Bologna Attractions and Tourist
Attractions in Bologna
Le Due Torri (The Two Towers)
In the 11th century, Bologna’s richest families started a somewhat peculiar competition: tower construction. Due to all the towers, Bologna has also been nicknamed La Turrita. Two of the towers still standing have become the city’s foremost symbols and landmarks, visible from large parts of Bologna. The families of Asinelli and Garisenda’s tower competition ended with a crushing home victory, 98 to 48 meters. You can walk the 498 steps up to the top of the Asinelli Tower, and from here you have a fabulous view of Bologna and the surrounding area. The garrison tower was originally 61 meters high, but began to lean and was reduced to 48 meters for fear of collapse. It is closed to the public and still sounds approx. 3 meters to the side.
The Asinellite Tower is open from 10am. 0900 to 1800 in the summer, and closes at. 1700 in winter. Entry fee 25 kroner.
This 120 x 60 meter large square, surrounded by magnificent historic buildings, is one of the finest in all of Italy. Originally constructed as a marketplace, it houses knight tournaments, but today is dominated by outdoor dining tables, street musicians, statue artists and buzzing folk.
On the adjacent Piazza del Nettuno stands another of Bologna’s symbols, the grand Neptune fountain of 1565, with angels and sirens splashing water from the nipples.
Basilica of San Petronio
Bologna’s own St. Peter’s Basilica (Basilica di San Petronio) is actually the world’s fifth largest church, and was begun in 1390, but never completed. The Vatican must have sabotaged the plans to build something even bigger and more beautiful than their own St. Peter’s Church. For this reason, this Gothic church does not look particularly impressive from the outside. One of the frescoes of the 15th century that you can see inside the church shows the prophet Mohammed being tormented by demons in hell. The church is Gothic-style and has free guided tours of English at 1130 Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
The church is open daily from 1 p.m. From 0730 to 1330 and from. 1430 to 1830. There is free admission, but a voluntary donation will be appreciated.
On the west side of Piazza Maggiore lies this palace, also called the Palazzo Comunale. It has been built gradually over the centuries starting in the 1300s, and has been the seat of Bologna’s governor. You can walk into the inner courtyard and up the beautiful, wide stairs designed to be driven up by horse and carriage. Today there are several galleries and museums (Museo Morandi and Collezioni Comunali d’Arte), and if you are not interested in art, you have great views of Piazza Maggiore from the windows. On the facade are large stone tablets with the names of all who gave their lives to defend the city, and pictures of the more than two thousand partisans who died during the fighting against the Nazis in 1943–45. And above the main entrance is a statue of Pope Gregory XIII, which introduced our Gregorian calendar starting January 1st.
The Palace is open Tuesday to Friday at. 0900-1800, and at 1000-1830 on weekends. There is free admission, but entrance to the museums costs around 30 kroner.
Palazzo dei Podestà
Right in front of the Basilica di San Petronio stands the palace, which was built around the year 1200 as a government building for the city’s politicians. The large bell tower over the palace was used to inform the city’s inhabitants that an important news would be made known, and criminals were also hanged from here. Today, the building is most associated with the city’s most famous outdoor restaurants, and the vast majority of visitors to Bologna end up sooner or later at one of the outdoor tables here, overlooking the square, the church and the Palazzo d’Accursio. Exhibitions and trade fairs are also organized in the palace.
Basilica of Santo Stefano
On one of Bologna’s most charming, stone-paved slopes (Piazza di Santo Stefano) lies the city’s oldest monuments and buildings. Basilica di Santo Stefano consists of four churches (originally there were seven), all of which are totally different in color, style and size. The oldest parts are from the 400s, and you can stroll around green courtyards (where, among other things, there is a marble basin in which Pilate must have washed his hands after condemning Jesus to death), and enter the ancient Roman monastery just as by. Or sit by one of the outdoor restaurants and just soak up the atmosphere of a square where time seems to have stood still for centuries.
Free admission. Opening hours vary, but are generally from 4 p.m. 0800 or 0900 until 5 p.m. 1200, and from 1 p.m. 1530 to 1800 or 1900.
The Bologna Opera House is actually one of the oldest still in use in Italy, just beaten by the Naples Teatro San Carlo. The theater was opened in 1763 and can seat over 1200 spectators. Operations by Wagner, Bellini, Verdi and Rossini have had their premieres here.
Museo Civico Archeologico (Archaeological Museum)
This museum has beautiful and extensive exhibits with both Greek and Roman objects, as well as Italy’s second largest exhibition of objects from ancient Egypt, including mummies. Obviously, there are also objects from the Bologna area, for example from the Etruscans who inhabited Bologna before the Romans arrived.
Opening hours from 0900 to 1500 Tuesday through Friday, 5 p.m. 1000 to 1830 on weekends. It does not cost much in entry fee, and it is free for children under 14, and half price for youth and students.
Tourist in Bologna
The center of Bologna is not that big, and most of the attractions are within walking distance of each other for a reasonably fit and well-mannered person. An alternative is of course to use Bologna’s Hop on-hop off buses, which take you around the city. Then you have headphones with information in your choice of language, and you can get off at each of the 12 stops and be there as long as you want before going on the next bus. Tickets are purchased on the bus upon boarding and are valid all day.
Day 1 in Bologna Attractions and Tourist
What is more natural than starting the tour of Bologna in the city’s self-evident heart and geographical center, the magnificent Piazza Maggiore square? The place has been central to Bologna’s history and people for a millennium, as a marketplace, as a arena for knight tournaments and as a meeting place, and is surrounded by stylish medieval and Renaissance buildings. As a first stop, you can visit the huge but unfinished church of Basilica di San Petronio. It was started as early as 1392, but the construction plans were apparently trained by the Vatican, which would not have such a large competitor to its own St. Peter’s Church. The church is Gothic and has free guided tours in English at 1130 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Piazza Maggiore – The heart of Bologna
Next to it is the town hall, the Palazzo Comunale (also called the Palazzo d’Accursio). Above the main entrance is a statue of Pope Gregory XIII, which introduced our Gregorian calendar starting on January 1st. On the second and third floors are two art collections, the Museo Morandi and the Collezione Comunali d’Arte. From the windows you can take perfect pictures down to Piazza Maggiore.
When you come out of City Hall, you have the fabulous Neptune Fountain of 1565 on your left, with the sea god on top, over angels and sirens splashing water from the nipples. This is also a popular meeting place for the people of Bologna, and is often surrounded by street musicians, statue artists, portrait artists and other entertainers. Next to it is the Renaissance building Palazzo dei Podestà, where the city’s politicians gathered. Take the opportunity to have a coffee or a refreshment in the sun at one of the not very affordable cafes that now occupy the ground floor facing the Piazza Maggiore.
The Two Towers – the symbols of Bologna
North of Piazza Maggiore, the thoroughfares and shopping streets of Via Ugo Bassi and Via Rizzoli start. Turn east into Via Rizzoli and you won’t be able to avoid seeing the next landmark a few hundred yards further ahead. The foremost symbols of Bologna are undoubtedly The Two Towers, which were built by two competing families in the early 12th century. The lowest, Garisenda Tower, is 48 meters high and slopes 3 meters to the side, and is thus not open to the public. But what does it do, as long as you get a much better view from the top of it over twice the Asinellite tower? On the other hand, it means that you pay 25 kroner in entry money, and are willing and able to go up the 498 steps to the top. The last section is a very narrow and steep spiral staircase with smooth stone steps, so be careful.
In the surrounding area there are plenty of sidewalk restaurants where you can have a well-deserved lunch. Afterwards you can stroll southeast down Via Santo Stefano, and you will then reach the incredibly charming and historic square of Piazza de Santo Stefano, a sloping and stone-paved open space in front of the Basilica di Santo Stefano church complex. These are some of Bologna’s oldest buildings with roots dating back to the 400s, and in the church garden stands a marble basin that must have been used by Pontius Pilate to wash his hands after he sentenced Jesus to death. In the square there are plenty of cafes, galleries and small shops, and is a nice place to spend the rest of the afternoon.
Bologna’s restaurant offerings and nightlife
After a trip back to the hotel to relax a little, put away the shopping bags and change clothes, it’s time to start thinking about dinner. Italians eat very late dinner compared to Scandinavians, and most restaurants are closed in the afternoon. They usually open at 20 and start filling up an hour and a half later. If you want to try a traditional Italian restaurant, we suggest you go back to Via Santo Stefano just off the Asinelli tower, where you will find Al Pappagallo Ristorante. Past guests include celebrities such as Alfred Hitchcock and Albert Einstein. It serves both traditional Bolognese cuisine and more inventive dishes. The wine selection is exceptionally good, with over 250 types, mainly Italian. The main courses cost around 90 to 150 kroner.
If you want to taste Bologna’s sizzling nightlife afterwards, Via Zamboni is located in the university area just a few meters north of the towers. There are plenty of pubs, bars and clubs here, although these are rarely filled up before noon. 0100 on weekends of guests who keep going until the day dawns.
Day 2 in Bologna Attractions and Tourist
Today, the tour starts at the Asinelli tower and continues northeast up Via Zamboni. You may notice that the people around you are dominated by young people, preferably by bicycle or moped, and this is because you are right next to Europe’s oldest university, founded in 1088. You will soon reach Piazza Rossini and the Roman Gothic Church 13th century San Giacomo Maggiore. Facing the beautiful little chapel of Oratorio di Santa Cecilia with its magnificent frescoes, also dates from the 16th century. Both of these have free access.
Bologna’s maze streets and Montagnola Park
Afterwards, it is a pleasure to stroll at random in the narrow, crooked streets in the area between Via Zamboni, Via Rizzoli and Via dell’Indipendenza. You will always come across beautiful Renaissance buildings, high stone towers and small charming squares with a church and a sidewalk restaurant. One of these is definitely tempting for a lunch stop too.
If it’s Friday or Saturday, head north, towards Via dell ‘Indipendenza and Via Irnerio. In the vast square of Piazza VIII Agosto, an outdoor market is organized on these days with hundreds of tent stalls selling everything between heaven and earth. Clothing, books, CDs and LPs, lamps, chests, furniture, radios and so on. You can easily spend the rest of the afternoon here, and afterwards you can enter the pleasant Montagnola Park just north of the market. This has been a public park since 1683, and in addition to a children’s playground there are a couple of fountains. Take special note of the impressive fountain with statues in the grand staircase leading down from the park to Piazza XX Settembre.
The shopping streets of Bologna
In the Piazza XX Settembre square stands one of the original gates of the city walls, Porta Galliera. Here also begins Via dell’Indipendenza, which has been one of Bologna’s main streets since Roman times. Several of the city’s more exclusive shops and hotels are located here, and the street leads you down to Piazza Maggiore. If you’re still in shape to walk more, feel free to head straight south into Via d’Azeglio, one of the city’s nicest and more charming shopping streets.
For dinner, we suggest you stroll through Via A. Righi, which runs just south of the market you visited earlier today, and try one of the many sidewalk restaurants. Of course, once you are in Bologna, you have to try one of the country’s (world!) Most famous dishes, Pasta Bolognese.