Italy’s history is rich and well-preserved. Between the Etruscans and Romans, beautiful architecture and culture have been passed down for centuries. Though the landscape of old building, basilicas, and towers are awe-inspiring, a trip outside the city for some winetasting or hill hiking give you an old-world perspective of Italy. The city of Bologna has a famous sauce named after it (Bolognese), so do not be surprised to find this delicious dish and many other kinds of pasta in restaurants dotting the city. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
Asinelli Tower is the tallest tower in the Bologna area at over 97 meters tall. The tower was built between 1109 and 1119 by the Asinelli family for military purposes and family prestige. The tower has undergone several renovations and changes through the years, including the area which once was surrounded by wooden structures more popular for the time. Visitors to Bologna will marvel at the massive structure that has become the symbol of the city of Bologna. Visitors can purchase a Bologna Welcome Card PLUS for free entry to the tower and other Bologna staples.
Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy
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When heading to Bologna, one of the must-see destinations is Piazza Maggiore. Piazza Maggiore is at the very center of the city of Bologna. It was once used as the leading center for all activities in Bologna – celebrations, festivals, trade, commerce, public punishments. As building built up around the grassy area that once housed the square, the plaza once known as Curia Communis transitioned into Piazza Maggiore (16th century). Today, guests can stroll through the center, marveling at the unique and old architecture. Events are still held in the center, celebrating the culture and holidays of Bologna.
Piazza Maggiore, Bologna BO, Italy
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3.Saint Petronius Church
As a minor basilica, Saint Petronius Church (or Basilica di San Petronio) has stood as a centerpiece and majestic symbol in Bologna. Its construction began in 1390 but was not consecrated by the Catholic diocese until 1954. It was named after the eighth bishop of Bologna in the 5th Century, Sint Petronius. Today, the relics of the saint are sealed in the church, but the façade of the basilica remains mostly incomplete. Today’s visitors can visit the massive church and check out the alter and side chapels, the beautiful (and controversial) artwork and frescoes, and the Meridian Line established inside the church.
Piazza Galvani, 5, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-051-23-14-15
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Fontana del Nettuno, or the Neptune Fountain, is one piazza over from Piazza Maggiore in Piazza Nettuno. Cardinal Legate Charles Borromeo commissioned this fountain in honor of his uncle, Pope Pies IV’s, election. The fountain was completed in 1566 and has since had replicas made of it to be shown around the world, including in Japan and California. The original, still in Bologna, is now under renovation to modernize the lighting and water features. Once completed, it is the hope that this statue will stand for many more centuries without decay.
Piazza del Nettuno, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-05-16-58-31-11
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5.Santo Stefano Church
Another impressive basilica in Bologna is Santo Stefano Church (the Italian name is Complesso di Santo Stefano). This basilica is unique in design because it is also known as Sette Chiese (Seven Churches), which were all built and connected at different times. Though the exact dates of build and purpose are unknown, its replica of Christ’s tomb and the marble basin in Pilato’s Courtyard is enough of a reason to visit. Visitors can spend an entire day checking out this religious complex, enjoying the architecture, art, and gardens around all seven buildings.
Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-05-16-58-31-11
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Museo Civico Archeologico is an excellent stop when touring through the city of Bologna. With one of the oldest and most powerful civilizations occupying Italy, you’ll find many ancient Roman artifacts displayed. Of course, Bologna was at one point part of the Etruscan empire, so many objects of that period also can be found. Travel and occupancy in Egypt brought many Egyptian artifacts back by the Romans. Guests to the Archaeological Museum in Bologna can check out the three collections of Egyptian, Roman, and Etruscan (and other) relics throughout the building. Consider using one of the prearranged museum itineraries to guide you through.
Via dell’Archiginnasio, 2, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-05-12-75-72-11
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7.I Portici Hotel
© I Portici Hotel
When staying in Bologna, consider booking a hotel that has a historical backdrop with modern luxury amenities. I Portici Hotel is luxury and comfort all in one. From the moment you step through the arches leading to the front doors to the moment you lay your head on the crisp white sheets, you’ll feel like a one-of-a-kind guest. Balcony rooms are available, but if you select a room without one, a rooftop terrace provides gorgeous views over the city of Bologna. While there, no need to travel far for dinner with the I Portici Restaurant on-site offering delicious upscale cuisine.
Via dell’Indipendenza, 69, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-05-14-21-85
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For a truly artistic experience, the Pinacoteca Nazionale Bologna is the place to go. This National Art Gallery is just minutes from the two towers and is housed in the old Jesuit Novitiate building. With the building’s history so spellbinding, it won’t be a surprise how caught up you’ll get in the fantastic artwork on display. This museum is entirely self-guided, so be sure to take your time as you peruse the centuries’ old artwork. The artwork, while impressive, also holds historical stories. For instance, many pieces once taken by Napoleon were later returned by the Louvre to Italy.
Via delle Belle Arti 56, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-05-14-20-94-11
Beginning in 1251, Mercato Piazzola, or simply La Piazzola, was set up on Fridays and Saturdays to sell cattle. Since its origination, over 400 stalls have joined the market each week to provide a truly unique shopping experience in the city of Bologna. Shoppers and visitors can walk the stalls, purchasing clothing, shoes, accessories, pottery, flowers, and pretty much anything in between. As a visitor to Bologna, you may choose to pick up some beautiful jewelry to take home – all at a low price. The market is held weekly, so no matter when you visit, you should be able to sneak in a trip.
40126 Bologna, Metropolitan City of Bologna, Italy
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Quadrilatero in Bologna is a shopping district like no other in the city. Just off the path from Piazza Maggiore, this old medieval market is at the heart of the old town. Originally, skilled workers, like goldsmiths, furriers, and painters, had stores and workshops in this neighborhood. Though the owners have changed hands, these stores still maintain most of the furnishing and/or charm of the Medieval architecture and build. Visitors will find themselves in awe of the gorgeous window displays and will be unable to pass by the stands of goodies in front of these shops.
Metropolitan City of Bologna, Italy
Recognizable by its clock tower and 30 arches, the Archiginnasio of Bologna is currently the location of the Archignnasio Municipal Library and the Anatomical Theatre. Called Biblioteca Comunale Dell’Archiginnasio formally, Archiginnasio (for short) is an excellent architectural stop for those interested in Italian design. Though guests may visit the library, the Anatomical Theatre, built for anatomy lectures, is a real gem. Built as an amphitheater with fir wood, Anatomical Theater houses many statues and busts of famous doctors throughout history, including Hippocrates and Galen. Two figures of skinned men, called gli spellati, stand at the top of the theatre looking down at the speakers.
Piazza Galvani, 1, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-051-27-68-11
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12.San Luca Sanctuary
Opened in 1765, Santuario di San Luca (or Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca) is another basilica located in Bologna. Italy is well-known for its gorgeous basilicas, and this one meets those expectations. Sitting about 300 meters above the city, this church is reminiscent of old Roman temples. Before its build, churches and chapels dedicated to the Madonna held this location. Today, visitors can either take the arcade or the newly built road up to the sanctuary. A climb to the top of San Luca Sanctuary provides a 180-degree panoramic view of Bologna.
Via di San Luca, 36, 40135 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-05-16-14-23-39
Palazzo d’Accursio O Comunale is the Town Hall in Bologna. It is made up of several buildings in the Palazzo d’Accursio. Formerly home to Accursio, a master of law, it has transferred hands and been the homes to Cardinals and Elders in the government. Today, visitors can climb the 16th-century stairs believed to be designed by Bramante. The top floor of the building houses the Collexinion Comunali c’Arte collection (Civic Museum of Municipal Art). Within the collection is the Madonna with Child and the Court of the Magi carousel that initially was located in the Palazzo.
Piazza Maggiore, 6, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-05-12-19-31-11
Italy is known for high fashion, so one stop you’ll make on your vacation should be to a high-end galleria, like Galleria Cavour. Full of well-known fashion brands, like Barbour, Emporio Armani, Gucci, Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Tiffany, you’ll have hours of fun shopping. Many Italian brands, like Twinset Milano, Piretti, Bottega Veneta, Brunello Cucinelli, and Borbonese are also housed throughout the shiny complex. Whether or not you intend to purchase anything, browsing through the high-fashion items brings you right to the center of fashion week with elite trends. The galleria also has a restaurant and café by Armani to appease any appetite.
Galleria Cavour, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-051-22-26-21
15.Museum of History
When you’re interested in learning more about Bologna as a city and its history, head over to the Museum of History at Palazzo Pepoli Museo Della Storia Di Bologna. Once a Medieval palace for the Pepoli family, this museum shows the history of Bologna from ancient times with the Etruscans through modern-day importance. This museum used multimedia formats to provide a chronologically organized itinerary through all the rooms. From the Painted City to A Time Not So Near Nor So Far, the rooms are themed to maximize the learning experience. Visitors can also use their Bologna Welcome Card for free entry.
Via Castiglione, 7, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-05-14-20-94-11
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16.Saint Dominic Church
Flooded with basilicas, Bologna may seem overpopulated by these tremendous architectural feats. However, these minor basilicas are so beautiful, each is worth its own visit, and this includes Basilica of San Domenico (Saint Dominic Church). The church houses the remains of Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican friars. Though Nicola Pisano built the shrine, the additions by a novice Michelangelo make the trip worth the visit. Guests to the church can stay for a traditional service or pick a time to visit when they have more time to admire the artwork on their own.
Piazza D. Domenico, 13, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-05-16-40-04-11
With a grand name like Palazzo Fava Ghisilieri (Palazzo Pava. Palzaao Delle Esponsizioni), guests should expect just as much grandeur inside the museum. Once a Renaissance palace for the Ghisilardi family, it’s four floors now house an art collection and frescoes that date back to the 16th century. The second and third floors are dedicated to traveling exhibits, so no matter how many times you visit, you’ll find a different experience. In the modern and contemporary art areas, look for work by Marco Tirelli, Felice Casorati, Filippo de Pisis, and Nicola Samori.
Vin Manzoni, 2, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-051-19-93-63-05
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The Modern Art Gallery in Bologna is called MAMbo for short (Museo d’Arte Moderna do Bologna). Located in the heart of the city, it houses a permanent collection of Italian art from WWII to the present day. As well as a museum, it is also the main office for the Istituzione Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, which includes many museums, education departments, and an artist residence. Though there have been guest showings of foreign artwork, the primary focus is Italian artists, including a popular exhibit looking at Giorgio Morandi. Overall, MAMbo looks to expand the modern art genre by stimulating scholarly programs and lectures.
Via Don Giovanni Minzoni, 14, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-05-16-49-66-11
19.The Hills Around Bologna
The architecture and history in Bologna cannot be argued, but what is often overlooked by tourists is the environment surrounding the city. By taking a walk through the hills around the city of Bologna, you’ll be inspired by the Italian landscape and awed by the historical views of the city. This area also houses many wineries for an experience you’ll only find in Bologna. Walking through the hills will put you back in time to a peaceful Renaissance experience, stumbling across ancient and well-preserved buildings and seeing the unspoiled landscapes. Several markers dot popular walking paths for the adventurer.
40121 Bologna BO, Italy
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Founded in 1979, Osteria dell’Orsa is located near Piazza Maggiore in a popular tourist district. The beginnings of the restaurant boasted jazz and punk, and you never know what you may come across during your visit. The most important thing to know about Osteria dell’Orsa is that all the pasta is homemade and delicious. Whether interested in tortellini, tagliatelle, or one of the many non-pasta dishes, you’ll find delicious, fresh food. The owners want to bring farm-to-table to their restaurant as much as possible. Wine served at the restaurant is from the Imola region, just outside Bologna.
Via Mentana, 1, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-051-23-15-76
© Trattoria Leonida
Located in the historic district of Bologna near Piazza Santo Stefano, Trattoria Leonida is toted as a “typical Bolognese restaurant.” What does this mean? Besides an exceptional wine list, this restaurant has been serving tradition Bolognese cuisine since 1938. Look for homemade pasta and sauces, as well as seafood and meat dishes. Wild game dishes with hare, wild boar, and pheasant are worth noting. Be sure to check out local ingredients, like the white and black truffles, that accompany many dishes when in season. There will be no reason to stop your dining experience when there are so many fantastic dessert offerings as well, such as semifreddo with mascarpone cheese, Zabaglione, and panna cotta.
Vicolo Alemagna, 2, 40125 Bologna BO, Itlay, Phone: 39-051-23-97-42
22.Osteria della Fondazza
When you’re ready for some affordable homemade Italian cuisine, stop into Osteria della Fondazza. Consider their charcuterie platter with fresh goat’s cheese and salty cold cuts or their Italian crepes. Their gorgonzola ravioli and their fresh I piatti are worth a visit alone. The wine selection is vast and perfect no matter the route your dish choices take. Though the restaurant looks unimposing from the front, beyond the front door, you’ll step into a two-room bistro that affords some much-desired privacy from the streets. While there, be sure to try the local dish, crescentines, on Fridays.
Via Fondazza, 35, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-051-34-77-41
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23.Drogheria Della Rosa
Drogheria della Rosa is located close to the world’s oldest university in the center of the historic district in Bologna. The menu is brief, but this allows chef Emanuele Addone to focus on making the best dishes possible for your visit. Look into a fresh seafood platter, lamb with rosemary, guinea fowl breast with honey spice, or classic tagliatelle ragu. While the meals are filling, desserts, like chocolate flan and seasonal fruits, are also available. Depending on the time of year, seasonal dishes and daily specials are offered. The items offered at Drogheria della Rosa look to showcase all the regions of Italy.
Via Cartoleria, 10, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy, phone: 39-051-22-25-29
24.Ristorantino Il Tinello
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Another restaurant featuring local Bolognese cuisine is Ristorantino Il Tinello. Of course, all pasta is handmade, a delicacy often only spotted in upscale restaurants outside of Italy. One of the popular dishes at Il Tinello is the green pasta ravioli stuffed with mortadella, ham, ricotta, and parmesan cheese. Another favorite is the tagliatelle with meat sauce (Bolognese sauce comes from this city specifically). Patrons can select wine from the vast collection from across all regions of Italy. Complete your meal with coffee or dessert wine and a sweet dessert, such as ice cream or fresh fruit.
Via De’Giudei, 1c, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy, Phone: 39-051-22-15-69
24 Best Things to Do in Bologna, Italy
- Asinelli Tower, Photo: bbsferrari/stock.adobe.com
- Piazza Maggiore, Photo: Roman Babakin/stock.adobe.com
- Saint Petronius Church, Photo: ekaterina_belova/stock.adobe.com
- Neptune Fountain, Photo: bbsferrari/stock.adobe.com
- Santo Stefano Church, Photo: cge2010/stock.adobe.com
- Archaeological Museum, Photo: alex_bendea/stock.adobe.com
- I Portici Hotel, Photo: I Portici Hotel
- National Gallery, Photo: JackF/stock.adobe.com
- La Piazzola, Photo: Pavel/stock.adobe.com
- Quadrilatero, Photo: AntonioDiaz/stock.adobe.com
- Archiginnasio, Photo: picture10/stock.adobe.com
- San Luca Sanctuary, Photo: GiorgioMorara/stock.adobe.com
- Palazzo Comunale, Photo: LErmo/stock.adobe.com
- Galleria Cavour, Photo: vitylia7/stock.adobe.com
- Museum of History, Photo: Roza_Sean/stock.adobe.com
- Saint Dominic Church, Photo: ironstuffy/stock.adobe.com
- Palazzo Fava, Photo: uva51/stock.adobe.com
- MAMbo, Photo: Africa Studio/stock.adobe.com
- The Hills Around Bologna, Photo: Max/stock.adobe.com
- Osteria dell’Orsa, Photo: FPWing/stock.adobe.com
- Trattoria Leonida, Photo: Trattoria Leonida
- Osteria della Fondazza, Photo: francescodemarco/stock.adobe.com
- Drogheria Della Rosa, Photo: Artur/stock.adobe.com
- Ristorantino Il Tinello, Photo: Studio Gi/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Claudio Caridi/stock.adobe.com
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