What to see and do in Bologna? Easy: Walk. Eat. Walk. Eat. Walk. Eat. That pretty much sums up what I like to do in Bologna.
Why I love walking in Bologna
Bologna is a mid-sized city, so it’s easy to get around on foot, and there are literally miles and miles of covered arcades, so it doesn’t matter if the weather is bad. Being a university town, it has a great, energetic vibe.
The city has a (surprise) long and rich history that is visible practically everywhere in its extremely well-preserved historic center: take in the art and architecture on its streets, look up to admire its towers, spend time in its outdoor squares, or duck into some of its many churches for a sample of Medieval, Baroque and Renaissance art.
What to eat in Bologna
First, know this: Emilia-Romagna is the foodie region of Italy so you should take eating in Bologna very seriously. In fact, I would recommend making yourself a checklist of foods to try in the area. Don’t leave without tasting the famous Bolognese pasta sauce, or ragù. Try any of the cured pork meats like prosciutto or mortadella, and while the area is not as well known for its wine as other Italian regions, it’s worth trying the wine from nearby vineyards. Bologna is the perfect place to find some freshly-baked bread, some local sliced meats, some local cheeses (this is also parmigiano reggiano territory) and some fresh fruit, and sit in a piazza to people-watch and picnic. I could spend hours in the Mercato Delle Erbe.
What to do in Bologna
- visit the well-known University of Bologna, the oldest in Europe, founded in the 11th century;
- take in a basketball game to see one or both of Bologna’s basketball teams play;
- go see some live music – a UNESCO city of music, Bologna offers everything from classical to jazz to folk to opera.
- Visit the beautiful (with the half-finished facade) Basilica of San Petronio
In Bologna (and – as an aside – in Venice too) my favorite thing to do is follow the smallest streets I can see (not the completely deserted ones though!) and get good and lost. Then I pull out my map, and slowly find my way back, making neat local discoveries along the way.
Fabulous day trips from Bologna
- The city of Parma, home of parmesan cheese, is close enough to nip over and back in a day.
- Halfway between Bologna and Parma is the city of Modena, famous for its production of balsamic vinegar, but again a very pretty city in its own right and worth a visit.
- Travel southeast (about 30 minutes by train) to the city of Faenza, and visit the famous ceramics museum.
- From Faenza, take the 10-minute train ride to the small and off-the-beaten-track medieval town of Brisighella. It’s got beautiful scenery, medieval architecture, good food, and in the summer, a medieval festival. I lived in Brigishella for 3 months one summer, so I may be somewhat biased, but I do think it warrants a visit.
Photos by Sanjay
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