Five reasons to choose Bologna
For many Bologna is still a bit of a hidden gem among the more popular Italian cities. Here are our top five reasons why you should go and discover its delights for yourself.
Bologna is one of the biggest foodie cities in Europe and for anyone interested in Italian cuisine a mind-blowing experience. To get a good first impression of the culinary delights you might want to join in on a food tour. The options are endless, from aperitivo tours to pasta demonstrations, food market visits to wine tasting sessions. You can choose a short city tour or make it a day trip and get to know local producers.
You can't leave Bologna without trying some of the typical dishes. Everyone probably knows Pasta Bolognese, but the authentic Tagliatelle al Ragù really is something special. The pasta is hand cut into wide strips soaking up sauce with slow cooked meat. The city is also known for its charcuterie and cheese. With your aperitif drink you could try some Mortadella sausage or Parmigiana cheese, for example.
If you want to sample something sweet, Zuppa Inglese, a sort of Italian trifle with layers of custard, cake and chocolate will make your tastebuds very happy. Bologna also knows how to make amazing Gelato, in a million different flavors from caramelised figs to mascarpone and fresh almonds.
Bologna's history is long and rich. It has been one of the major Italian cities in the Etruscan and Roman times and during the Middle Ages it was one of the most highly populated cities in Europe. Bologna even has Europe's oldest existing university. It is no surprise that history surrounds you everywhere.
A significant part of the important historic sites and architecture dates to the 11th–15th century. The medieval city centres main squares are Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Nuttuno. Around them spreads a network of streets lined with historic buildings including several small palaces. On Piazza Maggiore you will also find the 14th century Basilica of Saint Petronio, one of the largest basilicas in the world.
For history buffs the city has several good museums. Palazzo Pepoli, in a Medieval palace, showcases the history and culture of the area with relics and multimedia exhibits. Museo Cívico Arqueológico de Bolonia on the other hand lets you dive deep into the Egyptian, Etruscan, and Gallic ages. Museo Civico Medievale is the best choice for anyone interested in medieval times and war history.
Art lovers are tempted in Bologna with over thirty museums and tons of galleries showcasing pieces throughout history. The city's biggest pride is MAMbo, the Museum of Modern Art of Bologna opened in 2007. The museum lets you explore art from the post-war period to the present day.
Despite its rich history Bologna embraces cutting-edge contemporary art too. Some of the best places to see fresh new art include Studio Cenacchi and Fondazione Zuchelli. If you however want to see some classics, make your way to Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna housing exquisite Italian art from the 13th to the 18th century.
Bologna also has a great selection of artisanal boutiques and workshops if you like your art to be of the practical variety. The city is known for its artistry in areas such as perfume making, jewelry and paper goods.
4. Café and bar culture
This obviously goes hand in hand with food culture, but the cafés and bars of Bologna deserve their own mention. The watering holes of the city are full of people from the early hours of morning cappuccino, through Aperitivo hour, all the way to late night.
Bologna is the proud owner of several of Italy's oldest coffee shops. You could start your tour at Caffè Pasticceria Gamberini, still decorated in its original style from 1907. One of the locals’ favourites is Caffè Zanarini where the breakfast pastries are always impeccable.
Aperitivo hour is sacred to everyone in Bologna. At around 6 pm everything grinds to a halt, and it is time for a drink and some lovely snacks. One of the most popular spots to enjoy a drink is The Mercato delle Erbe, a historic building with food and bar stalls and great outdoor space.
5. Day trips
You could happily enjoy Bologna itself for several weeks, but the city's location makes it ideal for day tripping too. There is plenty to see including charming little villages, the Apennine mountains, and seaside towns, all within a short drive or train journey.
Many choose to start their adventures in Parma, only an hour away by train. The city is worth a visit just to stock up on Parma ham and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, but you could also visit the beautiful Cathedral or tour the art museums.
If you need a bit of wellbeing or want to get active instead you could try Bagno Di Romagna, known for its thermal spas. You can still enjoy these in the town’s spa resorts. There are also lots of great hiking and cycling routes in the area.
Of course, you might get a craving for some sea air and sun. One of the classic Italian beachside resorts Rimini is also just an hour away by train. Nine miles of sandy beaches will make it easy to relax after your urban adventures.
Finnair flies to Bologna multiple times a week during the summer season starting from 2 April 2024.