I was so lucky because I had an opportunity to spend 4 nice months in Bologna, Italy which was really quite fun. Actually, those 4 months changed me more than I want to admit. Well, one thing which I can say is that I will never feel the same about food again. So those are my tips of what to do in a beautiful city Bologna in Italy.
The first tip, which a local person gave me if you walk by the street and you see a nice yard or corridor which you can enter then do it, you will be surprised.
1. The towers of Bologna
Those towers are impossible not to notice in Bologna. By the way, Pisa is not the only city which has a leaning tower. Bologna has even two leaning towers and they are even taller. Bologna actually has several towers, but those two examples standing in the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana are the most known. Actually, once Bologna was known for towers and the whole city was built from the tower which even had wooden bridges to cross the towers. Asinelli and Garisenda are two towers that stand next to each other and they are named after important Italian families. Italian have a saying that if you are a student and you cross those towels you will not graduate. So be careful if you are still a student.
2. Piazza Maggiore
This was my totally favourite place to chill. Just take a pizza Margaretta or a book and enjoy the sunny day. Piazza Maggiore is the central square in Bologna, the Piazza Maggiore is located right in the centre of the city. This square is near important city’s buildings including the Pallazo d’Accursio, the Palazzo del Podesta, Palazzo Comunale and the most important the Basilica di San Petronio. Also to the north-west of the square is the iconic Piazza del Nettuno. You will love the wonderful vibe and atmosphere here, at the Piazza and even sometimes open-air movies and concerts are sometimes held here. What I also like is that this is a space where gather most of the city’s artists.
3. San Petronio church
When I saw this church for the first I actually said “Wow”, the beauty really shocked me. This immense structure stands as the 10th largest church in the world by volume and presents a domineering presence in the centre of the Piazza Maggiore. The church has a Gothic design and unfinished front facade, the lower half features coloured marble stonework. Inside the church feels truly epic, you would never say that it is unfinished. The best part you can visit it for free.
So why it looks like this? As my city guide said, “churches never run out of money”, so that is not the reason. Although, at that time the pope was scared that this church will be bigger than the Vatican’s so the constructions were stopped.
4. The view from San Petronio
I can honestly say that this is the best place to see the whole Panorama of the city. It is the San Petronio church Terrace, which is behind the church and to go up it will cost only 3eur.
5. Pallazo d’Accursio
If you are in the Piazza Maggiore then definitely enter Pallazo d’Accursio it usually has nice exhibitions which change every month.
6. Piazza del Nettuno
I love this Neptune sculpture, just watch were the water comes from! Funny right?
If you meet any local then you will hear about 7 secrets of Bologna. It is hidden interesting places in the city, many blogs cover this topic so I will not write too much about it, you can read it here. The most popular hidden secret is Finestrella, also known as “the window to Venice”. The thing is that Bologna is built on canals which mostly are under the city (that’s why the weather usually is wet and foggy) and only one canal is open. Here in Bologna, you can find a hidden door to this canals. This is the address of Finestrella: Via Piella, 5, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy
8. Whispering corner
A whispering corner is also from 7 secrets of Bologna and it’s near the fountain of a Neptune. You can whisper something in one corner and the person who is in another corner can hear you. It is believed that souls are bringing the message or maybe it is just physics.
9. Basilica di Santo Stefano
Actually, I entered this church only after 3 months living in Bologna and I don’t know why, because this church is stunning and it has a free entrance! The highlight of this church is that it has 7 different styles of churches inside Santo Stefano church. Truly astonishing.
10. Santuario di Madonna di San Luca
Santuario di Madonna di San Luca is the highlight of the Bologna, a church on the hill in Bologna. Worth seeing not only for the church but because many people run to the hill as an exercise. Many pretty Italian guys and girls, but let’s talk more about the church. This is the main city’s church where all the celebration happens like Easter and Christmas.
Fun fact! You will definitely see that in the whole Bologna there are many arcs and some of them are numbered. The numbered ones are the road to the Santuario di Madonna di San Luca, but some numbers are skipped and the last number is 597, but that’s not a true number. The reason why they did that is that if they numbered all the arcs the true number would be 666.
Fun fact! well, it’s not so fun, but very let’s say Italian fact. This church has its own vegetable which is purple artichoke (in Italian carciofi). Why? During I believe 12 century Bologna was suffering from drought so townspeople prayed in Santuario di Madonna di San Luca. When they were coming home it started pouring rain and many purple artichokes started to grow. Also, this is one of the reasons why Bologna has so many arcs.
11. Wander under the arcs of Bologna
One reason why Bologna has so many arcs is because of rain, but the other reason in which I believe more is completely different. When the University of Bologna was built ( founded in 1088 ) many students came to the city, but there were not enough apartments. So the building’s owners built additional rooms for the students, which were actually like sleeping outside, but it was good for students and owners.
12. Visit Bologna’s library
If you live a digital nomads lifestyle then it is a great place to visit. Also, read my blog post about the places where you can calmly work and study remotely. Trust me it’s not easy to find those places in Italy. If you are a tourist or traveller enter this gorgeous library to admire the architecture, it is near the fountain of Neptune.
13. Visit Mercato Delle Erbe
This market is in the city centre near Piazza Maggiore. Here you will be surprised by the difference and the number of different products. You can taste different types of meat, cheese, wine, beer, pasta and many more. Also, if you find a bar which has a white door, definitely go inside. It is famous for having cheap wine and whatever you buy in the market you can eat it there. You can even bring food from home and eat it here. Usually, people who sit next to you even share their own food so totally visit it for the atmosphere.
Or you can also take a tasting tour in this the market and try all the most common foods in the Emilia- Romagna region.
14. Enjoy meat dish
North of Italy is popular for the meet and Bologna’s most famous meat is Mortodello. Extremely tasty thing, you can find a variety of meat dish in almost any restaurant and if you are already in Mercato Della Erbe you can easily enjoy it there.
15. Try Italian wine
Italian wine is famous for being amazing so skip driving a car in Italy and enjoy a glass of pure tastiness. One of the most famous wines in Bologna is Lambrusco and it is usually one of the cheapest wines.
16. Visit Fico Eataly World
If you are into food then visit Fico Eataly World. It is I believe the biggest food parks in the world. In just one place you can find out about the traditions, culture and craftsmanship that make Italian food one of the most famous in the world. Here you can go to lectures, classes about food, see the whole process of making specific products, participate in cooking classes and taste the food. See here everything that Fico can offer.
17. Try a cooking class in Bologna
Italians truly know how to make pasta and I believe the best souvenir from the trip is learning to cook a tasty meal and then make it to your family or friends. Check this pasta course and sign up!
18. Enjoy pasta dish
When I came to Bologna I had pasta every day and I am not regretting this. The pasta here is truly amazing and I recommend to try as many different types of pasta as possible.
Fun fact! Did you know that Spaghetti Bolognese in Italy actually doesn’t exist? It is made up recipe from other countries. Traditionally you eat Tagliatelle Ragu which is a completely different type of pasta (better for making the sauce stick to the pasta) and Ragu is way more than grounded meat and tomato sauce. Try this you will definitely see the difference.
19. Visit a Mam’bo modern museum in Bologna
I liked this museum because it’s really modern and it changes exhibitions quite often. During your stay, I recommend to visit their website and check what kind of exhibitions they have now.
20. Relax in the park
Italians love to chill, especially after having a nice meal. If you are rushing in Italy then stop because things don’t work this way here. You will soon find out that many people are late here and they just smile and don’t worry about it. So relax, go to the park and enjoy some sun for a while.
21. Ride a bike in Bologna
Bologna is not a big city and you can easily reach anything by bike. I love riding a bike in a new city because it shows you a bit different perspective of the city. Just be careful because also Italians are known for crazy driving.
22. Admire street artists
During weekends many artists go to the streets and you can see a variety of art. You can choose what you want to enjoy like dances or opera vocalist, guitar player or a girl painting on the street and many many more.
23. Try Italian Gelato
Italian Gelato is usually made from natural ingredients so it tastes way better than any ice cream. This one is a must to do in any Italian place.
24. Try Italian cappuccino
Coffee is like a second religion to them I recommend you to enjoy coffee early in the morning when all Italians go to work. The key difference from any other country in the world is that Italians don’t sit and drink cappuccino, they drink their coffee standing near the bar, while usually chatting with the barista. If you want to sit and enjoy your coffee you will have to pay a fixed service fee which in some popular places can be pricey. Also, before travelling to Italy read my blog post about what to expect in Italy.
25. Go to Atti bakery
Atti is one of the oldest bakeries in the city, go inside and you will go back in time, it looks like the interior never changed. Here you can buy pasta, pastries and many more.
26. Taste Italian pastry
When I go to Atti bakery I always ask them to give me everything to taste and I make an amazing pastry tasting brunch sitting in Piazza Maggiore or in other sunny places. It’s a great way to enjoy a sweet life in Italy.
27. Visit Pizza Casa
This pizza place was the first I tried in Bologna and I went there only because of the line of people which was so long at that time. It was worth to wait because the taste of this pizza is amazing. You buy your pizza and you go to sit in the street and eat it while hot. When my parents visited me in Bologna they asked me to go to this place two times because they enjoyed it so much.
28. Taste Pizza Margherita
Pizza Margherita is the simplest pizza with only dough, sauce and cheese, but it shows you how good the pizza place is. You don’t need many ingredients for pizza to be good. In Pizza Casa, you can buy this pizza only for 2.5 Eur!
29. Visit Cafe Terzi
Cafe Terzi is one of the most famous coffee places in Bologna. Its highlight is the chocolate shavings on a cappuccino. They have a huge variety of different coffee and tea, It can be a bit pricey, but totally worth it.