Bologna la Rossa — Scenes from a Red City

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Neptune Statue, Bologna

I walked into Bologna and felt my heart swell with happiness.  This was the city I loved so much — a part of Italy that is breathtakingly beautiful yet rough around the edges, home to some of Italy’s best food but still pretty cheap, cultural and enthralling and incredibly conveniently located — yet still off the beaten path for most tourists in Italy.

Last time I was here was chilly October 2011.  June couldn’t have been more different — in minutes, I was dripping in sweat, the heat and humidity radiating off the bright red walls.

Yes, Bologna is red.  “La Rossa” is one of the city’s many nicknames, in part because buildings of Bologna blaze with the searing hue.  And now that I have a much better camera, I was looking forward to photographing it right.

Evening in Bologna

While I was in Tuscany a few months ago, I got talking to Beth of Beers and Beans.  Beth has long been one of my favorite photographers, and I asked her for tips while we were shooting a sunset

One of her tips?  Change the white balance setting to “cloudy” or “shade,” which will warm it up and bring out the pinks and reds.  While most photographers tell you never to change the white balance, there’s nothing wrong with breaking an unwritten rule as long as you’re doing it for good reason.

On my arrival back in Bologna, surrounded by red, I decided on a whim to change the white balance and see how my photos turned out.

The result?  I LOVED IT.

Blogville Neighborhood

The red city was even redder.

I shot the majority of my photos in “shade” mode on white balance for the week I spent in Bologna.  I love the warm, ethereal feel it adds to the city.

Here are some snapshots from life in Bologna:

Aperitivo Hour

Aperitivo hour is when Bologna really comes to life — people empty into the bar and share little glasses of wine with appetizers.  (I was discreetly trying to photograph the woman on the left — I LOVE her dress and her hair!)

Piazza Maggiore

The statue of Neptune, in front of Bologna’s interesting library, is the epicenter of the city.  Sadly, the fountain wasn’t working during my visit — usually, water jets are shooting straight out of the nymphs’ nipples.

Bologna Porticoes

Bologna is covered with porticoes throughout the city.  I’m surprised more cities don’t have them, because they are amazing.  Not only do they protect you from the rain, they are also fabulous at shielding you from the sun on 38-degree (100 F) days.

Red Buildings of Bologna

How amazing is that shade of red?  I want that in my future home.

Bologna Bus

Most people just walk in the middle of the streets in Bologna.  Motorbikes are the most common form of transportation.  Buses have a considerably more difficult time getting through.

Bologna "Night Club"

This nightclub is not exactly a “nightclub” — let’s just say that some friends of mine found that out the hard way.

Sexy Street Bologna

I loved living around the corner from Sexy Sexy Sexy Street!  (There is also an excellent and very well-priced restaurant down the street from this sign — Osteria dell’Orsa.)

Bologna at Golden Hour

There’s so much life and humanity in Bologna — yet very few of those humans are tourists.  I’m a bit conflicted about telling you about this, because I’d love to keep Bologna to myself and the few people in the know, but you would love it so much.  I mean that.  Get to Bologna before everyone else does.

Planning a Trip to Italy:

Cool Places in Southern Italy:

Cool Places in Sicily:

Cool Places in Northern Italy:

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22 thoughts on “Bologna la Rossa — Scenes from a Red City”

  1. I know what you mean about the conflict between raving about a place and keeping it your own secret! it’s the same with Colombia, there are so many untouched gems and Colombia is an amazing country with very friendly people that I’m torn about how I should go it about to maintain the right balance!

  2. May have to add Bologna to our Italy itinerary! I can empathise with the inne conflict about not wanting to share a hidden gem, but we all thank you for it 🙂

  3. I love the red. You can almost feel the city pulsing with life through the photos! Having not long returned from Sorrento, I was kind of feeling like Italy should go on the back burner for a while, but Bologna just looks amazing. Thanks for showing us your Italian secret!

  4. I loved reading this! I am going to Bologna next summer for 8 weeks and this is just getting me even more excited!!

  5. your photos are beautiful! I will have to add Bologna to my list for the trip I’m planning next year to Italy – I’d love to see it before it is swarming with people 🙂

  6. These pictures are lovely just like you. You gave life to your photos and it look so nice. If I will have the chance to visit Bologna I will definitely check out the places that you have been to, specially the statue of Neptune.
    Do you happen to know if there are bicycles for rent that we can be able to use for the entire vacation?

      1. Thank you so much in advance, Kate. I might also be checking it myself over the net. Since you have experienced and traveled Bologna la Rossa, can you recommend a cheap but nice hotel?

  7. I’m so pleased that I’ve found your blog. Gorgeous pictures and I don’t know why ” nymphs’ nipples” is making me chuckle so much, but it really is!

  8. Stellar photos Kate! Bologna La Rossa is stunning, and I love the red hues abound. Red is my favorite color so I’ll have to explore this city at some point. And what amazing architecture as well.

  9. Oh I have to figure out how to use the cloudy mode on my camera. It makes such a difference. I am a big fan of Italy and I have been to many places in Italy. I never get tired of this country!

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