Inspiration for your next holiday
Inspiration for your next holiday
Bologna is probably Italy’s best kept secret.
It is a picture-perfect destination for a trip into art, history, architecture and Italian cuisine.
Located between the touristic poles of Florence and Venice, Bologna is a destination for a more authentic Italian city-break. Bologna’s nickname is “La Dotta, la Grassa e la Rossa”, ("The Educated, the Fat, and the Red), named for its prestigious university, renowned cuisine, and stunning red clay rooftops—as well as for its left-leaning politics.
Bologna is not a large city, and within 2 days of sightseeing you will be able to visit all of the cultural sights along with an appreciation of this vibrant city
This article will provide a suggested two-day tour of Bologna, and help you get the most from your time in this wonderful city.
The following itinerary has been specifically designed for visitors new to Bologna and provides an in-depth introduction to the city.
• Day 1 Morning: Santo Stefano
• Day 1 Afternoon: Piazza Maggiore Area
• Day 2 Morning: Castiglione
• Day 2 Afternoon: Saragozza
An interactive map for your two days in Bologna is shown below. Day one is highlighted in green and day two in blue (Note: zoom in or out to see all of the points and routes)
Sights of day one: 1) Santo Stefano, 2) Seven Churches, 3) La Finestrella, 4) Piazza Maggiore, 5) S. Petronio, 5) Piazza S. Domenico, 6) Galleria Cavour
Sights of day two: 7) Giardini Margherita, 8) San Luca Archiginnasio Museum
Alternatives for day two: 9) Colli Bolognesi,10) Modena
On your first day in Bologna, we would recommend starting your exploration from the very central area of Santo Stefano. You will begin to experience the character of the city as you start walking its elegant streets with porticoes, which have recently been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for Bologna landmarks.
Walk along the narrow streets of this district until you reach the charming Piazza of Santo Stefano. Here, you have the “Seven Churches” square with its Basilica, a beautiful place to visit and discover. Sit for a relaxing coffee break in one of the cafes in the square: it’s the perfect spot for some people-watching.
After your visit to the Seven Churches, begin a fun hunt for Bologna’s hidden little gem: The Finestrella. In fact, if you just wander around the quieter streets in the city center, you will be able to overhear the sound of a river, the Reno, which creates a surprising canal in a couple of hidden spots in Bologna.
Come here to experience “a little Venice vibe” in Bologna, overlooking the romantic canal view from the lovely tiny window of The Finestrella on Via Piella.
For lunch, you can head to the popular Quadrilatero—the oldest market in Bologna, just steps away from Piazza Maggiore. This area is made of narrow cobblestone streets and much-loved authentic restaurants and bars. Grab a bite here for lunch, and come back later for a special aperitivo at one of the bars with cute tables outside: here you will find the best wine and cheese boards!
The heart of Bologna is the Piazza Maggiore. Head here after lunch and enjoy its medieval building and majestic cathedral, San Petronio. On the northeast corner of the Piazza Maggiore you'll also find the Fountain of Neptune, one of the symbols of the city, and the Biblioteca Salaborsa, the Public Library.
Finally, head to the famous two towers - Torri degli Asinelli and Torri Garisenda – the other symbols of the city. You can climb Asinelli Tower for a stunning view of the city. Just keep in mind that the climb is steep and not ideal for people who are afraid of heights.
Even if you are only in Bologna for 48 hours, you can’t miss a night out in this city!
There’s no other city in Italy with such vibrant nightlife: bar hop around the bars of the university district, attend an art event, or listen to one of the many concerts usually going on in the city. If you can only choose one activity though, go out and enjoy the Pratello nightlife like a real local!
This street comes alive at night, turning the atmosphere of this area into something magical and special, crowding bars with the real essence of Bologna. Here you can enjoy cheap drinks, delicious snacks and live music, all surrounded by a lively mix of people and a very welcoming attitude. You won’t regret coming here, and you will certainly meet friends along the way.
After a log day of exploring the real heart of the city, an ideal second day in Bologna would take you to its perimeters, to explore a bit more of its green areas.
Start your day with a nice authentic breakfast at one of the many local spots within the Castiglione area, and then head to the beautiful Parco Giardini Margherita—the largest and most popular urban park in the city.
A stroll in this park is a must when you are visiting Bologna. Beautiful green lawns, fountains, lakes and a special café and bar, Le Serre, where you can relax surrounded by a special Greenhouse with flowers.
In this area, we would recommend visiting the university’s most interesting amphitheater known as the Archiginnasio anatomical theatre, a very interesting museum that takes you back in time through the history of medicine.
Minutes away from the Castiglione area, you will find another stunning stretch of elegant streets with porticoes in the district of Saragozza. Come here to enjoy a relaxing lunch by one of the local restaurants, and get ready for some real work out after lunch.
One of the most fascinating thing to do in Bologna is climbing the surrounding hills to see the city from above. And then there’s no better place to do that than from the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca.
San Luca is probably every Bolognese’s favorite spot in the city, as it represents a social activity in addition to a point of interest. The immense portico, extends for 2.4 miles (3.8 kilometers) and is made up of 666 arches. The sanctuary is located on top of the hill (Basilica di San Luca), but it gained its popularity thanks to its uphill covered walkaway that leads to the sanctuary (Portico di San Luca).
Locals use the portico as work out area and you will find groups of friends energetically walking uphill on weekends or summer evenings.
At the end of this journey, you will be rewarded with beautiful panoramic views of the hills of Emilia-Romagna, as well as an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment.
Bologna is very bike-friendly and there’s no better way to explore it—like a local—than riding a bike around it! If you decide to explore Bologna on two wheels, then you can have the opportunity to discover the surroundings out of the urban center: I Colli Bolognesi (The Bologna Hills).
You will be enchanted by the beauty of the nature around the city of Bologna, full of green landscapes, small medieval towns and ancient beauties. Bike here to enjoy its stunning panoramic views over the city, especially at sunsets.
Ride around the hills and really grasp the vibe of Bologna and its region. And when you get hungry, stop by one of the many local restaurants you find on your way: the really best typical Bologna cuisine is hidden up on those hills and it will reward your effort for biking up there.
If biking is not your ideal activity but you still want to get out of the city for a day, we would recommend driving (or taking a train) to Modena. Only 45 minutes away, this little city is full of wonders and just like a little Bologna, so you can experience the same vibe and cuisine without the hustle of the crowds.