Bologna is a fantastic but often overlooked Italian City. This fantastic place is more than just great Bolognese or Ragu as the Italians call it. Bologna is the capital of the Emilia Romagna region, famed for Parmesan, Modena Balsamic Vinegar and Prosciutto Ham. It is the largest city in the area and is often referred to as the food capital of Italy and you'll soon see why.
Bologna has a heady mix of art, history, culture and food. Bologna is the place to go for an authentic Italian feel. Much less tourist packed than its more famous counterparts there is so much to do in this amazing city. As a university town it contains the world's oldest university, has plenty of top rated bars and restaurants (partly to cater all those students). It is a beautifully medieval city full of beautiful cathedrals and historic buildings.
Bologna's historic centre isn't huge and is best enjoyed on foot.
Things to do in Bologna
First stop should be Asinelli Tower which is the city's largest tower. It really is worth climbing to the top for the amazing view across the city. Be warned this tower is taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Another great place to visit is the Piazza Maggiore which is the city's main square. It is the main meeting place in Bologna and the large square regularly hosts an open air cinema. Around the corner from Piazza Maggiore is Piazza Nettuno which is home to the Basilica of San Petronio, a magnificent pink marble and brick cathedral.
One place to consider visiting is Archiginnasio. This iconic building is one of Bologna's most important buildings. Once upon a time it even housed the University of Bologna but now you'll find the Anatomical Theatre there. It is located on the Piazza Galvani.
Bologna plays host to a wide variety of amazing markets. Whether you're looking for delicious Italian street food, antiques or clothing there's a market for you.
La Piazzola - This market can be found in Piazza VIII Agosto and sells a variety of items including clothes, footwear and second-hand items.
Mercato Antiquario Città di Bologna - An antique market which you can find in in front of St. Stephen's Basilica.
Mercato del Vintage - this market is full of vintage clothing and is a vintage lovers paradise.
Mercato dell'antiquariato - This antiques market takes place under the arcades of Via Matteotti.
DecoMela Art - This beautiful and creative market sells a wide selection of handmade items including jewellery, pottery and candles.
What to eat
Mortadella - No visit to Bologna is complete without sampling Mortadella. Mortadella is an Italian sausage made from ground pork and pork fat. Sounds gross but tastes delicious.
Parmigiano Reggiano – One of the most iconic cheeses in the world. Only the version made in the area around Bologna can use the name Parmigiano otherwise it's called Parmesan. It has been produced in the area for more than 900 years.
Parma Ham - This region isn't known as the food capital of Italy without reason. Parma ham also comes from the region and you must give it a try. Much tastier than the versions sold at home.
Tortellini in brodo - This is a pasta stuffed with pork, parma ham, mortadella and Parmigiano. It is served in a kind of beef broth.
Where to shop
Bologna is a designer haven. Head to Via Farini and Galleria Cavour to find the top designer name boutiques, shoe shops and the latest tech finds. Two particular faves of ours were:
L'Inde Le Palais - a popular boutiques with a vast collection of Italian and international designers.
Fabrica Features - It can be found on Strada Maggiore and is the place to find items by young designers. This is the perfect place to pick up homewares and and trinkets.
Tamburini - Find Tamburini on Via Caprarie. This is one of Bologna's most amazing delicatessen. There's even an on-site cafe to consume your new purchases.
Where to stay
Bologna is nicknamed “la Rossa” (which is fitting since you see terracotta roofs everywhere. ) And it is full of amazing places to stay. It has is relatively untouched by the vast tourism evident in Florence and Rome. See below for where we stayed:
Mercure Bologna Centro
The Mercure Bologna Centro is located opposite the train station and within walking distance of the historic centre, making it an ideal base for your stay. There is free WIFI throughout the hotel. Rooms come with very large very comfy beds, bath and large flat screen TVs.
From here, you can easily take a leisurely stroll through the arcades nearby and explore the wonderful historic centre of Bologna on foot.
Where to eat
Ristorante Trattoria Oberdan da Mario
We spent the evening at this delightful trattoria in the centre of Bologna. Amazing food and wonderful staff make this place a must visit eatery. Opt for the Caprese salad for really fresh ingredients and the tastiest mozzarella you'll ever eat. Follow it up with the Tagliatelle Ragu (Bolognese) because when in Bologna you have to try Bolognese.
Via Guglielmo Oberdan, 43/a, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy
So there you have it, if you have any questions about Bologna, just ask!