A one-club city, Bologna has celebrated more titles than Rome, Florence or Naples – although most of these successes were pre-war. The last came in 1964, a play-off win over Inter, crowned European champions a few days before.
This flagship club, Bologna FC, represent one of Italy’s most convivial cities.
The club was founded in 1909 by the Bologna Tourist Circle at a bar belonging to the local Ronzani beer company, at what was via Spaderie, near via Rizzoli and Orefici. Neither bar nor street exist today.
Then as now, the city of Bologna was an international seat of learning, home to Europe’s oldest university. Key to the local development of the game was Bohemian Emilio Arnstein, who had already founded Black Star FC in Trieste, and Swiss dentist Louis Rauch. Both would serve the burgeoning club on and off the pitch.
At that time, foreign and domestic students would meet to play pick-up games at the Prati di Caprara park west of town. Among their numbers was Antonio Bernabéu, brother of Santiago who would later transform Real Madrid.
It was Arnstein who convinced the students, many of them members of local Spanish and Swiss Colleges, to play an organised game, wearing the red-and-blue shirts of the Swiss one. Thus the management of Bologna FC was taken from the hands of the local administrators who had originally met at the Ronzani.
In 1913 Bologna moved to the legendary Stadio Sterlino, on what was via Toscana (now via Murri) south-east of town. Rebuilt after World War I, the Sterlino was where the club took on Italy’s best and rarely lost. Foreign influence was maintained when Austrian coach Hermann Felsner arrived, answering an ad placed by Bologna in the Viennese press.
Playing a Danubian style and starring later World Cup hero Angelo Schiavio, Bologna won two titles in the 1920s. With a new stadium, the Littoriale (later Dall’Ara), built in 1927, Bologna had not only moved back to the west of town but the city became a European football hub. While the club won two Mitropa Cups, the stadium hosted several internationals, including two games for the 1934 World Cup.
Under Hungarian coach Árpád Weisz, Bologna became Italy’s top club in the immediate run-up to the war, before Weisz was murdered in Auschwitz.
Bologna were still a big name after the war, rarely out of the top ten in Serie A. Although the club later slipped down to Serie B, even Serie C, the importance of the city and stadium to the Italian game were recognised when Bologna was chosen as a 1990 World Cup venue. This was where David Platt scored his famous last-minute goal against Belgium.
Despite a lack of success since – Bologna missed out on a UEFA Cup Final place on away goals in 1999 – the club retains its renown, its stadium a living remnant of bygone days.
The same company runs city buses (€1.30 single from tabacchi/€1.50 on board, €5 giornaliero day pass). The Marconi Express monorail should be in place by 2019, providing a direct 7.5min journey to town.
A taxi (+039 051 372727) to the station should cost €15 plus baggage, €18 at night.
Bologna Welcome has a room-booking service.
Slightly further towards town, the four-star NH Bologna De La Gare offers a late check-out on Sundays while round the corner on via dell’Indipendenza, Hotel Internazionale shows matches on a big screen in its cocktail bar. On the same street,the Grand Hotel Majestic Già Baglioni, a converted palace, lives up to its billing, and Tre Vecchi feels like old-school Italy. In the same local Zan Hotel group, Il Canale on via Bertiera is more basic and affordable. Alongside, the Paradise Bologna is in similar vein.
On via Galliera, the Atlantic offers comfortable three-star rooms.
By the stadium at via Porrettana 31, the B&B Meloncello is a smart, studio apartment more suited to culture seekers than football fans.
Football-focused Celtic Druid sits on via Caduti di Cefalonia in the heart of town.
There’s another pub hub between the Basilica and the western edge of the city centre. On via del Pratello, the Birreria del Pratello overflows with Steins of classic German brews while Mutenye is a bohemian bar with TV matches scheduled and followed.
On the other side of the station where via Serlio meets via Raimondi, the Black Fire Pub shows pay-TV games in HD.
Finally, opposite the station, AB is a simple bar that also sells BFC souvenirs, an ideal pitstop for a welcome or farewell beer.