starting the exploration by climbing the Asinelli Tower. The famous tower is one of the Two Towers accessible to the public. Cahill also suggests visiting the San Petronio Basilica and the Roman ruins beneath Bologna’s library, offering a glimpse into the city’s history.

In terms of convenience and accessibility, Bologna excels. Marchant affirms that the city is entirely walkable, sparing visitors the need for a car rental. For those seeking public transit options, a city bus is available with tickets starting at just $1.39.

With its friendly locals and generally safe environment, Bologna provides a comfortable and inviting vacation experience. The average hotel room costs less than $200 per night most of the year, making it an affordable destination.

Situated in Northern Italy, Bologna serves as an ideal base for exploring other Italian hotspots. Florence is only 70 miles away, while Venice and Milan are 95 and 135 miles from Bologna, respectively. Venturing beyond Bologna’s borders is fairly easy and convenient for additional travel options around Italy.

Giving Hidden Gems Their Flowers

While Paris and Tokyo dominate popular travel narratives, it’s crucial not to overlook hidden gems off the beaten path. Bologna, with its unrivaled culinary scene, remarkable architecture, and accessibility, proves that underrated cities possess their own distinct allure.

As you plan your next adventure, consider venturing to this captivating Italian city that promises an experience as fulfilling as its more celebrated counterparts. Bologna, a destination in its own right, eagerly awaits the discerning traveler seeking a truly memorable journey.

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