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Bologna, the culinary capital of Italy, is one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Overlooked by many a traveller, the city has a wealth to offer in the vain of culture, architecture and nightlife. Located in quite a central position geographically, Bologna is the perfect place from which to explore the rest of the country. Hotspots like Venice, Florence and Milan are only a few hours away by road. While public transport in the city is top notch, there is also a host of car rental companies to aid travellers in their independent explorations.
Who to Book With
Well-known international companies like Avis and Europcar have a definitive presence in the city, but travellers can also opt for local agencies like Boldrini. The offices of all of these companies can be found at the airport, Bologna Centrale train station and at different locations in the centre. Booking online is, however, often a much faster and easier process than going to the company offices.
Best time to go
The best time to visit Bologna is during summer, which spans the months of May to October. The weather is warm and the atmosphere is jovial, but the prices also tend to soar during this time, so advanced online bookings are highly recommended. November brings with it frequent rains, which tend to make driving conditions a bit more difficult.
Need to Know Essentials
When picking up your rental, don’t forget to bring the following along:
- The credit card that you used to confirm the booking
- Some form of photographic ID, preferably a valid passport
- A valid driving licence or an International Driving Permit
Driving within Bologna city centre is quite difficult, as most of the centre is off-limits to cars. No private cars are allowed in the city without a permit from Sunday to Friday, between the hours of 07:00 and 20:00. Travellers who reside in the city centre and are planning on hiring a car should enquire at their hotel about the ticket that permits one day vehicle access in the city. The ticket costs €5 for one day, and also allows visitors to make use of the public bus network free of charge.
As is expected, parking in the city is quite tricky. While no parking is allowed in the centre itself, the city has made park and ride systems available around the centre. Drivers can leave their vehicles at one of 11 car parks around the city and make use of the efficient public transport systems to get in.
To make up for the restrictions on private vehicles in the city centre, the city has made an efficient and reliable public transport system available. The ATC operates most of the systems in the city and provides useful information booths at all bus and train stations. Travellers who plan on being in the city for while should consider acquiring a CityPass, which allows commuters to embark on any eight journeys for a set price. Alternately, you could invest in the DayPass, valid for one day only.
Bologna Centrale is the main station in the city from which all trains depart. It is also one of the most important national and international rail intersections. The rail network both in and out of the city is extensive. Tickets can be bought on the train platform, but passengers should ensure they are validated before boarding the train, as those without validated tickets will be fined. Validation machines are located on the platform.
The bus system in the city, also operated by ATC, is of a very high standard. Buses are often preferred to other modes of transport as they reach more areas and often travel to the outskirts of the city. Tickets can be purchased either at the bus station or on the bus itself. There are two ticket machines on the bus; the red one is for buying tickets while the yellow one is for validating passes.
Taxis are aplenty in the city, but are not the most popular option as the rates are quite high. It is possible to flag down taxis from the side of the road, but there is no guarantee that they will stop for you. Often a better option is to pre-book a taxi with a specific company. Passengers should note, however, that they will be charged for the taxi’s journey to the point of pick-up. Reputable companies include Radiotaxi Bologna and Cotabo.
Bologna is nestled snuggly between gorgeous rolling hills and several quaint towns, including the famous Ravenna and the charming Modena. While exploring Bologna itself is quite a treat, there are many opportunities for daytrips to be had in the city’s stunning surroundings. Bologna serves as the perfect point from which to explore Italy’s little-visited northern countryside.
Ravenna - This is a small town just outside Bologna, is the perfect destination for a daytrip. The town is located only an hour away from Bologna’s city centre, so there is no need to plan an overnight stay. One of the most famous sites in Ravenna, and probably the reason why travellers choose to visit, is the Basilica of San Vitale. The mosaics in the church are famous worldwide and definitely worth the drive.
Modena - This is another charming town, only a 40kms drive to the northwest of Bologna. Modena is perhaps best known for being the home of Luciano Pavarotti. Here, travellers will find some of the best pasta in the region and witness the breathtaking beauty of the Po Valley.
Galleria Ferrari - Petrol heads and adrenaline junkies should make a turn at Galleria Ferrari, the Ferrari Museum. The museum is located in the town of Maranello, about 50kms from Bologna and only a few kilometres from Modena. Ferrari fans will be in their element at this museum, which is divided into four main sections, namely Formula One, Technological Innovation, Specialty exhibits and Photography.