Bologna itinerary in 3 days

Bologna historical centre
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My husband has been dreaming (and salivating) about going to Bologna for years. Known as the Fat City for good reason, it is home to bolognese sauce, tortellini, parmesan cheese, parma ham (due to its close proximity to the town of Parma), mortadella and of course good wines abound. Need I say more?  

 

Bologna is a cosmopolitan city. It is not as refined as Turin or Rome which makes it feel more authentic somehow. It is also home to the first university in the world which makes it not only an academic city but a very lively one given the number of students that reside there.

The city is also known for its many kilometres of porticoes. These beautiful and elegant extensions to the buildings cover around 38 kilometres within the historic centre alone. On account of their cultural and artistic significance, they have been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2021.

Hotel

Bologna:

Hotel Touring Bologna

♥♥♥

This hotel is located in the historic centre of Bologna on a quiet street. It is clean but the rooms feel a bit basic. They offer a decent breakfast. There is a rooftop bar with nice views of the city. The staff are friendly and very helpful.

Noteworthy Restaurants
  • Ristorante Ciacco. Located in the historic centre near the old Jewish Ghetto, this restaurant specializes in fish and seafood. The meal was delicious and they have a nice patio.

  • Trattoria da Me. One of the meal highlights of our trip was in Trattoria da Me. I'm not sure how I found it but it is an award winning Italian restaurant that is under the radar and very low key. The cuisine is unique and so delicious. It is traditional and modern at the same time. I highly recommend you make a reservation and run to this tasty restaurant.

  • Restaurant Teresina. Located near the old market area, this restaurant has a lovely courtyard patio and the food was traditional and very good.

  • Cafe Zanarini. Located in a small square on the way from our hotel to the centre, we stopped at Cafe Zanarini for Apperativos. The wine and snacks hit the spot.

  • Salumeria Simoni. Walking through the old food market, we stumbled upon this great salumeria right around lunch time. We ordered a platter of cheese and meats and some wine. Such a treat. They have high top tables on the narrow street which is perfect for people watching while enjoying lunch.

Day 1

 
Bologna Porticoes
Tours and Guides

Manuela - Historic walking tour. We booked Manuela through Tours By Locals. She was very knowledgeable and guided through the city centre explaining the history and culture of the city.

Secret Food Tours. I've used this company before for food tours so was happy that they offer one in Bologna (the food capital of the world - IMHO). Our guide took us around Bologna, including a special stop in the famous market, while tasting a variety of delicious foods and drinks.

Afternoon

We arrived in Bologna in the late afternoon by train from Turin. Our hotel, Hotel Touring Bologna, was an easy taxi ride from the train station. The hotel is located on a quiet street in the centre of the historic centre. This small hotel has basic and updated rooms. The staff are very helpful and friendly and they offer a nice breakfast with a wide variety of choices.

After checking into the hotel we decided to go for a short walk and get our bearings. We walked out to the main square, Piazza Maggiore, admired the large cathedral and then walked through some of the small streets before heading back to the hotel for a rest and showers.

Evening

We decided to walk out for an Aperitivo (a pre-dinner drink and snack) before heading for dinner. Having an Aperitivo is an Italian tradition. It usually takes place between 6:00 - 7:30 pm before restaurants open for dinner. Small cafès, bars and piazzas are packed with people having a drink, which is usually accompanied by homemade snacks that range from nuts to full-on charcuterie boards or mini pizzas. It's one of my favourite times of the day!

 

We stopped at Cafe Zanarini, located in a small square on the way from our hotel to the restaurant we had booked for dinner. The wine and snacks hit the spot.

From there we continued to Ristorante Ciacco located in the historic centre near the old Jewish Ghetto. This restaurant specializes in fish and seafood. The meal was delicious and they have a nice patio on the small street.

Favourite Museums

Museum of Mondern Art (MAMbo). This museum located in the centre of Bologna displays modern and experimental art. The temporary and permanent exhibits we saw there were very interesting. 

Collezioni Comunali d'Arte (Municipal Art Collection). Located in a former palace in Piazza Maggiore. In addition to paintings dating back from the Middle Ages to the present day, the extensive collection also includes art objects, pieces of furniture, porcelain, fabrics, etc. The building is beautiful and they often house some interesting temporary exhibits.

Day 2

Bologna Market

Morning

This morning following breakfast we met our guide, Manuela from Trips by Locals. She gave us a very informative tour of the historical centre of Bologna. We started our tour in the main square, Piazza Maggiore, where Manuela told us the history of the square and described its various functions over the centuries. It was built in the 15th century as a market and also became the site of the seat of municipal government. It was the most important urban project in the city of Bologna during medieval times.

The square is still home to Bologna's city hall. The beautiful Fountain of Neptune can be found in the Piazza. The main Basilica is also located in the Piazza. The Basilica Saint Petronio is dedicated to the city's patron saint and is the largest and most important church in Bologna. Inside it houses the worlds longest sundial built in 1576 by a professor of mathematics at the university. If you arrive at the correct time of day, the beam of light from the sun will tell you the date and time. 

We continued our walk to visit the buildings of the oldest university in the world, founded in 1088 by an organized guild of students. Its early focus on civil law attracted students from all over the world. We visited the courtyard of one of the oldest buildings in the university which was attended by the medical students. The courtyard is encircled with beautiful porticoes throughout.

From there we continued our walk through historical streets of the city and were given the history of many of the porticoes and saw some of the oldest ones. We also walked through the old Jewish Ghetto. While there was never a big Jewish community in Bologna they were confined to a very small area within the historic centre and were expelled twice in 1569 and then again in 1593 after they were allowed to return to the city for a short time. There is an old synagogue that can be visited and the city has put up signage in the area to identify some old Jewish homes and businesses. 

Next we visited the Saint Steven Square with its porticos and beautiful palaces as well as the Saint Steven Churches Complex. This complex houses four small churches with a fascinating history. They were built between the 6th and 8th centuries and are comprised of one roof connecting all four churches as well as interconnecting bridges and courtyards. The churches are adorned with unique representations of towns on both sides of the Jordan river, beautiful mosaics, scenes from the Nile Delta, and other motifs.

We continued walking along many of the main streets and alleys including the Mercato di Mezzo, the old medieval food market, and ended by the two leaning towers of Asinelli and Garisenda.

Afternoon

This excellent tour ended close to the market and we certainly had worked up an appetite at that point. We headed into the old market area which still has vendors selling all sorts of produce and meat. We stumbled upon Salumeria Simoni. We ordered a platter of cheese and meats and some wine. Such a treat. They have high top tables on the narrow street which is perfect for people watching while enjoying lunch.

After lunch we walked to the Museum of Mondern Art (MAMbo). Although this museum is located in the historic centre, it is around a half hour walk from the main area. This gave us a chance not only to walk off our lunch but also to see some other neighbourhoods of the city. The museum has an interesting collection of modern and experimental art. The temporary and permanent exhibits we saw there were very interesting. 

From there we headed back to our hotel with a stop at Venchi Gelateria for a gelato and to taste their homemade chocolate. Their ice cream is delicious made with high quality ingredients.

Evening

We left our hotel and decided to take a circuitous route to the restaurant we booked as we wanted to explore an area of the city we hadn't seen. This neighbourhood was a lovely residential area filled with families out for a stroll and residents were riding their bicycles home from work. We stopped in a small piazza with a church that had a few cafès with outdoor seating. We sat outside with our Apperitivo and watched daily life go by for the residents. Kids were playing soccer in front of the church, people were arriving with their yoga mats for a class inside the church and others were sitting down for an afternoon drink. It was so enjoyable and peaceful.

We had dinner reservations at Trattoria da Me. To be honest, I'm not sure how I came across this restaurant but I'm so glad that I did. This was one of the meal highlights of our trip. It is an award winning Italian restaurant that is under the radar and very low key. The cuisine is unique and so delicious. It is traditional and modern at the same time. I highly recommend you make a reservation and run to this tasty restaurant.

Day 3

Bologna past making

Morning

This morning we headed to the area of the two leaning towers to meet our guide and group for the food tour with Secret Food Tours. I've used this company before for food tours so was happy that they offer one in Bologna (the food capital of the world - IMHO). Our guide took us around Bologna, including a special stop in the famous market, while tasting a variety of delicious foods and drinks. We visited a small trattoria to sample traditional alla bolognese (Bolognese sauce), we learned why a five year-old Parmigiano Reggiano is so special, we sipped 12-24 year-old balsamic vinegar from Modena, enjoyed a carefully selected Charcuterie sampler from Emilia-Romagna and saw how homemade, fresh pasta is created by Bologna's very own sfogline (pasta-makers). Of course the tour ended with some delicious gelato.

Afternoon

 There was no need for lunch following this tour! instead we went to the Collezioni Comunali d'Arte (Municipal Art Collection). Located in a former palace in Piazza Maggiore. In addition to paintings dating back from the Middle Ages to the present day, the extensive collection owned by the city, also includes art objects, pieces of furniture, porcelain, fabrics, etc. The building is beautiful and they often house some interesting temporary exhibits.

We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and wandering around the city before heading back to our hotel.

Evening

On our last evening of the trip we had reservations at Restaurant Teresina. Located near the old market area, this restaurant has a lovely courtyard patio and the food was traditional and very good.

Day 4

Bologna statue

Morning

This morning after breakfast we said goodbye to Italy and headed to the airport after a very memorable trip.