As I mentioned in my post about underrated places to visit in Europe, Bologna is an Italian city that is so unfairly overshadowed by big-wigs Florence, Rome and Venice. I had never thought to visit but after I did during the first year of the Blogville program, it became my number one recommendation for a place to visit in Italy for something just a bit different, being great for foodies, city break-ers and culture buffs alike. Got 48 hours there? Here’s what to do with two days in Bologna.
1. Climb the Asinelli tower
Move over Leaning Tower of Pisa, Bologna’s Asinelli Tower’s got you beat. It’s the tallest leaning tower in Italy which means its views trump LTP’s. The climb can be a bit scary– actually, I think it’s worse on the way down, but the 498- stair-climb is worth it to see the city from above its red rooftops.
2. Eat Tagliatelle al Ragù, Parmigiano Reggiano and all the local eats
When I was learning Italian in school, my teachers would always say that Emilia Romagna is the gastronomic capital of Italy. You won’t be able to appreciate this until you’ve been yourself, and Bologna is one of the best places to experience it. Grab a piadina (flatbread sandwich) at Osteria dell’Orso, Tagliatelle al Ragù at Trattoria del Rosso, or grab an antipasto with Mortadella, Prosciutto di Parma, and Parmigiano Reggiano, which you should totally drizzle Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena onto…
Florence is just a 35-minute train ride from Bologna– experience both with my guide to seeing Florence in 48 hours.
3. Go for a passeggiata on via dell’Indipendenza
The Italians have perfected the art of the afternoon stroll, so do as the locals do and have a walk along via dell’Indipendenza. There’s some great shopping, but if that’s not your thing, admire the porticos that line the street. These were built hundreds of years ago so that more housing could be built to accommodate the rising student population. Little did they know how Instagram-worthy they would be…
4. Pick up some wine and enjoy Piazza Maggiore at night
My first time in Bologna, we were brought to a local wine bar where you can bring your own food to eat, called Osteria del Sole. It was a brilliant concept, but once it closed for the evening we brought our meal and bottles of red to the steps of San Petronio Basilica and enjoyed the city’s evening buzz and each other’s company. Sometimes, that’s all you need.
5. Grab an Aperitivo
I flipping love aperitivo. By a drink and have access to all the nibbles you want? Sold. Done. Most bars in major cities will offer Aperitivo around 7pm and in Bologna it’s no different. I recommend popping into Le Stanze, a bar that used to be a church– religious-themed murals still decorate the walls.
6. Get lost in the side streets
You hear people say to “get lost” in any place in Italy but it’s not always easy in the big cities. In Bologna, head just off of any major square and you’ll see shops that are actually authentic (not just claiming to be) and could easily discover a hidden gem. If anything, find the street just off Piazza Maggiore that’s lined with shops selling produce outside (shown above). The colors and signs are enough to make you feel as if you’ve walked miles away from the square.
How to get to Bologna
You can get the high-speed train from any major city, and from Florence, it’s only a 35 minute journey. Flights are available into Bologna or Pisa airport. Too easy I’d say…
Hotels in Bologna
We stayed at Hotel University during our last visit, which was budget-friendly and good value. Have a look at contemporary Aemilia Hotel or Metropolitan Hotel, which is right on via dell’Indipendenza.
What will you do with two days in Bologna? Let me know in the comments.
Photos: All mine except credit to f0ff0 (Piazza Maggiore) and Matteo Pezzi (via dell’Indp)
I did a term abroad in Bologna at uni – you’re right it’s Italy’s most underrated city! Did you make it to Da Vito – nuts trattoria just outside the city where there are mostly Italian families shouting at each other, elbow-deep in lasagna?!
I would have loved to have studied there. And no I’ve never been there, guessing the food’s amazeeee?
OMG!! Only that you missed a lot of things I have been only once in this city and I love it, there’s a lot of things to see and do, Like the Santuario Madonna di San Luca.
It’s a beautiful (long, and tired as well) way to this church but it worth it.
I’ve heard that walk is lovely but I’ve never done it myself. There’s only so much that you can fit in one blog post so I’m sure I’ve missed out lots.
Sitting and have a beer in Piazza Verdi at night with friends… it’s the damn end of the world.
Lived there for 3 years, going to return ASAP.
Lucky guy, and yes, that sounds like the PERFECT evening!
Hi, I was born and I live in Bologna, i’m very happy to see this article, I love my city and one of my hobbies is teach to my friends the secrets of Bologna, if you come back I would love to guide you to visit Bologna! 🙂
Thanks Manuel 🙂
Can you suggest some secrets please? I’m visiting next weekend 🙂
Are my secrets in this post not enough? 😉 What else are you looking for Claire?
Hehe I’ve taken note of all the tips you have 🙂 I’m still trying to find some super good, authentic restaurants though 😉
Thank you for all of these wonderful tips! I’ve been looking for a good hotel to stay at in Bologna and the Aemilia Hotel looks great! I just booked our stay for a night there. 🙂
You’re welcome Maegan! 😀 Enjoy!