Last Updated on 16.08.2023 by Iliyan

Bologna, Italy is definitely worth visiting! It is one of the most underrated cities in Italy and often it is overlooked by tourists at the expense of Rome, Venice, Pisa, Florence, Milano, and Como. The city is known for its beauty, rich history, historic buildings, and great cuisine. It has the reputation as Italy’s gastronomic capital. In addition, here you will find the oldest university in the world – the University of Bologna was founded in 1088.

Is Bologna Worth Visiting?

If you’re still wondering is Bologna worth visiting, then here’s some essential information about the best places to visit. There are 3 essential words in Italian that describe Bologna – La Dotta, la Grassa e la Rossa (the erudite, the fat and the red).

La Dotta means the learned for its university, La Grassa means the fat, because its excellent cuisine you can eat in the region, and La Rossa is the red, because its houses and roofs are red. Adding the porticoes, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as other important landmarks in Bologna, the city is definitely worth visiting.

In Bologna you will find many places to stay in – from guesthouses and backpacker hostels to chic first-class luxury hotels. Find out the best places to stay in Bologna, Italy.

Piazza Maggiore

The main square of Bologna is Piazza Maggiore and most of popular attractions in the city are within walking distance of it. It is the starting point for everything to do in Bologna. Here you’ll find some of Bologna’s grandest buildings – the Basilica di San Petronio, the Palazzo d’Accursio (Palazzo Comunale), the Palazzo del Podesta, the Palazzo dei Notai, and Palazzo dei Bianchi. On the north west of the square sits the Piazza del Nettuno withi its magnificent Neptune Fountain. Enjoy the beautiful architecture and visit some of the palaces and basilica.

Is Bologna worth visiting - Piazza Maggiore
Piazza Maggiore

Neptune’s Fountain (Fontana del Nettuno)

Located next to Piazza Maggiore is the 16th-century Neptune Fountain. In the centre of the fountain raises the majestic figure of the Neptune, sculpted by Flemish sculptor Giambologna. The fountain is a typical example of Mannerist.

Neptune’s Fountain in Bologna
Neptune’s Fountain

Basilica of San Petronio (Basilica di San Petronio)

This incredible basilica stands on Bologna’s main square, Piazza Maggiore. Dedicated of the patron of Bologna, Saint Petronius, construction of the basilica started in 1390 through to 1479, and it has never been truly finished. When you look at the façade – the bottom section ornate pink and white marble, whilst the upper is just bricks and unadorned. 

Is Bologna worth visiting - Basilica of San Petronio
Basilica of San Petronio

The architecture and workmanship on the inside is quite stunning, and must see. In my opinion the most impressive is the Meridian Line. It was designed in 1655 by the astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, and each day at noon the sunlight shines through a hole in the vault of the church and shines along this line.

The interior of the Basilica of San Petronio
The interior of the Basilica of San Petronio

Santuario di Madonna di San Luca (Santuario della Madonna di San Luca)

When in Bologna don’t miss to take a walk to the Santuario di Madonna di San Luca, as it is one of the best things to do in Bologna. The church sits on top of the Monte della Guardia and offers wonderful panoramic views of Bologna. The distance from the city center to Santuario di Madonna di San Luca is 4.9 km. The best way to get there is on foot and it takes around an hour through the longest portico in the world with 666 arches. Bear in mind that the path gets a bit steep at times.

Once you reach the top, the views across the countryside are lovely, but the best view is from the dome of the church (€5).

If you don’t want to walk up, you can catch the San Luca Express bus from Piazza Maggiore.

Santuario di Madonna di San Luca in Bologna
Santuario di Madonna di San Luca

The Two Leaning Towers of Bologna (Torri di Bologna)

The Two leaning towers (otherwise known as Le Due Torri) are the symbol of Bologna. Located in the heart of the city at the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, they are easy to find and can be used as a landmark. Both towers stand next to each other and are named after noble families that built them.

Towers of Bologna
Towers of Bologna

The taller one is called the Asinelli (97.2m) while the smaller but more leaning tower is called the Garisenda (48m).

Asinelli Tower in Bologna
Asinelli Tower

For €5, visitors can climb the 498 narrow steps inside Asinelli Tower and get a spectacular view over the whole city from the top. You must book online your ticket in advance or at Bologna Welcome Information Office.

Explore Bologna’s Porticoes (Portici di Bologna)

Bologna is a pretty compact and walkable city. The best way to explore the historic city centre is under the porticoes (portici). The portico represent a partially enclosed walkway that is lined with arches and columns.

No other city in the world has as many porticoes as Bologna. There are almost 40kms of porticoes throughout the city of Bologna, constructed at different times, each with their own unique style and decoration. 

Is Bologna worth visiting - Porticoes
Bologna’s Porticoes

Among other things, they serve as a perfect protection from the summer sun and shelter from the rain.

Bologna's Porticoes
Bologna’s Porticoes

In 2021 the porticoes of Bologna have been declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Archiginnasio of Bologna (Anatomical Theatre)

Once the main building of the University of Bologna, the Archiginnasio today houses the Archiginnasio Municipal Library and the Anatomical Theatre. The building is truly impressive, full of history and dates back to the 16th century. You will have the opportunity to visit the anatomical theatre with a wooden dissection table in the middle of a learning room, where students learned ​human anatomy and watched dissections. The walls and the ceilings are decorated with coats of arms and carved statues of famous medical practitioners. This place can be found on Piazza Galvani.

After all, Bologna is absolutely worth visiting with its beautiful architecture, parks, friendly locals, delicious food, and fascinating history.


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