My brother and I flew to Italy to visit family in Florence. We decided to fly from London Luton airport to Bologna. The flights were crazy cheap! Each return fare was only £19, insane right?! That’s cheaper than what I usually pay for a return train ticket from my town into London.
We planned our first day so that we were able to see some of Bologna before we had to hop on our train to Florence. What I was super excited to try here, was the food! My research told me that Bologna is a city for foodies like me, so food was one of our top priorities. Now without further ado, here are some of the things to see and do while exploring the beautiful city of Bologna.
Bologna is filled with dainty little cafés which are perfect for fuelling up for the day. Even if you’re not a coffee person, a nice breakfast in the city would be such a lovely way for you to ease your way in to your adventures for the day. For coffee lovers like myself however, Caffé Terzi is coffee heaven. Le Petit Café is another goodie that you’ll probably hear about when it comes to finding good coffee and pastries in Bologna.
Stroll around Piazza Maggiore
Piazza Maggiore is the iconic central square in the very heart of Bologna and to me, I’d say is the top must-see in the city. Right in the centre is the magnificent Basilica di San Petronio. The Italian gothic architecture is just so incredibly beautiful. Basilica di San Petronio is also one of the largest churches in Europe. Palazzo d’Accursio, which was once the town hall, can be found on the other side of the square, along with other grand palaces. Just around the corner from the main square is the 16th century Neptune Fountain which was built by Giambologna, a Flemish sculptor. There is honestly so much to see around this area so just go for a stroll and take it all in.
Eat amazing food
When people say that Bologna is a foodie’s playground, they’re not kidding. The food here is on another level and is probably one of the main reasons why I know that I’ll be returning to Bologna for a second visit in the future. We didn’t have enough time to go on the thorough food trip that this city deserves. On the day that I was there with my brother, I had noted down to visit Trattoria Anna Maria since I kept seeing it appear again and again in all the research I had done prior to the trip, so we just had to try it. Now let me tell y’all, the food did not disappoint. It gladdened the taste buds and the bellies. One thing I would say however is to be aware that some restaurants (although I’m not sure if they all do this), actually close up in the afternoon after lunch and then re-open again for dinner time. If you are going to be on a tight schedule like we were and are certain that you do not want to miss an opportunity to actually enjoy a meal in the city, then note down restaurant closing and opening times before your trip so you can ensure that you’ll be able to actually have a decent sit-down meal because trust me, it is so worth it!
Get lost in the side streets
Whenever I visit cities like Bologna, I always find that the best way to explore is by foot. So that’s exactly what I did when I got to this super charming city. I walked. I walked a lot and actually loved it so much. Sometimes it’s worth switching off Google Maps for a bit and just walk where your eyes and feet will take you. See where you end up. Plus, these side streets are actually on point with the aesthetics, perfect for a few shots for the ‘gram!
Explore the food markets of Quadrilatero
Just off the main square is a cluster of super vibrant narrow streets which, as a collective, are called the ‘Quadrilatero’, the ancient Bologna market. The Quadrilatero has been around since the middle ages and has maintained its reputation of serving the city of Bologna with the finest food and unique shopping experiences. These streets are often filled with crowds that combine both tourists and local residents which I really liked as it was full of life. You’ll find that the streets are lined with lots of little food market stalls that include things like large wheels of cheese, meat and vegetables.
Visit (and maybe even climb) the Le Due Torri
Want to witness a leaning tower forreal forreal but don’t plan on heading out to Pisa? Well, look no further as Bologna actually has two leaning towers, commonly known as ‘Le Due Torri’, which consist of the ‘Asinelli’ (the taller tower) and the ‘Garisenda’ tower (smaller tower that’s leaning more to the side). If you book in advance, you can even climb the Asinelli tower and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of Bologna. Tickets are currently sold at €5 per head (at the time of writing) and can easily be booked online. I would advise going in the morning however, as it was very crowded when we passed by.
Visit the Cathedral of San Pietro
Another place that is well-worth the visit, is the wonderful ‘Cathedral of San Pietro’, which is the seat and the metropolitan cathedral of Bologna’s Archbishop. Most of the building that is present today can be dated all the way back from the 17th century. The baroque architectural style of this cathedral is just so stunning and just strolling around the cathedral itself can really take you to places dating many years back in history. An absolute wonder.
How to get around
I would say Bologna is best explored by foot with the help of Google maps, which with some pre-planning, can actually be used offline as there are so many beautiful alleyways and side streets that you wouldn’t otherwise discover if you’re on wheels.
However, if time is just not on your side during your visit, then you can opt for any of the following:
- Bus system – Bologna has a pretty good bus system that will enable you to get to most places around the city. It’s run by a company called TPER and you’ll be able to access information from booths in Bologna Centrale train station, as well as the nearby bus station. Minibus A is supposedly the most direct service that connects the train station with the city centre.
- Taxi – You can hire taxis from both Piazza Maggiore and the train station.
- Bike rent – There are companies like Tommy Bicci in Via Azzura that offer bike rentals. Another alternative that is a bit more on the active side of things. They can be found in both Via Azzurra, 36 / B 40138 Bologna BO and Via G. Massarenti, 55 40138 Bologna BO.
Of course there is also the option of driving a car around Bologna, however I probably wouldn’t recommend this as parking can be tricky and if you’re actually staying in the city centre, you have to ensure that your place of accommodation submits your registration number to avoid fines.
Bologna Travel Vlog
Here’s a quick travel diary of what we got up in Bologna:
Bologna has easily made it into one of my favourite cities in Italy and I would absolutely love to return in the near future as there is so much more to see and so much more great food to enjoy! Have you guys been to Bologna before, what do you guys think? If you’ve visited any other places similar to Bologna, please let me know in the comments below so I can keep topping up my travel wish list for the year.