Living in Bologna as an expat

The slow-paced life and rich culture attract many expats to Bologna. Find out if living in Bologna as an expat is a good choice for you.


5 minute read
Updated on 25 Nov 2022

Bologna is one of the best cities in Italy and is historically rich and full of culture. If you're thinking of moving there, or are already in the process, here are some things to know about living in Bologna as an expat.

Living in Bologna as an expat is a truly unique experience. The locals are friendly and the degree of internationality is high. The healthcare options are abundant, like in the other major cities in Italy, and there’s a good selection of English-speaking general practitioners.

Overall, Bologna is a great place to live as an expat – just make sure you learn a bit of Italian to be able to communicate with the locals.

What to expect when you first arrive in Bologna

Once you've settled into your new home, it's time to start exploring all that Bologna has to offer.

Your top priority should be to get orientated. Bologna is a large city with a complex network of streets and alleyways. The best way to get your bearings is to explore on foot and wander the streets while taking in the sights and sounds of this vibrant city.

You may be overwhelmed by the size of the city and the number of people at first. However, you will quickly get used to living in Bologna as an expat. The city is very safe and clean, and there are plenty of things to do. You can explore the historic center, visit the museums and art galleries, or take a walk in one of the many parks. There is also a lively nightlife scene, with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from. You’ll quickly make friends in Bologna and feel at home in no time.

Tips for adjusting to living in Bologna as an expat

Learn at least some basic Italian. Even if everyone you meet speaks English, it's important to be able to communicate with your neighbors, co-workers, and others in your daily life. Plus, it's a great way to show respect for the local culture.

Get to know your neighbors. In Italy, the people who live next door are often like extended family. They'll look out for you, invite you to parties and gatherings, and generally make you feel at home.

Make an effort to try new things. Italian food is delicious, but it can be unfamiliar if you're not used to it. Be adventurous and give new dishes a try – you might be surprised at how much you like them!

Bologna is where the famous Bolognese sauce originated from, so make sure to try it in its most authentic version!

Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're feeling lost or overwhelmed, there's no shame in asking for directions or help with something. Italians are generally very friendly and happy to help out a foreigner.

The best ways of getting around town

The city of Bologna is very walkable. You can easily get around by foot or bike, and there's no need to use a car unless you're leaving the city center.

As to the days when you don’t feel like walking or biking, you can make use of the available public transport options. The Bologna public transportation system includes buses and trams. You can purchase tickets at any stop or tobacco shop. A single-ride ticket costs €1.50 and is valid for 75 minutes. A day pass costs €4.50 and a weekly pass costs €15.

If waiting for the tram or metro to arrive isn't your cup of tea, there are also taxis all around. Taxis in Bologna can be hailed on the street or called by phone. The starting rate is €2.80, with an additional €1 per kilometer traveled.

Choosing to get around by car in Bologna is quite the undertaking. Driving around the city can be a challenge, as the streets are narrow and parking is limited. Be sure to have your driver’s license and an international driver’s permit if you aren’t from Italy. You’ll also need to get a vehicle registration and insurance in Italy.

If you do plan to drive, be sure to brush up on your parallel parking skills!

The cost of living in Bologna

The cost of living in Bologna can be quite high, but it varies depending on your lifestyle. If you're a student or young professional, you can definitely get by on a tight budget.

As a general rule of thumb, the cost of living for a single person in Bologna is around €800 excluding rent.

A big chunk of your monthly expenses will go towards paying for utilities, which are usually €100-€150 per month. You should be prepared to spend around €240 per month on groceries, considering that the average weekly trip to the shops is €50 to €70. If you opt-in for eating out regularly, then you’d be looking at a far higher monthly spending on food.

If you don't live in the city center you’d most probably like to use public transport in Bologna. A monthly pass for the tram and metro will set you back a modest €35.

With so much to do in Bologna during your leisure time, you’ll be tempted and go out on weekends or at night. Of course, how much you spend on entertainment per month will depend on your personal preferences. A movie ticket costs around €10, while a drink at a bar can cost anywhere from €5 to €10.

An apartment in the city will set you back by around €1,000 per month. You can stretch your budget by renting a small single-person studio for around €800 or a room in a shared apartment for approximately €500.

Healthcare for expats in Bologna

If you're living in Bologna, you'll have access to some of the best healthcare in the world. There are several world-class hospitals and clinics in the city, and you'll be able to find specialists in just about any field.

One option is to sign up for private health insurance. This can be a good choice if you're looking for comprehensive coverage and want the peace of mind of knowing you're covered in case of an emergency. However, it can be quite costly.

Another option is to join the Italian national health service, which is known as SSN. This is a good choice if you're on a budget, as it's much cheaper than private insurance. However, there can be long wait times for appointments and treatments.

No matter what healthcare option you choose, make sure you do your research and select the plan that's right for you. With a little planning, you can be sure to have the coverage you need to stay healthy and happy in Bologna.

The weather in Bologna

The weather in Bologna is moderate and rather predictable based on the season of the year.

The temperature in winter can go as low as 1°C and up to 35°C during the summer. As to the rest of the year, you can expect temperatures of 14°C to 25°C during spring and autumn. Rain here is significantly less common than in the other regions in Italy.

Now that you’ve got a better idea as to what to expect from living in the city as an expat, it’s a good idea to find out what the best things to do in Bologna are in order to fit in with the locals even better.

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