The direction “Bologna Italy Sights” does not usually raise enthusiasm among travel lovers. But it is definitely worth it. Bologna is one of the most amazing Italian cities.
The famous porticoes of Bologna reminiscent of moving works of art are amazing! No less impressive is the abundance of medieval terracotta buildings, due to which the city received the nickname La Rossa (“Red”). Fans of delicious food call it “the culinary capital of the country.” As a result, another unofficial name was assigned to Bologna – La Grassa (“Fat Man”).
So, let’s summarize: Bologna has a lot of attractions for the connoisseurs of “true Italy”: a cozy authentic center, impressive architecture, gastronomic delights, and no crowds of tourists. What more could you ask for?
Bologna Italy Sights
These are “hot spots” worthy of the attention of even the most sophisticated visitor.
Porticoes of Bologna
UNESCO declared Bologna’s covered galleries (porticos) World Cultural Heritage. They create stunning cityscapes. One can endlessly admire the deep perspectives they create, the bizarre play of light and shadow, colonnades, capitals, and frescoes. These impressive buildings were created between the Middle Ages and the beginning of the 20th century.
The growth of the campus necessitated additional space. To avoid narrowing the streets and expanding the university square, porticoes were built above the pedestrian walkways at such a height that horses and carts could pass under them.
In the city of Bologna there are about 40 km of porticoes. Each of them has its unique style and structure. Residents use the porticos in different ways:
- Romantics appoint meetings with friends under their vaults to drink espresso or smoke together;
- dog lovers walk their pets in rainy or slushy weather; and
- university students post advertisements for upcoming city parties.
For guests of Bologna, porticos are not only an exciting sight but also an ideal place for sensational photography.
The most spectacular porticos can be seen:
- on the squares Piazza Maggiore and Piazza Santo Stefano;
- at the residence of the old university; and
- along Via Marsala (here you will find original wooden galleries).
Asinelli and Garisenda Towers
In the days of Dante, Bologna was known as the city of towers. The more towers there were in the city, the richer it was considered. Dozens of these gigantic buildings adorned the Bologna skyline. Unfortunately, most of these structures were destroyed, and now only 21 of the 180 towers are left.
Known as Le Due Torri (twin towers), Asinelli and Garisenda have become one of Bologna’s most recognizable symbols. Built in the 11th century at the entrance to the city, they served as defensive fortifications.
The highest of them, Asinelli, offers you an overview of the city from a height of 97.2 m. Like its neighbor, Garisenda, it is famous for its slope (1.3 ° from the center), larger than that of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But before you enjoy the panoramic views, you have to climb 498 steps!
- admission fee – €5.00 (we recommend booking in advance, as the number of views is limited);
- visiting hours – 9:00 -18: 00 (in the warm season; 9: 00-17: 00 (in the autumn-winter period); and
- tip: a visit at the beginning or end of the day will provide you with the greatest comfort and the best experience.
San Petronio Basilica
In Piazza Maggiore square you will find one of the most unique buildings of Bologna – the church of San Petronio. Figuratively speaking, this is the “icon of the city”, named after its patron saint – St. Petronius.
The temple has impressive dimensions – 66 meters wide and 132 meters long, which makes it the tenth largest religious building in the world.
The construction of the church, which began in 1390, remained incomplete due to the aggravation of relations with Rome. The facade of the building, made half of marble, half of brick is a reminder of this event.
Inside the church there are many distinctive features that make it one of the most unique churches. They are:
- the longest meridian line in the world (67 m), created in 1656 by Jean-Domenico Cassini; it corresponds to 1/600 000 of the Earth’s circumference and to this day reflects the change of days and seasons (this is due to the sun ray, which passes through the hole located in the arch at an altitude of 27 m above the ground and falls exactly on the date marked on the line);
- ancient organs, one of which was created in 1470 by Lorenzo da Prato and is the oldest functioning organ in the world; the other organ is 400 years old;
- several impressive frescoes by Giovanni da Modena, including the Last Judgment scene and the image of the Prophet Muhammad in hell, inspired by the 28th song of the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy (the second fresco raises Muslim outrage and forces the police to guard the basilica constantly); and
- 22 side chapels, one of which, Cappella Bolognini, contains the original image of Paradise and Hell, described in Dante’s Divine Comedy.
- working hours: the church is open daily from 07.45 to 18:00 (break from 14:00 to 15:00);
- entrance fees are not charged, but to take photos of the interior, you will have to pay two euros; and
- tips: cover your shoulders and knees, and take off your hats.
Bologna Italy sights – Piazza Maggiore
The square where the Basilica of San Petronio is located is itself a landmark of Bologna. This is one of the oldest, most beautiful and largest squares in Italy. It is surrounded by magnificent buildings, cozy streets and restaurants exuding delicious smells.
With the sunset, when the lanterns illuminate old buildings and the noise of the crowd echoes across the square, it takes on some kind of surreal look. Many people get together to chat, have a picnic or just listen to street musicians. At such moments, the enormous heart of Bologna (this is what Piazza Maggiore is called; it is 60 meters wide and 115 meters long) is pulsating especially vigorously.
Residents have inhabited this space for centuries. Before Piazza Maggiore became the epicenter of Bologna’s public life (until the mid-1800s), it was the location of Europe’s largest open market.
Today, this square is not only a favorite meeting place for citizens, but also the starting point for all excursion routes.
Just opposite the basilica is the main tourist information point of Bologna. You can get answers to all your questions, as well as buy tickets for going up the Asinelli Tower.
Bologna Italy sights: Neptune Fountain
This elegant 16th-century architectural creation is located next to Piazza Maggiore, in Piazza Neptune. It is “guarded” by two historical buildings:
- SalaBorsa – a library based in the medieval Palazzo D’Accursio, which was built on the site of the ancient city of Bonnonia (now Bologna), founded in 189 BC. (library visitors can see the ancient ruins through a transparent floor in the center of the building); and
- The Palazzo Re Enzo, which became the place of life imprisonment of a noble prisoner – the medieval king Enzo, kept in the walls of the palace for more than 20 years.
Raised from the base by several steps, the fountain is decorated with lush sea nymphs located on each of the four corners of the marble pedestal. Above them there are four cherubs, personifying parts of the world, known in the 16th century. In the center of the building stands a massive statue of Neptune himself with a trident in his hand. Visiting Fontana del Nettuno is one of the most exciting activities in Bologna.
Fun fact: Maserati car manufacturers, when designing their logo, drew inspiration from myths about the ruler of the seas, in particular, recalling the trident of Neptune.
Museum of Modern Art (MAMbo)
Located in a former bakery, MAMbo is a center for creativity and experimental art practice. The museum offers to trace the history of Italian art from the second post-war period to the present day.
Its permanent and temporary collections are located on more than 9,500 square meters of modern, architecturally transforming space.
The still lives of Giorgio Morandi, the famous Italian painter born in Bologna, attract the greatest attention of visitors. The exhibition presents some of his most famous and significant works; periods characterizing the creative work of Morandi are also analyzed.
In addition to exhibitions, the museum also has:
- a unique library, the collections of which include more than 28,000 books and monographs on contemporary art, as well as 3,000 specialized periodicals;
- a bistro bar with exclusive lunches and brunches; and
- a bookstore with a focus on literature on art, design, architecture, painting, and film.
- location: the museum is located in the heart of the Manifattura Delle Arti cultural district;
- admission fee: €6.00 (for viewing permanent exhibits); and
- opening hours: 10:00-18:30 (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday), 10:00-22:00 (Thursday).
Bologna Canals – Bologna Italy sights
Few people know that in the past, Bologna – with its 60 km network of canals – looked a bit like Venice. This medieval heritage is used today mainly to provide electricity to the city industry.
Most of the channels had to be buried due to constantly expanding urban infrastructure. However, several picturesque places have remained.
You can find the best viewpoints of the Bologna canals at the following place:
- Via Piella, which offers a fantastic view of the Reno Canal;
- Via Capo di Lucca, from which the Molin canal is viewed, partially hidden by buildings (if you look carefully, you will see several mills built on the right from the Renaissance); and
- The bridge on Via Malcontenti – the only remaining water-hole used for washing carts and for giving water to animals.
Bologna Italy sights: University of Bologna
Bologna has always been a progressive city. Therefore, it is not surprising that this is where the oldest university in the Western world, founded in 1088, is located.
There is something intriguing and awe-inspiring in roaming the corridors of this establishment. It seems that centuries of learning, disputes, and scientific research that have gone forever have leaked to the very foundation of the building. The walls of the university still hold the voices of their famous graduates – Dante, Petrarch, Paracelsus, and Copernicus.
Today, 90 thousand people receive education at the oldest educational institution in Europe. The number of its faculties has reached 23, and there are 48 departments. It was here that the famous Bologna system, operating throughout the European space, arose.
One of the most interesting places at the university is the anatomical theater of the 17th century. It is located at the old residence of the Faculty of Medicine; it is a small office, made exclusively of spruce wood. Several details are particularly striking:
- fanciful teacher chair;
- statues of famous doctors carved in the walls – Hippocrates, Galen, as well as one of the pioneers of plastic surgery, Gaspar Talyakozzi;
- the ceiling, decorated with astrological symbols; and
- a marble table (copy of the original), on which an autopsy was once performed by medical students and teachers.
Unfortunately, the building was badly damaged during the Second World War but its former glory returned to it after restoration with the use of many original items.
The Anatomical Theater, along with a seemingly endless library (which is not accessible to outsiders, but you can look into it through the door), leaves a lasting impression.
- location: Piazza Galvani, 1;
- visiting hours: 09:00-19:00 (Monday to Friday), 09:00 – 14:00 (Saturday); and
- admission fee: €3.
Basilica of Madonna di San Luca – Bologna Italy sights
The Church of San Luca, towering on a hill, gives a unique shape to the Bologna skyline. Along with the twin towers, it is considered a symbol of the city. If you have an entire free day in Bologna, dedicate it to pilgrimage to this sanctuary.
You will go along an exciting route 3.8 km long from Piazza Maggiore to Colle della Guardia (Guard Hill), on which a church was built in the 18th century. The building stands at an altitude of 300 m and on a clear day serves pilgrims as an ideal viewing platform.
The road leading to the temple is a sight itself. It is paved with cobblestones and is the world’s longest portico, consisting of 666 arches. Due to this “diabolical detail”, the winding covered gallery symbolizes the tempting snake killed by Madonna. It is no accident that 15 chapels accompany the road to the sanctuary.
The portico will protect you from sunlight and rain. The ancient basilica, decorated with statues and frescoes, will give you minutes of serene peace.
If you’re not in for a one-hour trip, you can take the San Luca express train. It will take you in a few minutes from Piazza Maggiore to the Basilica (the electric train runs at half-hour intervals throughout the day).
- location: Via di San Luca, 36;
- cost: €10 – travel by express + guide services, €5 – they will take you up if you don’t want to go up 100 steps; and
- opening hours: 7:00-19:00 (in summer), 7:00-18:00 (in winter).
When is it worth visiting Bologna?
Like most European cities, Bologna comes to life from May to October. These months are still not hot and there is almost no rain so it is the best time for the excursion “Bologna Italy sights”.
Average temperatures in July and August often reach 30 degrees Celsius and higher, which may prevent you from enjoying a walk in the city. Therefore, the best time to visit Bologna is June or September, when the days are long, warm, but not stuffy.