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Bologna city tour

Top-rated places to visit in your next sighseeing tour

by Silvia

Bologna is definitely the city of porticoes: 38 km just in the historical centre inside the walls around the city. Not bad! Don’t panic if you feel a bit lost because, you know, they look the same almost everywhere at a first sight. You know, Bologna has got the oldest University in the world: in the Middle Age people needed to create some space for all the students incoming and they decided to wide the upper stage of the building towards the street. That means: porticoes. A lot. Porticoes are a way of life: meeting point between the open public space and the inside, perfect for rainy days. At a second glance, they are not the same at all: my favourite is the one in Strada Maggiore, from the two towers to the avenues, especially around the Church of St Maria dei Servi, where takes place a famous Xmas Market in december.

Sightseeing tour

First the main square: Piazza Maggiore, with the famous Church of St Petronio and the stoned platform ahead known as crescentone (i.e. flat bread). Do not cross it if you are waiting for graduation and you are superstitious! The Church is great, but as you can see the façade is not finished: Bologna used to belong to Papacy in 300 A.D. and the Pope didn’t want this building to become bigger than St Peter in Rome, so he stopped the works.

On this square Palazzo D’Accursio (the building of local municipality) with Morandi Museum inside at the first floor. Just next, the building Salaborsa, public library and covered square where you can step literally on some Etruscan ruins walking on a glass floor. In front of it, the building of Podestà, closed to the public except during the events taking place inside, hopefully you can attend one of them, the frescoed main hall is amazing. The fountain of Neptune by Giambologna is known as “the giant”.  The tourist office Bologna Welcome is on the main square too, don’t miss a visit to collect some tips and flyers about the event calendar.

Bologna, view

Bologna, view

A little jewel not far from the main square is the sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita (i.e. St Mary of life), housing a masterpiece of Italian art: the sculptural group of “Sorrow over Dead Christ” by Niccolò dell’Arca. Then you can climb the Asinelli Tower (the straight one, the leaning one is called Garisenda). The climb is quite hard, the stair get more and more narrow, but on the top the view is worthy: you can spot a lot of hidden gardens inside the buildings, green spots in the red of roofs.

Piazza Santo Stefano is the best place in town: a unique round square with a complex made of 7 different churches, built one inside the other. Every second Saturday of the month here is a antiques market.

The University area is mostly around Via Zamboni, where you should visit Palazzo Poggi: inside, the classroom where the Italian poet Giosuè Carducci used to teach and an interesting museum of old maps and anatomical waxes. Not far, in via Belle Arti, the National Pinacotheque with many painting by the Carracci brothers and Guido Reni. A couple of museums you should visit if you have time: the Museum of Modern Art (MamBO, via Don Minzoni) and the recent Bologna’s history Museum to discover and revise the changing of the city during the years. You know, the cathedral is not St Petronio on the main square, but St Peter on via Indipendenza. Pay a visit also to the Church of St Domenico with its wood choir, the St Francis Church with the monumental tombs of Accursio family and the lovely church of St Giovanni in Monte.

If you are looking for a great view, you can also walk up on the hills all around Bologna, the most famous hill is the so called Colle della Guardia (i.e. Guard Hill), where is the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. Are you well trained? Then you can go on foot until the Sanctuary, from Meloncello Arch it takes 4 km and 666 arches of porticoes. Whatever, you can also catch the nice red&blue train San Luca Express!

Bologna, St Luca

Bologna, St Luca

Book your tour on the City Red Bus with #italiaslowtour special deal!


Visit Bologna: helpful hints


Bologna has an international and transcontinental airport: Marconi BLQ. A shuttle bus called Aerobus connects easily the airport to the city centre and to the Central Station (rides every 15 minutes, it takes 30 minutes and costs 6€).

Bologna is just in the middle of the Italian system of high speed train lines, so that you can reach Florence in 30 minutes, Milan in 1 hour and Rome in 2 hours by train (check tickets and fares on the two main companies Trenitalia and Italo).  The Central Railway Station is in the city centre, 15 minutes walking from the main square.


The best way to visit Bologna is on foot! The single ticket costs 1,2 € (1,5 if you buy it on the bus) and it last 75 minutes. You can choose different types of ticket – daily etc. – for more information visit Tper website. There is also the option of bike sharing (provided by mobike), that’s 0,30 cent every 30 minutes ride. Find more tips about cycling services in town at the Dynamo – aka Velostazione. Car sharing is provided by two companies: Enjoy – for regular cars and Corrente – for electric cars.

What to do

Bologna is the capital city of Emilia Romagna, Northern Italy. It is really famous for its food (tortellini, mortadella, ragù alla bolognese, tagliatelle, lasagne, anyone?). Here you can find advices for some places where you can eat local food. Don’t miss a tour at FICO, the biggest Italian Food theme park! For more information check on FICO website.

Bologna is the city of arches (i.e. portici), there are 38km of them just in the centre of the city! Here you can find the University of Bologna that is the oldest University in the occidental world. The main monuments in the city centre are the Two Towers, the St Petronio’s church, the Neptune’s fountain and – on the hills – St Lucas sanctuary. Italia Slow Tour users have a special discount on City Red Bus & San Luca Express toursDiscover more about this amazing city.

Special tips: if you consider to take some tours nearby, we recommend the fortress Rocchetta Mattei and the Dozza village with its amazing street art.

Where to sleep

The best place to sleep in Bologna is the city centre or the areas near nearby, to visit all the city easily. In Bologna frequently take place some events and fairs, check the calendar just to be sure to book in advance since the city gets crowded!


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