Today’s post is my Bologna Travel Diary! On our way from Venice to Florence, we jumped at the chance to experience another unique Italian city and made an overnight stop in Bologna. Bologna is a smaller town and even though we only stayed for 24 hours it left a big impression on us. There was a completely different vibe in Bologna in comparison to Milan and Venice and the food was some of the most memorable that we experienced. The minute we stepped off the train the pace felt slower and everyone just seemed more relaxed which we both really liked.
We took a direct train from Venice to Bologna and the journey was around 2 hours. Tickets can easily be purchased from the Trenitalia machines at the train station but if you are going during peak season I would recommend purchasing tickets in advance on the official website to ensure the best prices.
Piazza Santa Stefano
We started our self-guided walking tour by heading to Piazza Maggiore. Here we found the Basilica di San Petronio, which is a beautiful church. The Piazza Maggiore is also home to Fontana di Nettuno (The Fountain of Neptune) which looked impressive in photos but unfortunately, it was under construction when we were there.
Our next stop was the Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio (The Archiginnasio Municipal Library), which was previously the main building of the University of Bologna. The building was impressive with artwork all around the roofs and walls and some of the hallways reminded me of scenes in Harry Potter. I don’t usually recommend hanging out in libraries but this was an exception!
We then made our way east through Piazza Minghetti to our next stop, Piazza Santo Stefano, which is considered one of the most popular tourist sites in Bologna although it was very quiet when we arrived in the late afternoon. What makes this site impressive is that the Basilica di Santo Stefano (or as locals know it, Sette Chiese or “Seven Churches”) is a complex of seven churches of which some parts date back to the 4th Century. It’s free to enter the compound and explore so make sure to check it out!
Piazza Santo Stefano
Since we had a bit more time to explore, we made our way to Basilica di San Domenico which is known as one of the grandest churches in Bologna. As expected, the architecture and artwork was impressive.
San Giovanni in Monte
In order to get back to the main city area, we meandered through the streets and laneways, took some photos and ended up at Via Rizzoli, which is right in the heart of the city. There you find a busy street of cafes and shops, but what’s most impressive is the Le due Torri: Garisenda e degli Asinelli which are two towers at the end of Via Rizzoli (just look up, you can’t miss them!). From afar they look like two regular towers, but up close you can see that both towers are actually leaning away from each other. We didn’t have a chance to climb up to the top of Asinelli tower, but if you do have time I’d recommend it as I’ve heard the views of the red roofs of Bologna are amazing
Le due Torri
We absolutely loved all of our meals in Bologna. We started our day with lunch at La Bottega dei Portici. It’s a takeaway place that makes fresh pasta every day but you are allowed to eat your box of amazing pasta in their restaurant next door. We had the gnocchi pomodoro and tortellini with sage and butter and I have to say that the tortellini was my favourite. This place is a great first stop when you arrive in Bologna as it is close to Bologna Centrale station.
La Bottega dei Portici
For dinner we went to Osteria dell’Orsa which is famous for its pasta. Andrew and I both ordered their signature dish (Tagliatelle Ragu) and it was delicious!
The night wasn’t complete without a gelato stop so we ventured to Gelateria Gianni for gelato. This place had so many flavours that I had such a hard time choosing, but as expected it didn’t diasappoint!
The Travel Tips:
- Spend one night in Bologna. Unless you are planning to do a day trip to a neighbouring city you can see all the major tourist sites in one day.
- The official Bologna website is full of useful information which you should definitely visit before arriving in the city. We used this site a lot to plan our itinerary and hyperlinks are provided in the blog post above.
- Bologna’s neighbouring city is Modena, home to the World’s Best Restaurant in 2016, and great for food tours if you’re into Parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar and prosciutto (who doesn’t?!). It’s only 30 minutes away by train so well worth a side trip there.
If you’ve been to Bologna then tell us your favourite places to eat and visit in the comments below!