Bologna is perhaps less well known than some other Italian cities but as a result of this it has maintained its authentic feel.
Although it is not as famous, it does rival Florence, Rome and Venice for its depth of history and culture…. and of course, it’s food!
Here’s what we think are amongst the best things to see and do in this friendly, authentic Italian city. And if you would like to come and see Bologna for yourselves during your Italian holidays – then, our expert and licensed guides will be thrilled to accompany you on a tour of the city – visit tours-italy.com for more information.
It’s an ancient seat of learning
Bologna is home to the western world’s oldest University. In 1088, the University of Bologna was founded. As the University itself says – it and Bologna have been looking out towards the future since then. One of the many interesting features of the University is an ornate anatomical theatre (closed on Saturday pm and Sundays). And as the name suggests, this is where autopsies took place to teach students about human anatomy. Students would sit and observe the procedure for hours on end because without chilled rooms, the process had to be completed in one sitting. However, the seats were designed to be in such a position that it would be impossible for observers to feel comfortable enough to fall asleep – even if they were sat there for such a long time.
Visit the Piazza Maggiore
This is the central square in Bologna and it looks pretty much the same today as it did in the 16th century. Former administrative buildings, including the Palazzo d’Accursio - once Bologna’s town hall and now a museum - flank the square. From here you can also visit the Basilica of San Petronio – built by the city in the 14th century and a beautiful example of gothic brickwork. It was once destined to be the largest church in the world, until the Vatican objected. Many cafes and restaurants surround the Piazza and it has a lovely romantic atmosphere in the evening.
Marvel at the beautiful architecture
Bologna has fine medieval and Renaissance palaces as well as reams of elegant arcades that frame many of the streets (remnants of original student accommodation). It is a truly beautiful city with a very friendly atmosphere. Its residents are incredibly warm.
Sample the food
Bologna is Italy’s city of food. And, when you consider the standards of the rest of Italy, this is a very, very impressive title! Bologna is the home of the original Bolognese – note we didn’t say Spaghetti Bolognese. That’s because it is not served with Spaghetti here (mainly because Spaghetti pasta is from the southern part of Italy). So, ensure you try the Bolognese in Bologna – which is the ragu and fresh egg tagliatelle pasta. Tortellini is Bologna’s second most famous dish – fresh pasta parcels containing meat or cheese, and here they are served in a meat broth. And because Bologna is so good at ragu and pasta – make sure you try the lasagne, too. Finally, you will find fabulous gelato in Bologna. It’s companies hailing from this area of Italy who have been credited with developing machines which allowed gelato to be made anywhere in the world. But there is nothing quite like Italian gelato and whilst it didn’t invent gelato itself, Bologna hosts many fabulous gelaterias.
Visit the markets
Sampling the food might put you in the mood to go and source more of your own at the market. In Bologna you’ll find a pedestrian street filled to the brim with fabulous food products – from balsamic vinegar to cheese and hams, and fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s a simple sight but the markets are definitely up there on our ‘things to see in Bologna’ list. Looking at the produce, you can see why the food is so fabulous in Bologna. But as this is a market city after all – so you will find more than food for sale at here. There will be clothing crafts and antiques, too.
The leaning towers
Bologna had many towers in medieval times. It is thought there were around 180. Although many were demolished and some collapsed, there are several which can still be seen today. Two of the most prominent have become landmarks of the city and are known as ‘the two towers’. Both are leaning and were constructed around 1109 – 1119 and have also inspired the creation of the world trade centre in New York City. You can climb the Asinelli tower to get a fabulous view of the city’s rooftops. Move over Pisa!
Partake in an Aperitivo
After exploring the city on our private tour, you may want to complete your experience with an Aperitivo. It’s an Italian tradition where restaurants and bars open at around 6pm for customers to order a drink, which will be served with a snack – which is complimentary.
Even though Bologna is less well known, it is very much a jewel in the Italian crown.
You can cover all of these highlights of Bologna with Avventure Bellissime – the Italian tours expert – on our private walking tour of Bologna.
If you are thinking of booking holidays to Italy, please do visit our website at tours-italy.com to find out more about our Italian vacation packages and tours of Italy’s fabulous sights.
Also, if you are looking for some travel inspiration, be sure to check out our other blog posts at tours-italy.com/blog/ It’s a great read about all things to do with Italian holidays– like insights into Rome’s Colosseum and the Spanish Steps, how to save money when visiting Italy and the must see sights in Venice. It’s a great read about all things Italian and Italian holidays!