A Day in Bologna ๐Ÿค” Your Complete Guide (for 2021)

San Luco Bologna

What To Do for a Day in Bologna? Here’s What…

I’ll be honest, Bologna was never one of the cities in Italy I thought about before. Thankfully, my mind has now altered, this is a city you do not want to miss. Welcome to our guide – this is a day in Bologna.

San Luca Bologna
San Luca – Bologna

Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence, Sicily – these are the cities and regions that come to mind for tourists when thinking about planning the perfect trip to Italy.

Rightfully so.

These are all incredible places in their own right, but whether it was my own sheer naivety before, or simply the fact this city is criminally underrated I am not sure.

Bologna is a must visit if planning a trip to Italy, make no mistake about that.

Bianca and I took a trip to Bologna, as with our recent journey to Modena, to meet a friend, well, two friends actually.

Luca and Irene, alongside Bianca are all Italian so I was getting the true, immersive Italian experience here. All three are from different regions as well.

A friend from Rome, a friend from Venice, Bianca from Lombardy – all meeting in the region known as Emilia-Romagna.

Bologna proved to be the ideal mid-point for us to catch up and we spent a wonderful weekend together in which Irene (who previous lived in Bologna as a student) showed us the sights, and the best culinary experiences… all of which we’ll share with you now.

This is Bologna, through the eyes of someone who lived there for over four years, so it’s the real deal.

And trust me, Bologna is the real deal, entering comfortably into my top 3 Italian cities so far (and quite possibly a tussle for that number one spot in truth).

A Day in Bologna – Breakfast

A Day in Bologna – Morning

A Day in Bologna – Lunch

A Day in Bologna – Afternoon

A Day in Bologna – Aperitivo

A Day in Bologna – Dinner

A Day in Bologna – Evening

A Day in Bologna – Where We Stayed?

A Day in Bologna – Should I Visit?

A Day in Bologna – BONUS Day

A Weekend in Bologna
Piazza Maggiore, Bologna

A Day in Bologna – Breakfast

After arriving on Friday night and checking into our AirBnb (more on that later) we woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed for our Saturday adventure.

Our day in Bologna was about to begin!

First stop, of course, Colazione (breakfast in Italian).

Of course as you will know, Italy is famous for it’s colazione culture, so going to any Pasticceria would suffice but one place I really have grown fond of here in Italy, is a place shrewdly known as Eataly – see what they did there!

I discovered Eataly in Italy the previous year and I love the place.

It’s super diverse because it offers the perfect breakfast (coffee and pastry of sorts), a quick, good value lunch which include meaty slices of pizza (I recommend the Diavola) and a lively place to grab an Aperitivo in the evening.

All bases are covered at Eataly but I am a sucker for their sweet breakfast treats.

Bianca’s favourite Bombolone (a doughnut like treat) sits proudly in front of you, alongside a cuppa (take your pick from the many types there) for little cost.

It’s simple to find and right in the heart of the city.

Colazione is done, and you are ready to hit the road.

A Day in Bologna – Morning

A Day in Bologna - The Train
All Aboard to San Luca

Satisfied from breakfast we head over to see if the tourist train to the famous San Luca runs, we are in luck.

This is your typical tourist attraction, but it’s a nice way to see the city whilst making your way up to one of Bologna’s hot spots.

The ticket costs 10EUR per person and comes with your standard headphones and a number of audio languages to listen to.

It’s a bumpy ride but you get some great views of the city from ground and further up, and about 45 minutes later you arrive at San Luca.

You can see it sitting proudly atop of the city on your way up and it’s quite a sight.

A Weekend in Bologna - Portici
The famous Portici of Bologna which lead from San Luca all the way to the City Centre

Italy at it’s finest.

After a walk around and plenty of pictures we recommend rather than grabbing the train back down you take a walk through the incredible Portici of Bologna (there are 42 km in total so there is quite literally, a marathon of Portici to enjoy).

What are Portici I hear you ask? (see the picture).

The city is lined with these incredible structures that weave throughout the city, great for shielding from the sun or even rain.

Quite wonderfully, you can walk from San Luca itself, all the way down to the city centre of Bologna (a fair few kilometres) all under these great structures.

There are a number of different styles located throughout the city and some have particularly impressive designs if you look up. You can get lost in these Portici for an entire morning no problem at all!

Also perfect for working up an appetite as lunch time approaches!

A Day in Bologna – Lunch

Time to tuck into some proper Bolognese food and boy you are spoilt for choice.

Irene took us to a place called MERCATO DI MEZZO which has a number of stalls selling different things.

These include:

  • Plenty of pasta including the wonderful local Tortellini
  • Typical street food from Naples
  • The famous Bologna Lasagne (see below)
  • The even more famous Tagliatelle alla Ragu (NOT Spaghetti Bolognese as the locals will inform you)

There’s much more also… alongside of course, fine wine’s.

We picked a mixture of dishes between us and took our taste buds on a wild journey!

I’d actually never experienced the PIZZA FRITTA (pictured above) before, having had it, I’d missed out for 31 years! Delightful.

Luca also ordered one, alongside two other typical Naples classics (Frittata di Pasta and a heavy Panini like treat).

Bianca enjoyed the huge local Lasagna which of course I helped with and between us, we stuffed our faces!

Big smiles, heavy stomach, and well set for the afternoon.

A Day in Bologna – Afternoon

A Day in Bologna

Bologna is beautiful but also big.

There is much to get through here so Irene advised we simply walk and snap pics of the central area for the afternoon.

So that’s exactly what we did.

There’s a tonne to see here, some incredible architecture (hardly surprisingly) and a wonderful vibe around the city.

The key areas of interest in Bologna are:

  • Piazza Maggiore
  • The Two Towers
  • Basilica di San Petronio
  • Fountain of Neptune

The good thing is despite the size of the city all of these are located in a fairly close vicinity meaning you’ll not have to jump from area to area in a car, but all by foot instead.

Walking off our extensive lunch was necessary with more to follow in the evening so that’s precisely what we achieved!

A Day in Bologna – Aperitivo

A day isn’t a day in Italy without an Aperitivo.

A Trip to Bologna - Gilberto Aperitivo

What is that exactly though?

Essentially an Aperitivo is a pre-dinner drink where you meet, get together and enjoy a drink with some light snacks for an hour or so, before moving onto a restaurant.

It’s embedded and engrained into Italian culture and is a fine tradition.

The equivalent of grabbing an after work pint in England let’s say… or Happy Hour elsewhere.

We spent ours at the fantastic Gilberto’s where you could enjoy a crisp glass of wine, and a full board of snacks for 12 EUR… and any additional glass of wine for 5EUR.

When we received the giant board of treats, we soon realised this was 12EUR well spent.

This was almost a meal in itself. I would quite happily have stopped eating right there… but we hadn’t even started dinner yet!

Little pots of Ragu and Jam accompanied a selection of meats and cheeses, delightful coupled with the fruity glass of white wine.

A Day in Bologna – Dinner

A Day in Bologna - Tortellini
Tortellini in Broth – Incredibly simple,. incredibly good

Honestly, take your pick with dinner.

You can’t really go far wrong with any Trattoria or Osteria in Italy.

Bologna is of course no different.

We actually arrived on Friday night meaning we had two evenings in Bologna but the setting for our first evening’s dinner was pretty wonderful.

Sat out in the street, live Jazz band just behind us, the atmosphere was absolutely wonderful.

The place in question is known as CANTINA BENTIVOLGIO.

It’s a truly glorious setting to enjoy a dinner.

Whether its families, friends or couples, everyone together make for a lovely atmosphere in the heart of the city.

All the food is great as stated before.

You simply can’t go wrong with anything in Bologna, but if you have a day in Bologna over the Summer/Autumnal months, get yourself outside and enjoy a lovely evening at Cantina Bentivolgio.

A Day in Bologna – Evening

More food in bellies, alongside the wine, we needed another walk.

A Trip to Bologna - Enjoying Dinner

It’s a good thing Bologna has plenty to see.

The thing that shocked me mostly about Bologna was the sheer scale of people.

This place absolutely comes alive in the evening, in every corner.

We walked through the university district. There’s students and workers all over the place.

There was barely a table in sight, I was genuinely shocked. It felt like there were as many people as in Hong Kong!

Once again though, it made for a great atmosphere in the city.

Every single bar packed to the rafters with groups of people getting together on just another Friday night – the same applied Saturday too.

Get walking, find a place and relax with your friend/partner/family over a few glasses of wine.

It’s simple but you cannot go wrong – when unsure, do as the locals do, and the locals drink and socialise well here until the early hours!

A Day in Bologna – Where We Stayed?

With four of us together, we actually stayed at an AirBnb perfectly located in the heart of the city.

The place was spacious and sizeable with costs not too expensive.

I think having weighed both hotel and AirBnb up, the latter comes out on top here, but of course it can depend on your preference and who you are travelling with.

Location is always key though, stay central. It makes your life infinitely easier as with any city.

A Day in Bologna – Should You Visit?

Honestly, Bologna really surprised me.

When visiting Rome and Venice you come with a certain expectation.

For some reason, Bologna didn’t carry that, bar maybe for the food, but this city is severely underrated.

Any trip to Italy needs a day or two in Bologna thrown in without any question.

A Day in Bologna – BONUS DAY

A Day in Bologna - Ferrara Castle
A trip to Ferrara

There’s more!

If you have a little bit more time on your hands and have a weekend in Bologna, spend your next day in either Modena or Ferrara, the 2nd and 3rd cities of Emilia-Romanga respectively.

On our way back to Brescia we detoured to Ferrara.

This a lovely little town with a giant, imposing castle at the heart of it (pictured here).

Modena is equally charming also.

We experienced somewhat of a food coma there two weeks previous when meeting another friend!

Both are smaller in size compared to Bologna but because of this you can take in most of the city and the main attractions in a day without many problems.

If time permits it, tick off more because the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy is truly stunning and well worth your time.

… and there you have it, how to spend a perfect day (or weekend) in Bologna.

One of my favourite cities in recent times without any doubt!

A Day in Bologna – FAQ’s

Where is Bologna?

Bolognaย is the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy.
There are around 400,000 people living in the city.

What is Bologna famous for?

Food and Portici.
Bologna is home to famous dishes which include tagliatelle al ragรน and lasagna.
The Portici are spread throughout Bologna and are unique to the city given the amount of ground they cover. The Portici are covered areas of pavement that link many parts of the city.

How long are the Bologna Portici?

In total, the Portici of Bologna cover a distance of 42km in the city.

Are the Bologna Portici a UNESCO site?

They have applied for the Portici di Bologna to indeed be a UNESCO site but as of yet, no answer has been given.
Therefore, they remain not a UNESCO World Heritage site at the time of writing.

Can you see Bologna in a day?

Yes absolutely but you’ll do lots of walking!

Can I get the train to San Luca?

Yes there is a tourist train in the main square of the city that takes you up to San Luca.

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