1. Slow Food Market
Bologna and Emilia Romagna are known for food. Check out Mercato della di Terra Bologna to sample mortadella and other regional cuisines.
2. Shady Porticos
Bologna has great atmosphere thanks to its porticos. These shady walkways jut out from most buildings and protect pedestrians from both the passing traffic and shifting weather patterns. When we visited in June, it was quite warm in town and the porticos offered some much needed cover from the powerful sun.
3. Window Shopping
Many of the storefronts in Bologna have been around for years and have great character. I particularly liked window shopping at places like this old lamp shop tucked away under a portico not far from the central train station.
4. Central Market (Mercato delle Erbe)
June is the perfect time of year to pick out fresh fruit at Mercato delle Erbe. Strawberries, cherries, citrus, and more are on offer. We only know a few polite phrases in Italian but managed to point and mime our way to a bag of cherries that we enjoyed with the local frizzante wine later that day.
5. Piazza Maggiore Day and Night
Piazza Maggiore is the beating heart of Bologna and you'll find people hanging out here day and night. The Duomo anchors the square while other dark flat brick buildings add to the atmosphere. Don't forget to seek out the statue of Neptune tucked away down one of the streets leading to the square.
6. Climb One of the Leaning Due Torri
In the 12th and 13th century, Bologna was a city of skyscrapers and featured almost 180 towers dotting the city. Very few of these towers remain today with the landmark twin towers (the Due Torri) leaning more precariously than the leaning tower of Pisa. On a sunny day, you can see for miles. The rather grueling climb up the taller of the Due Torri involves a series of progressively narrower wooden staircases and can be a bit vertigo inducing. For us, it was worth it in the end when we emerged and looked out upon the panorama of the city.
7. Spotting Ornate Knobs and Knockers
I love exploring the smaller details that make a place unique. For Bologna, the various knobs and knockers adorning the massive entry doors to the buildings in the town center were charming to behold.
SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Did you know that European Capitals of Culture have been designated since 1985 and that Bologna was a European Capital of Culture in 2000? We've visited a number of European Capitals of culture. Here are some recommendations for a culturally themed trip:
8. Aperitivo Time
Aperitivo time is the best time in Italy. In Bologna, small snack bars put out tables under and near the porticos and serve drinks and snacks. We sat outside and sipped bitter Campari and soda to wash down complimentary salty crisps and peanuts while doing a bit of people-watching on the street. This is a lovely way to spend the early evening in Bologna.
9. Seeking out the Town Gates, An Echo of the Past
In Medieval times, Bologna was a walled city featuring twelve gates. Just a few of the city gates still remain as a monument to the past. It can be disconcerting to watch the speedy Italian drivers whiz by these vestiges of Bologna's medieval glory.
10. Life in the Fast Lane
Italy in general and Emilia Romagna in particular are known for over the top sports cars. We got our first taste of life in the fast lane at the Bologna airport where bright yellow and sleek silver Lamborghinis stood proudly on display.
I hope you've enjoyed this introduction to Bologna. If you've got more time, you can definitely fill a week in Bologna. Stay tuned for more on eating well and day trips to nearby towns in the Emilia Romagna region. For more ideas of things to do in Bologna, hop on over to Jet-Settera.