Bologna City Guide
As much as we travel to Bologna almost exclusively to eat, there are other things to do in Bologna that don’t involve food. No proper Bologna Travel Guide would be complete without helping travelers fill in the time between meals with recommendations on how to explore Bologna Italy.
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How To Visit Bologna Italy
This Bologna travel blog, we want to help you plan your Bologna itinerary. We answer the question what is Bologna Italy known for. We also provide tips on how to visit Bologna Italy whether you love food, history, or culture. This Bologna blog will also share tips on the best day trips from Bologna.
Our first Bologna tour was not all that successful. It was 2009. It was winter. We had just come from visiting friends in Lucca, Italy and had a pretty amazing visit. Bologna was a bit of a disappointment. Over the past decade, though, we’ve visited Bologna so many times it’s become almost like a second home.
This is not just because of the amazing Bologna tourist attractions. For us, it’s all about the Bologna food, and really the region of Emilia Romagna. It’s our favorite region in Italy to eat (so far). The more we learned about Bologna Italy the more we wanted to visit. In fact, we almost moved there.
What Is Bologna Italy Known For?
Bologna tourism is focused on two things food and culture, both deservedly so. No Bologna travel guide is complete without a discussion of some of the Italian food products that come from Bologna or from the surrounding region, Emilia Romagna.
Emilia Romagna is a large region that reaches from Rimini on the east coast almost to Milan towards the west. It includes Bologna (home of lasagne), Modena (home of traditional balsamic vinegar), Parma (known for its prosciutto ham), and Reggio-Emilia (which gives its name to Parmigiano Reggiano).
There’s also a little town to the west called Piacenza, which is home to pancetta. Then there’s white truffles, pasta, and gelato too! When it comes to what to eat in Bologna, the options are endless. There are classic Bolognese dishes as well as all the most popular foods from the Emilia Romagna region.
When traveling in Northern Italy, Bologna is definitely a must-visit destination for food lovers.
When asking what food is Bologna Italy known for, there is, of course, one food that always comes up: bologna, or what is more properly known as mortadella. Mortadella has a mild pork flavor. It’s not as strong as bacon, but more pork-flavored than a pork chop or pork loin. It also has a thicker mouthfeel than prosciutto.
Other meats to eat in Bologna include Prosciutto di Parma (or di Modena), Coppa from Piacenza, and Culatello di Zibello from outside of Parma. There’s no shortage of places to enjoy plates of cured meats in Bologna, but in the end, definitely, don’t miss Mortadella Bologna IGP – It’s really the answer to the question what is Bologna Italy famous for!
Where Is Bologna Italy
Located in the Emilia Romagna region of Northern Italy, Bologna is the capital and largest city in the region. Known as the “Fat City,” Bologna anchors a regions known for a multitude of delectable Italian food products.
A mere 30 minutes by train north of Florence and one hour south from Milan on the high speed train, Bologna is the 7th most populated city in Italy. While famous for its culinary offerings and home to the oldest university in the world, Bologna is a breathtaking city lined with endless porticos and stunning towers.
Best Time To Visit Bologna Italy
Bologna weather is pretty typical in comparison to other European cities. Summers in Bologna are hot and humid with temperatures in July and August reaching into the upper 80s (30s Celsius).
For many Italians, August is the most popular month to take a holiday, leaving many shops and restaurants in Bologna closed. This is particularly true around August 15. Winters in Bologna are commonly cold with cloudy, gray skies leaving the spring and early fall the best times to visit.
As for the summer, it is not the best month to visit Bologna. In late June and early July, visits are still possible with little disruption. Later in July and into August things become more complicated. Temperatures in the peak of the summer can reach into the 90s.
One of the best reasons to visit Bologna in the summer is that there is an outdoor film festival held in Piazza Maggiore, which can be magical. A large outdoor screen placed in the center of the Piazza, just below the steps of the Bologna Cathedral.
Other than that, particularly for food lovers, many of the fresh food markets shut down as do many of the top restaurants. What is open are often restaurants and bars that cater more to tourists than locals. There are also fewer food festivals in Emilia Romagna during July and August.
What To Do In Bologna – Top Bologna Attractions
If you want the best view of Bologna you’re going to have to climb. That means heading over to Le due Torri, “Two Towers,” located just off Piazza Maggiore. The towers climb to over 97 meters or 300 plus feet. Torre degil Asinelli and its 498 steps provide travelers with a climb but rewards with 360degree views of Bologna.
After you’ve caught your breath from the climb, pay a visit to the Fountain of Neptune and make a wish with the God of the Sea. Located on the Piazza Maggiore, this Roman God has been overlooking citizens of Bologna since the 16th century.
Located across the Piazza Maggiore from King Neptune is the Basilica of San Petronio. With its unfinished facade, the Basilica dates back to the 14th century.
Top Things To Do In Bologna For Food Lovers
One of the newest Bologna must see attractions is FICO Eataly World. A self-proclaimed Italian food amusement park, it is operated by the Eataly food store company.
It’s a great option when looking for what to do in Bologna Italy because you can eat loads, shop, and learn about Italian food products. You can also take a bus to FICO directly from the Bologna train station.
The Emilia Romagna tourism board set up the Discover Ferrari & Pavarotti Land tour as part of the Milan Expo in 2015. We did the tour with a visiting friend then and I am happy the kept it around after the Expo.
It’s a way for visitors to Bologna to experience a lot of the Emilia Romagna offerings in an easy format. It’s essentially a two-day ticket for a hop-on, hop-off Bologna bus tour that visits all of the main sites that surround Modena. You can also start the tour in Bologna making it super easy. See Ferrari, learn about Pavarotti, go wine tasting, and learn about cheese and meats.
It’s important when in Emilia Romagna to learn about a few key products. Those include Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto, and Balsamic Vinegar, as well as Lambrusco sparkling wine. Each of these four main products is covered in the Discover Ferrari itinerary.Wondering what to drink in Italy? Check out our Italian Drinks Guide
What Are The Best Day Trips From Bologna
One of the best things about Bologna is that it is one of the most central cities in Italy and is connected to most of Italy by train. Most of these Bologna day trips can be visited by train in less than an hour. It’s even possible to travel from Bologna to Florence in only 30 minutes.
Bologna is so centrally located by rail that it is close to many of Italy’s great cities and lesser-known destinations. In this section of our Bologna day trip guide, we share our recommendations on cities and towns close to Bologna, including how to get there and what to do (and eat) when you arrive.
Bologna To Florence
Many travelers to Italy flock to Florence. It’s one of the most popular cities in Italy for travelers to visit. It’s possible to take the Florence to Bologna train in only 30 minutes, making Bologna a great day trip from Florence. We recommend something here that is a little more revolutionary. Stay in Bologna and take a day trip to Florence.
I find Bologna to be so much more authentic than Florence, particularly over the summer months when Florence is so overrun with tourists. Stay in Bologna, eat great Bologna food, and then hop on the Bologna to Florence train to go see the Duomo and Uffizi, with enough time to be back for aperitivo in Bologna.
Bologna to Milan and Venice
Milan is the fashion capital of Italy and makes for a great day trip from Bologna. It also works as a possible stopover on the way to the airport when flying out of Milan.
Yes, it’s possible to do a Bologna to Venice day trip. Venice is one of the top destinations to visit in Italy. We stayed in Venice during our very first trip to Italy in 2000. Venice can be a bit much, though, particularly in the summer months. If you are dying to visit the City of Canals, perhaps do so on a day trip from Bologna.Check out our Ultimate Bologna Food Guide
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See our other posts to help plan your trip to Bologna:
FAQs – How To Visit Bologna Italy
No. Compared to larger and more touristy cities like Rome, Milan, and Florence, Bologna is an affordable city. The city does have high-end restaurants and hotels, but these are the exception, not the rule. There are plenty of “cheap eat” options for both lunch and dinner.
Bologna is known for many things. It has one of the old universities in Europe. Its city towers are famous around the world. And there’s its food. Bologna is nicknamed the “fat city” so you know you are going to eat well.
This is a post about Bologna, so for us Bologna is the best food city in Italy. The Emilia-Romagna region of Italy produces some of the best and most diverse foods in Italy. It’s only natural that those food make Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna the best food city in Italy.