I’ve just visited Bologna and let me tell you – my love for Italy has been completely reignited. I can’t believe I haven’t been back in so many years (10 or more) and I wonder why it has taken me so long to visit. Because Italy is really amazing, charming, delightful, full of history and romance… I cannot wait to plan more trips here in the near future, and I highly recommend it to all of you.
In the meantime, here are my tips for enjoying a good time in Bologna – a blog post on Florence to come.
If it hadn’t been for some friends of mine living here, I would never have thought of visiting Bologna. I guess it’s not one of those places top of people’s lists, not one of the most common ones… But it should be because it’s super charming.
What to do – Tourism
- Start by going to Piazza Maggiore where you will find several things, one of which Bologna’s tourism office. They have a great map of the city which on the back has a nice suggested walk & explanation of things to do and see
- Once at the Piazza Maggiore be sure to visit the Basilica de San Petronio. Not so impressive on the outside aside from it’s size, but truly gigantic and impressive inside. Additionally the visit is free.
- Make sure you also take a look at the Fontana di Nettuno (looking so nonchalant) and the Biblioteca Salaborsa next door
- There are more things to be seen around Piazza Maggiore which you can discover on Bologna Welcome – (I will stick to places I visited)
- Wander around the small side streets off the Piazza Maggiore and get lost a bit, the streets are small and wonderfully charming with colorfully painted walls and hidden treasures to be found in ceilings
- To get a nice view of the city you can climb the Asinelli tower. It’s 498 steps which seem absolutely never ending but are completely worth the view once you reach the top. I would recommend good footwear as the steps are small and staircases narrow so you don’t want to trip
- Next wander over to Santo Stefano, the 7 churches, which sits in a beautiful square and is also free to visit
- Afterwards you can make your way towards the student neighbourhood and wander around there – getting a vibe for the student city that is Bologna and all the exchange students that are hanging around. Perhaps you will end up inspired to spend your year abroad here. The impressive thing about the university – and I have seen a few – are the old buildings which are made out of marble and are super impressive. Not surprising that it’s the oldest university in Europe!
- You can visit many other fantastic places along the way including Bologna’s canals, which I tried to find but to no avail…
- For a nice park you can also visit the Giardini Margherita
- The porticoes for which it is famous. It is said that they were built at a height that would allow someone to ride through on horseback, which seems to be generally true. The great thing about them is that they provide protection from the sun (which believe me, you will need) and protection from the rain. Unfortunately as I discovered when it rained, it’s not possible to go entirely protected throughout Bologna.
- It’s close to the countryside – an easy walk from the centre of town takes you out up into the hills where you will find fresher air, large fields and beautiful views of Bologna. For the courageous – you can walk through Tuscany all the way to Florence!
- Day trips: it’s also super close to Florence (another blog post coming soon), Rome, Milan, Venice… all easily accessible by train
- Food! Bologna is also known as La Grassa “the fat one” due to all the wonderful eating that can be done here
- Relatively small – you can get everywhere on foot, the public transport system also seems to be reliable and easy to use
- General outdoor lifestyle as know in the south of Europe – delightful!
I don’t really have a complaint to make about Bologna, I have found it a wonderful place to visit and overall would highly recommend it. But here are a few things you may find annoying during your visit
- Noise pollution – There is a lot of traffic (Italians love to drive everywhere I am told) so it means it can be quite noisy all around
- Neighbours: tend to talk a lot outside – loudly. It’s a cultural thing but if you’re sensitive to noise and want to sleep, it may bother you
- Streets and pavements: despite the porticoes there is a lack of nice pavements or pedestrianized areas, as well as bike lanes (Bologna seems ideal for biking). It’s a bit of a shame as it’s so easy to walk and bike everywhere that an investment in this would make a huge difference
- Cleanliness: I haven’t found Bologna too dirty however it’s true that the streets can be unclean, dog poo lying around and a smell of piss and bins. It’s really not that bad at all but if you are used to very clean streets then you may find this bothersome…
Overall – I would highly recommend Bologna to anyone looking for a weekend getaway, or as starting point for a trip around other parts of Italy. Another blog post on shopping and eating in Bologna coming soon…