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The Enchanting Colors of Bologna, Italy



The first live concert that I saw was in 1971. I was 17 years old and so excited to get to see one of the best Motown groups ever - The Temptations. The concert was held at the now famous Carter Barron Amphitheatre in Washington, DC. As I think back to this show, I’ll never forget their live rendition of the popular song, “My Girl”, featuring the famous opening line . . . “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day”. Of course, the Temptations were singing about a young woman . . . but, fast-forward 52 years, and as I’m walking the streets of Bologna, Italy, it feels like the song could have easily been written about this beautiful, colorful, and “happy making” city.



One of Bologna’s nicknames is "La Rossa" or "the Red”, because you will see red or reddish buildings everywhere in the city. But why is Bologna so red? The answer lies in its architectural heritage.



Bologna boasts a wealth of medieval architecture, and its colorful buildings are a testament to this period. During the medieval era, wealthy families in Bologna constructed towering houses as a symbol of their status. These structures were often adorned with colorful facades to showcase the family's wealth and prestige. The color red, in particular, was popular because of its association with power, prosperity, and courage.



While the medieval era set the foundation for Bologna's colorful buildings, the Renaissance period further solidified the city's vibrant aesthetic. Renaissance city planners in Bologna embraced the use of color as a way to enhance the visual appeal of the city. The vibrant hues not only added beauty to the streets but also served as a wayfinding tool for residents and visitors alike.



The color red holds deep symbolism in Bologna. It represents passion, courage, and resilience, reflecting the spirit of the city and its inhabitants. Bologna has a long history of political activism and intellectual pursuits, earning it one of its other nicknames - "La Dotta" or "the Learned." The fiery red buildings serve as a visual reminder of the city's rich cultural and intellectual heritage.



Of course, Bologna has many wonderful things to see. No visit to Bologna is complete without a visit to Piazza Maggiore, the city's bustling main square. Surrounded by a symphony of red and orange buildings, this vibrant square is the perfect starting point to explore Bologna's colorful neighborhoods. Here, you can soak in the beauty of the San Petronio Basilica, a stunning architectural masterpiece that showcases the city's rich history.



Another must-see attraction in Bologna is the iconic "Le Due Torri" or "The Two Towers." These leaning towers, the Asinelli Tower and the Garisenda Tower, stand tall amidst the sea of colorful buildings. Ascending the Asinelli Tower offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city, allowing you to appreciate the vibrant hues from above.



One of the most enchanting features of Bologna is its extensive network of porticos. These covered walkways line the streets, providing shelter from both rain and sun. As you stroll beneath the porticos, you'll not only be shielded from the elements but also treated to a visual spectacle of colorful buildings stretching as far as the eye can see.



Bologna's vibrant colors extend beyond its buildings to its local markets. We loved exploring the bustling markets and indulging in the fresh, locally sourced produce that Emilia-Romagna is known for. As with the colorful architecture, the vibrant hues of the fruits and vegetables that lined the streets ignited our senses as we immersed ourselves in the lively atmosphere of the market.



If you visit Bologna, you will find that its colorful buildings are a visual feast. The fiery reds and warm oranges symbolize the passion, resilience, and welcoming nature of the city and its people. These warm colors have long been associated with feelings of happiness, optimism, and energy. Wisely incorporating these colors into the design and layout of a city, as Bologna has done, creates a sense of vitality and positivity, enhancing the mood and overall happiness of both those who live in and visit this wonderful city.


The longer you stay in Bologna, the more you come to realize and appreciate that her magnificent colors are a true gift to anyone who visits this city. And during our visit, the joyful nature of Bologna was on full display and so easy to breathe in as we delighted in the ever-present color and beauty that graces this city.



Bologna is a destination that invites you to uncover its hidden beauty, one colorful building at a time. You’ll find that in this enchanting city you will always have sunshine . . . even on a cloudy day.

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