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Sites to See Places to Eat in Bologna

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Sites to See Places to Eat in Bologna – Bologna lies in between two of Italy’s most visited cities, Venice and Florence, and roughly an hour from each by train.

Italy has quite a few fantastic Renaissance cities besides Florence, and one of the best has to be Bologna. This medieval city in the Emilia-Romagna region could easily take up several days of an Italy trip, but if you’re pressed for time a day will do.

Sites to See Places to Eat in Bologna – Although it does bear a few similarities to Florence, Bologna is very much its own city. There’s the fact that it has the longest operating university in the world, which somehow gives the city a youthful vibe despite its history. It would also be impossible to mistake the look of Bologna’s historic centre, with covered porticos lining the sides of many streets.

Bologna is the lively, historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, in northern Italy. Its Piazza Maggiore is a sprawling plaza lined with arched colonnades, cafes and medieval and Renaissance structures such as City Hall, the Fountain of Neptune and the Basilica di San Petronio. Among the city’s many medieval towers are the Two Towers, leaning Asinelli and Garisenda.

Sites to See Places to Eat in Bologna – Bologna is known throughout Italy as Bologna la Grassa, which means Bologna the Fat. This nickname is well-earned—from ragù to mortadella, the Emilia-Romagna region serves up generous helpings of rich food, most of all in Bologna, its most important city. This walking tour of the city first leads you to important Bologna landmarks, and then, once you’re there, to the nearest top places to try the best Bolognese cuisine. Step over to these 10 ristoranti cooking up hot Bolognese classics, and while you’re at it, learn a bit about the history in which this Fat City is steeped. 


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Sites to See Places to Eat in Bologna – Bologna also offers plenty of sights along with its ambience. There’s the exquisite main square of Piazza Maggiore with the evocative Fountain of Neptune at its centre. Around the sides you’ll find several grand, old brick palaces like Palazzo Re Enzo that each deserve your time.

Other sights include the Two Towers, twin brick towers that were symbols of the city, and plenty of churches. Somewhat unusual is the Archiginnasio of Bologna, where you’ll find the library and anatomical theatre of the historic university.


Sites to See Places to Eat in Bologna


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Bologna – Bonaccorsi Arch, Caffè at Pasticceria Neri


Bologna – Site to See- Bonaccorsi Arch

Enter Bologna’s ancient city walls from their southwest corner. Immediately, you’ll pass through the Bonaccorsi Arch, the first in a record-holding series of porticoes (pictured) that stretches for 3,796 m (about 2.35 mi). Long arcades that shelter the sidewalks are Bologna’s most notable architectural quirk, the result of a 13th-century law that decreed that city streets must be covered by porticoes tall enough to accommodate a man on horseback. If you were to continue along via Sargozza, you would end up at the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, a church with breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. (Buses to its hilltop are also available—and preferable to the uphill slog.)


Bologna – Place to Eat – Caffè at Pasticceria Neri

Something to Eat While Seeing it: True Italians start drinking coffee before breakfast and don’t stop until after dinner. Because of the drink’s cultural importance, you really can’t go wrong with any caffè in Bologna, but to add some quality pastries to accompany your cup, head to Pasticceria Neri (via Saragozza, 85), right across the street from the Bonaccorsi Arch. The pastries here aren’t too sweet, and most are filled with delicious jams. Pro tip: The shot of acqua frizzante that you receive with every espresso was originally intended to be sipped before your caffè in order to cleanse your palate, but nowadays, it’s usually swished afterward to ward off coffee breath.


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Bologna – Canale Reno, Tagliatelle con ragù at Osteria dell’Orsa


Sight to SeeCanale Reno

Avoid the bustling energy in the city center by taking a quieter route north through side streets, window-shopping the small shops that make Bologna feel quaint despite its population density. Stop by the small windows under the porticoes on via Oberdan to get a lovely view of the Canale di Reno, or the Reno Canal. This canal, which used to be hidden from view by walls, was originally part of the plumbing system created in the 1100s to provide Bologna with fresh water. Today, windows have been added for viewing purposes, and the view is darling. 


Place to EatTagliatelle Con Ragù at Osteria dell’Orsa

A punk rock hotspot three decades ago, Osteria dell’Orsa (via Mentana, 1) is now popular with university students and true Bolognesi alike thanks to its low prices and authentic cuisine. As you enter its front door, you’ll be struck by the aroma of its tagliatelle con ragù. This dish is so essentially Bolognese that you’d be hard pressed to find a restaurant in all of town without ragù on the menu. Tagliatelle is a simple pasta, made with white flour (produced more frequently in Northern Italy due to the climate), oil, and egg, sliced into flat stripes. The specifically Bolognese ragù that usually comes on top is a sauce made with ground beef, red wine, and tomatoes. Osteria dell’Orsa’s rendition of this dish is faithful to tradition—a classic in the best way, warming your bones in the winter months. 


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Bologna – Via dell’Indipendenza, Place to Eat – Ragù at DIANA


Sight to SeeVia dell’Indipendenza

Something Worth Seeing: Head west for a few blocks on via Marsala until you hit Via dell’Indipendenza, the widest street in Bologna. The city’s best shopping can be found here, along with enormous crowds—the street actually closes for traffic every weekend in order to better facilitate Italian strolls. Among its shops and restaurants is Arena del Sole, Bologna’s most important theatre (excepting Teatro Comunale, its celebrated opera house). In season, which roughly lasts from September to May, the Arena can present as many as four plays (in Italian) on the same day, and tickets are reasonably priced. 


Place to Eat – Ragù at DIANA

In Bologna, you can never try enough tagliatelle, so another excellent spot is Ristorante DIANA (via Volturno 5), a high-class choice right off via dell’Indipendenza. This restaurant has been popular for more than 100 years, and in this case, practice really has made perfect—the Bolognese dishes here are thoroughly grounded in tradition and delicious in their confident simplicity. The tagliatelle al ragù is every bit as succulent as Osteria dell’Orsa’s, but here, it’s served on linen tablecloths by a staff in white suit jackets. It’s a great spot for some pre-theatre dinner. 


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Bologna – Sette Chiese, Something to Eat – Lasagne at Drogheria della Rosa


Sight to SeeSette Chiese

Something Worth Seeing: From the Archiginnasio, take via Farini and turn onto via Santo Stefano to get to the Basilica di Santo Stefano, known locally as the Sette Chiese, or Seven Churches. This monastery was constructed in seven different stages over the course of several centuries, with the first church constructed in the 4th century and the last finished in the 13th. One of the churches within has a rare painting depicting the Virgin Mary during pregnancy, while a courtyard joining different churches contains some disturbing sculptures at the top of columns which are said to have inspired descriptions of tortured souls in Dante’s Divina Commedia.


Something to Eat – Lasagne at Drogheria della Rosa

Leave the Sette Chiese and take via Santo Stefano to get to one of the best restaurants in town. Run out of a former drugstore, Drogheria della Rosa (via Cartoleria, 10) is a treasure hidden away under a dark portico. There’s no printed menu, and its selection changes daily, but it usually presents a few Bolognese favorites along with a few experimental dishes. If lasagne is available, jump at the chance—not only is lasagne a facet of Bolognese life, but Drogheria della Rosa also might just make the most intense version in all of town, with layer after layer of delectable meat, cheese, and sauce. You will not walk away from this restaurant hungry. But that’s too bad, because there are a few more delicious stops to go. 


Sites to See Places to Eat – in Bologna – Piazza Maggiore


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Via dell’Indipendenza terminates at Piazza Maggiore, an open square that constitutes the center of public life in Bologna. The buildings on the square, constructed during the Middle Ages, give the setting a historic resonance and an ancient aesthetic, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about people-watching on the Piazza itself. Every day, the square comes alive with tourists, students, and citizens, no matter the time of day or night.


Place to Eat – Charcuterie at Pane Vino e San Daniele


Bologna is also famous for curing meats—in the Middle Ages, it was the only way to preserve meat, and the Bolognese figured out how to do it so well that they’ve continued eating cured meat long after the advent of refrigerators. Ordering a charcuterie board is the best way to get a taste of many flavors that are integral to the local tradition, and one fairly priced place nearby for that is Pane Vino e San Daniele (via Altabella, 3). The board comes heaped with mortadella, a type of fatty pork; prosciutto crudo, the salty, dried ham beloved throughout Italy; various salami and cheeses, including world-famous Parmigiano Reggiano; and on the side, gnocco fritto, a fried dough you can use to sample your meats.


Sight to SeeBasilica di San Petronio


The biggest and most striking building on Piazza Maggiore is the Basilica di San Petronio, one of the largest cathedrals in all of Italy. Entrance is free (though there is a fee for taking photos), and its sloping ceilings and breathtaking vastness make it the best tourist sight in the city. Don’t miss the Cappella Bolognini on your left as you enter—this chapel, painted by Giovanni da Modena in 1410, features a terrifying depiction of Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia. 


Place to EatTortelloni at Sfoglia Rina


There are several side streets next to Piazza Maggiore filled with good restaurants, one of which is Sfoglia Rina (via Castiglione, 5/b), a popular lunch spot that usually sells out long before dinnertime. Consider ordering another of Bologna’s characteristic pastas, tortelloni. These shells are usually stuffed with spinach and ricotta and served without sauce, which makes them buttery and tasty beyond belief. The pasta at Sfoglia Rina is made fresh every day, and locals gladly wait in line for a seat to enjoy it—but if you want to try to prepare some fluffy tortelloni yourself, you can always skip the line and order it to go by the kilo at the pasta takeaway counter. 


Sites to See Places to Eat – in Bologna – Where to Shop


Sites to See Places to Eat Where to Shop – Shopping in Bologna often revolves around food. On a warren of medieval lanes behind Piazza Maggiore, the Quadrilatero is the gastronome epicenter of Bologna, full of venerable gourmet shops.

At Tamburini, one of Italy’s most lavish food shops, Via Caprarie 1 (tamburini.com; tel. 051/232-226), a selection of pastas, meats and fish, soups and salads, vegetables, and sweets is sold to be taken away or enjoyed in-house, accompanied by 200 wines by the glass. 

Sites to See Places to Eat Where to Shop – La Baita, Via Pescherie Vecchie 3A (tel. 051/223-940), lets you choose from a dizzying selection of hams and cheeses and enjoy them in a busy mezzanine dining room.

While FICO Eataly World Disney-fies the gourmet experience, foodies still flock to Bologna Eataly (Via degli Orefici 19; www.eataly.it; tel. 051/095-2820), which sells cookbooks, cheese, hams, and other products, as well as prepared foods and wine that can be consumed picnic-style at indoor and outdoor tables.

Sites to See Places to Eat Where to Shop – The covered marketplace across the way has been converted into the Mercato di Mezzo (Via Clavature; tel. 051/232919), a food hall housing small bars and food stands; in the evenings many offer free snacks to accompany drinks.

Osteria del Sole, Vicolo Ranocchi 1D (osteriadelsole.it; tel. 348/225-6887; closed Sun), is an invitingly rundown room with a novel twist on the bring-your-own policy—you bring the food, they supply the wine for 2€ a glass.

Sites to See Places to Eat Where to Shop – Good places to shop for your DIY meal are Salumeria Simoni, Via Drapperie 5/2A (www.salumeriasimoni.it; tel. 051/231880), and Enoteca Italiana, Via Marsala 2/B (www.enotecaitaliana.it; tel. 051/235-989)—at both you can take a seat to dine well on cheese and meat platters, sandwiches, and other dishes.

Thrown in a pastry from Atti, Via Caprarie 7 (www.paoloatti.com; tel. 051/220-425).

Sites to See Places to Eat Where to Shop – Venture a few blocks west of the Quadrilatero to find Bologna’s central food market, Mercato delle Erbe, at Via Ugo Bassi 25 (www.mercatodelleerbe.eu; Mon–Thurs 7am–midnight, Fri–Sat 7am–2pm).

Aside from produce, fish, and other food vendors, the hall has fast-food outlets with a couple of clamorous dining areas.

Sites to See Places to Eat Where to Shop – Maybe it’s not unexpected that Bologna has many famous chocolatiers. Majani, Via de’ Carbonesi 5 (tel. 051/234-302), claims to be Italy’s oldest sweets shop, making confections since 1796. 

Roccati, Via Clavature 17A (www.roccaticioccolato.com; tel. 051/261-964), is run by a husband-and-wife team that makes the gianduja (hazelnut and cognac-filled chocolate) their ancestors once concocted for the princes of Savoy.

Sites to See Places to Eat Where to Shop – If you have hard-to-fit feet, walk to Piero, Via delle Lame 56 (tel. 051-558680), for attractive footwear for men and women in large sizes, ranging up to European size 53 for men (American size 20) and size 46 for women (American size 14).

Bruno Magli quickly made a name for himself after opening his first shoe factory in 1934.

Today, a Bruno Magli shop selling leather bags, jackets, and coats for men and women — in addition to shoes — is at Galleria Cavour 9 (tel. 051-266915).

The Veronesi family has been closely tied to the jewelry trade for centuries.

Sites to See Places to Eat Where to Shop – Now split up and competing among themselves, the various factions are represented by F. Veronesi & Figli, Piazza Maggiore 4 (tel. 051-224835), which offers contemporary jewelry, watches, and silver using ancient designs; and Giulio Veronesi, with locations at Piazza di Re Enzo 1H (tel. 051-234237) and Galleria Cavour 1 (tel. 051-234196), which sells modern jewelry and Rolex watches.


Sites to See Places to Eat in Bologna – Where to Stay in Bologna


Hotel Touring

Centrally located in the historic centre down a quiet street is the Hotel Touring, a family-owned and operated hotel with a homey feel, but one of its best features is a panoramic rooftop terrace. Simple, ultra comfortable, and just a few minutes’ walk from Piazza Maggiore.

Portici Hotel

If you’re looking for modern elegance, Portici Hotel is a good choice. Located within walking distance to the city center near the University, one of the best parts about staying here are the cooking classes through Bottega Portici!

Hotel Corona D’Oro

The city’s only 4-star luxury is at the Hotel Corona d’Oro, super close to the Piazza Maggiore.

Hotel Novecento

This Viennese-style hotel on Piazza Galileo has gorgeous contemporary rooms & suites with marble bathrooms. Some rooms also have outdoor terraces with great views!

Art Hotel Orologio

Simple, elegant, and generally under $100 USD/night, the Art Hotel Orologio is a great value in the heart of the city centre.

Hotel Metropolitan

The Hotel Metropolitan is a great choice if you love chic elegance in a great location (just a few blocks from Piazza Maggiore), with a beautiful outdoor space.


More Resources for Italy


A Day Trip to Lucca >>

Must See Spots in Italy >>

The Essentials For European Travel >>

Italian Red Wine >>


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