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Bologna ideas- not in Rick's book- why?

Wondering why Bologna is not in Rick's Italy book? Other guidebooks have it.
Ideas on where to stay & what to do for a day there on our way to Venice from Rome. Going by train only on our way to the RSTour.
Thanks!

Posted by
980 posts

I have heard that Rick's publisher won't allow his books to be more than 1000 pages.
I have also heard that he might be planning on separate north and south Italy guidebooks.
Perhaps he could include more more locales if there are 2 separate guides.
Or perhaps I dreamed this whole thing ... but it would be a great idea!
I recently had to use Lonely Planet for southern Italy and was not happy with the out-dated and inaccurate information.

Posted by
11977 posts

Because RS guidebooks are not omni-comprehensive. They cater to people who go to (country name) for up to 4 weeks for the first time. Italy has a lot to show, therefore he selects the top locations that, according to his taste, are worthwhile visiting in a first trip. Apparently Bologna does not make the cut, at least in his view, for a first trip to Italy. I would probably agree with him, although it is certainly a destination worth considering the second time around.

If you don't have a lot of time, you could actually visit a lot of Bologna without spending the night there. Just leave your luggage at the station luggage storage (deposito bagagli) and devote your day to visiting the city:

http://www.emiliaromagnaturismo.it/en/locations/bologna-bo/details?ID=1226
http://www.bolognawelcome.com/en/

Posted by
490 posts

Bologna is a wonderful city! RS books have a certain focus; I also use Lonely Planet guides, very comprehensive Aussie guides...

Posted by
337 posts

I have been thinking that splitting the Italy book or doing the Italy book, a Northern Italy book and a Southern Italy book would be a good idea for the RS company.

It would allow for coverage of both Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont, which are currently uncovered by the RS company, and much lighter in tourists, despite having great stuff.

I am nowhere near as conversant it what is south of Rome, but I suspect there are likely a couple of regions down there that get the short shrift in the Italy book, that would be better served in a Southern Italy book.

I looked at doing my current trip with 4 nights in E-R, and honestly, could not figure how to split 4 nights between Bologna, Ravenna, Parma, Modena and the Emilia countryside. I could spend two days sightseeing and a day or more in a cooking class in Bologna. There's clearly at least one day of sightseeing in Parma, and a day to split between Reggio-Emilia and Modena, and car museums and food museums and art museums and castles out in the countryside, as well as mountains for hiking in the Apennines.

Staying in the Quadrilatero neighborhood seems recommended for Bologna. near the action and the sites.

Posted by
3112 posts

I visited Bologna for 2 nights and really enjoyed it. I relied on the Bologna section of the Lonely Planet guidebook, which I though had good coverage. I'd start by seeing the main square and surrounding sights, having lunch at nearby Tamburini, and then filling the rest of your day with other sights that match your interests. I stayed at Zanhotel il Canale, which was well located, clean and reasonably priced, although the décor was slightly tired. Regarding Tamburini, there's a deli in front and a cafeteria style dining area in the back where they offer high-quality lunch selections at very reasonable prices (lunch only).

Posted by
11613 posts

Rick's books are written for first-time visitors who want turn-by-turn directions. I use them on my first-time visits to countries in Europe. He also does great self-guided tours in the books. All this material takes up a lot of space.

I heard that a Sicily guidebook may be coming soon, so I doubt that a split for mainland Italy will occur in the near future, since Sicily logically would be included in the South Italy book. But what the market demands...

Posted by
4059 posts

SharYn, I also heard (from a RSE staffer) that a split Italy book was at least being considered.

Sicily could be included in the South Italy book, and Ravenna and Bologna could go back into the North book. I was disappointed, when we got our Italy guidebook this year, that Ravenna wasn't in it. We do have a 2014 book that included Ravenna, so we just copied out those pages. BTW, Bologna was also in that book - about one long paragraph. He says skip it.

It took us a while to realize how personal these books really are. So we use them, but we always check out a few others, as well.

Posted by
337 posts

Jane, Ravenna is at least covered in the Venice book, as a day trip option. I wonder if it's similarly in the Venice portion of the Italy book, as a side trip.

Also, as food is my passion, I tend to notice what Rick likes in a place, foodwise, and what doesn't do it for him. One thing that strikes me is that he likes odd bits of fish, be it mackerel in Amsterdam, fish sandwiches in Istanbul, cichetti in Venice, or baccalo in Spain. Rick does not care for "elevated" gastronomy and doesn't seem to have a great interest in wine, beyond an alcoholic beverage consumed by locals with meals. Bologna offers culinary highs that I would not think interest Rick. So many things that people think of as quintessential Italian cooking come from E-R, including Parm-Reg (from Parma and Reggio-Emilia), Aceto balsamico (from Modena and Reggio-Emilia), Mortadella (Bologna), Ravioli (Bologna), Lasagna, culatello (west of Parma), prosciutto di Parma (Parma), tortellini, Mortadella, and more. No funky fish, this is pig, cow and wheat country.

But also, as noted, Rick offers a highlight of a country good for a first time visitor to hit the highs, and maybe attempt to dodge some crowds. I find his advice invaluable in places he covers, but my interests diverge from his (for one, I have a great interest in wine and not much interest in interesting fishies), and so after a first run at a place, I want to go a different way. And if that involves going somewhere he doesn't cover, gotta find other ways. Just got the Michelin Green Guide for Italy, and, while it's not quite Rick, it's incredible.

Posted by
5109 posts

RS has already said they are working on a Sicily guidebook. It was in his blog somewhere recently, and in earlier threads. IMO, the more they expand the books to cover more popular destinations, the more they deviate from the back-door philosophy on which they were founded.

Posted by
4059 posts

Max, nope. He talks about Padua, Verona, and Vicenza as places near Venice. Ravenna isn't even in the index.

We're often surprised by the things Rick considers "skippable." We have spent many happy hours in, for example, archeological or city museums that don't interest him at all.

Posted by
16781 posts

Ravenna is covered in Rick Steves' Venice. Not the Italy book and not the Pocket city guide.

For some university town traits that are similar to Bologna, but with more "significant" indoor art and less outdoor graffiti, Rick covers Padua/Padova.

If you want to buy just one chapter from a Lonely Planet guide, you can do that on their web site.

Posted by
671 posts

For (I think) $2.99, you can buy an electronic copy of only the Emilia-Romagna Chapter from the Lonely Planet Italy guide (just go to the Lonely Planet website). It is provided as a pdf. We used it as our primary source of info when spending a day in Bologna this past March. There is plenty to see in the Old Town area and a lot of great restaurant choices. We took the train from Florence, and walked from Bologna Centrale Station to the Old Town area and back. Bologna has a great vibe - somewhat like what we experienced in Torino a few years ago - in that we saw no tour groups, just Italians living their daily lives, including lots of university students and groups of school children visiting churches and other sites.

Posted by
100 posts

Last week I decided I want to do a day trip to Bologna from Florence this September. I, too, was disappointed Bologna was nowhere to be found in the latest RS Italy book. It seems I may have to get another guidebook that appreciates gastronomy--Michelin might be the way to go.

Posted by
16781 posts

Michelin is useful for sightseeing and gastronomy and to help narrow down that limited number of places where you actually have time to eat. Their listings also make it clear that good food is all over Italy, with more restaurant recommendations in the bigger, richer, and more touristy cities - for instance 123 in Milan, 74 in Rome, 61 in oft-maligned Venice, 45 in Florence, 28 in Bologna, 25 in Parma, and 21 in Siena.

Posted by
3826 posts

Just listening to last weeks podcast and Rick is talking to some Italians about what to visit...and he said he's never been to Bologna! All the time he has spent in Italy and never been in Bologna. He said he goes to Florence all the time. He did say it is on his to visit list.

We spent a very short morning there on our first visit to Italy. We had planned to have an evening and morning, but had a train mishap and didn't end up arriving until 10pm. We had about 4-5 hrs the next morning before heading for Venice, so we really only wandered a bit.

Posted by
11613 posts

Amazing that RS would advise readers to skip a place he hasn't visited.

Posted by
31029 posts

I visited Bologna not too long ago, and quite enjoyed my time there. I concur with a previous statement that it's a wonderful city. As well as visiting the usual tourist sites and taking a HO/HO Bus tour, I really enjoyed the food, especially the Tagliatelle al Ragu.

As someone else mentioned, I downloaded the the Lonely Planet chapter on Emilia-Romagna to my phone as a PDF document, so I had information readily available for touring and dining. The download was only about $3 so not a huge expense.

Posted by
3826 posts

I find it hard to believe that in all the years RS has been travelling he's never been to Bologna. I had to relisten to that podcast section to make sure I heard it right. (It starts around the 32 min mark if anyone is interested in listening...you can find it right on this website). And being that he is such a foodie, (it seems) and Bologna is very popular for that.

Then again, it was my 3rd trip to Italy before we visited Florence, but we went to Genoa and Bologna on our 1st visit.

Posted by
2002 posts

We went to Bologna on a day trip from Florence in 2014 and I really wish we had gone to Ravenna instead. At that time Ravenna was covered in the RS Italy book (think I was using the 2013 edition), I wonder why it was dropped.

Posted by
4238 posts

We visited Bologna as well as Ravenna. Bologna is OK, but not high on my list of Italian cities. Ravenna is a gem and should be visited.

Posted by
396 posts

Love Bologna. The food is wonderful. Vibrant night life because of large university. I stay at the Hotel San Donato when I am there. They are at via Zamboni 16. I take a taxi from the train station because you can't drive there. They have a great breakfast included in the rate and it is within walking distance of the Piazza with San Petrino church, Neptunes fountain, veggie/fruit/meat/cheese street.....lots to see and do. I can give specific restaurants and other information if you want. Climb one of the towers for a great view of the city.

Posted by
337 posts

And being that (Rick Steves) is such a foodie, (it seems) and Bologna is very popular for that.

As a "serious eater" that many would call a foodie, I don't really think that's Rick. If you compare his restaurant list with the Michelin Guide or Fred Plotkin's Italy for the Gourmet, there's not a ton of overlap. As I said above, I think he likes certain things, but it's more into the food and alcohol as an expression of culture, than as a taste experience. This is not shade, but it's just an observation that most folks who consider themselves some stripe of foodie (I don't like the term... gourmand, serious eater, snob... all work better for describing me) wouldn't consider Rick to be a member of the tribe so much as an adjacent traveler with an interest is local fish preparations.

Posted by
16781 posts

Max, Rick would agree with you. He readily admits to having liked dorm food.

Posted by
315 posts

Did not read the above responses. Bologna tight interior walled city! Traffic jam on the autostrada! Small airport. One of the best meals and experiences at a family trattoria, north of Bologna on a frontage road. Spent all evening there. After the last call, looking around we were with a community of families with alternative lifestyles. And, we knew, we were the only people from America. We travel off the beaten path, other experiences include being outside a nursing home and a ferry ride across Lake Garda with a community of severely disabled adults with assistance. Oh, heading east on a nice 4 lane autostrada and nearly by ourselves when something in the rear is coming up on us mach speed fast, is it a firetruck? Two Ferraris, one red and one yellow, out for a test SPEED! I know these roads have camera shots to check speed so the cars were parked under an overpass a short distance later to let off speed.

Posted by
3826 posts

I just say 'foodie' because I'm kind of a fussy eater, and my husband is 10x worse...and Rick seems to eat anything and everything...lol...while hubby and I consist on a diet of pizza, pasta, pasta, pizza, McDonald's when we go to Italy, since neither of us are seafood fans, and neither of us imbibe.

I'm just slightly jealous that Rick, and many others, will eat and drink a lot of local stuff (and I know foodie more connotates high falutin' restaurants)...and I'm just not that adventurous.

Posted by
337 posts

I am both a bit fussy and very excited by food. Like you, not into fish, but have learned some crustaceans and squid, octopi and similar things. My first trip to Italy was huge for me as I promised my wife that I would try one new thing a day. Not everything stuck, not everything worked. But it's made me a lot less fussy. This go, with 4 nights in Venice, might try some fish bits with some wine. The wine helps with the anxiety.

Yeah, Rick is like my wife, will try anything and find most everything acceptable. But really, your husband, you and I are at least fairly typical. Being fussy doesn't mean we are not "foodies." For me, that's about the delight in food, not the breadth of food you enjoy.

Posted by
3826 posts

Put almost any dessert in front of me...that's my 'I'll try anything' food. For someone who lives surrounded by water, I never got into seafood...I think lobsters look like that face hugger from Alien...lol. The city maps I download are covered with pins of where the bakeries are located. And I will go out of my way to try that 'best gelato in...' place.

I'll try new things to a certain extent...more like ingredients I like prepared in a different way.

Anyways, sorry for kinda hijacking the thread...lol. I wish I could remember a little better what we visited in Bologna, but it was 2008, and we only had a morning. We went to the area where they have their 'leaning tower' and popped into an old old church. Admired a huge fountain and walked around the old centre a bit.

Posted by
11658 posts

Max, Rick would agree with you. He readily admits to having liked dorm
food.

That's a hoot, Laura! But then, it didn't bother me much either.

I like lots of different sorts of seafood prepared various ways but oddly, I don't like it IN pasta. Makes no sense at all, I know, but I keep trying it and, well, bleh. It just seems to work better for me on its own.

Posted by
782 posts

I am consistently amazed at how Bologna gets overlooked as an Italian tourist destination. I've been a half dozen times or so and each time I fall in love with the city all over again and find new things to discover. In my personal opinion, it has the best food in all of Italy - Italians call it Bologna La Grassa (Bologna The Fat). If not the best then certainly right near the top. There's even an entire section of the city dedicated to food markets to explore (The Quadrilatero, dating back to Roman times). Also the best gelato in Italy (at Gelateria Gianni on via Monte Grappa). Plenty of things to see and do and the city has such an interesting and quirky history that's hard distinguishing history from myths and legends sometimes. The views from the top of the Two Towers are absolutely incredible. For the younger crowd the nightlife there is fantastic due to the huge university (oldest in Europe). The university itself is fascinating, you can see books dating back to the middle ages. Best of all, the historic center is easily explored on foot. I've done both day trips and overnight trips and I much prefer the overnight trips because it allows me to enjoy a leisurely dinner without having to worry about driving or catching the last train home. I've often said that Bologna is one of the best kept secrets in Italy so I don't really mind that RS leaves it out of his books.

Posted by
334 posts

And being that he is such a foodie, (it seems) and Bologna is very popular for that.

LOL!!! Please, stop, RS is NOT a foodie by any definition or, stretch of the imagination. Food and drink are simply fuel, his palate or, level of appreciation for food and it's place in that country's culture is one of his short comings as a tour guide. While he readily admits that his interest in the subject is limited, he attempts to make make up for this by having Fred Plotkin and others to discuss the topic on his show. Unfortunately, Spain, France and Italy are cultures where food is the essence of those respective cultures yet, he simply glosses over the subject. What I would pay to see RS and Anthony Bourdain/David Chang/Colicchio have a sit-down discussion about their travels and the topic of food comes up.... The Scandinavian (RS own ancestry) food scene has exploded in popularity, been the leading edge of food travel renaissance yet, RS is remarkably oblivious to it's happening and significance. I like RS for a lot of things and I'm forever grateful for having his book during my first trip however, food is not one of this strengths.

As for Bologna...go. Yes, fantastic food, fun nightlife, exceptional narrow alleyways crammed with lively and convivial (RS favorite word) diners enjoying life. It's a bummer it's not given it's own section in the Italy book but, consider the other top-tier destinations..where do you put it? These books are geared for the first time visitor, Italy is covered in at least 3-top tier destinations, include their surrounding areas, significant locations and the major cities, all the places to visit, sleep and transportation options, you run out of room fast.

If, as others have hinted or, rumored at, keep the Italy book as it cover the top-tier, must-see locations, then, put-out a pair of North and South books covering the 2nd & 3rd tier destinations where places like Bologna, Ravenna, FVG, Sicily, Sardinia, Alberobello...can be found.

Posted by
11158 posts

"One thing that strikes me is that he likes odd bits of fish, be it mackerel in Amsterdam, fish sandwiches in Istanbul, cichetti in Venice, or baccalo in Spain. "

I never noticed this as a pattern before, but you're right; he also focuses on the barnacles in Portugal and Santiago de Campostela!

I agree that there are many ways people can appreciate foods in a place. Rick appreciates some aspects of local cuisines, and definitely does not appreciate others.