Between the Reno and Savena river in northern Italy lies Bologna, a major city in Italy famous for its centuries-old towers and churches. What’s more, is that it is home to the oldest university in the world and the city is also packed with food stalls and restaurants. You will not only be absorbing Bologna’s historic tourist attractions but the food as well. After all, the Bolognese pride themselves on their culinary excellence and are considered Italy’s gastronomic capital.

Top Places to Visit

With Bologna’s naturally innate beauty, it’s impossible to explore everything that’s in it with just a limited amount of time. From its most visited destinations like the Bologna Towers to its mouth-watering cuisines, there is a lot to try in this city. Nonetheless, be able to make the most of your visit by going around the best tourist spots in Bologna with the help of the list below. 

Piazzas in Bologna

If you’re looking for a place to chill in while munching on your food and conversing with your companions or just simply wanting to take the time to admire your surroundings, you must definitely check the city’s adjoining plazas — the Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Nettuno, two neighboring public squares that are directly located in the heart of the city.

Enjoy the calm and peaceful vibe brought by the splashing sounds of the Neptune Fountain, which, by the way, became the basis for the name Piazza del Nettuno. This fountain, created by Giambologna, is known to be one of the exquisite fountains during the 16th century. Imagine how ancient it is!

Basilica of St. Petronius

Are you into massive and Gothic architecture? If yes, then this is the place for you. Experience being brought back to the past as you wander through every corner. This basilica is most commonly known as San Petronio to the residents of Bologna. Its facade remains to be incomplete as it was designed to be supposedly bigger than Rome’s St. Peter. This was proven since the designs for the said facade can be found in the tiny museum at the back of the basilica. It was said that even the renowned architect named Andrea Palladio submitted her designs for it, but up until now, they never finished its construction.

Nonetheless, you might still consider this as the best tourist spot in the city, for it not only provides you an aesthetic place to take your pictures in, but it also holds a magnificent story that’s waiting to be told. Its interior, however, is finished, and because of its inherent beauty, it is often referred to as Italy’s epitome of Gothic architecture. Its design was so well-thought to the point that each of its side chapels can already be deemed as a small church. Can you even imagine how big that church is? Having a collection of churches within a bigger church is indeed a must-see!

Basilica of St. Stephen

Another church that could function as your time machine is the Santo Stefano. Being the oldest among the other interesting churches, this basilica is also known to be the most atmospheric. It’s as if walking through a different era — around the 10th and 13th centuries. Its buildings, also called the cradle of faith, were built by the Benedictines as housing for the remains of the city’s early martyrs named Saint Vitale and Saint Agricola.

It’s not your typical art-filled church, indeed. It holds a lot more stories than the others. It is just waiting for you to unfold them.

Leaning Towers

Familiar, isn’t it? Indeed, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is much more known internationally, but Bologna’s, rest assured, are on another level of experience. Compared to Pisa’s, the city has a pair of leaning towers, the Torre Garisenda and Torre degli Asinelli, that are tilted in an alarming state due to their narrow figure. If you are into nerve-wracking activities, you should definitely see this.

These towers are part of the 20 remaining towers out of more than 100 that were built way back then. Simply put, they are considered as two of the Bologna towers that formed the city’s skyline during the 12th century. Although their tall heights were of necessity during the time of war since they functioned as watchtowers and places for refuge, they were also treated as the status symbol for the noble families that are responsible for having them built.

Oratory of Battuti

Bologna is filled with a lot of massive and extravagant churches, wherein all have something to distinguish themselves from one another. This is the reason why when given a chance, you should explore them all. However, if you’re looking forward to seeing a perfectly carved ceiling, then you should pay a visit to the Oratory of Battuta.

Take the stairs leading to the room above the church, and from there, you’ll see the hidden treasure of the city — a small oratorio. This oratory is decorated in gilded carvings, and frescoes, and infused with Baroque paintings. A little tip for you though: Take advantage of the benches provided, so you won’t get a stiff neck while admiring the beauty of its ceiling.

Apart from that, you’ll also stumble upon a lot of terracotta statues inside the room; there are 15 to be exact. The place also holds Alfonso Lombardi’s painting entitled Death of the Virgin. If you’re lucky, you might also get a chance to watch their musical programs. How exciting!

Pinacoteca Nazionale

Believe it or not, but if you search for Beautiful Gallery, Bologna, there’s a 90% chance that the National Museum of the city will appear on the list. This is due to its special goal — to preserve and prioritize works by artists who are residents of Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna region, particularly in the 13th century to the early 19th century.

It’s indeed a must-visit tourist attraction in Bologna, as it’s known to hold art pieces that could tell you parts of the city’s history.

Bologna, The Perfect Italian City for Foodies and Travelers

Being constrained from doing even the smallest things, such as going outside to have a breath of fresh air, might have been too suffocating — especially for those who aren’t used to staying inside their homes. Fortunately, with all the progress in terms of eradicating the virus, these limitations are slowly being reduced to the point that one’s personal and leisure travel is already being allowed.

To those looking forward to traveling, this is your sign to book your vacation. Time to get your planners out and fill the remaining dates of the year with your dream travel destinations. By travel destinations, don’t forget to include the ever-wonder country of Italy, especially its city that’s known to be all the foodies’ paradise — Bologna, Italy. Get your gadgets out and search for Trips to Italy 2022 to help you get a hold of its current updates in terms of travels and the like because sadly, the Italy travel restrictions still address the public to reconsider entering the country. Nonetheless, nothing beats a good old preparation in case everything goes back to normal.

Must-Try Bologna Food

If you thought that scenic spots, wonderful attractions, and architecture are all Bologna has to offer you, I’m telling you now that you’re mistaken. Situated in the Emilia Romagna region, one of the city’s pride is its delectable cuisines and an array of food choices. This is mainly why Bologna is not only frequented by travelers, but also food bloggers and critiques from across the globe.

No idea where to dig in? Or, are you having difficulty choosing the type of food to try first? Well, this list of the top food preferences will surely guide you in making the right food decisions. Whether you’re an epicure or simply a person who wishes to have a first-hand experience of Bologna’s exquisite dishes, the following are the must-try cuisine specialties for visitors.

Tagliatelle al Ragù (Pasta Bolognese) You might have heard or even tasted a bolognese. However, do you know what it truly tastes like? In Bologna city, you’d get to savor its authentic version and flavor — although it might be different from the taste you’re accustomed to. Cooked with handmade egg-based pasta, perfectly cooked sauce (ragù), and added with slow-cooked meat — this dish is indeed a perfection! Some might associate it with “spaghetti bolognese” yet it’s nothing like it in actuality. Once you get a mouthful of it, you might not love spaghetti the way you did before! When served with a classic wine, it could even be the best Italian meal you’ll have.

Tortellini en Brodo From afar, this dish looks akin to ordinary pasta floating in a clear stock. Although it’s similar to them, they’re actually small pieces of dumplings filled with cheese or meat inside and served with a broth. These little dumplings are shaped lang a ring or a hat and are best eaten with parmesan cheese as a side! I know, it’s such a unique dish, right? Just by how one describes it, I’m already curious as to how this Italian food tastes.

Tigelle This food is also known as Crescenta Modenese, which are bite-sized or thin round pieces of bread. In Italy, it’s like a typical sandwich cheese, pesto, or cured meats. It’s perfect as a snack, especially if you don’t want to consume or eat heavily. However, a great food combination would be to eat it together with cunza, a simple paste derived from pork lard — if you want to truly relish its flavor.

Certosino de Bologna For many individuals, spicy bread may be rare. However, they could be popular Italian desserts, such as Certosino de Bologna or panspeziale. This food usually has melted chocolate, candied fruits, and sultanas inside it and is often decorated with almonds. During the Christmas season, it’s one of the popularly served desserts; you’ll rarely find a household without one! However, it’s available any time of the year, so you can immediately have a bite of it the moment you feel a craving.

Shakerato If you’re a coffee-lover, this is surely one of the Italian drinks you’ll love. With just a double shot of espresso, ice, and sugar as its main ingredients, this iced coffee is already created to perfection. Normally, it has a slightly sweet taste, yet you could have it adjusted if you prefer a stronger coffee feel to it. There are a lot of fine restaurants that offer these mouthwatering foods and more. Yet if you wish to ensure a great foodie experience on your first visit, here are some recommendable restaurants you can try:

  • Osteria dell’Orsa
  • Trattoria Ana Maria
  • Osteria Dei Grifoni
  • Al Sangiovese

Affordable Activities in the City

Want to explore the marvel of Bologna, but you’re on a very tight budget? Well, say no more, because aside from visiting the city’s well-known tourist spots, there are still a lot of things you can do without needing to spend a lot of money.

Take a Breath of Fresh Air in Villa Spada

If you’re looking for a place to capture your moments without having to spend a single dime, then visit Villa Spada, an 18th-century villa that’s surrounded by Italian gardens. Aside from its beautiful park, inside the neoclassical villa, you’ll see the Museum of Tapestry, where dresses from different cultures and periods are to be found. This is also a great place to be in if you want to have a picnic since Villa Spada is open to the public; thus, you are much welcome to spend the day out on its lawn.

Taste Bologna’s Local Specialties

Travelling comes with exploring the pastries and cuisines of a certain place. It’s without a doubt that Bologna, or even Italy in its entirety, is packed with a lot of restaurants that could serve you the city’s local specialties. Who won’t ever want to take a bite off a famous food from Italy, right? However, with a limited budget, it’ll be difficult to eat there. That’s why you should not miss visiting Mercato di Mezzo, as it is considered to be one of the best places to affordably purchase Bologna’s local cuisines and produce. Here, you’ll be served with a variety of cold cuts, kinds of pasta, bread, wines, cheeses, and many more! Imagine, you’ll have a happy tummy without making your wallet sad.

Shop in Mercato Piazzola

Of course, traveling is not the same without shopping for souvenirs and the like, which is one more reason why you should pay a visit to Mercato Piazzola. It’s a local market that holds around 400 stalls and shops that offer a wide range of goodies. If you’re looking for clothes, shoes, accessories, and even household items, you’ll indeed get a hold of them here. Other than that, you’ll also catch a sight of vintage items and ethnic crafts in its Montagnola area. You’ll never want to miss that, won’t you?

There are other things you can try in Bologna, especially if you have an extra budget to spend with. Here in Bologna, you can come across a wide variety of tours and experience high-quality food activities.

Guided City Tours

There are a lot of options that you can choose from in terms of touring around the city. You may explore the city on your own or avail of the public or private touring experience. The following list below contains some of the guided city tours that you may find helpful in the event of visiting the city of Bologna.

Bologna Custom Private Tours by Locals

You can avail of this 3-hour off-the-beaten-path tour for a minimum of $155.72. However, the price still varies depending on the group size.

Classic Walking Tour Bologna

You can avail of this 2 to 3-hour tour for a minimum of $78.75. Again, the price varies depending on the group size. Here you’ll be able to explore Bologna’s A-list attractions, and as well as try some of Bologna’s well-known local specialties.

E-Bike Tour on the Hills of Bologna

You can avail of this 3 and a half-hour tour for a minimum of $86.86. Here, you’ll be able to enjoy photogenic green spaces such as the Parco Giardini Margherita and Parco di Villa Ghigi. Furthermore, you will also be given a chance to ride up to the hilltop of the Sanctuary of San Luca. Note that for your safety, you’ll be provided with all the equipment that you’ll be needing during the tour — bikes, helmets, and even light refreshments.

Luxurious Tours

You might be aware of the fact that some of the globally recognized luxurious cars originated from the country of Italy. With that, here in Bologna, you’ll be given a chance to take a tour to the factories of Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ducati, and Pagani. You may avail of the following tours for a price ranging from $324 to $745. It’s a bit pricey, yes, but it’s worth the try, especially if you have a lot of extra money to spend it with.

Food Experience Tours

Bologna is known for being a heaven-sent paradise for those who are fond of food. That’s why they decided to take the visitors’ food experience to another level. In the city, you’ll be given options to avail of such experience depending on your budget. However, you must be reminded that they could cost a little bit higher than a traveler’s average budget for food, as they could cost about almost $200, so if you’re looking forward to experiencing one of these, then you should start saving up now.

History of Bologna

Early inhabitants were the Etruscans whose culture was influenced by the Greeks starting around 750 BC. The conflict between them and the Romans would lead Etruscans to be assimilated into the Roman Empire. In the 4th century BC, Bologna was under the Romans’ rule. During this period, inhabitants numbered around 20,000. Roman culture and tradition soon followed and flourished. To this day the landscapes and cityscape follow their renowned architecture and agriculture.

By 1088, the University of Bologna was established. It is considered the world’s oldest university in continuous operation. Initially, the university’s focus was centered around the study of medieval Roman law, medicine, and astronomy. 


Later, during the 1000s – the 1200s, Bologna would be marked by political instability and fragmentation.  This was caused by the power struggles between the papacy, the Holy Roman Empire, and prominent monarchies that fought over control of the city.  

Additionally during the 1000s additional city walls were created to protect parts of the city because Bologna was involved in various wars. Some parts of these walls are still standing to this day. Increasing commerce and agriculture led to rapid growth in population in Bologna. 

Subsequently, in 1256, Bologna was the first European city to abolish slavery. At this time, the Comune of Bologna promulgated “Liber Paradisus” and as a result, the law freed 5,885 slaves.  Afterward, in 1327, the Comune of Bologna would be weakened by infighting. The papacy would take control of the city. Later on, in 1334 a rebellion occurred and Bologna became a lordship under Taddeo Pepoli. 

About a decade later the unfortunate occurrence of the Black Death in 1348 brought its population down to about half. At the time, there were around 50,000 inhabitants and after the plague, it was reduced to around 25,000. 

In 1564, the Piazza del Nettuno, the Palazzo dei Banchi, and Archiginnasio were the main building of the university. 

It was on June 19, 1796, Napoleon came to Bologna. He briefly reinstated the ancient mode of government. On July 9, 1797, Bologna’s senate would ultimately become the first capital of the Cispadane Republic before Milan. The republic was short-lived and the Congress of Vienna of 1815 restored Bologna to the Papal States. 

In 1831 uprisings occurred and planned for the unification of Italy. In turn, Pope Gregory XVI asked for Austrian intervention against the rebels. On the 26th of April, the rebellion across the Italian peninsula would be crushed by Austrian forces. Over a decade later, from March 23, 1848, until August 22, 1849, the First Italian War of Independence occurred and ended. Fighting then persisted later on and was followed by the Second Italian War of Independence that started on the 29th of April 1859. It would then end on July 11, 1859. 

At the same time, Papal rule finally ended in its aftermath when the French and Piedmontese troops expelled the Austrians from Italian lands. In 1861, Bologna joined the kingdom of Italy. Bologna would later thrive economically and socially through the last decades of the 19th century. 

In 1864 a railway was constructed between Bologna to Florence. Bologna would suffer extensive damage during World War II. The strategic importance of the city as an industrial and railway hub connecting northern and central Italy made it a target for the Allies. Since then there are numerous historical monuments still present to this day, thanks to careful restoration and conservation policies over the years. 

Nowadays Bologna retains its title of being an important industrial, financial, and transport hub connecting southern and northern Italy. At the same time, it is in close proximity to the rest of Europe. Bologna serves as an ideal place for industry and trade. As a result, it is one of the richest cities in Italy.

Estimated Travel Costs

If you’re worried about the budget that you should allot before flying to Bologna, Italy, then stop worrying because based on past travelers, the average daily vacation expenses in Bologna is only $162, which comprises your meals and transportation costs. As for your accommodation, you don’t have to spend a lot, especially if you aren’t aiming for a five-star hotel. As per the veteran travelers, the average hotel price in the city for two persons would only cost about $172. Thus, if you’re planning to stay in Bologna for a week, then you should allow at least $2,265, excluding your touring and other activities’ expenses — which you can base on the preceding paragraphs. 

Why Visit Bologna?

After knowing a lot more about the marvels of the city of Bologna, it’s without a doubt that you already know the answer to the question of why you should visit the said city. Aside from the fact that it holds a unique culture and extravagant tourist spots, it also offers a kind of experience that could most probably change your perspective in life.