Home to one of Europe’s oldest universities, Bologna is a vibrant, thriving city famous for its rich cuisine and for its politics. Certainly one of the best looking cities in Italy, Bologna’s centre is a jumble of old brick palaces, porticoed streets and arcades. The city of bologna is sometimes often overlooked but travellers shouldn’t skip Bologna because this is a city full of walkable sites, beautiful characteristic architecture, friendly locals and some of the most amazing food you’ll eat in Italy. Full of medieval charm Bologna has enough monuments and curiosities for several days exploration, including plenty of museums, cafes, piazzas and the Due Torri, the city’s own “leaning towers”.

Top Attractions in Bologna

Piazza Maggiore

Located in the heart of the city’s historical centre, Piazza Maggiore is surrounded by some of the city’s most important buildings and structures. This beautiful pedestrianized medieval square is one of the biggest and oldest in Italy. Its construction began in the 13th Century and slowly over the centuries the important buildings that now circle the square were built so the square became the preferred meeting place for the Bolognese for all things social and political. Sit in one of the square’s many cafes and enjoy people watching in the afternoon sunshine or visit during the evening to see the square beautiful floodlit.

Fontana del Nettuno – Neptune’s Fountain

Built between 1563 and 1566 this famous fountain lies at the heart of Piazza Maggiore. Sculpted by a Flemish artist Giambologna the fountain was once used by the citizens of Bologna to collect water, although this beautiful fountain was deemed scandalous at first because of its nudity. At the top of the fountain is a bronze statue of Neptune waving his trident; at the base of the fountain are four sirens that represent the four continents and the four cute cherubs representing the winds.

Due Torri

Rivalling the Leaning Tower of Pisa for gravity-defying architecture, the two towers of Bologna also known as Due Torri are a traditional symbol of the city, standing at the middle of the opening of Porta Ravegnana Square. These two impressive towers known as Garisenda and Asinelli built by the families of that name, were originally built to provide signalling and defensive protection to the city, used as look out points for any incoming enemies. They also represented with their imposing heights the social status of noble families. Climb the 498 steps to the tallest tower, The Asinelli for fabulous views of Bologna and the surrounding countryside. Its shorter companion leans too steeply to be climb.

Piazza Santo Stefano & Basilica di Santo Stefano

Venture into Verona’s winding streets and discover Piazza Santo Stefano and its Romanesque basilica. This charming square is surrounded by old buildings, splendid palaces and of course the façade of the basilica itself. Built on top of a previous temple dedicated to Isis, the Basilica di Santo Stefano is an interweaving of seven religious buildings although over the centuries the numerous renovations have changed the look of the complex from seven buildings into just four. Despite its changes the basilica is still one of the most romantic and most visited church in the city.

Museo Civico Archeologico

For those interested in museums Bologna’s Museo Civico Archeologico is a place not to be missed. This fantastic historic museum has more than 3,500 objects and some of the most important Italian archaeology collections. Among its collections is a sector completely dedicated to the history of the city from prehistoric era to the Roman and late ancient ages as well as a newly renovated Egyptian collection, one of the most important in Europe. There is also a newly added system of information and educational tools to keep children entertained too.

National Gallery of Bologna

Art lovers who visit Bologna will appreciate a visit to the masterpieces housed at Bologna’s National Gallery. Featuring some of the city’s most important art pieces from local artists the gallery also includes work by many major Italian artists including Giotto, El Greco, Titian and the highlight of Raphael’s Ecstasy of St Cecilia.

Quadrilatero – The Old Market

Since Bologna is so famous for its cuisine a visit to the city would not be complete with a trip to the Quadrilatero. This medieval market used to be the location where jewellers, butchers, delicatessens, bakeries and fishermen would sell their goods in the middle ages and to this day much of this historic architecture and essence of the market can still be seen. Located behind Piazza Maggiore enjoy a wander through the narrow noisy streets of the ancient market, with stalls selling anything from seasonal fruit to fresh fish from the Adriatic Sea. Return at night once the street vendors have packed away and this characteristic market turns into an outdoor living room of bars and drinking places where people of Bologna come to enjoy an aperitif at the end of the day.

Basilica di San Petronio

Named from Bologna’s patron, Basilica di San Petronio is the world’s fifth largest church measuring 132 metres by 66 metres by 47 metres and is one of Bologna’s most fabulous examples of Gothic grandeur. Construction of this mighty church began in 1390, although it was not consecrated (blessed) until much later in 1954. On a tour of the basilica you will notice the incomplete front façade and the church’s rich stained glass windows and frescoed chapels. Also look out for the brass sundial embedded in the floor of the eastern aisle. Designed in 1656 this sundial was instrumental in discovering the faults in the Julian calendar which led to the creation of the leap year.

Santuario de Madonna di San Luca

Located 3.5km southwest of the city centre, Santuario de Madonna di San Luca is an attraction not to be missed on a trip to Verona. Sitting protectively on the hilltop this basilica houses a representation of the Virgin Mary, supposedly painted by Saint Luke. One of the main highlights of visiting San Luca is its walk by foot. The 18th century sanctuary is linked by the world’s longest undercover portico, held aloft by 666 arches which begin at Piazza di Porta Saragozza in the city centre. It is quite a stroll to the sanctuary but well worth it for the experience and the stunning views that can be had over Bologna at the top of the hill.

Best time to visit

Tourists visit Bologna between April and October

Spring or fall are the best times to visit Bologna, typically between April – May, September and October when the weather is warm enough to enjoy evenings in the piazza’s and dining al fresco. Avoid visiting in August as in traditional Italian fashion the city closes down and locals disappear to the coast for their annual holiday.

Getting There

Bologna is a very accessible city with great road connections with many of Italy’s cities as well being situated on the main Italian railway between Florence (37 Minutes), Milan (65 Minutes) and Rome (2 hours and 22 Minutes). However you can also fly into Guglielmo Marconi International Airport with many international airlines serving this major Italian airport. To reach the city you can take a bus which takes 15 minutes.

Getting Around

Most of Bologna’s historical centre can be covered by foot however if you tire the city also has a very efficient public transport system which allows you to get anywhere in the city quickly. Visitors by car should be aware of a limited traffic zone in Bologna’s historical centre, so it is advised to park your car in one of the cities many car parks and take public transport into the historical centre.

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