You can’t turn a corner in Bologna without finding yourself squished like pizza dough between medieval history and modern flair. With regal churches and Renaissance towers looming above and Maseratis and Lamborghinis zooming around below, this northern Italian city is an attractive alternative to Rome or Venice.
It’s also a delicious alternative. As Italy’s culinary capital, Bologna is everything that the generic American sausage named after it isn’t. The Piazza Maggiore has a stack of pizza and pasta places scattered around its historical hot spots and shopping streets, while motorbike fans will find the Ducati Museum equally drool-inducing. Don’t forget to catch an opera at the Teatro Comunale – and if you’re lucky you may even see a Bologna-style protest. The university is still a source of political unrest in this highly charged town, although students haven’t faced down tanks since 1977.
Bologna’s Top 10
10. Music Museum of Bologna Nine rooms filled with historical remnants from over six centuries of European music.
5. Neptune Fountain This iconic monument features a very regal-looking bronze statue of Neptune, Roman god of the sea.
9. Basicilia of San Domenico An exquisite shrine housing the remains of one of the city’s most popular saints, Saint Dom.
4. Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca Sitting atop a green hill, this very special and very beautiful church is filled with art.
8. Asinelli Tower This 100m-tall (328ft) medieval tower has a phenomenal view to reward those who can manage the steps.
3. Two Towers These twin 12th century leaning towers (take that, Pisa!) dominate the historical heart of the city.
7. Parco della Montagnola This lush park is the perfect backdrop for the bustling Friday and Saturday flea market.
2. Museum of Modern Art One of the biggest and best collections of modern art in Italy.
6. Archaeological Museum of Bologna The most treasured and special historical gems are found here.
1. Basilica of San Petronio This majestic church is filled with amazing frescos, one of which is a tad controversial.
- Teatro Anatomico - This is where they publicly dissected bodies under the watchful eye of an Inquisition priest.
- Chiesa di San Francesco - A gothic church that contains the tomb of Pope Alexander V.
- Museo Civico Medievale - Dedicated to such artefacts as suits of armour and artwork.
- Oratorio di Santa Cecilia - Features displays honouring the life of Saint Cecilia.
- Museo Civico Archelogico - Featuring artefacts from Rome, Egypt and an extensive Etruscan collection.
Bologna Art & Culture
- Pinacoteca Nazionale - Features stunning works of art by medieval and baroque Bolognese artists.
- Museo Morandi - A gallery dedicated to the works of Bolognese artist Giorgio Morandi.
- MAMbo - An art museum that showcases the work of new and rising artists.
- Collezioni Comunali d'Art - Houses 14th-century works of art, including furniture, tapestries and household goods.
- Basilica di San Petronio - The most important church in Bologna, dedicated to its patron, Saint Peter.
- Qadrilatero - This section of Bologna is the destination of foodies.
- Librarie Coop - Three levels of books with a cafe and a wine shop. Buy a book, a bottle of wine and relax.
- I Campetti - A specialty food store that offers olive oils and wines from Tuscany.
- Le Sfogline - A store full of handmade pasta. Pair it with the olive oil and wine from I Campetti.
- Fabrica Features & Coffee For You - This is a unique concept shop in the city.
Gay & Lesbian Bologna
- ArciGay card - This is a required card for admittance in many gay clubs. Can be obtained at the clubs themselves.
- Bar't - A men-only bar that has a labyrinth in the cellar.
- The Block - A weekly party that boasts internationally known DJs.
- Red Club - The club for disco and cruising, where in the summer you can enjoy outdoor seating.
- Igor Libreria - A bookstore with both English and Italian selections aimed at the gay reader.
- Emilian Land Tour - Go from place to place to sample the food and the wine.
- Santo Stefano - Explore one church after another, as there are four in one place.
- Piazza del Nettuno - Gaze at the magnificent statue of Neptune that dominate the piazza.
- Certosa di Bologna - Stroll through the courtyards and the former monastery.
- Misa - Roam the ancient ruins of this archaeological park.
- Football is a Bolognese obsession, and the locals watch it at the Renato dell'Ara City Stadium.
- Bologna has several tennis courts throughout the city.
- There are approximately 15 swimming pools in Bologna.
- Rent a bicycle to navigate the city. Also, the city hosts several biking events throughout the year.
- The Golf Club Bologna is the most well-known golf course in Bologna.
The unusually long (March to September) Bologna Festival is jam-packed with traditional Italian dance, music and food. Lots and lots of food.
Fiends of the sweet stuff will find themselves slipping into a sugar-induced coma at the Sweet Sugar World Meeting in April. Sugary treats from around the world are brought to Bologna’s Grand Hotel.
Slip on your coolest kicks for the bevy of dance comps, workshops and other dancey stuff at Danza Urbana, held every September.
‘The Red City’ goes green in September for SANA. Nibble organic nuts, peruse hemp-made clothing and catch a discussion about how to lead a healthier life. Peace, man.
Slap on a pork pie hat for the Bologna Jazz Festival in November and enjoy the mellow sounds of jazz while you sip on a scotch. Expect a lot of hipsters.
When To Go
If you’re after a winter wonderland, head to Bologna from December to February.
This city sees a lot of rain. You can’t completely avoid it, but the worst offenders are October and November.
Expect warm summer days in Bologna, with the average temperature a pleasant 25ºC (77ºF).
Bologna is serviced by a stack of ATC buses and trolleybuses, which are known for being impeccably organised and always on time.
Getting around on foot is the best way to uncover the many gems hiding down alleys and side streets.
Bikes and scooters are the most popular mode of transport for locals. And when in Bologna.
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