Bologna is a vibrant, tourist-friendly city with a lot to see and a lot to eat. I absolutely loved it because it is just so easy to walk from one spot to another. And I don’t know how to explain it, but it just feels like Italy.
This is the main square where everything is. Walk over to the tourist office, get a free tourist map, and pinpoint where you want to go. Yeah, it’s lazy of me to not list everything out, but I promise a lot of things in Bologna are within walking distance and it’d be hard for you not to stumble across something interesting. If you don’t want to bother, here’s a printable version of the same map, or you can stick to the places on this list.
One little note: beware of scammers! They hold clipboards, spread out the square, and ask for donations to help cure drug addiction or AIDS or HIV or whatever it takes to get your money. When I said no to giving money to cure drug addiction, a particularly bright young man tried to convince me the money would also go towards curing AIDS.
Asinelli Tower (Torre degli Asinelli)
Pisa has the more famous leaning tower, but Bologna has the tallest at 97 meters and 498 steps. Not a fun trek. Still, the view and the breeze was so worth it. Unfortunately, I lost all of the photos I took in Europe that I didn’t upload to Instagram so I can’t show you what it’s like on the inside, but it is old and narrow. Luckily, it was never crowded, and it’s fun smiling at the people walking up while you’re on your way back down. For only three euros, you get this view when you’re done.
It seems you can no longer purchase tickets at the tower on the spot. You can get them online or at the tourist office and must reserve a time slot.
Groups of minimum 20 people
|March 1 – November 5||9:30 AM
|November 6 – February 28||9:30 AM
Salaborsa Library (Biblioteca Salaborsa)
This library is beautiful. Honestly, I was a little confused why I was brought here, but I’m so glad that I was. Apparently, it used to be the stock exchange. You can look through the glass floor panels to see ruins and even pay a donation to take a look. Because it’s an actual library, it is free to enter. Also, there’s free internet if you need it to look anything up, or just need a short break.
Hours to see the ruins may differ from operating hours of the library.
|Monday||2:30 PM – 8:00 PM||7:45 PM|
|Tuesday||10:00 AM – 8:00 PM||7:45 PM|
|Wednesday||10:00 AM – 8:00 PM||7:45 PM|
|Thursday||10:00 AM – 8:00 PM||7:45 PM|
|Friday||10:00 AM – 8:00 PM||7:45 PM|
|Saturday||10:00 AM – 7:00 PM||6:45 PM|
Seven Secrets of Bologna
I didn’t hit all of these because I was just generally unprepared for this trip. I pretty much grabbed a map from the hostel and played connect the dots. Which is why I’m so glad I had Cecilia, my CouchSurfing guide, to tell me about the seven secrets of Bologna and show me around. It’s kind of like a fun little scavenger hunt, and you’ll get to see the city while looking for the secrets. To learn more, here’s a link to the seven secrets, and here are the four that I actually saw.
Fountain of Neptune (Fontana di Nettuno)
I couldn’t stop laughing when Cecilia told me about this one. Because I’m immature.
The sculptor wanted to make Neptune’s dick look bigger. Obviously, the Catholic Church wasn’t a fan of the idea and nixed it. But since he’s a clever and sneaky fellow, he found a workaround. If you stand from the right place, you’ll see that what actually is a thumb looks like an erect dick. It’s one of those things you would never notice unless someone pointed it out, and I had completely missed it the day before. You might have to click the photo to see what I’m talking about.
Palazzo del Podestà
You and your friend will look silly, but you can whisper to each other while at opposite corners.
There are hidden canals all around Bologna, but the one they list as a secret can be seen by looking through a window in La Piella. Depending on how much rain they’ve had, the water levels can get pretty high.
Cannabis is Protection
Part of a set of inscriptions including “Bread is life” (Panis Vita) and “Wine is Happiness” (Vinum Laetitia). You can see these inscriptions on the ceiling of Via Indipenenza.
Basilica di San Domenico
|Sunday||3:30 PM – 5:00 PM|
|Monday||9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
3:30 PM – 6:00 PM
|Tuesday||9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
3:30 PM – 6:00 PM
|Wednesday||9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
3:30 PM – 6:00 PM
|Thursday||9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
3:30 PM – 6:00 PM
|Friday||9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
3:30 PM – 6:00 PM
|Saturday||9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
3:30 PM – 5:00 PM
Hours can be subjected to changes. During religious services, tourist visits may be limited or suspended.
Basilica di San Petronio
The unfinished basilica is one of the largest churches in the world. To really enhance your experience, look through the info here and download the free audio guide. The visit is free for all.
For a guided tour, you must book within 2 days of when you plan to visit, at least 7 people, and an hour. They are available in Italian, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Hungarian for €8. There’s a panoramic terrace that can be accessed by 25 people at a time for €3. Try not to bring any large bags with you.
|Winter||8:00 AM – 6:00 PM|
|Any other season||8:00 AM – 6:30 PM|
Panoramic Terrace Hours
Hours may change during special events.
|Every day||10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
3:00 PM – 6:00 PM
There are a lot of museums. If you’re planning on going to at least four and/or want a guided walking tour, I would recommend getting a Welcome Card. They include free entrance to 10 museums, a 2-hour guided walking tour, free transfer to and from the airport, a 24-hour bus ticket, and discounts for different attractions, restaurants, and stores. It’s 20 euros for a two-day card and 30 euros for three days. The card may also grant access to the other attractions above, so ask before you buy any tickets!
- Municipal Art Collection (Collezioni Comunali d’Arte)
- Contemporary Art Museum (MAMbo – Museo d’arte contemporanea)
- Archeological Museum (Museo Archeologico)
- City Medieval Museum (Museo Civico Medievale)
- Industrial Heritage Museum (Museo del Patrimonio Industriale)
- Museum of the Resurgence (Museo del Risorgimento)
- Music Library International Museum (Museo Internazionale Biblioteca della Musica)
- Museo Morandi
- Museum of the History of Bologna (Palazzo Pepoli – Museo della Storia di Bologna)
- Tagliavini Collection (San Colombano – Collezione Tagliavini)
This is a medieval area that is home to Bologna’s old market. This is a great place to find fresh pasta, fish, meat, cheese, whatever your heart desires. Step into a restaurant or buy something to cook back at your hostel!
Since the Quadrilatero is a general area filled with shops and restaurants, the hours will vary.
“The Best Ice Cream in Bologna”
What are the three things you must eat in Italy? Pizza, pasta, and gelato. According to Cecilia, La Sorbetteria Castiglione has the best gelato in the city, and I can see why. It’s dense and creamy and somehow, I still remember how much I loved it. Def check it out.
I couldn’t verify the hours, but Google says it’s open every day 10:30 AM – 1:00 AM.
So there you have it
A bunch of things to do in Bologna. Not a complete list, by any means, but a general guideline to help you through your trip. Again, I recommend picking up or printing out the tourist map and looking up the hours for places you find interesting. Have any recommendations for me? Let me know! I definitely hope to visit again sometime.