The Ultimate Travel Guide to Bologna, Italy
Bologna, the capital of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, is the seat of the world’s oldest university, founded in AD1088 which counted Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarca among its students. You will be awed by towers, churches and porticos all laid out in the historic center as well as the city walls, reflecting a long history dating back to the Etruscans. Don’t forget to sample the real Bolognese sauce which in Italian is called ragu and served only with Tagliatelle and a mortadella sandwich whilst you are resting your feet.
In this Bologna Travel Guide blog, we listed helpful DIY Bologna travel tips and advice on how to get there, get around, itinerary, restaurants, best hotels, tour packages and more.
Best time to visit
Bologna has a continental climate with hot summers, cold winters, and rain in spring and fall. Due to the huge amount of tourists who pass through during the summer, it may be best to come in spring or fall. Just bring an umbrella.
How to get there
Bologna’s International Airport serves many airlines. It’s easy to reach the city center. You don’t need a taxi, just pass through customs, turn right and you will see the sign and ticket booths of AEROBUS. The bus takes you to the city center in about 30 minutes with the last stop the central train station.
If you arrive in Bologna by train be aware that the Central Train station is massive. 27 platforms over 5 levels, 4 of them underground. The only waiting area with seating is on level 3. Luckily there is plenty of very friendly and helpful Trenitalia staff around who will point you in the right direction. You’ll also find plenty of elevators so you don’t have to balance your luggage on stairs or escalators.
Bologna has an extensive bus system and huge taxi ranks at the airport and train station. Otherwise, it’s a city best explored on foot.
Places to stay
As can be expected from Italy’s 5th largest city Bologna offers plenty of accommodation for all budgets.
I only stayed overnight, so I went low costs at the Hotel Sant’ Orsola City House in Via Palmieri 25.
Hotel Sant’Orsola City House
[check rates and availability]
The hotel is located approx. 12km from the train station but a taxi only cost €12. It’s simple but cheap, a single €45 per night with a shared bathroom. It’s over three floors and there is no elevator but the friendly receptionist carried my bag up. It’s also very clean and the shared bathroom was no problem. The room has a sink, towels, and a coffee machine. No breakfast or any other food is available but a supermarket only steps away and you can store your food in a refrigerator in the hall. WiFi is free and works well.
On the other end of the budget scale is the rather elegant 4star Zan Hotel Tre Vecchi in Via Indipendenza 47.
Zan Hotel Tre Vecchi
[check rates and availability]
Cool marble décor, all amenities of a 4star hotel and its location just a few meters from the central train station make this an ideal starting point for a stay in Bologna.
Best places to eat
Food plays an important role in Bologna and indeed in the entire Emilia-Romagna region. Not for noting is Bologna’s nickname: La Grassa, the fat one.
A restaurant which satisfies all expectations is Trattoria di Via Serra in Via Luigi Serra 9/b.
This is your place to taste one or more of the 35 dishes on the menu and to indulge in huge amounts of tagliatelle with ragu.
Another top-notch restaurant, exquisite but expensive but also with a huge wine list is the cozy Ristorante al Sangiovese in Vicolo del Falcone 2.
Hailed as a hidden treasure for a local well-presented food at very reasonable prices is the Bistro Domino in Via Remoreslla 18/a.
If you don’t want to sit down and eat and prefer a little something on the go, just find a COOP supermarket and get one of the excellent sandwiches that are on offer. Or else stop at one of the many mini food shops and have one made for you to your taste,
WiFi, money matters and more
As a center of commerce, Bologna has excellent wifi throughout. Currency is the EURO and it pays to have plenty of cash. It’s popular in Italy and you often get a discount if you pay cash instead of with a credit card.
Things to do and see
There is no getting away from the fact that Bologna’s main theme is food. But so is culture and music. The City was, after all, the European Capital of Culture in 2006 and is a UNESCO City of Music. Although Bologna has suffered extensive bomb damage during WWII it’s historical center has been restored since the 1970s.
As a Roman settlement, it is laid out in the usual grid pattern which makes it easy to walk around and admire the numerous medieval, renaissance and baroque buildings and churches which form the Old Town. Once completely surrounded by a solid wall, today 20 of the watchtowers are still standing, among them the famous leaning Due Torri which are a symbol of Bologna. Equally symbolic are the 24 miles of porticoes. Walk along and under them and get a feeling for this beautiful city, often called Italy’s most underrated city because many people just rush through on their way to the more famous Florence or Venice.
Lovers of churches and historical buildings want to head for the Piazza Maggiore, the Fountain of Neptune and the San Petronio Basilica, entering through one of the remaining 12 medieval arches in the city wall.
As far as music is concerned, a visit to the International Museum and Library of music in the exquisite Palazzo Sanguinetti is a must.
If after all this culture (and food) you want to see something else and more modern head for one or both of the colorful open-air markets in Mercato di Mezzo or Via Peschiera Vecchi. Of course, you’ll find plenty of food there too.
Best places to shop
What would a visit to one of Italy’s biggest cities be without a spot of Italian designer shopping? Head for the chic glass-roofed Galleria Cavour and indulge- at least in window shopping- of the latest fashion.
Bigger but less glossy is Meraville Commercial in Viale Tito Carnacini.
Otherwise, just follow the famous porticoes and look at the many boutiques and craft shops you will see along the way.
Even if you have come to Italy to visit other, more famous places, make it a point to stop over for at least a day in Bologna and become an insider to the beauty of a city often overlooked.
Find Hotels in Bologna, Italy according to your budget via Agoda.
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