Fountain of Neptune - This fountain was created by Giambologna in 1566 and is located in Piazza Maggiore. You might see people standing and looking at the statue from behind…get a local to show you the optical illusion.
Arches under Palazzo Re Enzo – In the archway under Palazzo Re Enzo there is a lovely surprise. If you stand with a friend in opposite corners facing the wall, your voice will be carried over to the other person.
San Petronio Basilica – Named after Bologna’s patron saint, San Petronio was originally planned to be the largest church in Italy…until Pope Pius IV found out about it and quickly built several buildings immediately surrounding San Petronio, successfully blocking any further expansions of the church. (You can still see the rough edges on either side where construction stopped.)
Archiginnasio – Built in 1563 by commission of Pope Pius IV, with its arched courtyard and ornate decoration, it is possibly one of the most beautiful buildings in Bologna. It was previously the main building of the University of Bologna which was founded in 1088 and is the oldest continuously running university in the western world. The University also gave the city of Bologna the nickname “La Dotta” or The Learned. The Anatomical Theater, located inside the Archiginnasio, is a lecture hall built and ornately decorated in wood. It was used by the University’s medical school to teach the human anatomy to students by operating on cadavers. The Archiginnasio is also home to the largest library in Emilia Romagna region.
Santa Maria della Vita – In the back right of this small church are the six extraordinarily dynamic, life-sized terra cotta statues that depict the scene of the Death of Christ (Compianto sul Cristo Morto) by Niccolò del Arca made in 1462.
Quadrilatero – This charming neighborhood is full of food markets where you can find any of the many local and regional specialties: Mortadella, Tortellini, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Balsamic vinegar from Modena, Prosciutto di Parma, as well as fresh fruits, vegetables and fish. There are plenty of bars and small restaurants to grab something to eat as well. Because of its rich culinary offerings, one of Bologna’s nicknames is “La Grassa” (The Fat One).
Museo di Bologna – The Museum of Bologna tells the history of the city in an interactive and modern setting within the historic Palazzo Pepoli.
Santo Stefano – Known in Bologna as the “Sette Chiese”, Santo Stefano is a complex of seven churches/religious structures from different eras and styles, all built on one site.
Le Due Torri (the two towers) – Bologna was once a city full of towers (100 plus!) that have since been destroyed. The Asinelli and Garisenda towers, built at the beginning of the 1100’s, are the most famous towers that remain. Climb up the 498 stairs of the Asinelli tower to get an amazing view of the city. Local superstition says that students of the University of Bologna who climb the tower during their studies will not graduate, so many wait until after graduation before ever climbing to the top.
La Pinacoteca - The National Art Gallery of Bologna is home to a wide range of paintings from the 13th to the 18th century, including works of art by Raphael, Perugino, Titian, Tintoretto, Giotto, Parmigianino, Guido Reni, and the Carracci brothers.
"Little Venice" - On via Piella you will find a small window that reveals one of the few above-ground canals that runs through the city. There are a series of other canals, all underground, that you can explore with a guide on foot or by raft.
Mambo - The Modern Art Museum of Bologna has a wonderful collection of works by Italian artists from after WWII to present. I highly recommend visiting the special gallery dedicated to my favorite Bolognese painter, Giorgio Morandi. Mambo is also home to a lovely bookshop and bar.
Cineteca – One of the most important in all of Europe, the Cineteca has an enormous archive of films which they restore and show to the public at the Cinema Lumière, or during the summer months under the stars in Piazza Maggiore.
San Luca - If you're looking for a little extra exercise (rain or shine), you can take a walk uphill to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (or Basilica di San Luca) under the “portici”, the covered arcade that consists of 666 arches. From the top of the hill, which is located southwest of the city center, you can enjoy another lovely view of Bologna and will understand why the last of the city’s nicknames is “La Rossa” (literally, The Red One) because of the abundant use of terra cotta in the construction of the buildings and rooftops (…but also for the city’s communist leaning past).
È Leopardi Cucina di Cesare Maretti – A delicious, creative meal made with fresh ingredients at an excellent price. The menu changes daily, but always offers fish, meat and vegetarian options. (Only 10 euros for antipasto + primo + dessert + wine + coffee + water!)
Pasta Naldi - Fresh pasta made by three generations of women from the Naldi family. No indoor seating, but if you order take-out you can head to the nearest Piazza (San Francesco) or use the tables and benches of neighboring bars along via Pratello as long as you order a drink from them!
SfogliaRina - Fresh pasta dishes served in a charming, casual setting right in the city center. Their tortelloni are delicious!
PizzArtist - Casual take-out pizza by the slice. They offer a very well curated variety of fresh toppings and combinations that you won't find in the average pizzeria. Try a slice with zucchini, fior di latte and anchovies or broccoli rabe and sausage if you're feeling more adventurous, otherwise a more classic option is bufala, tomato and olives .
Terzi - Best coffee in Bologna hands down. They offer a variety of single origin coffees from around the world, and will sprinkle your cappuccino or caffé macchiato with freshly grated chocolate, served in a gold rimmed cup. They also offer a wide variety of teas and fresh squeezed juices.
Fram Cafè – A cute vegetarian café open all day with strong wifi and alternative milks (almond, soy, rice) otherwise hard to find in Italy.
Casa Minghetti – Super chic bar in the city center. Secure a spot at the bar to people watch as Bologna’s businessmen (and women) have their daily espressos. If it’s nice out, take your coffee outside and enjoy the view of the elegant Piazza Minghetti.
In my opinion, these three gelaterie tie for the absolute best gelato in Bologna. They each have amazing fresh fruit flavors (and granitas, too!), rich cream and chocolate flavors, as well as interesting flavor inventions of their own!
Cremeria Funivia - My favorite is yoghurt and raspberry, but you cannot go wrong with any of the flavors here. A plus about the Cremeria Funivia is that it is located in front of a little park with benches where you can take your gelato to eat.
Galliera Quarantanove Bottega Gelateria - Exceptional fresh fruit (or almond) granitas and gelato.
Gelatauro - Offers a variety of more creative flavor offerings like brownie, ginger and pear, or spicy dark chocolate, along with classics like fior di latte, cream, chocolate chip and seasonal, fresh fruit flavors.
Osteria del Sole - The oldest Osteria in Bologna dating back to 1465. Here you can bring your own snacks or cured meats from nearby Salumerie for an aperitivo to enjoy with a glass or bottle of your choice from the wide selection of wines (and beers) offered by the Osteria. Keep in mind that it closes on the early side, around 9:30/10:00pm and is very popular with the locals. Large groups should reserve a table.
Fermento – A charming and down-to-earth bar with a well cared for selection of food and wines at very reasonable prices. It is located just outside the city center in the neighborhood near the train station called La Bolognina. Fermento is my go-to place with friends for excellent cocktails, artisanal beers, meat and cheese plates and focaccias.
Senza Nome - The first bar in Italy completely run by deaf individuals, the bar Senza Nome is a wonderful place to get an aperitivo that successfully integrates the hearing and non-hearing communities. Try ordering your drink by using Italian Sign Language (diagrams are featured on the wall for beginners), by writing down your order or using the printed out pieces of paper to hand to the barista, or by having your lips read.
Mercato delle Erbe - Food market during the day, restaurant and bar area by night. Here you can grab food & drinks in the market from a variety of stands and vendors.
Camera a Sud - A lovely place to grab a drink in the city center before (or after) dinner because of its creative and comfy atmosphere.
Vagh in Ufezzi – Typical home cooked Bolognese meals that vary from day to day, in a home-y, casual setting and very inexpensive prices. It’s a good idea to reserve a table ahead of time as this place is quite small and very appreciated by the locals for its price/quality ratio.
Vasinikò – Really good Neapoletan style pizzeria in downtown Bologna. A plus to Vasinikò is that the restaurant is giant and you can almost always find a table (even on a busy Saturday night)!
Drogheria della Rosa – Higher-end trattoria with excellent food and service in a lovely ambiance. This refined Bolognese restaurant located in an ex-pharmacy is delicious, charming and totally worth it…and you might even get a rose from the owner at the end of your meal.
Osteria Le Sette Chiese – You can’t come to Bologna and NOT try the crescentine (salty fried dough) or the tigelle (compact round bread) served with the typical array of cured meats and cheeses! Although you can find these at many restaurants throughout Bologna, I would recommend the rustic and intimate setting of this tiny osteria near Piazza Santo Stefano.
Ristorante Africano - If you are in the mood for something different, the African Restaurant is a great place to try some new flavors. The staff is very friendly and the food - ranging from Moroccan to Ethiopian - is abundant and delicious. I highly recommend trying the Zighnì.
Bottega degli Oleari - Stylish clothing and accessories for both men and women.
C. Leather Goods - Make sure to stop by and say hi when you’re in Bologna. Take home some handmade gifts in Italian leather as souvenirs for yourself and your loved ones! Send an email to set up an appointment.
Cavallo Spose - This beautiful atelier is located right in the city center. Climb up to the third floor to see the stunning creations of Lorella Cavallo as well as selection of accessories by C. Leather Goods and Liceo Modisteria. While you're there you can admire the beauty of this historic building and enjoy a wonderful view of the towers!!
Drogheria dalla Pioggia - A quintessential old-school Italian drug-store that is chock full with items ranging from beautifully packaged candies to house-cleaning products.
Mariromei Legatoria - Creative space filled with handcrafted jewelry, stationary, scarves and other unique items.
Hotel Baalbek – Charming little boutique filled with handcrafted treasures from around the world.
ONO - Art gallery, bar, art bookshop, and vinyl record store all-in-one.
Fabrica Features – Fun and creative design objects for you and your home.
All'egra - A colorful clothing store for women with a focus on brands Made in Italy.
Strega Thé - Extensive selection of teas in every possible combination of aromas & variety.
Bologna Airport - (BLQ) Aeroporto Guglielmo Marconi di Bologna.
Bus Shuttle – BLQ Bus to/from airport and train station costs 6 euros. Service starts at 5:30am and ends at 12:30am. From 7:30am to 9:30pm the bus runs every 11 minutes.
Train Station - Bologna Centrale with Trenitalia or Italo Trains.
Bus - ATC 1.50 euros/ticket if you buy with exact change on the bus (Red ticket dispensers). 1.30 euros/ticket if you buy an individual ticket at a Tabaccheria (insert it into the gray & yellow ticket machines on the bus). Or buy the City Pass in a Tabaccheria which costs 12 euros for 10 rides (always remember to pass your ticket in the gray ticket machine). One ticket is valid for 75 minutes from the time you insert it into the ticket machine!
Car - Take the exit for Bologna from the A1 or A14. The city center is mostly closed off to cars “Zona Traffico Limitato-or- ZTL” (unless you’re a taxi, bus, or resident of that area). It is recommended to park outside the city center or find a reasonably priced parking garage nearby. If parking on the street, please take note of the color of the lines: White lines mean parking for residents only, blue lines mean anyone can park there (make sure to see if there is an hourly fee to pay), and yellow lines mean NO parking (either Handicap parking or Bus stops).
Bike - Bologna is a fairly biker friendly city with bike paths around the city center. Visitors can rent bikes from the Dynamo Velostazione, among others. Make sure you have a solid lock and always park it on a visible public bike rack.
Foot - Bologna is a great walking city. You can walk from one side to the other in just about 45 minutes! The city is covered in almost 40 kilometers of porticoes, so even when it’s raining you can enjoy the city and stay dry!
Roberto "Freak" Antoni - Bolognese writer, singer, performance artist, actor, and poet. Known best for singing in the comical music group the Skiantos. Book recommendation: Non c'è gusto in Italia ad essere intelligenti (seguirà il dibattito).
Umberto Eco – Italian writer, philosopher and semiotician. He lived and taught as a Professor in Bologna and cofounded the University of Bologna’s department “D.A.M.S.” - Discipline delle Arti, della Musica e dello Spettacolo (Department of the Arts, Music and Theatre). Book recommendation: The Name of the Rose.
Pier Paolo Pasolini – Bolognese born poet, author, journalist, screenwriter, playwright, director and actor. He lived in Bologna for his time at the high school “Liceo Galvani” and graduated from the University of Bologna’s Department of Literature. Book recommendation: Ragazzi di Vita.
To see the bag named after Bologna click here!