We’ve finally gotten to our last destination from our summer Italy trip—Bologna! While I was really excited to visit this city, I wasn’t sure if there were many things to do in Bologna. But after our time there we really wished we had an extra day or two to spend in Bologna—three full days would be just about perfect.
One of the reasons I was so excited to visit Bologna was for the food, as I’d heard from friends that they had some of their best Italian food on their honeymoon there—and that did not disappoint. We had one of the most amazing foodie experiences ever here, and the food we had at restaurants around town was great too.
Besides eating your way through Bologna (I mean, nothing wrong with that!), there are plenty of interesting and fun things to do in Bologna. Check out my list below!
1. Bologna Food Tour with Italian Days: This one is an absolute MUST. Seriously one of the most awesome travel experiences Omied and I have ever had. This was a full day excursion and one of the best day trips you can take through the Romagna region. We started the day early in the morning in Parma, where we got to see how Parmigiano-Reggiano (don’t call it parmesan cheese) is made.
After that we made our way to Modena, where we did an incredible balsamic vinegar tasting at a traditional balsamic aceto. We learned so much about the history of traditional balsamic vinegar making in Modena and Emilia Romagna, and the different years-aged baslamics we got to try (ranging up to 32 years) were just incredible.
Next up, we went to a prosciutto factory. While it’s a bit morbid to see hundreds upon hundreds of hanging, aging prosciutto legs row after row, it was interesting to learn how prosciutto is made, and even better to get to taste it at the end of the tour. It seriously melted in your mouth.
To finish out the day, we had a quintessential lonnnnng Italian lunch (I think we ate and drank for three hours) at a gorgeous spot overlooking a beautiful hillside. Honestly the whole day was amazing and I can’t recommend booking your food tours with Italian Days. Our guide Riccardo was so knowledgeable and hilarious (and patient with some of the more…needy tourists 😂) and we had the best time.
2. Two Towers: The city of Bologna used to be encircled by a ring wall at the beginning of the 13th century for protection. Now, any walls have been demolished, but gates still stand around the ring boulevard. The two leaning towers are very symbolic in Bologna, and are located where the roads that lead to the gates of the old ring wall intersect. And when you look up at them, they are really leaning. Asinelli Tower is the taller one, and Garisenda is the one that has a really significant (and kinda scary looking) lean. You can visit the two towers and ascend Asinelli Tower for some beautiful views of Bologna.
3. Piazza Maggiore: Piazza Maggiore is the main square in Bologna, and a fun place to hang out and people watch. There are lots of restaurants around the square, and you’ll usually find some street entertainers there, so it’s a fun place to stroll through after dinner. We sat on the steps and enjoyed a gelato while watching the sun set and getting serenaded by a very mediocre band (but fun!) that had set up in the square.
4. Basilica di San Petronio: Located at Piazza Maggiore, you’ll see Basilica di San Pentronio standing tall as the most imposing church in Bologna. Inside you’ll find frescoes from the 15th century, and definitely don’t miss the central door’s masterpiece with the Old Testament’s scenes represented on the pillars.
5. Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca: This church is situated on top of a hill in Bologna, surrounded by forests. Climb the panoramic terrace into the cupola for beautiful views of the city and countryside. To get to Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, take the San Luca Express train that leaves from Piazza Maggiore.
6. Pinacoteca Nazionale: Bologna’s National Art Gallery hosts a collection of works by Bolognese artists from the 14th century onwards.
7. FICO Eataly World: FICO Eataly World is the world’s largest food park, with 45 different restaurants, including some by Michelin-star chefs. There are workshops and demos as well as factories that cover pasta making, parmigiano reggiano, gelato, mortadella, and plenty of other delicious Italian foods. Check their website for events (paella day is coming up and I’m super into the sound of that).
8. International Museum and Library of Music: This museum holds six centuries of European musical artifacts and instruments. It has a pretty amazing collection of very old and interesting instruments. I don’t know anything about music and can really only play Mary Had a Little Lamb on the piano, but it was fun to see some of the tiniest and oldest pianos ever.
9. Mercato Delle Erbe: Love a good mercato! This indoor market has lots of stalls and shops that sell local produce, wine on tap, balsamic vinegar, and other specialty foods. You can find special things to take home with you, and also eat some delicious food here.
10. Cooking class: Take a cooking class in Bologna to really immerse yourself in the local culinary scene. In this highly-rated cooking class you’ll learn how to make two types of fresh egg pasta, along with two sauces, including Bolognese. And then of course, you’ll eat your creations!
11. Anatomical Theatre of the Archiginnasio: The Anatomical Theatre is a lecture hall that used to be used for anatomy lectures at the medical school in Bologna. The ceiling and walls are decorated with wood carvings from the mid 1600’s and features the god of Medicine, Apollo, in the middle. The halls and wooden carvings are beautiful, and you can stop by and visit the theatre for just 3 Euro.
12. Santo Stefano: Santo Stefano encompasses a complex of religious buildings, dubbed the seven churches. This group of holy buildings can be found at Piazza Santo Stefano, and the architecture spans centuries of Bolognese history.
Those are my top things to do in Bologna, Italy!
Bologna is famous for several things, including:
– Its regional Italian cuisine
– The two leaning towers
– Piazza Maggiore
– FICO Eataly World
Bologna is definitely worth visiting, especially if you are a foodie. Bologna has some of the most incredible food in all of Italy, and famous Italian delicacies like parmigiano reggiano, balsamic vinegar, and prosciutto are made here.
– Bologna food tour
– Explore the city’s churches and museums
Bologna is a very safe city to travel to. There are a lot of college students there because of the University, and plenty of locals out at night as well, so it’s easy to stay in populated areas.