08 March 2022 Places

What to see in Bologna, city of rich culture and a great nightlife

Bologna is a hidden Italian gem that has long been unfairly excluded from the usual trampled tourist routes. One of the richest Italian cities, Bologna has the largest preserved old city district in Italy, under the protection of UNESCO.

It is also known for the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world. Over 100,000 students from all over the world study in this city every year. Can you imagine the nightlife?

Besides the university, Bologna is the birthplace of bolognese sauce, which in this region is served exclusively with tagliatelle. This is the capital of the province of Emilia-Romagna, the centre of the pasta industry, the foundation of Italian cuisine.

These are just some of the attractions that Bologna can offer. We present a detailed guide of what to see in Bologna.

Bologna through the centuries

The territory of today's Bologna has been inhabited since prehistoric times, the first inhabitants were Etruscans. After the Etruscans, the Gallic Bolia tribe settled, and soon the city of Bononia was founded here.

Over the several centuries of the rule of ancient Rome, the population was romanized, and the city grew into one of the most developed in the area that would become Italy. The city's rapid development began in the 10th century, and in 1088 the prestigious University of Bologna was founded, the first university in the western world. Bologna reached its peak of development of the 12th and 13th centuries, when the city acquired a great degree of government independence and when many churches and palaces were built. Bologna was annexed to Italy only in 1859, until then it was part of the papal state, which lay in today's Italy.

Today, Bologna is the seventh largest city in Italy, and up to a quarter of its population are students.

The climate in Bologna is continental with a noticeable influence of the Mediterranean sea climate, so the summers are very warm, while in winter there are frequent snowfalls and it is colder than most of southern Italy. This is why we recommend visiting Bologna during the spring or summer months.

The journey by car from Belgrade to Bologna takes about 9 hours. If you want to go to Bologna by plane, the flight will take about two hours - see more information on flights to Bologna.

Sights of Bologna - what to visit?

When we speak of Italy, we first think of Rome, Venice or Milan. But Bologna is one of the strongest assets of Italy's tourist offering, and many consider it the second most beautiful city after Venice.

For most tourists, the starting point is the main square Piazza Maggiore, also known just as the Piazza. It is one of the classic spacious Italian squares with a large number of restaurants and shops, and is surrounded by magnificent monumental buildings, including the Palazzo d’Accursio, the Palazzo di Podesta, the Palazzo Re Enzo and the Basilica of Saint Petronius.

The Basilica of St. Petronius is the largest Gothic church in the world built of brick, dedicated to the 5th century Bishop of Bologna, and it is interesting that the facade is not yet finished, although construction began in 1390. It contains two pairs of exceptionally well-preserved organs, from the 15th and 16th centuries, which show that Bologna was the Italian capital of baroque music.

While you are in the city centre, be sure to visit the Voltone del Podesta passage, located between the Palazzo di Podesta and Palazzo Re Enzo, the site of the former city market. This passage is characterized by incredible acoustics, so if you stand at one end of it and whisper something, a person at the other end will hear you clearly and loudly.

From the main square you can go in two directions, one will take you to Via dell’Archiginnasio and Piazza Santo Stefano, and the other to the opposite side towards Neptune’s Fountain and the main street Via Indipedenza.

When heading towards Via dell’Archiginnasio make sure to visit:

  • the arcade passage Portico del Pavaglione
  • the City Archaeological Museum ( Museo Civico Archeologico)
  • the first seat of the University of Bologna (Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio)
  • the chapel of Santa Maria dei Bulgari
  • the old anatomy amphitheater (Teatro Anatomico)
  • St Dominic's basilica

Continue to a smaller, but also beautiful Piazza Santo Stefano where you can find the Santo Stefano Basilica, a complex of as many as seven churches. This square is also popular due to the organization of all kinds of events.

From the square, continue through the Corte Isolani passage - there are a number of restaurants and shops, so it is an ideal place to relax. Carry on in the direction of Strada Maggiore - from there you will have a beautiful view of the Asinelli and Garisenda towers.

In the past, families in this city built towers to express their influence and wealth, so today Bologna is adorned with many of these buildings. The Asinelli and Garisenda towers are the most popular of the remaining twenty or so in Bologna, while there used to be over 100. You can visit the towers, and if you are in a condition to climb almost 500 steps, you will enjoy a magnificent view of the city.

After touring the towers, you can head to Via Zamboni, the main university street where you will find the university museums and the Teatro Comunale.

If you head from Piazza Maggiore to Neptune's Fountain and the main street Via Indipedenza, visit the following sights:

  • Piazza del Nettuno square
  • Neptune's Fountain (a symbol of the city and papal power)
  • the Palazzo d’Accursio and the Salabros library
  • the Ghisilardi-Fava Palace and the Medieval Museum (Museo Medievale)
  • Findestrella di Via Piella (an area reminiscent of Venice)

Piazza del Nettuno is home to the famous Neptune Fountain, which is often a gathering place. Nearby, in the Palazzo d’Accursio is the Salabros Library and Multimedia Centre, and it is interesting to see the archaeological remains of Roman Bononia under the glass floor in the main hall of Salabros.

If you are a museum lover, continue along the main street Via Indipedenza and you will reach one of the most important city museums of the Middle Ages (Museo Medievale), whose impressive collection is housed in the Ghisilardi-Fava Palace, an architectural gem of Bologna.

Be sure to visit the Findestrella di Via Piella, a part of the city that is irresistibly reminiscent of Venice and is truly an unexpected sight in Bologna. There are underground watercourses here, which were open canals until two centuries ago, but now you can see how the water flows between the houses in only a few places. The most famous attraction is the window on the Delle Moline canal which offers an interesting view of the canal and the charming bridge over it. There are a number of restaurants nearby with fantastic views, so it is a the best place for rest and lunch.

Gastronomy of Bologna

It is well known that eating and drinking is good in Italy, and this is the case in Bologna. By the way, the nickname of this city is Bologna la grassa, which means fat Bologna. The gastronomic offering is based on pasta, mortadella, meat, rich creamy sauces and cheeses.

In addition to numerous cafes and restaurants, another gastronomic centre is the popular Quadrilatero market, in the city centre behind Maggiore Square. The market, which dates back to the Middle Ages, is full of shops and stalls selling fresh local products, meat, cheese, the best Italian pasta and interesting handicrafts.


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