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Bologna in 1 day

Bologna is the food capital of Italy and also known as 'la grassa' (the fat one) and 'the belly of Italy'. But it's also famous for its alluring porticoes and even its (hidden) canals. In this blog post I will share travel tips to make the most out of your day trip to Bologna:

Arch at Piazza Maggiore to Via Pescherie Vecchie in Bologna Italy

See and do in Bologna

The (almost) 62 kilometres (38 mi) of porticoes have been inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. No matter where you are in the city, you will always see one of these meander through the streets. They give shade and shelter from the rain, but give above all a unique character to this city. The porticoes vary from simple and plain to extravagant with decorations, ornaments and antique lamps.

Building at Piazza Santo Stefano in Bologna Italy

UNESCO World Heritage porticoes of Bologna Italy

Porticoes of Bologna Italy

The Fountain of Neptune stands in the heart of the city close to Piazza Maggiore. It was made of marble and bronze by the Flemish sculptor Giambologna between 1563 and 1566. It symbolised the influence that the pope had over the world at the time, similar to Neptune's influence over the seas.

Fountain of Neptune (Nettuno) in Bologna Italy

The Two Leaning Towers (le due torri) are famous landmarks in Bologna as they both have a steep overhang. Both are built between 1109 and 1119 for a military function, but where at the same time representing the social prestige of the family that built them. Torre Degli Asinelli is the tallest one, with a height of 97 metres (318 ft). It can be visited with a pre-booked ticket.

Torre Garisenda only has a height of 47 metres (155 ft), but with its overhang of 3,2 metres it is not open to the public due to safety reasons.

Le due torri Leaning Towers of Bologna Italy

Leaning Torre Garisenda in Bologna Italy

Leaning Tower of Bologna Italy

The largest and most important church of Bologna is the Basilica di San Petronio whose foundation stone was laid in 1390. The reason that the façade is only half covered with marble is not because of the design, it simply was never finished. This makes it unique compared to many other churches in the region.

San Petronio (Basilica of St. Petronius) in Bologna

San Petronio (Basilica of St. Petronius) in Bologna Italy

Tucked into the bustling heart of the historical centre you will find the Baroque-style Church of Santa Maria della Vita. Its intimate interior is very detailed with many frescoes, paintings, ornaments and statues.

Church of Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna Italy

Bologna is not very known for its canals, but there are almost 60 kilometres of them. The reason for their unfamiliarity is that they are mostly covered with buildings and streets nowadays. During the middle ages they were important for the silk industry as they drove watermills, and were crucial for transport. The window (finestrella) at Via Piella gives a nice glimpse of Canale delle Moline (referring to a watermill).

Window (finestrella) at Via Piella in Bologna Italy

Canale delle Moline from Via Piella in Bologna Italy

From the bridge of Via Malcontenti you can see the canal from the other side. The official tourist office 'Bologna Welcome' even has a brochure with a tour along the hidden canals.

Canale delle Moline from Via Malcontenti in Bologna Italy

Foodlovers should visit the street Via Pescherie Vecchie and the surrounding area. Because this street is packed with deli's specialised in home made pasta, culinary shops with cheese and wine, fruit and vegetable stalls and cozy restaurants.

Formaggio Italiano at Via Pescherie Vecchie in Bologna

Fresh pasta at Via Pescherie Vecchie in Bologna Italy

Evening at Via Pescherie Vecchie in Bologna Italy

The Palazzo D'Accursio (Municipal Palace) at Piazza Maggiore is beautifully lit in the evening. It's Clock Tower (torre dell'Orologio) has a nice view over the city and can be visited.

D'Accursio or Municipal Palace in Bologna Italy

D'Accursio (Municipal Palace) in Bologna Italy

Coffee and sweets in Bologna

While sitting at the terrace of Il Caffè delle 7 Chiese you will have a beautiful view over Piazza Santo Stefano and its Basilica. From coffee in the morning until a cocktail in the evening, every time of the day is suitable to stop by at this versatile cafe and restaurant.

Il Caffè delle 7 Chiese in Bologna Italy

Sweet tooth will probably like the selection of Italian pastries and cookies (biscotti) at Pasticceria Impero. We have tried this very tasty biscotto with pistachio cream.

Biscotto al pistacchio from Pasticceria Impero in Bologna Italy

Lunch and dinner in Bologna

Trattoria Belfiore is a lovely family run restaurant with a retro reel and amazing traditional food. This was one of my favourite restaurants during our 2 week road trip through Italy.

Pasta al ragù at Trattoria Belfiore in Bologna Italy

Interior of Trattoria Belfiore in Bologna Italy

Trattoria Belfiore in Bologna Italy

From the terrace of Buca San Petronio you will have a wonderful view over the church of Santa Maria della Vita. A table for two under one of the porticoes in the heart of the city is a great setting for dinner. The menu contains authentic Bolognese cuisine (like homemade tortellini and lasagna al ragù) made with ingredients from the surrounding area and tastes from the Mediterranean.

Dinner at Buca San Petronio in Bologna Italy

View from Buca San Petronio in Bologna Italy

Nightlife in Bologna

The inclusive Cassero LGBTI+ Centre has got a lively and welcoming terrace where you can enjoy some drinks or cocktails. Cassero is the most important institution for the Italian LGBTI+ movement. It is a political circle committed to the recognition of the rights of trans*, bisexual, lesbian and gay people, and a cultural space as well. Here everyone is welcome, regardless of your sexual orientation, origin or cultural background.

Outdoor terrace of Cassero LGBTI+ Centre in Bologna Italy

Cassero LGBTI+ Centre in Bologna Italy

How to get to Bologna

Bologna is the historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy. Bologna (BLQ) has an international airport which is located about 6 kilometres (3 mi) outside of the city centre.

The frecciarossa high-speed train will take you to Bologna within:

  • 38 minutes from Firenze (Florence)

  • 50 minutes from Verona

  • 1 hour and 10 minutes from Milan

  • 1,5 hour from Venice


Bologna Welcome has got a tourist information office in the heart of the city at Piazza Maggiore.

Here you can receive a free map of the city, which contains a three hour individual walking tour

along the highlights of Bologna.


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