Finally, after a long travel break, well at least for me it was a really long break, it was time again. Limited time, I only had 1 week but still, better than nothing 🙂 As everybody already just had their vacation, I only had 2 options: either I go on my own or I visit friends. This time, I didn’t really feel like going somewhere alone but in the end I luckily decided to do so and it was the right decision!
Where to? Italy! Why? Because I found a cheap flight to Bologna, where I wanted to go anyway for a long time. What can be combined with Bologna? Cinque Terre, the very famous and beautiful Linguria region. Want to know how to organise a short trip and get to see Bologna and the Cinque Terre? Then keep reading :)!
I went with Ryanair from Cologne to Bologna and booked my return flight with Eurowings from Pisa as it was closer to the Cinque Terre region than Bologna. In theory I only had 3 days as I was going Monday night to Bologna and my return was supposed to be on Friday but it turned out to be differently but I’ll tell you later about it. Anyway, it is short but doable.
Day 1: Monday night arrival in Bologna
Day 2: Bologna
Day 3: Taking the early morning train to La Spezia, starting to explore Cinque Terre
Day 4: Cinque Terre, Porto Venere and Lerici
Day 5: Actually returning back home but flight got canceled so I gained 2 extra days. A quick & dirty visit to Pisa, bus to Lucca. There I got picked up by car from my new American friend I met in Bologna and we went to Firenze
Day 6: Firenze
Day 7: Return, going back again to Pisa Airport
I arrived after midnight at my hostel in Bologna. I booked it for only one night and forgot to extend it for one more night. Bad luck as it was booked out but I managed to find another hostel, not far away but it was really bad. At least it was cheap compared to the other options I saw while looking for a room. The reason why Bologna was so packed and booked out was because of University. The semester was about to start and students started to arrive to Bologna. Apparently, it is very hard for them to find accommodation as there is a lack of apartments and it’s also very expensive. So a lot of students were coming without accommodation and booked themselves into hostels for the time until they find something.
The University in Bologna is very popular and famous as it is the oldest University in Europe, especially famous for law. But I met students studying for many different degrees, too.
What to see in Bologna?
In general, Bologna is not on many people’s bucket list. The city is really nice and not overcrowded with tourists like many other destinations in Italy. Bologna is not only famous for its University but also gastronomy. The city is also known as „la dotta, la rossa e la grassa“, which means „the educated“ because of Europe’s oldest University, „the red“, due to its terracotta hues of the buildings, and „the fat“, in reference to its food.
When in Bologna you need to try tortellini and mortadella. Bologna is known for their tortellini and mortadella. But whatever you eat there, you cannot be mistaken 🙂
Top 9 things to do in Bologna
1. University of Bologna
As already mentioned, it’s the oldest University in Europe. You should at least walk by and experience the student vibe. For me, it seems to be a really great students city.
2. The leaning tower Garisenda
Not only Pisa has the leaning tower. There is also one in Bologna and its bigger and with the most leaning, even more than the Pisa tower. You cannot go up the Garisenda tower but its sister tower Asinelli and it costs about 3 Euro to go up. I didn’t do it as I went up the cathedral.
3. Terraza Panoramica San Petronio
From the terraza San Petronio you get a fantastic view over Bologna! You gain access through the back of the cathedral in Piazza Galvani and either climb the stairs or use the elevator. It costs 3 Euro to go up and you need to register. The terraza is only open in spring and summer.
4. Basilica San Petronio
Have a look into the Basilica San Petronio but make sure your legs and shoulders are covered. Otherwise you can buy something inside the church for 1 Euro to cover yourself.
5. Little Venice of Bologna
Back in time, Bologna was a city built on canals. You still can find a secret spot of it and have a glimpse of Bologna’s little Venice. Most of the canals now lie under the car parks, unfortunately. But on Via Piella you can see a small window built into the wall, through which you can spot the canals.
6. Piazza Maggiore
Piazza Maggiore is the main square and heart of the city. It’s the perfect place to start exploring Bologna. If in Bologna, you cannot miss Piazza Maggiore.
7. Mercato delle Erbe
It’s a the largest covered market hall in the historical center where you can buy fruits, vegetables, cheese, meat and other stuff. There are also some places to eat and it’s not expensive.
8. Mercato di Mezzo
Mercato di Mezzo is one of the most representative historical places of the Bolognese food culture. Look for a place without a name or sign, with just open doors, it’s small so you really need to have your eyes open, go inside and have a good glas of wine. It’s a place where locals go to and you won’t find many tourists there. It’s a nice place to chill, eat some Mortadella bought before on the Mercato di Mezzo along with a glas of wine 🙂
9. Street Art Bologna
You can see some really good Street Art around Bologna’s streets. I love good street art so I always have my eyes opened for this type of things.
Suggested by a local, you can try at Caffé Zanarini, located just behind the cathedral at the corner, a Cappucciono Estivo. It’s a summer cappuccino with a loat of foam and a espresso. It wasn’t my favourite but it was worth a try.
At the Mercato delle Erbe I had some really good tortellini at a place called Quaranta 100.
Where to stay in Bologna?
I stayed at Dopa Hostel which I can highly recommend. They offer female and mixed dorms and also some other activities. There is a common room to sit, relax and get to know new people.
Where not to stay in Bologna
I spent my second night at Campus and Opera BB and it was not good at all. The location is fine but the hostel itself is not recommendable. Luckily, I stayed there only for 1 night.
From Bologna to La Spezia
Wednesday early morning at 06:30 AM I took the train to La Spezia (Cinque Terre). It takes around 3 hours and I paid 22 Euro for the train. I bought the ticket online but you can also buy it at the train station.
BE AWARE OF ITALIAN TRAINS! I WAS FREEZING MY ASS OFF! When I got out of the train, it was 30 degrees outside but it still took me 20 minutes until I could put my jacket off as I was still feeling sooooooo cold of the a/c!
General information about Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre consists of five towns which are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. It offers a cultural landscape of great scenic and cultural value. Since 1997, the coastline, the five villages and the surrounding hillside belong to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and are part of the Cinque Terre National Park. Every single village is unique and worth to visit.
How to visit Cinque Terre?
You can either do it by car but because of the curvy roads it takes a long time. You can hike from town to town. It is written on other blogs that it takes around 5 hours to hike to all towns. To do so, you need a ticket. Just because of lack of time, I didn’t do the hike, just small parts of it and it’s worth it, the view you get is incredible! Well, the last option is to all towns by train. That’s what I did. You can check the prices on cinqueterre.eu.com. A 1-Day Ticket costs 16 Euro.
Where to buy the Cinque Terre Ticket?
You can either buy your ticket online or at the train station/tourist information. When buying your ticket, you get a timetable for the train and also a map for the hike as not all trails are accessible.
I only had 2 days to explore Cinque Terre. It’s definitely doable by train and I highly recommend and encourage you to do so, even if you are limited in time!
My favourite was definitely Riomaggiore. But don’t underestimate the other 4 villages, they are really gorgeous and each of them has its own flair and beauty! The Liguria region with their Cinque Terre is a must see although it’s really overturned by tourists.
Porto Venere and Lerici
Porto Venere and Lerici are actually not part of the Cinque Terre but these lovely towns could be part of it. They are more or less a 1 hour bus drive away from La Spezia, by car its faster, and you should visit them if you have time. I really loved Lerici!
Where to stay in Cinque Terre?
You can stay of course in one of the five towns. As for me it was important to stay somewhere centrally so I chose La Spezie. I was staying a 15 minute walk away from the central station at a place called Sunny Rooms. Perfect accommodation, clean, comfortable, a small fridge and an espresso machine inside the room. I even had a balcony. Highly recommendable!
What to do in Pisa?
Well, Pisa is know for the leaning tower of Pisa. I’ve already been there several years ago. But as my flight got cancelled and I was only 2,5 km away from the tower I decided to do it quick & dirty just for the photo 😀 In fact, except of a lot of tourists and the leaning tower of course, Pisa doesn’t have a lot to offer. Most people go to Lucca afterwards.
What to do in Lucca?
Lucca is a nice little town in the Tuscany region. It’s a day trip if you’re anyway in Tuscany. Stroll around the city which has an unspoiled medieval city centre. The centre itself is totally enclosed by walls.
Let’s go to Florence
Florence it the capital city of the Tuscany region. Once, the city used to be the centre of medieval European trade and finance and was on of the wealthiest cities of that area. By many academics Florence is considered as the birthplace of the Renaissance and has also been called the „Athens“ of the Middle Ages.
Also here, the historic centre belongs to the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has a lot of museums, history and markets to offer.
My Top 5 things to do in Florence
1. Piazza del Duomo
The Duomo is probably the most celebrated cathedral in the world, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. It definitely is the jewel of the city. It was constructed in 1436 but the astonishing front facade wasn’t finished until the 19th century. The Duomo is located in the historic centre of Florence.
2. Piazza della Signoria
Here you can find the magnificent Palazzo Vecchio which used to be the city’s town hall back in time. Built in 1299, the Palazzo was designed by the same architects who designed the Duomo. To the left of the palace you can find the fountain of Neptune.
3. Piazza Santa Croce
Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in Italy. The church holds the tombs of a few important Florentines such as Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli.
4. San Lorenzo Market
This market has it all. From produce and clothing to leather goods and cheap souvenirs. The outdoor market starts at Piazza San Lorenzo and you can find hundreds of stalls packed with merchandise. The Mercato Central, the indoor market, is a food market and you can buy and try locally produced meats and cheese.
5. Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio is a medieval stone bridge over the Arno River in Florence. It looks really beautiful.
You can find plenty museums in this lovely city which I won’t list as I haven’t visited them.
Where to stay in Florence?
My last minute booking was at a really good and big hostel called Plus Florence. They have everything: a pool, a gym, sauna….
I would suggest you to take a Free walking Tour. I did it with freetourflorence.com and can highly recommend this tour. Free Walking Tours are free as the word itself already says and if you’re happy at the end of the tour you tip the guide how much you think the tour was worth.
I had a really awesome solo trip!!! I learned a lot of things, grew again in my experiences and got to know and talk to really lovely people I would usually probably never have talked to. I guess some of the people I met during my trip became friends. Don’t be afraid to travel alone! In the end, you won’t end up being on your own 😉
Where to next? Not sure yet, maybe Bulgaria for a few days 😉 Stay tuned!
Some more impressions from my awesome solo Italy trip: