Bologna: 5 Awesome Must-sees!

Updated On: September 17, 2023


Bologna in Italy! Thinking of a short break? Bologna is the perfect choice if you want to make your European trip such an unforgettable experience. Picturing a vacation in this European city is so refreshing and thrilling to the mind.

Bologna is a small city, but it combines all the benefits of metropolises and towns. It has a lot to offer, starting from its architectural heritage to its uncontested traditional cuisine. Keep reading as we take you on a tour around this walkable and lively city in Italy.

Bologna: A Città Metropolitana

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Welcome to one of the most beautiful inland cities in Italy, Bologna, where there is culture, history, landscape, and food. You are in an iconic city filled with porticoes, historical buildings, and mouth-watering dishes. 

Situated between two of the most-visited tourist hubs in Italy (Florence and Venice), Bologna has its own charm that puts it at the top of the livability index of the European country. It is the capital city of the region of northern Italian Emilia-Romagna.

Bologna is one of a few cities whose residents can speak English, which is yet another asset. English signboards are everywhere in the city; even better, restaurant waiters can take orders in English. After all, you won’t want to miss eating at any of the diners of Bologna—a gastronomic paradise!

The Delicious Cuisine of the Fat City

A fun fact: Bologna tops the list of the best food cities in Italy. Have you ever heard of the Spaghetti Bolognese, Bolognese sauce, or Bologna sausage? There are many signature dishes that define this Italian city, which is famous for its traditional cuisine. 

Tourists travel all the way to Bologna to sample some of the tasty cuisines of this well-fed city. At least, this is one of many reasons to travel there, especially if you know that it is one of the few Italian cities that produce Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan Cheese, and they have their own global stamp.

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If you ever wonder where the ingredients of the delicious Bolognese dishes come from, we will tell you it is from Po River Valley—the agricultural heartland of Italy. That is not very far away from Bologna, which is located on the edge of the Po Plain. 

Nicknamed the Fat City, Bologna is the food capital of Italy, and it even features the first food theme park in the world. We will take you there along our virtual tour around this culinary metropolis of Italy!

A Romantic City in Italy

Bologna is not a city that only caters to your stomach, though; it is also a perfect destination for sweethearts. Think of the city’s charming narrow streets and arcades that you might walk along during your tour as a couple to explore the most romantic spots.

Why not? After all, it is rightly designated as the world’s most arcaded city, with 53 kilometres of arcades extending throughout the city. It is undoubtedly a mecca for honeymooners. 

Famous Attractions in Bologna

Having reached this far in the article, you are probably thinking about the attractions you could visit in Bologna. Well, we are saving the best for last to bring you the best places to visit in the city. Ready, set, let’s go! 

FICO Eataly World: A Food Park in the Right Place

Short for Fabbrica Italiana Contadina (Italian Farming Factory), FICO Eataly World is a remarkable culinary destination that celebrates the rich food culture of Italy. Extending over 100,000 square meters, FICO is considered the largest food park in the world. The park is dedicated to Italian gastronomy and local products.

FICO adopts a farm-to-table concept that allows visitors to see through the different steps of food production, starting from cattle breeding, cheese and pasta making, and cooking to preparing dishes and finally serving them to the tables. 

Visitors of FICO can receive a cooking class or go shopping at the marketplace and buy fresh Italian products. The Street of Taste is where you can dine at any of the restaurants and trattorias (a trattoria is an Italian-style eating place). An important note is that the Street of Taste has more than 40 restaurants and food stalls, and you can book your table online.  

Of course, there is a lot of walking to do along the gardens, orchards, and vineyards at FICO Eataly while enjoying the fresh air. And guess what? There is an indoor area for sports and a playground for the little ones as well. No wonder it is dubbed the Disney World of Food!

The Historical Centre of the City

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Nostalgia has a great place in Bologna. Centuries of history are recalled in its historical centre, which extends over 350 acres and houses many medieval architectural sites worth visiting.

One of the most popular attractions in the historical centre is the Piazza Maggiore, which is one of the largest and oldest squares in Italy. It is the main square in the city and features the Fountain of Neptune, just in the centre. The Piazza Maggiore is also flanked by the Palazzo Comunale (the City Hall) and the Basilica di San Petronio, with its unfinished façade that looks like a puzzle with a missing piece.

The historical centre is also home to the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna—an art gallery that showcases a collection of Italian paintings dating between the 13th and 19th centuries. There is also the Archaeological Museum, which features some of the city’s ancient artefacts. History buffs will surely love the historical centre of Bologna!

The Two Towers: Have a Look at the Medieval Skyscrapers

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Standing close to the Piazza Maggiore, the 97-metre Asinelli Tower and the 48-metre leaning Garisenda Tower were constructed in the 12th century. In their time, they were definitely seen as skyscrapers

The Asinelli, the taller of the two sister towers, can be climbed, offering a spectacular view of the city. You need to climb 498 steps on steep wooden staircases to reach the top, but the thrill is worth the try. 

The Garisenda Tower reached 60 metres before being shortened because it caused the building to lean. Stories suggest this was done to avoid using the tower for military purposes. 

The two towers were used as a defensive site in medieval Bologna. Today, they are a reminder of Bologna’s strategic importance and are among the most popular tourist attractions in the city. You can’t possibly be in the city and not visit its 900-year-old towers.

The Sanctuary of San Luca: Hike to that Church on the Hill

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Now, this is the place where your trip to Bologna gets a bit challenging. Deciding to go on a foot journey up the hill to the Sanctuary of San Luca, where you can get a panoramic view of the city of Bologna and the surrounding mountains, is a fantastic experience that should not be missed.   

With an elliptical dome on the top, the church is located on Colle della Guardia, southwest of the city’s historical centre. It was constructed between 1741 and 1757 following the designs of Carlo Francesco Dotti. It has since served as an important pilgrimage destination in the whole of the Emilia-Romagna region. 

You can reach the sanctuary by walking along a 3.3-mile trail from Bologna up to the hill, which could take up to an hour and a half. Another option for you is to walk along the arched walkway—the Portico di San Luca.  

In 1793, the Portico di San Luca was built along 3.8 kilometres. This roofed arcade is made up of 666 arches and is considered the longest-covered walkway in the world. You will need no map to ascend all 471 steps of the portico to reach the Sanctuary of San Luca.

This walk is estimated to take about 70 minutes, during which you could pose for some pictures or stop for some coffee from any of the few cafes near the sanctuary. The Sanctuary of San Luca is indeed a must-see during your visit to the Italian city of Bologna! 

The University of Bologna: The World’s Oldest

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Bologna is home to the oldest university in continuous operation in the world. Yes, you got that right. Dating back to the High Middle Ages, the University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and tops the list of the most historical campuses. That is why Bologna is rightly named the Learned City. 

“Nourishing Mother of the Studies”

The Latin motto of the University of Bologna

Located in the heart of the historical centre of the city, the University of Bologna’s architecture is a mix of old and modern styles. It is home to a variety of iconic buildings, such as the Archiginnasio, Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio, and Palazzo Poggi.

Who said you must be a student to visit this architectural heritage site in the city? You will be captivated by the medieval architectural style of the University of Bologna, with all the red brick facades and arched doorways that stand as a testament to the historical and cultural significance of this university.

A Perfect Vacation in Bologna

Though outshined by Rome, Florence, and Venice, the Italian city of Bologna has a lot to offer for unforgettable day trips that will leave you with a lot of beautiful throwbacks. 

A two-day visit is enough to explore all of Bologna, which is defined by its red-tiled rooftops—a good reason why it is also nicknamed the Red City. For a satisfying travel experience, we recommend that you visit Bologna during the spring, which is the best season there.

So, when it’s time for a short break, it’s always time for Bologna—the Fat, Learned, and Red City. This is surely a visit you will never forget or regret!

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