Bologna is often overlooked in favor of its more famous and glamorous “urban neighbors” Florence, Venice and Milan. Most people get a very positive surprise when they visit this red brick town in northern central Italy. Bologna has plenty of monuments and buildings that document a history of over 2,500 years, and was a large and powerful city state throughout the Middle Ages.
It is excellent to use Bologna as a base for a number of day trips in all directions, and thus get a taste of beaches, culture, gastronomy and history on the same journey.
Bologna can be visited at any time of the year, although the winters can be cold and snow is not uncommon in January / February. Many shops and restaurants are closed in August.
Bologna was the capital of culture in Europe in 2000 and is definitely recommended for a weekend break.
Get to know Bologna
Bologna is the capital of the Italian region of Emilia Romagna and lies between the rivers Reno and Savena in the Po Valley, with the mountain range of Appennines in the back. Bologna is a very old city founded by Etruscans approx. year 535 BC, and became a Roman colony 350 years later. During Roman times this was one of the most important cities of the empire after Rome.
From the Middle Ages, Bologna became one of many independent city states in Italy, in constant confrontations with the neighbors Florence and Modena. In 1805, Bologna became part of Napoleon’s short-lived Regno d’Italia (Italian kingdom), and from 1860 part of the new, unified Italy.
Bologna is located midway between Florence and Venice and is a hub of Italy’s train network and road network. It is no problem to include Bologna on a tour of northern Italy, but it should be well avoided to avoid Bologna. As of 2007, Bologna has around 382,000 inhabitants, but in the 13th century this was actually one of the largest cities in Europe. For almost a thousand years, Bologna has been an educational center in Italy, where you will find Europe’s oldest existing university (from 1088) with 23 faculties and 93 libraries. During the school holidays, the city’s population increases to nearly half a million. Thanks to Bologna’s many students, the city has always been known for its varied and vibrant nightlife.
- Abbreviation: BO
- Country: Italy
The historic center of Bologna
Around Bologna’s historic center is an oval and busy ring road called Viale. The center was originally surrounded by several rings with old city walls, but now only nine of the major entrance gates remain. The area here is relatively easy to get to, although many tourists will often stay in and around the main street Via dell’Indipendenza and the magnificent Piazza Maggiore square. But try the many side streets as well, and you will be rewarded with magnificent medieval churches, palaces, towers and spiers.
Another distinctive feature of Bologna is all the city’s porticos, or covered arcades instead of sidewalks. Bologna has nearly four miles with these sidewalks, so you walk under one arch after another. Incredibly handy if the rain is blowing down, and cool when the sun is roasting at worst.
In the northwestern corner of the city center you will find Bologna’s central train station (Stazione Centrale), where many tourists arrive in the city. This is one of Italy’s busiest stations, and a traffic hub thanks to its central location in the country. Tragically, the station became very famous in the news in 1980, when a terrorist bomb here killed 85 people and injured hundreds more.
Just east of the station is the old Porta Galliera city gate, next to the large and beautiful Parco della Montagnola park. Here begins the main street of Bologna Via dell’Indipendenza, which extends down to the indisputable heart of the city, the grand majestic square of Piazza Maggiore. Here you will find the world’s fifth largest church, the mighty Basilica di San Petronio, which began in 1390. One of the frescoes of the 15th century that you can see inside the church shows the prophet Mohammed tormented by demons in hell. Therefore, the church became, not unexpectedly, a planned target for Islamic terrorists in 2006.
Also on the Piazza Maggiore are the magnificent palaces of Palazzo Re Enzo, Palazzo Dei Notai and Palazzo Dei Podesta, and an eye-catching fountain with a large statue of Neptune. From the northeast corner of the square, the Via Rizzoli street takes you to Bologna’s symbols and most characteristic landmarks, Le Due Torri (The Two Towers). These are 98 and 48 meters high respectively and were built in the 1100s as a funny competition between the Asinelli and Garisenda families. You can climb the 498 steps to the top of the Asinelli Tower and get a breathtaking view of Bologna. The smaller Garisenda Tower leans about 3 meters to the side. It was originally over 60 feet high but was reduced due to the danger of collapse.
University area of Bologna
From the towers, Via Zamboni leads you into the northeastern part of the city, which is the university district. This street is teeming with young people on mopeds, sidewalk restaurants and bars, and is Bologna’s premier nightlife area. Here you will find Irish and Australian pubs, gloomy goth clubs, gay clubs, fashionable cocktail bars and hefty discos, and on weekends there is a full roll here from midnight to dawn. Be careful around Piazza Verdi, which has become a meeting point for the city’s drug addicts.
Center south of Bologna
South of Piazza Maggiore are also some of the sights, including the Basilica di San Domenico, which was completed in the mid-13th century. Here rests the founder of the Dominican Order, San Dominic, and the church has among other decorations performed by a young Michelangelo. Other attractions in the area include Palazzo Bevilacqua and Palazzo Baciocchi, and the Spanish School, Collegio di Spagna, dating from the 1300s.
Center west of Bologna
In the western parts of Bologna city center are two of the city’s sports arenas, Stadio Comunale and Palazzo dello Sport, and the Gothic 13th century St. Francis Church, or Basilica di San Francesco, founded by the Franciscan order’s creator, St. Francis.
If you think of Bologna city center as an oval with Piazza Maggiore as the centerpiece, and the four main streets from this, it is easy to know where in the city you are at all times. Via dell ‘Indipendenza goes north, Via d’Azeglio goes south, Via Ugo Bassi west and Via Rizzoli east towards the two towers.
Facts about Bologna
Bologna is the seventh largest city in Italy and the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region.
|Official languages||Italian ( get free language pairing )|
|Religion||Catholic (About 90%)|
|Currency||Euro. Most credit cards (Visa, Master, Diners, AmEx) are accepted in most places. ATMs are available almost everywhere.|
|Tips||Here it is not expected that you give tips as service is included in the bill, but it is still normal to give about 10% if you are satisfied. No drink in taxi.|
|Embassy||The Embassy of Norway is located in Rome. The address is Via delle Terme Deciane 7. Tel: +39 0657 17031.|
|Tourist||Piazza Maggiore, and at the train station|
|Emergency||118 for ambulance, 113 for police / emergency assistance, 115 for fire.|
|Electricity||220/230 volts as in Norway, but you often need an adapter due to different plugs.|
|Holidays and Holidays||January 6, April 25, May 1, June 02, August 15, November 1, December 8|
|Visa||Not required for Norwegians.|
|Vaccinations||No vaccines are required.|
|Water||Can be drunk from the tap, but not recommended. Fine toothbrush.|
|Nearest major cities||Florence, Rimini, Verona.|
|Safety||Some violent crime, but be aware of pickpockets.|
List of Bologna Acronyms
The most commonly used abbreviations about Bologna is BO which stands for Bologna. In the following table, you can see all acronyms related to Bologna, including abbreviations for airport, city, school, port, government, and etc.