Someone grab my jaw! I think it’s still on the ground in Piazza Maggiore. We stood, totally awestruck by the beauty of this medieval city. Bolonga is not the first city in the Italian guidebook, infact in our European Lonely Planet guide it only got one paragraph. We had 4 days in Bolonga and it was a great way to get a taste of this underrated city. We are enchanted, we are in love and we don’t want to leave! Read on to find out about our top activities and things to see.
What to do/see:
Wander the streets -if your from little ol’ New Zealand wandering the streets of an ancient city can blow your mind. Everything is so old and different from what we are used to seeing at the bottom of the world. In Bologna they know how to do urban without ruining the landscape. People live in apartments and the streets are lined with trees, ensuring green is everywhere.
The city centre is stuffed full of high stone and terracotta buildings, lining narrow cobblestone streets. It’s great to try and get lost as you give in to the call to wander off down another enchanted alleyway. It’s also a great way to find beautiful churches to explore. We recommend getting the bus to the city centre, or staying there and walking in any direction, heading down each alley as they call to you or offer a beautiful building in the near distance.
Have a slurp at Fontana Di Nettuno -the Fountain of Neptune is one of the city’s well known landmarks and is just off the Piazza Maggiore, Bologna’s main square. Check out Neptune’s chizzled bod and the intricate bronze work. This is also a good spot to fill up your water bottle. In the 1500’s merchants would use the water of the fountain too!
Wander around Comune di bolonga -also on the Piazza Maggiore is the city’s town hall. Have a look at the statue of Pope Gregory XIII who overlooks the square. Climb up the trippiest staircase you ever did try. There were lots of other areas in the hall but we didn’t check them out as we weren’t sure what they were for.
Marvel at many of Bolonga’s stunning churches -we spent a lot of our time in Bologna wandering in and out of ancient churches. They were all awe inspiring, with astonishingly high ceilings, carved marble and stone, frescoes, icons, stained glass and more. It’s amazing to see the extreme effort, time and funding that went into these ancient sites of worship. A few of the city’s most recommended churches are Basilica di San petrionio, Santa Maria della Vita and Basilica di Santo stephano. If you are wandering around central Bolonga you will find it hard not to bump into these highlights.
Hike up Le due Torre -we tried and failed to do this. Le due Torre has nearly 500 steps, giving you an aireal view of Bolonga. There are two towers here, dating back to the 12th century, built as status symbols by wealthy families. Make sure to book at the tourist office on the main plazza, you cannot buy tickets at the tower (like we tried to do!). Even if you don’t go up, they are definitely worth a visit from the outside.
Spend a few hours in Museo Di palazzo poggi -this was definitely worth the €5 entrance fee. The main building is the University of Bolonga’s base and houses collections of natural history, physics, military architecture, model ships and more. Our favourite collection was of obstetric and anatomical models. There are many human models of human skeletons with wax muscles and other teaching models of babies in the womb. They are so real that you feel a little uneasy but they are stunning!
Drink a tiny coffee on a cobblestone street -a useful phrase we picked up in Bolonga is ‘un cafe per favore’ which gets you a ristretto shot of coffee with a shot of water, which is how the Italians drink it. No idea how you order anything else! It’s great to people watch while sitting in the sun with your caffeine hit.
Spend a sunny afternoon at the park -we discovered that on sunny Saturdays, the people of Bolonga head to the park to catch some rays and hang out with their friends. It was wonderful to see people sitting around chatting and playing music, not a phone to be seen! Grab a beer and some snacks then find a spot of grass to relax like an Italian. We loved Giardini Margherita.
Bus -Bolonga has a fabulous bus system. As total public transport rookies we found it really easy to navigate and get to where we wanted. We primarily used Google maps and the timetables at the bus stops to work it out. You can either buy a pass at shops around the city or purchase a 75 minute pass from a machine on board each bus for £1.50. We used this and chose to walk most places. There is also a bus to take you from the airport to the city centre. Purchase a ticket from a kiosk before you exit the terminal.
Walk -walking is easy as the terrain is flat. It’s also a great way to see the city. We used Maps.Me to make sure we were heading in the right direction. Just download the city you need when you have WiFi and then cruise the city without the fear of getting lost.
Think we’ve missed something important? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer any questions and include similar information in our next post.
Next up, Venice!!
Ciao, Chloe and Daniel x