It was Debra’s idea to meet in Bologna.

Debra Kolkka is a (lucky) Australian, who lives part of the year in Bagni di Lucca, a Tuscan commune near Lucca, and writes a delightful blog named – no prizes for guessing – Bagni di Lucca and Beyond! Do hop over and take a look if you are a fan of anything Italian.

I had all but finalised Venice for my solo trip last month, and Debra’s comment on my post stating “Come to Italy”, kind of sealed it.. That, and the chance to meet a blogger friend in the flesh for the very first time.

And so I hopped on a train from the estación Santa Lucia in Venice, one overcast  day, and awaited her arrival under the Fountain of Neptune in the heart of the gorgeous medieval town.

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It did not take long for Debra and her charming husband Jim, to locate the lone Indian under that fountain, and our online friendship transitioned to the ‘realness’ of a face to face meeting without missing a beat. And without the slightest hint of awkwardness!

I had somehow expected to sit around and chat over lunch, and had considered enrolling for a city walk late afternoon. I was also most ill prepared for the weather in my leather loafers and thin sweater. I should have known however that Debra isn’t the kind to sit around idly, and sure enough, after a brief pit stop for delicious sandwiches, she decided she would show me around her favourite parts of town, come hell or high water!

In the event, we couldn’t have chosen a better destination for a rainy day. Bologna, with its long  (40km!) stretches of beautiful porticos, provided very aesthetic shelter from drippy weather and we managed to fit in a remarkable amount of sightseeing in our short time there.

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Just off the Piazza Nettuno, is the Biblioteca Sala de Borsa, the old stock exchange where the foundations of the old city are showcased under a glass floor. It is now a library and a meeting place and exhibition center. The Piazza Maggiore nearby, awash in ochre and rust palettes is flanked by imposing palazzos housing the Town Hall and other government offices and the lofty Basilica of San Petronio.

A short way South of the Piazza was the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio, once the university of Bologna, claiming to be the oldest in the Western hemisphere. It is now the municipal library and its most fascinating features are the grand staircases and reading room encrusted with commemorative inscriptions and colourful coats of arms, and the ornate wood paneled anatomical theater where medical students once performed autopsies. The latter sustained severe damage during World War II, but is supposed to have been faithfully restored to its original state based on old drawings.

The quadrilatero or market street is foodie heaven. This apparently is the place to return to later in the day – in better weather no doubt – when market stalls give way to bars and restaurants. It would have been lovely to have had the time to linger over a happy hour Spritz here.

Our last stop was the  Basilica Santa Stefano, also known as Le Sette Chiese (the seven churches) across the beautiful Piazza of the same name…..a fascinating cluster of buildings of varying styles and periods, apparently built over an ancient temple to Isis! The XII century Romanesque complex is considered closest to the original of several existing copies of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the 1028 Byzantine restoration) in Jerusalem! A copy of Christ’s tomb in the temple inside, held the remains of Saint Petronius, the patron saint of Bologna, until they were moved to the basilica on Piazza Maggiore.

Basilica Santa Stefano, Bologna
Chiesa San Sepulchro- Basilica Santa Stefano

It was a good thing we hit the ground running, for the weather deteriorated rapidly towards evening, and I decided to return after a hurried goodbye. Venice appeared to have fared worse from the inundated plaza outside the station. A couple of tourists on the vaporetto  wearing the ghastly orange and green plastic shoe covers (probably left over from the last Acqua Alta) smiled smugly at the wet shoes around.. I giggled at the thought of Debra’s reaction, if I had arrived sporting a pair!

By the time I tumbled out of the vaporetto and raced ‘home’ I was cold and drained. I had snacked on the train, so dinner that night was a bar of duty free chocolate (I am never without a store of chocolate)  and some salted pistachios, along with a fragrant pot of coffee that the night receptionist very kindly brewed for me.

The day after was gloriously sunny across the region and I wished I had thought of staying overnight, to sample some of Bologna’s famous cuisine. But I was happy I managed those few enjoyable hours with my lovely friend and her husband. Thank you Debra and Jim. I look forward to meeting you again someday… Italy or Australia or who knows, perhaps even in blistering hot Chennai. Just make sure you don’t arrive in November, for walking in the rain here is not quite the same as in beautiful Bologna.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

96 thoughts on “Bologna

  1. Pretty place, a wonderful new friend. All’s perfect. 🙂 Have a great time, Madhu. Your pictures and essays are beautiful and informative as always.

  2. I am so delighted to read that you met your blogger friend Debra and her husband Jim on this trip and the photos tell us that you had a fabulous time. A real fairy tale post. 🙂

  3. Am glad you jumped at Debra’s offer. Too good to pass up, weather and all. Beautiful city and it shows in your pictures, Madhu. Those ceilings are stunning. That Urge to Wander will not slow you down. 🙂

  4. Stunning photography, despite the rain, Madhu. You obviously like a challenge 🙂 I love the look of Bologna. Do you remember Suzanne (the Travelbunny) was there with Kat last year and posted some fabulous shots too? Yet another wonderfully photogenic Italian city. Thank you so much for linking to me. Totally awesome 🙂
    I know Debra but haven’t visited hers for ages so I must put that right.
    Chocolate, hey? That’s your secret 🙂

    1. Thank you Jo. I guess they are alright, but light wasn’t my friend on this trip. I do remember Kat and Suzanne’s beautiful posts on Bologna.
      Chocolate is a weakness that I try to control normally, but all stops come off when on holiday 🙂

  5. What a wonderful city that I haven’t visited. Italy is simply one long museum with so many places to see!

    Debra’s blog is wonderful, and I love Bagni di Lucca … the setting is every bit as spectacular as she makes it out to be. Someday I will meet her and Jim there!

  6. Delightful shots! Sometimes it’s a blessing to be open for challenges! Meeting a friend is always a joy.

  7. how thrilling to meet a blogger friend, and an Aussie … as you know I am about to meet Marianne and Gilly, within a few days of each other … very exciting … thanks for a wonderful post on those hours in Bologna!

  8. It was great fun to meet you in Bologna. The day could have been better, but it didn’t really matter. I have been to Chennai and would happily return, especially now. Who knows were we wil meet again?

    1. Like wise Debra! I hope it will be sooner than later 🙂
      Ps: Yikes, I spelt your name wrong…editing right away!

  9. It really is an act of faith to meet with someone you have known only online and through blogging. I’m so glad you had a fun time, and it must have been a nice change of pace to have someone you knew to tour the city with.
    I have only met a fellow blogger once, and that is Roy McCarthy from Jersey, who was a incredibly warm and welcoming host.
    Great photos, and I loved to read about your meeting and your day, Madhu.

    1. It is, but it somehow feels like I know everyone of my online friends – you included – on a personal level! Thank you Naomi.

      1. Hi Madhu 🙂 Will you be posting more photos from your trip to Italy? Did your daughter and her family go to Croatia as planned? What are their impressions? Don’t hesitate to tell me even if they weren’t good ….

  10. Still this one isn’t too far away from here 😉
    like Venezia, dear Madhu… next time let me know when you travel to Italy, since Switzerland is just around the corner!
    Lovely pictures, I enjoyed all of them 🙂 claudine

    1. I certainly shall. I am hoping to return to Italy with hubby, hopefully next year….fingers crossed 🙂 Thank you Claudine.

    1. There is so much more. And it is the food capital of Italy, so there is that to experience. I would love to return for a longer stay. Thank you Taylor 🙂

    1. Aren’t they amazing? I was blown away by the detailed cameos, would never have noticed those if Debra hadn’t pointed them out to me. Thank you for strolling along with us Meredith 🙂

  11. Fairly typical of the cities of Europe. There is a certain charm about their buildings and cobble stone streets in many towns. You have captured the spirit of Europe here.

  12. So much information conveyed in such a gorgeous package! The photos are wonderful. I’ve never been to Bologna and your post is a real treat, giving such a good feel for it.
    P.S. Nice to know you are such a centered, grounded person (never being without your stash of chocolates). YES.

  13. I had read about bologna earlier in a travel book… this place is so beautiful… there are so many lil towns that we dont know about… lovelyy pictures and grt write up as always..

  14. That’s so lovely, to meet blogger friends in the flesh. Happy for you, Debra and Jim.

    Speaking of walking in the rain – it’s one of my favourite past times – and here in Singapore, the rains are ‘warm’ and lovely. Of course, people huddled under shelters view me with mild suspicion – must be insane, some think. I smile and that seals their conclusions as correct 🙂

    If you’re ever in Singapore, Madhu – post a comment on my blog 🙂

    1. Ha, ha, you must look a sight Eric 🙂 I wouldn’t dream of not informing you before coming to Singapore. Can you believe I have never been there? Or to the USA? 🙂

      1. You’ve not visited Singapore?! Now, we need to fix that – and I look forward to meeting you here.

        USA too? (Shaking my head in amused disbelief).

        And you’ve visited places that most people have not even heard of 🙂

        1. Yes!! I can see myself dropping several notches in the average Indian’s esteem when they hear that!! 😀

  15. Great post, beautiful picture, lovely story. I love the moment when a blogger-friendship becomes a real one, and it just feels right. Happened only once to me so far… 🙂


  16. What a delight! Touring a city with a ‘new’ friend, I have met a few of my blogger friends over the years and am never disappointed in finding them as special in the real world as they are in the blogesphere. The slideshow and the city tour, once again you urge me on to put on my travel shoes. I am so happy I can steal away with you.

  17. Argh! No fair. 😀 I would love to meet Debra. I wonder if it’s through my blog that you two connected… Hmmm.. 😉 But I wont be surprise that if that wasn’t the case. Two of the best travel blogs, you and Debra are just meant to meet both in blogosphere and in person. Bologna is lucky to have two of you. I’m surprised it didn’t collapsed. Ahihihi 😀 A lot of things in the slideshow is interesting too.

    1. Very funny!! 😉 I forget how I connected with Debra, could very well have been through your blog. Thanks Rommel.

  18. I too went on a day trip to Bologna once – it was raining so we took cover under the miles of portici. Sadly there was not enough time to visit the Basilica Santo Stefano or the old university… it seems like I missed all the best bits!

    And what a joy that you could meet up with Debra. It is always so much fun to spend time with fellow bloggers in person – I’ll admit I was nervous when I first met Bama but now we are the best of friends. 🙂

    Madhu, I must add that you are one of the travel bloggers I most want to meet. Perhaps next year in Chennai, who knows?

    1. Likewise James. Do be sure you let me know in advance, would hate to have you arrive when I am gallavanting someplace halfway across the world! 🙂

  19. One can only keep their chin up for so long in a day of cold rain. Traveling does have a few “downs” but as you’ve written about over the years…mostly “ups.” Beautiful post Madhu!

  20. What a delight to meet another blogger! We have met several RV bloggers and of course I was able to meet the infamous Rommel. Always wonderful to meet like-minded folks; feels like meeting up with a long-lost friend. Love those porticos Madhu…beautiful city! 🙂

  21. Bologna è una delle più belle città italiane, è poco distante da dove vivo (solo 180 km) eppure in tanti anni al massimo nelle sue strade ho trascorso un paio d’ore, avere le cose belle a portata di mano fa rinviare i viaggi.
    PS: a sapere che eri così vicina un salto a Bologna lo avrei fatto volentieri 🙂

  22. How lovely to visit Bologna with you! Fortunately I’ve not seen it in the rain but those wonderful porticoes are perfect for keeping one both dry and shaded from the sun. Lovely pictures which brought back some lovely memories. I enjoyed this post 🙂

  23. ah, memories…i did a solo trip to italy last summer, including venice, lucca, and bologna. i also met my first blogger friend in person! thank you, i will be dreaming of italy today. 🙂 aleya

  24. I love hearing about you meeting your blogger friend in “real life,” Madhu!

    Especially about how smooth the transition was and how there was no awkwardness! Yay! 🙂

  25. Oh Madhu, you wouldn’t want to travel through Bologna my way. Now that I had a second look at this post I can see how much I have missed :D. These are gorgeous, really gorgeous, and I realised i prefer rain to crowds 🙂 Thank you.

  26. Going through your blog at leisure, I want to thank you for “putting” Bologna on my map. I had a 25 year reunion scheduled with old mountaineering friends in Lecco, and told my wife why don’t we spend the week before in Italy. We added Bologna to the trip, based on your blog. 🙂 And lovely it was. So… Merci, grazie, thank you!

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