Piazza Maggiore is a truly special place to visit, especially at sunset or in the evening. You can walk about the square, enjoy one of the numerous open-air cafes or relax on the steps of the Basilica of San Petronio for some unparallelled people watching. Also, be sure to see the shadow of the Neptune Statue, as it is projected onto the side of the Palazzo d’Accursio.
The Piazza Santo Stefano is ideal for the romantic in all of us. Piazzas are often the social hearts of each city, and the squares in Bologna illustrate the city’s vibrancy.* *This particular square is a bit smaller, which lends to its laid-back, intimate feel. It’s a great place for date night!
Quadrilatero is where you’ll find a medieval market, full of outdoor stands and antique shops, offering all sorts of interesting wares. This is also where you can put together a delicious meal, including all of Bologna’s specialties. You’ll find tortellini and tagliatelle pasta, Bologna’s signature Ragù sauce, along with local wines like Lambrusco, Pignoletto and Sangiovese.
If you’d like to spend some time in nature, hike to the top of San Luca, where you will find the world’s largest portico at 3,8 km with 666 arcades. At the top of the hill, the crowning glory is the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca.
If you’re up for another climb, try the Torre Asinelli, which was built in the 11th century. It is one of the most recognizable symbols of Bologna, along with the leaning Garisenda, which is adjacent to it. After climbing its 498 steps, you’ll be sure to agree that the inspiring view from the top is well worth it.
Tagliatelle alla Bolognese - Commonly known as the original Spag Bol, it’s much more than that in the city of Bologna. It’s a mix of Ragu sauce and fresh egg pasta, which is always cut by hand in a variety of lengths and widths. While many Italian cities make it with spaghetti, which is made of durum wheat, the Bolognese make it with white flour and egg, creating a unique taste and texture.
Tortellini - This is yet another menu item made from the Bolognese egg pasta. This delicious pasta is usually served in meat broth, containing cheese or meat, and you can find it in just about every restaurant in the city of Bologna. However, this particular pasta comes with an interesting legend. While the infamous Lucrezia Borgia was visiting Castelfranco Emilia, the innkeeper caught a glimpse of her navel through the door’s keyhole. He then created tortellini to resemble this body part.
Mortadella - Otherwise known as Bologna, this is much different meat than what you may find pre-packaged at the grocery store. This is specialty meat that originated all the way back in the 14th century. Cure meats are very popular in this area, but none is so well-known as the Mortadella. You will often find it served with Parmigiano Reggiano and Parma's Prosciutto Crudo di Parma.
Lasagna - Many cities attempt to lay claim as the "Home of Lasagna," but most agree that this tasty pasta dish originated in Bologna. Many believe that the city’s architecture even inspired the pasta, and it’s not too far-fetched to see it as a “tower” of pasta. Already known for its sauces and fresh pasta, lasagna might just be one of Bologna’s favorite recipes.
Gelato - It’s true that gelato didn’t actually originate in Bologna. However, the city has contributed to its evolution. Carpigiani, a company based in Bologna, created specialized gelato machines. In fact, this company is known to dominate over half of the entire world’s market when it comes to ice cream machines. Bologna also makes its gelato unique, incorporating fresh, local ingredients throughout the multiple seasons.
Soda Pops is not only popular for its well-mixed drinks, but many students come here to dance the night away to its themed music, which changes every night. It is located right in the city center, and it attracts a lot of tourists, but it also filled with local students, especially on the weekends. It is so popular that it has even become a regular meeting place for international students.
Le Stanze is housed in what was once a beautiful chapel, with its walls adorned with 17th-century frescoes. However, in a great contrast, a rotating display of modern art is always on exhibit, which offers a pleasing mix of the old and the new, all in one great space. This is by far one of the best bars in Bologna, especially when it comes to the ambiance and the tasty snacks.
La Scuderia offers one of the best aperitivo in the city. This laid-back diner is also a wonderful place to meet up for after-dinner drinks. With its close proximity to the university, the scene is always vibrant, with musical offerings of multiple genres and decades. In fact, many students drink here just for the well-chosen background music!
Close to the Torre degli Asinelli, KINKI is a popular venue that offers live music. In fact, its stage has even seen the amazing talent of Jimi Hendrix. It opened up in the 1950s, but it is not at all dated, evolving its style to ensure that it is right on the mark of today’s popular artists and music sound.
The Harvest Pub has one of the best selections of beers in all of Bologna, and it is ideal for people who want to try a few regional beers or even get adventurous with some of the more unique imports. Located slightly outside of the city center, it is definitely worth a visit. You won’t find many tourists here, so it is a great place to meet a few locals and talk over a beer or two.
And there are even more bars in Bologna popular with students!