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Bologna Holidays

A feast of an Italian city

Bologna might be the home of Italy’s most traditional pasta dish – its much-loved 'tagliatelle al ragu Bolognese’ – but it has a distinctly progressive vibe. This north Italian city, which sits in the heart of prolifically foodie region of Emilia-Romagna, teems with students from the Universita di Bologna, Europe’s oldest university. Traversing the city on Bologna city breaks is easy in all weathers, as 40 kilometres of porticos cover pedestrians. Architecture ranges from the medieval, through Gothic and Renaissance.

Churches and basilicas are operatic in their beauty – even the unfinished Basilica of San Petronio. Piazza Maggiore, Bologna’s central square, was the city’s original ‘platea communis’ or gathering spot, and people still flock here to bask in the sunshine. It would be remiss to talk about city breaks to Bologna without mentioning the food. Here you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to dining options, with everything from traditional trattorias to stylish modern restaurants.

The list of foods you must try is a long one. Absolutely unmissable are polpette dumplings, locally-produced Balsamico di Modena vinegar, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and Prosciutto di Parma and Mortadella hams – ask for the highly inauthentic spag bol at your peril. The tipple of choice here is sparkling red Lambrusco, and if you reach dessert with any room to spare, ice cream and pastries feature heavily. Whether you want to eat your way around the city or feast on its impressive architecture, Bologna is sure to leave you hungry for more.

All resorts in Bologna

Three tips for a top trip

Walk everywhere

The city is perfect for walking. Much of Bologna’s centre is pedestrianised, and its covered porticos mean you can explore in the hottest sun – or the wettest rain.

Find the canals

Bologna once had kilometres of canals, mostly now replaced with roads. But head to Via Piella in Little Venice and a famous window reveals the glittering Canale delle Moline.

Join in aperitivo

From around 6-8pm, bars in Bologna serve aperitifs like Campari and Aperol, alongside a buffet of snacks, such as cheese, cured meats and mini-pizza.

Best attractions to see in Bologna

Madonna di San Luca

A 3.8-kilometre uphill walk, along a portico of 666 arches, leads to the hilltop Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, an impressive basilica church.

Le Due Torri

Bolognese noble families once had a tradition of competing to build the tallest tower. These days you can climb two of the last ones standing.

Mind-bending MAMbo

Spend a few hours at MAMbo – the Bologna Modern Art Museum. An ever-changing roster of experimental art, including performances, film and multimedia, is on show.

Your Bologna questions, answered

Restaurants in Bologna will rarely disappoint, but if you have your eyes on a particular venue, do try to book ahead, even for lunchtime sittings.
Yes – your best bet is to pop on your dancing shoes then head to the west of the city where most of the late-night clubs can be found.
Bologna is worth visiting all year round. However, for those looking to enjoy warm weather while avoiding the crowds, the spring months are often the best time to go. During this period, temperatures can reach highs of 23℃ in the day, though do expect a few cold days as temperatures are known to drop as low as 4℃. Visitors should also prepare for rainfall and even the occasional thunderstorm if staying during this season.
As Bologna is a small city, exploring on foot isn’t usually a problem. Walking also allows visitors to stumble across the many shops, bars and sights hidden down the city's historic streets. However, for those who prefer not to explore on foot, Bologna does have a good public transport system. The city's bus network is affordable and runs throughout the day, which makes travelling around straightforward.
Bologna has plenty to keep you entertained for a weekend, but a longer trip will allow you to head out to its surrounding vineyards and farms – and eat more, of course.
Bologna is famous for its rich traditional Italian cuisine and its ancient sites. Its much-loved food, including egg pasta, gelato and mortadella sausage, makes the city a popular destination for food-lovers from across the globe. The region also boasts a wealth of history, including the iconic Two Towers, the architecturally impressive Sanctuary of the Madonna di San and the eye-catching Fountain of Neptune monument. The University of Bologna, founded in 1088, is also one of the oldest universities in the world and ranks top of Italian universities.
The Bologna airport, located to the northwest of the city, is just under 5 miles from the city centre. There are several options for travelling from the airport to the city that include taxi, car hire, shuttle bus and public bus. Journey times by taxi usually take around 20 minutes, depending on traffic, and are available 24 hours a day. Shuttle buses also run seven days a week from the airport between the hours of 5.30am to 12.15am, with journeys typically taking 22 minutes to reach the city centre.
Bologna boasts a lively nightlife scene, mainly due to its large student population. There are many popular bars, restaurants and clubs across the city, but there are a few areas famous for their evening entertainment. The historic street of Via Zamboni, in the centre of the city, has several lively clubs, while the neighbourhood of Ghetto Ebraico is a much-loved spot for the city’s young university crowd due to its many pubs and cocktail bars.
Bologna is well known for its traditional dishes and is often considered Italy’s culinary capital. The city is the birthplace of tortellini and tortelloni egg pasta dumplings. Locally known as ragu, bolognese sauce is popular in the region and is made of mincemeat slow-cooked with tomatoes and red wine. Mortadella also originates from Bologna. This is cured pork sausage meat often eaten for lunch in a sandwich. The city has plenty of gelaterias serving up countless flavours of the beloved frozen dessert.