Visit The Basilica Di San Petronio
The Basilica di San Petronio dominates Piazza Maggiore with its enormous size.
Story has it that when the Vatican learned about Bolognas plans to build a cathedral that would eclipse Saint Peters Basilica, funds that were meant for the church were diverted to the Archiginnasio of Bologna instead.
The interior of the Basilica di San Petronius
As a result, the facade of the Basilica di San Petronio is unfinished. The bottom part, finished in marble, is beautifully decorated with sculptures.
The main entrance, by Jacopo della Quercia, is gorgeous, with scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The rest of the facade is red brick.
The unfinished exterior of the massive basilica
In the cavernous interior, youll find close to two dozen smaller chapels in addition to the main chapel. Most of them are beautifully frescoed. Of special interest is the St. Petronius meridian on the floor, the longest interior meridian in the world.
Part of the meridian running along the floor of the church
While entrance to the church is free, there is a small fee to be able to take photos inside.
Learn About The History
Bologna is a medieval city, with so much hidden beneath it and within the walls of the beautiful buildings. Bologna is a place where doing some research ahead of your visit will expose so much more than if you just read the popular guides or winged it. On one side of Piazza Maggiore sits the imposing building of the Salaborsa Library. Previously the citys economic lifeblood, today it houses an incredible library. As one of the key meeting points in Bologna, its multi-stories are always abuzz with people.
Enter through the front doors and look up. You will be welcomed by one of the most amazing art nouveau ceilings and arches you will ever see. The other surprise in this building lies under the glass bricks on the floor. Here, it is possible to see the archaeological remains of the city. You can do it in style with an array of free reading material and a coffee shop right next to it.
We did a local walking tour with a guide around the streets of Bologna so we could understand more about the major landmarks in the city. There are some very unusual stories and legends about the city.
Go On A Day Trip To One Of The Villages In The Region
Apart from Bologna, in the Emilia Romagna region, there are so many hidden gems to discover that you should definitely go on a day trip to one of them if you have the time during your holiday!
If youre a foodie, you should definitely check out Parma, where the exquisite Parma ham and Parmesan cheese are produced, while Ravenna is famous for its colorful mosaics and majestic buildings, both at 1-hour train ride.
And if you plan on extending your trip to other amazing Italian regions, check out our post with the best places to stay in beautiful Tuscany, at 2 hours driving away!
If you dont want to join one of the day trips tours linked above, no worries: you wont even need a car to reach these amazing cities, you can either take the regional Trenitalia or Italo high-speed train from the Bologna Central Train station!
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Leaning Towers Of Bologna
There are many things to see in Bologna, but one of the most iconic attractions is the Leaning Towers. The two towers, Asinelli and Garisenda Towers are located in the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana and are some of the symbols of the city.
The Asinelli Tower is the taller of the two towers, standing at 97.2 meters tall. It was built between 1109 and 1119 and is open to the public, where you can climb the 498 steps to the top for panoramic views of Bologna. The Garisenda Tower, on the other hand, is 48.6 meters tall and is not open to the public. But you can still get great views of it from the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana.
More Information On Bologna Day Trips
For more information on cycling Maranello, visit Trekking ItalyFor hotels in Montesa visit Hotel BelvedereTrains from Bologna to Vignola are one hour and cost about 6 Euro booking can be made at Trenitalia.com
Is Bologna Worth Visiting?
Bologna is definitely worth visiting. It is considered the gastronomical capital of Italy, it has a better leaning tower than Pisa and its porticoes and historic structures are a must-see.
What is Bologna Famous For?
Bologna is famous for its food. It is one of the best places to eat in Italy. It also houses the oldest university in the world and it has the tallest leaning tower in Italy. The famous porticoes are a top attraction as well.
Where is Bologna?
Bologna is located in the Emilia Romagna Region of Northern Italy. It is situated between Venice and Florence and is easily accessed by train.
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See The Basilica Di San Petronio
The Basilica of San Petronio sits right on the citys main square, Piazza Maggiore, so its impossible to miss. Built from 1388 to 1479, the church was never finished, which is apparent when you see its pink and brown exteriorthe lower half is carved marble while the upper half is essentially exposed brown brick. Its not exactly what youd expect from the church that was once intended to be the largest church in the world and is one of the most impressive Italian landmarks.
Inside, the Basilica of San Petronio is beautifully decorated, with a line of imposing columns stretching down the nave and a huge gilded crucifix over the altar. The sides of the Basilica are lined with 22 chapels adorned in marble, bronze, and gold. One houses relics from San Petronio and another was the place where Pope Clement VII crowned Charles V as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1530.
The Basilica is impressive from the outside, too. Dont miss the chance to take the elevator to the top for sweeping views of the lovely city below and to see its towers from a different angle.
Fun & Unusual Things To Do In Bologna Italy
Home to ancient palaces, the oldest active university, world-famous foods and envy-inducing sports cars, Bologna exudes extravagance offering visitors a taste of the finer things in life.
The citys ubiquitous dish Ragù alla Bolognese, served always with tagliatelle and the local Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, has captured the hearts of many foodies from around the globe.
From its centuries-old towers to its modern factories, the city is packed with engineering and artistic marvels. Many of the countrys most luxurious vehicles are made right here in Italys Motor Valley, including Ferrari, Lamborghini and Ducati.
Discover the Roman roads and piazzas of this wealthy city practically a living museum with an ancient canal system nestled beneath its streets. Theres no shortage of things to do in Bologna and here are some of the best.
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Visit The Anatomical Theatre And Library Of Archiginnasio
Theres something magical about wandering through opulent, historical universities.
There is just so much history and mystery in centuries-old centers of learning, all begging to be explored.
Add in a hefty dose of Italian beauty, and the picture gets even more inviting.
The palace of Archiginnasio dates back to the 16th century, and has long belonged to the University of Bolognaand it is beautiful and interesting enough to belong on any list of things to do in Bologna.
The palace boasts a 17th-century carved anatomical theatre, which is easily the most opulent place imaginable for learning how to cut open bodies .
Its also home to a remarkable library, which is lovely and stretches on as far as the eye can see .
Bike Rental And Social Hub
Dynamo is a spit near the main train station. You can rent your bike here and its a stylish cafe in summer. In winter, the coffee shop is closed.
The Dynamo also organizes night events. Keep an eye on their website if you are looking for some nightlife things to do in Bologna.
Address: Via Indipendenza 71 / Z, 40121, Bologna
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Hang Out At Piazza Maggiore
Like any Italian city, there are piazzas to be found everywhere, but Piazza Maggiore is one of the premier squares in Bologna. Large, vibrant, and surrounded by some of Bolognas most famous sights and buildings, its the perfect place to take a break on the steps and people watch. At night, there are often musicians dotted around the square, all vying for your attention and a euro or two. Its a thoroughfare and a resting place, a place to meet friends and even the location of special events and parades.
One of the apartments we stayed at was on the edge of the piazza, so it became our beautiful back-lit backdrop every evening, as we leaned out the window to watch everything happening below.
Unique Bar: Le Serre Dei Giardini
Brunch and beer garden away from the city center! This place is so local, they dont even have any information in English online!
Also, they organize several concerts and different events throughout the year. Check out www.bolognatoday.it to see the list of events, here is their
Address: Via Castiglione 134/136, Bologna, Italy
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Walk Under The Historic Porticoes
There are nearly 25 miles of porticoes in Bologna. These beautiful arches stretch throughout the city center and all the way to the Basilica of San Luca. There are so many that have lasted for so long that theyre even being considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, they lend character to this ancient city, not to mention providing great shade and shelter from the rain.
Take A Ride On The City Red Bus
Bologna is a city meant to be walked. Its flat in the city so we rarely used public transport. It was only when we did the day trips that we needed buses and trains. However, if the summer heat gets too much, you have mobility issues, you have time restrictions, or youre just plain tired, the City Red Buswill take you on a tour of all the key sights in Bologna. The bus operates like many of the hop on hop off buses all over the world and here you can do this as much as you like all day for the one ticket price. Audio guides are also available in eight different languages.
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How Long Do You Need In Bologna
Most of the best things to do in Bologna could be seen in 2 days. Its a relatively compact city that can easily be explored on foot. However much of the attraction is savouring the energy of the city in the early evening so its worth taking your time.
There are also many great day trips just a short train journey away. The towns of Modena and Ferrara are only half an hour the old streets of Parma one hour and the frescoes of Ravenna 80 minutes.
We recommend staying 3 days in Bologna 2 days to see the sights and one for a day trip of your choice.
For some excellent day trips in the area, read our guide to the best day trips from Florence.
Explore Piazza Maggiore & Neptunes Fountain
Piazza Maggiore is the main square in Bologna and the heart of the historic town. Dating back to 1200, and one of the first squares in Italy built after the fall of the Roman Empire, citizens would once congregate to hear new laws and watch public executions.
Today, the Bolognese come here to eat ice cream, listen to concerts and scoff pizza in the arteries that feed of Piazza Maggiore. Its a great place to hang out and explore the mishmash of architectural styles that have developed over the years around the square.
Dont miss the Fountain of Neptune. The trident held by the statue of Neptune above the trickling waters was used by the Masserati brothers as the emblem for their cars.
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Climb The Asinelli Tower
At the end of Via Rizzoli, you will find the two towers – Torri degli Asinelli and Torri Garisenda – the striking symbols of the city. During medieval times, rich families demonstrated their power by constructing their own tower within the city, all striving to be the tallest and most grand.
At one time, there were as many as 125 towers and the city still has around 25 towers today.
These two towers are the tallest ones that still remain from that day, and the Asinelli Tower is the only one available to climb. For 3, you’ll have a great experience and the best possible view of Bologna! Better yet, combine a tasting of local foods with the panoramic view from the Torre degli Asinelli with this excellent tour.
Bologna Food Tour With Italian Days
This one is an absolute MUST. Seriously one of the most awesome travel experiences Omied and I have ever had.
This was a full-day excursion and one of the best day trips you can take through the Romagna region. We started the day early in the morning in Parma, where we got to see how Parmigiano Reggiano cheese is made.
After that, we made our way to Modena, where we did an incredible balsamic vinegar tasting at a traditional Balsamic Aceto.
We learned so much about the history of the traditional Emilia Romagna region and Modena balsamic vinegar making, and the different years-aged balsamic we got to try were just incredible.
Next up, we went to a prosciutto factory.
While its a bit morbid to see hundreds upon hundreds of hanging, aging prosciutto legs row after row, it was interesting to learn how prosciutto is made, and even better to get to taste it at the end of the tour. It seriously melted in your mouth.
To finish out the day, we had a quintessential lonnnnng Italian lunch at a gorgeous spot overlooking a beautiful hillside.
Honestly, the whole day was amazing and I cant recommend booking your food tours with Italian Days. Our guide Riccardo was so knowledgeable and hilarious and we had the best time.
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Check Out The Museum For The Memory Of Ustica
In Jun 1980, Itavia Flight 870 was en route from Bologna to Palermo when it exploded, killing all 81 people on board.
In the nearly 40 years since the flight has remained a source of controversy and contention.
Its widely agreed that the plane was shot down by a missile, but less clear is who shot that missile, and why.
At the Museum for the Memory of Ustica, you can explore that question with the plane itself.
The wreckage from the flight, along with personal artifacts from the victims, works to create a truly unique museum that highlights a violent and senseless tragedy.
This museum does have limited and somewhat strange hours, so if you want to make sure that visiting is one of the things you do in Bologna, be sure to plan ahead!
Piazza Maggiore And Piazza Del Nettuno
It may seem as though everyone in Bologna were meeting friends at the same time in these two adjoining squares in the heart of the city. Conversation and laughter blend with the sound of water splashing in the magnificentNeptune Fountain, which gives Piazza del Nettuno its name.
Created by Giambologna in the 16th century, it is one of the finest fountains of its period. Nearly every major attraction in the city is within a few minutes’ walk, as are the most important streets among them the busy shopping street, Via dell’Indipendenza, and Via Galleria with its many old aristocratic mansions.
Elegantly arcaded Via dell’Archiginnasio runs alongside the great Basilica of San Petronius its still unfinished facade dominates one side of Piazza Maggiore. On the north side is the former Palazzo del Podestà with a tower, Torre dell’Arengo, dating from 1259. Under its vaulted dome, people whispering on one side can be heard by those on the opposite corner.
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Discover Medieval History & Cool Vibes In Charismatic Bologna
Bologna is a self-assured city with a medieval history and a young edgy vibe. Linger in moody wine bars, stroll the porticoes and discover the best things to do in Bologna with our guide to the red city.
Bologna is a city that doesnt feel the need to dress up for tourists its happy just the way it is.
Worn around the edges, slightly scuffed and decorated in various shades of orange, its a contrast from nearby Florence. Bold and born of its own individual character, Bologna is a place that locals know better than tourists and it feels like thats the way its always going to be.
None of this, however, means its boring. With centuries of history and a population of 85,000 university students, Bologna is old enough to be charming and young enough to be exciting.
During the day the rusty-hued city has a host of fascinating things to do. Stroll through medieval churches oozing with dusty character, climb one of Bolognas towers for a view to remember, or follow a trail of porticoes to hidden corners of inconspicuous beauty.
But its in the evening that the city truly comes alive. Join connoisseurs sampling wines from age-old enotecas, tuck into hams and cheeses on tightly packed lanes or join the young and boisterous enjoying aperitivo amongst the hubbub.
We have rounded up our favourite things to do in Bologna, the best bars, the most interesting museums, and our favourite attractions in the city of a thousand porticoes.
IN THIS GUIDE