I’m currently in Bologna, Italy as part of the BlogVille project on behalf of my own Our Tasty Travels and No Checked Bags blogs. The project is sponsored by the Emilia Romagna Tourism Board, and I think it’s safe to say on behalf of the other bloggers here, we have all fallen in love with Bologna and the Emilia Romagna region as a whole.

“But why?”

That’s the question I keep getting from friends and even a few readers back home.

Uhh, have you not seen the hundred or so photos and status messages I’ve posted over the last few days???

Sitting here in Bologna, I have to admit I am surprised by how much I have fallen in love with the city. I’ve done some of the big bucket list Italy stops like Venice, Rome, Naples, and Pompeii in the past. As much as I longed to see these stops after my brief major in Art History during college, I haven’t been back to Italy since 2006.

I was fascinated by what I saw and experienced, but apparently it was not enough to motivate me to return to Italy anytime over the past six years.  When the opportunity for BlogVille came up – and I was accepted – it seemed like a sign I was meant to return to Italy again.

Bologna and the entire Emilia Romagna region that I’ve seen so far are vastly different from major tourist cities like Venice, Rome, and the like.

Bologna Moves at a Different Pace

The pace is much slower than other Italian cities I’ve visited. In Naples they warned us about even trying to cross the street on a green signal as there is a good chance you may still be run over. Here in Bologna, I was able to stand in the middle of the main street at one point to snap a photo of the two towers, a landmark of the city.

View of Bologna from the Asinelli Tower

English is Widely Spoken

Surprisingly, the number of English speakers here is quite high. While we’ve tried to muddle through with a blend of broken Italian and Spanish, we’ve encountered English speakers everywhere – from restaurant servers to taxi drivers, making it an easy city to navigate.

In Bologna, we have found a number of people speak English

Emilia Romagna is Cheaper

While I can’t speak for the entire region, it is noticeably cheaper here than other parts of Italy I’ve visited. Some cafes still charge extra for sitting versus standing, but in general, I have not noticed the “tourist gouge” that other cities are noted for.

Statue of Neptune in Piazza Maggiore, the main square which has cafes and shops that are much less expensive than other parts of Italy

Bologna Equals Good Food

One thing that will come out through all my upcoming posts about BlogVille is the insane love I’ve developed with food here. Italian is one type of cuisine that doesn’t typically rank as one of “my must haves” or even place in my top 5. The one item that previously did is pizza from Naples, especially when made with tomatoes grown in the volcanic ash of Pompeii. I found the food in Rome and other places to be very good, but it did not “wow” me per se.

The food here definitely has that “wow” factor. So much so that I am honestly considering road trips back to Emilia Romagna when I get settled in the Netherlands just to pick up meats, cheese, and maybe a few homemade pastas.  I’ve eaten more pasta in the last four days than I usually eat in a year and surprisingly I am not sick of it in the least. In fact, after taking a pasta making class, it’s quite possible I will be attempting some of these traditional specialties at home soon.

The food in Bologna is legendary and some of the best I’ve experienced in my travels

Bologna Feels Safe

While I am sure some crime exists here, that constant panic and concern about pickpockets or winding up robbed in a dark alley somewhere have vanished. As a female, this is one area I would feel safe being a solo traveler in or walking home later in the evening from a restaurant or bar.

Typical small alley street visible in many parts of Bologna

Emilia Romagna is Inviting

Unlike so many of the rude people I’ve often encountered in bigger cities, nearly everyone I’ve had interactions with here has been quite friendly and helpful. They are welcoming to foreigners and seem pleased to have tourists here discovering all the elements that make Bologna such a charming city.

Me and Nick, from Emilia Romagna Tourism and the “master of the house” for BlogVille

While I’m here on behalf of BlogVille and the Emilia Romagna Tourism Board, all views and opinions expressed are my own.

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Erin De Santiago

Erin is a US Expat currently living in the Netherlands and Belize. She is a full-time freelance travel, food/wine, and Disney Theme Parks writer who has eaten her way through 40+ countries so far. Erin is also the Taiwan/Hong Kong and Belize, Central America Regional Membership Coordinator for the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA). In addition to the various publications she writes for, Erin publishes a culinary blog, Our Tasty Travels, a new travel photography blog, No Checked Bags and her Disney Travel Blog, Pooh's Travels. Follow her travels and culinary adventures on Twitter @poohstraveler and/or @ourtastytravels, and on Facebook.
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