Bologna is the main city in Emilia Romagna, as well as an important one in the history of Italy. It is famous for its historical center, which is one of the biggest in Italy, with the longest arcade in the world. For the colors of its building, Bologna has been nicknamed la rossa (the red).
In Bologna, there is also the oldest university in the world, Alma Mater Studiorum, which gave the city the nickname of la dotta (the educated).
Lastly, Bologna’s culinary tradition is among the best and most delicious in Italy, which is why it’s also called la grassa (the fat).
In this article, you will find a guide on what to do in Bologna if it’s the first time you are visiting the city, recommendations about the main attractions and the food to try.
Piazza Maggiore is the main square in Bologna, where you can find some of the most important buildings of the city, such as Palazzo d’Accursio, Palazzo del Podestà, and Basilica di San Petronio. It’s been the center of all economic, social, and cultural affairs during the centuries.
Basilica of San Petronio
Basilica of San Petronio is one of the biggest churches in the world, as well as in Bologna. It is considered the last gothic cathedral in Italy and its peculiarity is in the facade, which is incomplete. In fact, it is divided into two levels: the lower one, covered with marble, and the upper one, still showing the bricks of the structure.
The two towers
The tower of Garisenda and the tower of Asinelli are two of the symbols of the city. Torre della Garisenda is shorter, meanwhile the second is the tallest leaning tower in Italy, 97 meters. Those towers were built because they gave prestige to the family that commissioned them, as well as for safety reasons because they were used as a lookout point.
Piazza del Nettuno
Piazza del Nettuno is an important square in Bologna, taking the name from the statue at its center. It’s in bronze, representing Neptune, the Roman God of the sea. Due to its dimension, the inhabitants of Bologna call it “the Giant” because it’s very big in order to celebrate the greatness of the city.
Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio is one of the most beautiful palaces of Bologna. In fact, it was commissioned by Cardinal Borromeo in order to give the university a single venue. The palace has a long arcade, which is decorated with stems and frescoes. Nowadays, the palace hosts the library of the University of Bologna, and it can be accessed only by students. In spite of that, you can walk among the arcade and enjoy the wonderful environment.
The seven churches
Piazza Santo Stefano is considered one of the most fascinating squares in Bologna, where you can find Basilica di Santo Stefano. The basilica is nowadays a unique building, but it's actually a complex of buildings that during the years converged into one. It is very interesting because it shows the evolution of the city throughout the centuries.
The old ghetto is one of the most suggestive places in the city because it didn’t change with the passing of time. In fact, its alleys still keep the old atmosphere and they stayed in the past. A walk among this network of alleys will help you breathe the air of the past of Bologna.
Food to eat in Bologna
Bologna is often called "the fat" due to its culinary tradition, which is very famous and very representative of Italian food.
You absolutely must try tagliatelle with ragù, a specialty of this city, as well as lasagne, which originated here. Bologna is also the homeland of mortadella, a big sausage with an appealing perfume and a delicious taste.
You also have to taste tortellini, a type of filled pasta, usually served in broth. Lastly, you also have to drink Pignoletto, a white wine produced on the hills of Bologna.