A Delicious Exploration of Bologna, Italy and the Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni

All photos courtesy of Due Torri Hotels

When most think of Italy, they will think of its gleaming cities of Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice. Others may dream of visiting its major attractions like the leaning tower of Pisa, marveling at the Sistine Chapel or perhaps a few days in the Mediterranean Sea in Capri or on the Amalfi Coast. It has been said that one can take their entire life to visit all of Italy’s special sites and not see them all.  Although it should be, Bologna is one of Italy’s special treasures that is often not at the top of most traveler “must do that” list.  The urban explorer will love a few days exploring the city’s wonderful art treasures and monuments, taking in the vibrancy of the city as well as its exceptional culinary traditions. While in Bologna, the place where worldly traveler often chooses is the city’s most regal and storied hotel, the Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni.

Staying at the Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni is akin to a stay in one of Italy’s finest palazzos. The Venetian décor and Italian opulence surround while walking through marble-floored hallways with master oil portraits on either side and Murano crystal chandeliers above. The artwork alone is enough to keep one mesmerized for hours with priceless statues, paintings and intriguing objects d’art at every turn. Beyond that, the frescos are some of the finest in Italy with masterworks create by the Carracci brothers in the 15th century. Guests would be remiss not to spend a few hours marveling at the fine collection of the works that abound in the hotel. 

The estate was originally built as a monastery in the 15th century and the repurposed in the 18th century as a papal palace.  The property opened as a hotel in 1912 and remains the only five-star luxury hotel in the Emilia Romagna region. The opulence and bespoke services make it a favorite place to stay for visiting dignitaries as well as celebrities such as Lady Diana and Prince Albert of Monaco, Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, Sean Connery, and Woody Allen. 

But the location’s history dates well before the current building was constructed and, in fact, it is erected on the stretch of road built by the Romans in 187 BC. The road and the tracts from those Roman chariots of millennia past can be seen in a display area in the hotel's basement.  

The hotel’s 109 accommodations are exquisitely furnished and range from spacious to dignitary size with all the mod cons expected of a grand five-star hotel. The Venetian style, décor and details are what make give these accommodations their magnificence with priceless original antiques, eighteenth-century paintings, walls covered in soft silk, four-poster beds, brocade drapery and Murano crystal chandeliers.  

You’ll also find one of the most luxurious suites in all of Bologna in the Art Deco Terrace Suite. The suite is quite large at 700 sq. ft. with two bedrooms a large living room, bar, and fireplace. The suite features authentic Art Deco décor of lacquered black and silver-grey colors with retro furnishings fit for stay from Gretta Garbo.  The centerpiece of the suite is the outdoor terrace with unobstructed views over the city other than the statues of saints adorning the baroque roof of the neighboring cathedral. This is really a 750 sq. ft. outdoor living space perfect for entertaining, cocktails or aperitifs with gazebo style sitting area, comfortable outdoor furnishings and of course that marvelous view of the Bologna cityscape.  

The culinary tradition of the Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni is internationally renowned and boasts a plate full of accolades and awards such as the Michelin Guide 'Three Forks' recognition for their Carracci restaurant. Beyond marveling at each gourmet offering of Rustico Emilia-Romagna cuisine, the restaurant is literally a work of art itself with the priceless 16th-century frescos that adorn the ceiling by the revered masters and the restaurant’s namesake, the Carracci brothers.  

The hotel has other noteworthy places for dining or to bend the elbow. Hotel guests, as well as the Bologna’s upper crust, gather for cocktails or prosecco with a serving of live piano music in the retro-styled Café Marinetti. It’s a lovely way to do pre-dinner drinks should plans be to stay at the hotel or venture off.  

There is also a lovely 19th-century winter garden which is a natural light flooded atrium with hand-painted murals of scenes featuring that era’s life of the privileged class. Under the room’s stained-glass dome is the ideal place to start the day with their elaborate smorgasbord breakfast of International and local delicacies. 

Beyond the hotel, there are endless places for a bite within a short stroll of the hotel. Bologna is ground zero of Italy’s epicurean scene as well as a great place to try out the region’s unique wines such as their sparkling red Lambrusco and sparkling white Pignoletto. Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna region is a gastronomic playground with exquisite cheeses, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and charcuteries with mixed cuts of pork, and when in season, any dish with fresh porcini mushrooms.  One thing that every guest to Italy must indulge in is the apertivo. This is a tradition as important as coffee with a glass of wine or Campari spritz in a refined happy hour Italian style, with accompanying charcuteries of ham, and olives and of course bologna and Parma cheese. 

The hotel is literally in the middle of it all and located on the city’s most famous street and the Rodeo Drive of Bologna, Via Indepenzia. Just beyond the hotel’s door is an avenue of high-end shops and boutiques of every ilk. From the top designer names to local Italian designers, the best shopping in the region is just beyond the hotel door. 

Two of the cities most famed attractions are just a few steps from the hotel as well. The Piazza Maggiore is the city’s largest medieval square surrounded by centuries-old state buildings, museums and churches. In the center of the square is the Fountain of Neptune, an imposing sculpture where at any time of day the selfie-obsessed can be seen securing a new addition to their collection. The charming old town that leads to and away from the square has an endless maze of winding cobblestone streets with shops, bars, eateries and cool little places to check out. 

Directly across the street from the hotel is, of course, the Cattedrale di San Pietro. This 15th-century cathedral is one of the region’s most esteemed with a Baroque interior of extravagant statues, magnificent stained-glass, and more glorious frescos.  

The problem with traveling to Italy is that there are so many options of destinations from which to choose. A visit to Bologna is definitely a worthwhile choice when deciding where to spend your holidays. An even better one is to stay in the opulence of one of Europe’s finest hotels which is the Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni.

Glenn Harris

Glenn Harris is an accomplished journalist focusing on international travel, fine dining, and luxury lifestyle events. His wanderlust has taken him to over 100 countries where he is constantly straying off the beaten path uncovering new and exotic finds. He particularly enjoys seeking out lesser known travel gems and places to stay, dine, or experiences to capture. ...(Read More)

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