There’s an increasing number of flights from the UK to lesser-known cities such as Bologna, Bari and Lucca. These cities, especially the former, are hidden gems and are on the rise regarding tourist visitors.

Bologna is welcoming, but the city is also still working on its tourism compatibility. According to a recent study by Guido Caselli and Matteo Beghelli for the Unioncamere Emilia-Romagna – tourism in Bologna is responsible for circa 40,000 jobs.

The Emilia-Romagna region of North-East Italy, with Bologna at its heart, could be viewed as Italy’s culinary soul.

No small part of that is due to it being the birthplace of Mortadella and Tortellini. The latter foodstuff being invented by Guisseppe Cerri, modelled on the female naval. It’s a tad surprising that tourism, not food, is the industry seeing the most recent growth in the region.

Bologna: entertainingly bringing tourists and residents together

Any gripes that visitors may have upon parting with a city tax upon arrival at accommodation – soon disappear when you see what it contributes towards. A sizeable open-air cinema crosses cultural boundaries, by screening popular films spanning some decades. This includes Grease, Cabaret and La La Land. These offerings have oft drawn diverse crowds of people into the Piazza Maggiore.

The Piazza Maggiore is Bologna’s centre-piece. It’s a spacious and thriving answer to Leicester Square. Buses leave for the hill-top pedestal of the Basilica Santuario della Madonna di San Luca and people come, go, meet and greet.

All Kinds of Eateries and Culinary Premises Pepper the vicinity of Piazza Maggiore

These incorporate the cosy, hanging ham décor of Bella Vita, where natives and tourists often linger over a refreshing Aperol Spritz.

Evening diners flock to the traditional, medium priced Zerocinquantouno. Whereby, hamburger and pasta lovers alike share a tasty and fulfilling experience. Patrons often entertain themselves watching Bologna life pass by on the busy pedestrian street outside. The house wines (particularly the whites) often set the benchmark for smooth and crisp tastes, incorporating the best offerings from the local region.

The crown jewels of Italian day or night dining in the vicinity of the Piazza Maggiore is the quaint, authentic Italian eatery: Caffe del Mercato. It caters for internationals not as used to the Italian approach to caffeine – serving a pot of boiled water next to the cup of rich Italian coffee. This accompanies a range of considerate touches, enhancing the café experience. These include a tasty variety filled buffet, allowing you to sample a good selection of Caffe del Mercato’s range.

No need to travel from Bologna to get a taste of Venice

Although Venice is only a 1 hour and 13 minutes train journey away – you don’t need to leave Bologna to get a visual reminder of Venice’s charm. Via Piella offers views of how Bologna used to be.

The canal dominated street outside gives you that flavour of Venice without leaving Bologna.

On the top of the Asinelli Tower looking down on Bologna

Those wishing to enjoy a panoramic view of Bologna and the surrounding region can be enjoyed from the masonry made, Asinelli Tower. It is referred to as the Two Towers of Bologna. 498 steps are the only way to enjoy the captivating views, but it is definitely worth the hike.

A €5 admission fee underlines the fact that Bologna’s approach to tourism is to make the place financially accessible to visitors. There is no covert attempt to fleece tourists. This place, alongside many Bologna attractions, is covered by the €30 (£33) Bologna Welcome Card.

It’s humbling to ascend to the top of the Asinelli Tower – seeing the city merge into the lush countryside of the region, from a structure first built between the years 1109-1119. It is, in fact, Italy’s tallest (yes, taller than Pisa), standing at 97 metres.

Fountain of Neptune breaks free

Up until the beginning of 2018: the Fountain of Neptune was obscured by scaffolding due to restoration. Now fully restored - this gift to the Bolognese people from Pope Pius IV is rightly back one of the centre-pieces of the city. This collaboration between Tommaso Laureti and Jean de Boulogne – stands aloft, 4 metres high and draws you towards it with ornate charm.

I scream you scream, we all scream; Gelato

Early 30c temperatures are no stranger to Bologna in the spring/summer months. Therefore, savouring a refreshing ice-cream while gazing upon the many wonders of the city is a must. Organic gelato lovers need to make a B-line for Stefano Gelato Biologico.

This certified organic ice-cream haven even delivers for those who become infuriated at the thought of waiting in line. Vegan options are available - making the place popular for large groups, as a variety of taste is catered for. Luscious flavours like lemon and basil demonstrate why the place has stayed popular since opening in 1998.

Bologna continues to up its transport game

The city is modernizing as well as adapting its transport links to align with increased usage.

A restyling of the bus station and a people mover from Marconi to Bologna train station will take 7.5 minutes at the cost of €8.50 (£8.84). Blue Panorama (Italian company), has opened up Bologna to various Chinese destinations, including Hangzhou and Taiyuan (North China), through flights that commenced in June 2018.

Bologna’s a charm

Bologna possesses charm, quaintness coupled with Italian authenticity – offering visitors plenty to keep them happy, entertained and satiated.