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Bologna Travel Guide: What to See and Do in Bologna

July 16, 2024 11 min read.

History of Bologna

The city of Bologna is located in northern Italy and is the current capital of the homonymous region. In its beginnings, it was founded by the Tyrrhenians under the name of Felsina and after the Roman invasion, it was modified to what we know today.

Bologna has approximately 400,000 inhabitants and covers an area of ​​180 km2. It is said that its buildings are among the best preserved since the time of the Roman Empire, as well as you will be able to observe in this city multiple sites of interest that date from the Renaissance.

Although its popularity is not that great, all this makes Bologna one of Europe's cities with great cultural importance.

Location of Bologna in Italy

Map of Bologna on Google Maps

Bologna: the Highlights

Bologna is known for having the second most important historical center of the Middle Ages in all of Europe. Its buildings are among the best preserved in the Roman Empire and its multiple centers of interest date from the Renaissance.

Geographically, Bologna is characterized by being located on the Padana plain located on the slopes of the Apennine hill and by having a continental climate, that is, with hot and dry summers and very cold winters.

The cultural richness of Bologna is vast because throughout history it was a political, commercial, and cultural center, so if you are a lover of history and art this city is for you.

Main Attractions of Bologna in Italy

Nettuno Fountain

It is a fountain in honor of the Greek god that dates back to the 16th century. This beautiful fountain meets a scene where you will also see mermaids and sea creatures.

Piazza Maggiore

It is the center square of the city, as the main cultural buildings are located there, such as the Banchi Palace, the Bologna Town Hall, and the Basilica of San Petronio. It was built in the 13th century and its layout is geometrically perfect.

Basilica of San Petronio

It is the sixth-largest church in Europe! A curious fact, it was not finished being built. Why? Well, Pope Pius IV did not want it to be bigger than Saint Peter herself. If you are interested in this type of building, we recommend you visit the Basilica of San Stefano, nearby, the church of San Domenico and the church of San Francesco.

Garisenda Tower

Bologna is famous for its tall towers with beautiful panoramic views. This tower is one of the most visited by tourists in the city. In this case, it is 97 meters high and is nicknamed the red tower.

Sanctuary of San Luca

It is a church on the outskirts of the city, at the top of the hill. It is impressive not only because of the landscape around it that contrasts with the construction but also because of the arches inside (666 in total). It is possible to reach the sanctuary by bus, taxi, car, or tourist tour.

Another very interesting attractions are the Via Pescherie Vecchie Market, where you will find local and fresh food. If you have time, you can visit the Bologna Civic Archaeological Museum, the Medieval Civic Museum, the Bologna Museum of Modern Art, or the Museo Della Storia di Bologna.

Photo by Petr Slováček on Unsplash

You can take into account these tour packages to Bologna:

Bologna: The Center of Culture

Since Roman times, Bologna has been a cultural city that has been the epicenter of many historical and social events, as it was one of the main centers of the Via Emilia, a Roman road that connects several cities in the Emilia region.

Although during the last part of the Middle Ages it suffered a decline, it quickly recovered, and, during the Renaissance, it once again established itself as one of the apexes of culture, politics and commerce.

One of the main exponents of Bologna's prestige is its university, founded in the year 1088, which continues to develop its activities to this day.

How Is the Culture in Bologna

Traditional Bologna Food and Drink

Bologna is an excellent destination for lovers of good food, as this beautiful Italian city has a traditional cuisine dedicated to pasta and sausages.

One of the typical dishes that you cannot stop trying if you decide to visit Bologna is the famous pasta with Bolognese sauce, which receives its name from this region, its birthplace.

Another unmissable dish is Lasagna, stuffed with meat or vegetables. The preparation of this delicacy in this city stands out because in almost all restaurants it is made by hand and the result is a tender dough with delicious fillings that melts in your mouth.

As for drinks, it is an implicit law to accompany your pasta with a good wine and the offer in this city is exquisite.

And if at sunset you feel like an aperitif instead of a full meal, accompany it with a Spritz, one of the most fashionable drinks.

As for dessert, try an Italian artisan ice cream, it will become your favorite.

Bologna: the Red City

One of the first things that catch your eye when you arrive in Bologna is the red color that invades the entire scene. This is because most of the roofs and facades of the buildings in the city have kept this typical color since the Middle Ages, which is why this city is often called "The Red City".

In turn, this nickname is also attributed to the fact that Bologna functioned as one of the main headquarters of the Italian Communist Party, which dissolved in 1991.

Either for the wonderful reddish postcard or for the rich history it offers, Bologna “the red” will leave you stunned.

Top Places of Interest in Bologna

Bologna is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy and a great destination for lovers of architecture, history, and art. Here we tell you about some of the places that you cannot miss in the red city:

  1. Fountain of Nettuno. A fountain in honor of the Greek god dating from the 16th century. This beautiful fountain meets a scene where you will also see mermaids and sea creatures.
  2. Piazza Maggiore. It is the heart of the city and in it are the main cultural buildings, such as the Banchi Palace, the Bologna City Hall or the Basilica of San Petronio.
  3. Basilica of San Petronio. It is the sixth largest church in Europe and was not completed by order of Pope Pius IV, who did not want the basilica to be bigger than Saint Peter himself.
  4. Garisenda Tower. A tower famous for its beautiful panoramic views.
  5. Sanctuary of San Luca. A church on the outskirts of the city, on top of a hill, which has 666 arches inside.

Go Shopping in Bologna

If you are thinking of traveling to Bologna and would like to bring a gift, you should know that in this beautiful city, around the main square, it is possible to find several old shops that have been perfectly maintained to this day and share the space with the newer premises.

This is why shopping in Bologna is undoubtedly a very entertaining experience, since its commercial sector is extremely picturesque. Some of the most elegant items you will find are the garments, which are sold in these highly decorated houses. And if you have something in mind that delights the taste more than the sight, in its markets you will find the most delicious food products.

The Idiosyncrasy of Bologna

If you are considering traveling to Bologna, you should know that this is a very welcoming city with travelers and the friendliness of its people is the order of the day.

You may notice that, as in much of Italy, people not only speak with their words but also express themselves by making gestures with their hands at the same time. The reason for this expressive gestural language is explained from different theories.

While some argue that this non-verbal communication developed during the centuries in which Italy lived under the foreign occupation of Austria, France and Spain, as a way of communicating with each other without sharing information with the occupiers, others consider that this custom It began when merchants had to carry out their transactions with speakers of these languages.

In any case, the result is a series of signs that represent much of the Italian cultural heritage itself.

Some gestures you should know are:

  1. Two open hands ask a question, "What's wrong?"
  2. The index finger twisted on the cheek means that something is delicious and you will make the cook very happy if you do it.
  3. If when asking if there is a product, your interlocutor forms a kind of "L" with the index finger and thumb, and rotates the wrist, he is indicating that there is none or there is nothing left.

So now you know, if you travel to Bologna and you're worried about your level of understanding of Italian, relax, because all you have to do is look at their hands!

Visit Bologna

Bologna's high season is from April to October, so we recommend that you take these months into account if you want to enjoy a hot climate. If you are one of those who suffocate quickly, we recommend you, if possible, travel in spring and thus save yourself from the most intense heat.

Arrive to Bologna

There are different ways to travel to Bologna, Italy, as it is a city highly connected with the rest of the country and the European continent.

  1. You can get to Bologna by plane: its closest airport, specifically 6 km away, is the Guglielmo Marconi International Airport, which receives national and international flights. From there you can take taxis, public buses, transfer or hire a private transfer service. You can also choose to travel to Forli Airport, although the latter is located 70 km from the center.
  2. You can get to Bologna by train: Bologna is part of the main railway networks in Italy and even the high-speed train line reaches the city.

If you are in Milan, you can consider this last option, which will only take you an hour to travel.

  1. You can get to Bologna by car: as with the railway lines, Bologna is at the hub of Italy's major motorways (A1, A13, and A14).

Getting Around in Bologna

Being an interconnection site in the country, Bologna has different types of transport. If you are on foot, you can take buses, the metro, or the train or even use a bicycle (which you can rent at multiple points).

Bologna's public transport system is called TPER (for its acronym Transport Passeggeri Emilia Romagna) and you can consider buying the City Pass for 10 trips or 24 hours (unlimited, in the latter case) if you spend more than one day in the city.

What to Eat and Drink in Bologna

Bologna is a city with an exquisite gastronomic offer since its traditional cuisine is one of the jewels of its symbolic heritage. Specializing mainly in pasta and sausages, Bologna will not disappoint you when it comes to eating.

Some of the recipes that we recommend you try are: the typical Bolognese mortadella, which you will find in various flavors, including the most popular: pistachio; Tortellini, a homemade pasta that is usually prepared at the moment and is delicious, and, of course, the typical pasta with Bolognese sauce, to see how different the one eaten around the world is from the original recipe. .

To accompany your dishes, ask whoever serves you to recommend one of the house wines, so you will maximize your experience.

And for dessert, you can't miss the typical Italian ice cream; the only problem with this dessert is that we can't recommend a flavor, because they are all delicious!

What to See and Do in Bologna

Bologna is a city with great charm that owes a great deal to the conservation of medieval buildings and their red facades that stain its landscape in reddish and orange tones.

In addition, due to its proximity to Rome and Venice, many tourists choose to combine these destinations with their trip to Bologna.

Would you like to meet the most important historical buildings? Do you want to enjoy the best gastronomy? Do you wish to see the most beautiful red roofs?  Then, reserve your excursion around Bologna.

You also have day tours of the sites of interest in Bologna. Do not wait any longer to book your excursions through the beautiful red city!

How much does it cost to eat in Bologna?

This will depend on the type of trip you want to make, as you will find very accessible places and luxury restaurants that are not cheap. So that you have an estimated idea, a meal in a cheap restaurant is around 16 Euros.

Which month is the cheapest to travel to Bologna?

December is the cheapest month to fly to Bologna. During this month the accommodation costs are lower.

What is the best time to travel to Bologna?

We recommend that you visit Bologna between the months of May and October when the days are long and you can enjoy the sun and warm temperatures. If you are one of those who suffocate quickly then choose spring for your visit to Bologna.

What are the requirements to visit Bologna?

You must have a 6-month passport to enter any part of Italy, a round-trip plane ticket, and your reservation in some accommodation or a letter from the person who is hosting you.

What do the Italian cruises include?

The cruises include the entrance ticket, snacks and drinks. Each case is different, so you should check this beforehand.

How long does an Italian cruise take?

This will depend on the number of destinations included in the cruise and nights chosen.

Are the tours in Bologna in English?

Yes! The tours hired from Greca can be in English or Spanish. Check with your travel agent.

Private transfer in Bologna

From Greca we can assign you a private transfer so that you can enjoy your visit to Bologna comfortably and safely.

Availability of excursions in Bologna

With Greca we make sure that you have availability of excursions in all destinations. Best of all, you won't have to wait to buy your tickets or stand in long lines for each attraction!

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