What to do and see in Bologna – the gastronomic capital of Italy

Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna Region and it’s known as the gastronomic capital of Italy. Besides the amazing Italian cuisine, Bologna will impress you with its rich history, beautiful architecture and picturesque narrow streets. Here’s a list of what to do and see in Bologna.

bologna do and see

How to get from Marconi Airport to Bologna city center?

With a shuttle: There’s a shuttle BLQ Aerobus, which connects Marconi Airport with the city center. The ticket costs €6 and the journey lasts around 25 min. You can purchase tickets online, buy them from the ticket machines or from the bus driver.

LittleBigTip: Ticket machines accept coins only so be sure that you have enough.

Bologna is known as la dotta (the smart) because of the oldest existing university in the world, la grassa (the fat) because of the great cuisine and la rossa (the red) because of the reddish color of the buildings and the roofs.

What to do and see in Bologna

Hit the streets

Bologna is one of the best places to visit in Italy and if you like architecture, you’ll love it there. Most of the buildings are painted in different shades of red and orange and some of them – in yellow. There are shutters on the windows to protect from the heat during the day and front doors are quite big.


One of the things I was impressed with was the fact that in Bologna the sidewalks are covered almost everywhere. Some of the passages are so beautiful that feels like you are in a museum not out on the street.

Go and see Piazza Maggiore

One of the first sites you should visit is the historic center of Bologna. Among the most popular sites there, is the Fountain of Neptune on Piazza del Nettuno. It’s not only one of the symbols of the city but also a popular meeting point and a favorite chilling spot for the locals.

Plaazza Magiore

Just next to the fountain is located another square – Piazza Maggiore or the Main Square. There you can find Palazzo d’Accursio. The building served as a town hall but nowadays it hosts a museum and a gallery.

Just next door is La Biblioteca Salaborsa – the main library in Bologna. Interesting fact about it is that part of the ground floor is covered with glass so that visitors can see the remains of an ancient Roman settlement.


On the same square is located the majestic Basilica San Petronio which is the main church in Bologna.

Visit the Basilica of San Domenico

Close to the main square can be seen another important church – Basilica of San Domenico. When you visit the basilica, take a look at the Arca di San Domenico where the remains of St. Domenico rest. It’s a true masterpiece. Some of the best Italian sculptors worked on the beautiful marble sarcophagus including Nicola Pisano and Michelangelo.

San Domenico

Get lost in Basilica of Santo Stefano

If you are still wondering what to do and see in Bologna go to The Basilica of Santo Stefano or as local people call it Le Sette Chiese (The Seven Churches).It’s another place you should definitely add to your list of things to do in Bologna. It used to be a complex of seven churches but only four survived until today. Get lost between the chapels and enjoy the beautiful courtyard.


See the best panorama of Bologna

During the Middle Ages in Bologna were built more than a hundred towers. Almost every wealthy family owned one. It was a way to demonstrate their power and social status. Most of the towers were demolished and others were not stable enough and collapsed during the years.


Two of the most famous towers in Bologna that remained are Asinelli (97 meters) and Garisenda (47 meters) and there’s a curious story behind. The Garizenda family so desperately wanted to outdo the Asinelli family that they underestimated the importance of a good base. As a result, their tower leaned and the construction stopped.

So much for the dominance. However, these two towers became one of the most prominent symbols of Bologna.

If you find the courage to climb around 500 narrow stairs up to the top of Asinelli tower, you will be rewarded with a jaw-dropping view of Bologna and the surroundings.

Eat… or how to gain some extra kilos while in Bologna

Probably the first dish you imagine when you hear Bologna is Spaghetti alla Bolognese. Well, that’s wrong. You barely see this in the menus actually. Among all the things you have to do in Bologna don’t miss to try local specialties.

While it’s true that the Bolognese cuisine is well-known all over Italy, it’s not because of the famous bolognese sauce. Take my experience as an example and try my personal favorite – a plate of homemade fresh egg Tagliatelle al ragu. This dish opens a whole new world of taste. Trust me.

In the gastronomic capital of Italy, the food it is everywhere. From the large and luxurious restaurants to the small family trattorias where you can almost feel the comfort of your home.

Wherever you are in Bologna, you can easily find meat and cheese shops. Locals are really proud of the fact that they gave to the world the Mortadella. You can also find all kind of cured meat which is another Italian specialty. The most famous shops are called Tamburini, but there are so many other family shops in Bologna.

You can try to go window shopping but I guarantee, you’ll buy something at the end. It’s just not possible to resist the temptation to try a piece of the beautifully arranged hams, prosciutto or salami.


One of my favorite things to do in a new city is to visit the local markets. There you can truly absorb the vibe of the city. Being in Bologna I witnessed such an idyllic atmosphere and I felt I’m part of a movie set –  neighbors greeting each other and friendly informal talks over a stand with fresh fruits and vegetables.


Have a Dessert. Un Gelato, per favore!

This is something I can’t get enough. It’s quite easy to find gelaterias (gelato shops) in almost every big city in Europe and not only. However, it’s a real pleasure to enjoy a gelato on a hot summer day chasing the dolce vita.

Day trips from Bologna

Lake Garda

Just about two hours drive from Bologna you’ll find Lake Garda. This little paradise features jaw-dropping mountain views, mild climate and some of the best Italian wines.

Bologna is a place you shouldn’t miss. Among all the history, food and things to do and see, you’ll find wonderful people and you’ll fell in love with the Italian way of living a life.


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Blogger and passionate traveler. Expat recently relocated to Barcelona. Digital nomad wandering around Europe and beyond. Loves to see new places, experience different cultures and try new things.

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