Don't get me wrong, I love Florence (Firenze), and I have been there many times. But if you are traveling around Italy, especially from Rome to Venice via high speed rail, then I strongly recommend stopping in Bologna instead. The food and fashion are great in Florence, but it is overrun with tourists. Bologna is the gastronomic capital of Italy. It is not just famous for the sauce, which is nothing like what you find anywhere else, but this is where you will see all kinds of stuffed pastas: tortellini, tortelloni, ravioli, and lasagne. Bolognese is typically very dry, with only a hint of tomato. And the only 2 meats, ground pork and beef, provide the richness.
Take a stroll around the old town by the 2 towers. There are tons of salumerie (delicatessens), produce stands, and bakeries. Head into Paolo Atti & Figli and feast your eyes on the gorgeous heaps of tortellini and freshly baked breads at this 1880 family run gourmet shop.
There are so many quaint little restaurants under porticos, characteristic of the old, earth-toned buildings around Bologna, and in tight little alleys in the old town. Take a leisurely lunch with the locals at http://Ristorante Teresina.
This is a city to meander around and get lost in. With canals like this, you would think you were in Venice. Bologna also has one of the oldest universities in Europe. And as such, you will find many hip shops and lively bars around town. In the summer, catch a classic film in the open air square by the cathedral while sipping on cocktails to beat the heat.
Where to Stay
This Cute studio with terrace in center is one of the best AirBnB properties I have ever stayed in. Lucia, the host, goes out of her way to make your stay like home. The kitchen comes fully-equipped for cooking and just down the street is a mini supermarket, if you are inclined to make your own meals in a city with an overabundance of high-quality restaurants. But even if you desire to make a snack to enjoy on the terrace, the fridge and cupboards are already meticulously stocked with provisions.