One country in the world that I will never get bored of exploring is Italy — no matter how many times I visit, it will never seize to amaze me. Let me share with you my experience of spending one day in Bologna. For my Easter break I was looking at visiting a close by destination, a short getaway from Athens and since during my last trip I visited Rome, Florence, Siena and San Gimignano this time round flying into the Emilia-Romagna region seemed like a great idea. I booked my tickets with Ryanair and actually the morning flight is a convenient option as by noon I was already enjoying my first Italian cappuccino at the Piazza Maggiore.
One Day in Bologna: Discover all the Bologna Tourist Attractions
Bologna is not only a historically attractive capital and the 7th most popular city in Italy but it is also a foodies heaven. The Emilia-Romagna region is especially famed for its Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Prosciutto di Parma and the Balsamic Vinegar. One of the Bologna Day Trips which you might like to consider is a Food and Ferrari Tour.
Soak in the lively atmosphere of Piazza Maggiore
The best place to start your day in Bologna is at the Piazza Maggiore where you can soak in the lively atmosphere by enjoying a cup of coffee or an Aperol Spitz(more on that later, so keep on reading) in the surrounding of the city’s most important historical monuments.
Once you step foot at the Piazza Maggiore the place where people gathered and where the market was held during the Medieval times, you will be welcomed by the imposing statue of Neptune located at the Piazza Neptunno which was built here in 1566 according to the inscription which can be found at the base of the fountain. You can also opt for a 2,3 or 4 hour Private Tour with a Local Guide.
Piazza Maggiore is home to the most important historical buildings which date back to the 13th century. Palazzo D’ Accursio o Comenale which operated as a Town Hall until 2008 is a set of buildings which have been joined together over the centuries and today house some of the most important Municipal Art Collections.
Admire the Basilica di San Petronio
Basilica di San Petronio dominates the square of Piazza Maggiore. It was named in honour of Bologna’s patron saint Petronio who apparently was of Greek origin and was the city’s 8th bishop during the 5th century. The Basilica is the most important church of Bologna and was intended to be the largest in the world however it was never fully completed at the pope did not approve of it being larger than the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican. The construction of the Basilica di San Petronio was an on going process with several famous architects taking part in the process. The lower facade of the Basilica is made of marble whereas the upper part is made of exposed bricks.
The Basilica of San Petronio is the main church of Bologna. It dominates Piazza Maggiore and is the fifteenth largest church in the world ⛪️ #passionfortravel A photo posted by Elena Sergeeva (@elenaserg) on
Visit one of the oldest Universities in the World
The University of Bologna was founded in 1088 and is the oldest continuously operating university in the world. The University of Bologna was historically famous for its teachings of canon and civil law and played a vital role in the development of the medieval Roman law. Today 101 different first-level degrees (3-year courses) and 108 second-level degrees (two years). The Archiginnasio Palace built in 1563 was the first permanent seat of the ancient University of Bologna. The exterior is characterised by its long portico which stretches across 139 meters and consists of thirty arches.
The central courtyards is decorated with numerous coats of arms belonging to students and lecturers who attended the University. The building suffered severe damage during the Allied air raid of 1944 and as a result the majority of frescoes were destroyed. Today you can visit the Anatomy Theater which was built in 1637 by Antonio Levanti and was used as a classroom for anatomy courses. The hall is decorated with wooden statues of famous ancient and Bolognese physicians.
Since 1838 the Archiginnasio Palace has been used as the seat of City Library and it houses 800,000 books and pamphlets, 15,000 sixteenth century books, 12,000 manuscripts, 50,000 letters and 15,000 drawings.
The entree ticket costs 3 Euro.
How to Spend One Day in Bologna: Take a walk through the Porticoes of Bologna
The city of Bologna contains some 38 kilometres of porticoes which were built during a long historic period and have become a distinctive feature in the city’s architecture. Between 1100 and 1200 when Bologna became the “University city” welcoming large numbers of students from all over Europe, there was a rise in the typical house dwellings where student houses were created at the upper floors leaving the ground floors to be used as shops and artisan workshops.
The porticoes provided street shelter at all times of year and during all weather conditions. The Sanctuary of San Luca which is perched on top of a hill overlooking the historical city of Bologna is the longest portico in the world. The arcade stretches for 3.5 km and is completed with 666 arches. It is one of the most renowned pilgrimage destinations. If you are planning to spend longer time in Bologna check out this guide to one week in Bologna.
Get lost in the streets of Bologna
Every side street that you turn in Bologna you are bound to encounter something magical. Bologna is also known to be a market city and there are various markets which you can stumble upon as you walk around the city.
At a very close distance from the Piazza Maggiore located in Bologna’s historic city center you will come across the Galleria Cavour which houses some of the most luxurious international boutiques, anything from Hermès to Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co.
Spot my favourite store ? Earlier today at the Galleria Cavour surrounded by ancient buildings and historic monuments. It is considered to be one of the best luxury shopping streets in the world ?✨ A photo posted by Elena Sergeeva (@elenaserg) on
The streets surrounding the Piazza Maggiore are lined with pretty stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and other Italian delicacies. Around 1:30pm the majority of the local sellers close their shops and head home for lunch, which is still a very much valued tradition in Bologna.
After they have enjoyed their siesta and lunch they continue with their daily chores.
Where to Eat in Bologna – Aperitivo time, anytime
The area around Piazza Maggiore is lined with small Prosciutto stores which usually feature outside tables where you can enjoy a selection of Italian cold cuts, cheeses and wine. Whenever I go to Italy I usually love to embrace this important ritual at different times of day, enjoying prosciutto and wine is one of my favourite parts of experiencing Italy.
There is a great Proscuitteria called Bella Vita located right on the side street from the Piazza Maggiore. Generally what I noticed is that the prices in Bologna are cheaper than in other Italian cities.
You can enjoy an Aperol Spritz at any time of day as it is the most common drink in Italy and you will see many Italians holding an orange colour drink, anywhere you go. Aperitivo time is the most important ritual which can be enjoyed after 6pm where bars/cafes other than the drink will serve you a plate of complementary snacks, such as small pizza slices, olives and chips.
It’s Aperol Spritz time ?? #goodtimes A photo posted by Elena Sergeeva (@elenaserg) on
Al Papagallo Restaurant
One of Bologna’s renowned traditional restaurants the Al Papagallo (The Parrot) has been around since 1919. Over the years some of the world’s most famous celebrities and legendary personalities such as Sophia Loren and Alfred Hitchcock, just to name a few have dined here. Located on the Piazza Della Mercanzia in a 14th century building surrounded by the Two Towers as well as the historical building of Chamber of Commerce which houses all the traditional recipes of Bologna, the Ristorante Al Papagallo also offers outdoor seating. The menu consists of authentic Bologna dishes and a large selection of Italian wines. For starters we were offered an amuse bouche made from the Italian Mortadella. We ordered the Ricotta cheese Tortelloni with organic tomato fillets on ‘Stracciatella’ cheese, my mum had Roasted rabbit with its reduction and salad as a side dish and I opted for the Fassona Beef Sirloin with rosemary and Maldon salt and roasted potatoes on the side.
We paired our meal with a red Sangiovese wine produced in the Tuscany region. (Price of meal approximately 100 Euro for two persons).
Where to Stay in Bologna, Italy
This modern 4-star hotel is conveniently located from the heart of Bologna (Piazza Maggiore), approximately a 15-20 minute walk. The hotel is housed in a 6 floor building and features 124 guest rooms. The rooftop which operates during the summer months opens up to spectacular views of the historical city of Bologna, the two towers and its surrounding hills. The bedrooms are equipped with a comfortable king size bed, mini-bar, tea and coffee making facilities, working desk and a bathroom with either a shower or bathtub.
The breakfast is served in a dining room on the first floor and offers a selection of hot dishes, cold cuts and cheeses, fresh vegetables, fruits, baked goods and cereals. There is a parking area at the hotel, conference facilities and a gym. Check out availability and rates here.
Ramada Encore Hotel
During my first trip we stayed at the Ramada Encore hotel in Bologna which was only about 10 minutes drive from the airport. The hotel is great for business travellers as well as city break visitors. There is a bus number 25 that stops right outside from the hotel and goes straight into the city centre, it takes approximately 15 minutes to get into the centre. Their rooms were spacious enough and had an excellent shower. Based on their breakfast description on their website we were actually pleasantly surprised as they served a very good breakfast with a selection of excellent quality cold cuts, eggs, bio products and pastries. It is also closely located to the Bologna Centrale railway station which is what we wanted as we travelled to other cities as well.
Royal Hotel Carlton
The Royal Hotel Carlton is a city resort completed in a neoclassical style. Housed in a seventies building which was completed by the famous architect Enzo Zacchiroli, it features 236 guest rooms. Decorated with rich furnishings and chandeliers the hotel exudes a sense of grandness.
We stayed in a Deluxe room which was equipped with all the modern amenities, a separate sitting corner, working desk and king size bed. The marble bathroom features a bathtub and is stocked with Etro toiletries, bathrobes and slippers. Wi-Fi is complimentary. The hotel offers an excellent breakfast with a generous choice of cold cuts, cheeses, freshly baked pastries and breads, hot dishes, a separate gluten free corner and a cereals and jams display. I hope you enjoyed my One day in Bologna post, you can also check out some of my other posts from my travels in Italy.
Read more about my Italian Travels in these posts:
How to spend One Day in Bergamo
The Lesser known Puglia: What to See and Do in 4 days
4 Days in Rome: What to See and Do
The Ultimate Guide to Puglia’s Cuisine
LivItaly Tours: Vatican Small Group Tour