The city of Bologna, or Bologna as its name is in Italian, is located in the northern region of Italy and is the capital from the Emilia-Romagna region. It is a town in which history is present, in fact it has the second largest medieval old town not only in the country but in the entire European continent, following that of Venice.
It is one of squares, palaces and incredible statues, each element with its history and each one of them is worth knowing. For this reason, here is a list of 11 things that you cannot miss and do in Bologna, from the iconic towers of the city to trying its incredible gastronomy.
Of course, a city with so much history can present a number of activities that seem endless, but that does not mean that it cannot be done. Knowing new places has a different taste when you go through their history and you can see some elements that were so important in the first person, and all that is needed is a little help in which are the places that you cannot miss.
Here are some things to do in Bologna, Italy, on your next visit.
11 things to do in Bologna
From historical buildings, giant statues and spaces that are part of the World Heritage Site according to UNESCO, we tell you 11 places to visit and things that you cannot miss in Bologna.
1. Get to know the Piazza Maggiore
Getting to know the Piazza Maggiore, or Plaza Mayor as we would say in Spanish, is one of the main things you have to do in Bologna. This is both for its beauty and for its importance, since it is the main square of the city. It has a length of 115 meters and another 60 wide, and around it are some of the most important buildings in the town both in political and religious terms.
This site in Bologna dates from the year 1,200, when it became the heart of the city. However, it was not until the 16th century that it began to be known as Piazza Maggiore, although its name until 1943 was Vittorio Emanuele II and it was not until 1945 that it received its current name officially.
Some of the buildings that are in its surroundings are the Basilica of San Petronio, the Palacio de los Notarios, the Palacio de Accursio, the Palacio Podestá and the P alacio de los Bianchi.
2. Approaching the Fountain of Neptune
The Neptune Fountain or Fontana del Nettuno is located in the square that bears the same name and is located right next to the Plaza Mayor, in what is considered the historic center of the city. city. Its construction took place between 1563 and 1566, and the project was designed by Tommaso Laureti, although it was the Flemish Juan de Bolonia who carried it out.
This imposing work is made of marble and bronze, and symbolizes the power of the Pope over the world just like Neptune’s in the seas. Due to its size, it is known among local residents as “il Gigante” and seeing it up close is one of the things you have to do in Bologna, without a doubt. In addition to the statue of the god, the fountain has a rectangular marble pool.
According to the story, the sculpture of Neptune is so real and in such detail that when naked, women used to be scandalized when crossing the square and therefore the religious authorities decided to make him a pair of bronze pants.
On the other hand, according to popular belief, students who want to have good fortune in their exams should turn the fountain two times in an anti-clockwise direction, just as the sculptor did when he was reflecting on this project.
Address: Piazza del Nettuno, Bologna.
3. Visit the Basilica of San Petronio
The Basilica of San Petronio is one of the most incredible sites in the city, as well as being the largest and most important temple in this town. Not only that, but it is the fifth largest church in the world, it has a 45-meter dome and visiting it is one of the things you cannot miss in Bologna.
Its construction began in the year 1390 and lasted for several centuries. In fact, even today the facade of this site is incomplete. It is located in Plaza Galvani and for a long time it was used to carry out different activities. At one point events were taking place, at another it was a court, it also became a meeting point for locals.
The church, 132 meters long by 60 wide, has inside works by famous artists such as Parmigianino, Giulio Romano and Masaccio, to name a few. It is a work that transcends religion and visiting it is one of the things that, if you have the possibility, you have to do in Bologna.
Address: Piazza Galvani, 5, Bologna.
4. See the degli Asinelli and Garisenda towers
These two towers are popularly recognized as a symbol of the city and are located in the center of it. Both were built during the Middle Ages and their role was mainly military, in terms of signaling and defense. In addition, it was also a way in which it represented the social prestige of the family that contributed the money for its construction.
Today only one of them can be visited and it is the Torre degli Asinelli, after having been restored. Built during the decade between 1109 and 1119 and in the 13th century it was ceded to the town hall. It is almost a hundred meters high, and if you climb the 498 steps inside it, you can see the city in a wonderful way. Definitely something you have to do in Bologna.
The Garisenda tower, on the other hand, has a lower height than that of Asinelli and, in addition, it is characterized by having an inclination that is noticeable with the naked eye. This is because there was a subsidence in the ground where the tower is located.
Address: Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, Bologna.
5. Tour the porticoes of Bologna
If we talk about things to do in Bologna, you cannot miss the tour of the porticoes of the city. It is a space that extends throughout the city, having a length of almost 40 kilometers, being unique in the world, and which has been declared “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO.
They are presented as a symbol of hospitality in the Bolognese community. From the 12th century onwards, they became a space for socialization and commerce, where people gathered to enjoy this large open-air room. It should be taken into account that, given its length, throughout the city people will find different types of porches. Some made of wood, others semi-porches without column, others that are taller.
The widest portico in the city is that of the S. María dei Servi basilica, designed at the end of the 14th century, while the highest is in via Altabella.
6. Get to know the National Picture Gallery of Bologna
The National Picture Gallery of Bologna, or Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, is one of the most important museums in all of Italy, without taking into account those found in Rome. Its significance is due, especially, to its painting collection which includes works dating from the 13th to the 19th centuries, and by well-known artists such as Raffaello, the Carracci and Guido Reni.
The Pinacoteca Nacional has thirty exhibition halls, in addition to other spaces that are only used for temporary exhibitions. Although it is a museum, that is not the only function it has, but it is also dedicated to studying and preserving the artistic heritage of Bologna and the region.
Being one of the most important spaces not only in the country but in Italy, knowing the National Picture Gallery has to be on your list of things to do in Bologna on your next visit.
Address: Via Belle Arti, 56, Bologna.
7. Visit the Archiginnasio of Bologna
The Archiginnasio is a palace and one of the most characteristic buildings in all of Bologna. It is located in the historic center of the city and was built between 1562 and 1563 at the request of Cardinal Borromeo. It is part of the historical buildings of the University of Bologna and the best part is that it can be visited, so it is a great option for things to do in Bologna.
This building has the largest collection of shields in the world, with more than 6,000 specimens, and an anatomical theater. The latter was built by Antonio Levante in 1637, and was used to teach anatomy. Not a minor detail is that it is made of carved wood.
It should be noted that after 1944 the palace was rebuilt, after being damaged by an aerial bombardment.
Address: Piazza Galvani, 1, Bologna.
8. See the Salaborsa Library
This incredible library was inaugurated in December 2001 and is located inside the Palazzo d’Accursio, in the historic center of Bologna. In addition, it is not only a space for books, but it also has ancient excavations that can be seen with the naked eye.
This space is a multimedia library that has the purpose of documenting contemporary culture, and for this it uses all possible available documents: books, magazines, newspapers, maps, videos, discs, among others. Of course, in order to carry out this task and, at the same time, so that the public can access this material, it has high technology that allows access to information services.
The Salaborsa library also has sectors for children and young people, in which it is intended to promote critical and independent thinking. It is one of those places that people of all ages can enjoy and seeing it in person is one of the things to do in Bologna.
Address: Piazza del Nettuno, 3, Bologna.
9. Tour the Piazza and Basilica of Santo Stefano
The Piazza Santo Stefano is one of the most emblematic places in the city of Bologna, and there is the Basilica of Santo Stefano. The latter is actually a group of churches that is also known as “Sette Chiese “, because it is made up of seven buildings dating from different periods.
The churches that are part of the basilica are the Church of the Crucifix, the Basilica of the Sepulcher, the Church of San Vitale and San Agricola, the Patio de Pilato, the Medieval Cloister, the Church of Martyrdom and the Museum of Santo Stefano.
For its part, the square is surrounded by historical sites such as Palazo Isolani, Palazzo Bolognini Isolani, Palazzo Bolognini Amorini Salina and Casa Berti. Currently, cultural events and concerts usually take place in this space.
Address: Via Santo Stefano, 24, Bologna.
10. Eat at the Mercato di Mezzo
Talking about a place in Italy without referring at some point to its gastronomy is practically impossible, that is why among the things to do in Bologna you cannot miss a visit to the Mercato di Mezz or, or market. It is a space where you can enjoy typical dishes of the region, every day of the week.
Already from the Middle Ages it was a place where flavors came together and different shops coexisted, where people came to share their gastronomic traditions. Then, with the Italian unification, it became the first covered market in the entire city and today it is a place chosen by many to buy and eat there.
Address : Via Clavature, 12, Bologna.
11. Enjoy the Giardini Margherita
The Giardini Margherita, or Margherita Gardens, is the most visited and most extensive park in Bologna with its 26 hectares. It was inaugurated in 1879, although at that time its name was Passeggio Regina Margherita and it is inspired by English parks.
This precious space in the city was designed by Ernesto Balbo Bertone de Sambuy, and he wanted it to be a kind of enchanted forest, or magical place, within the city. It has a lake that can be reached by following the cobbled paths, which during the day is an ideal place to rest and connect with nature.
It should be taken into account that in the southern sector of this lake, or pond, it is possible to see a small section of the old Savena canal, one of the waterways that once crossed the city.
Address: Viale Massimo Meliconi, 1, Bologna.
These are some of the places to know and things to do in Bologna that you cannot miss on your next visit. It is one of the best preserved historical cities in Italy and, without a doubt, it is full of places that are worth visiting.