Is Bologna worth visiting in 2024? Pros and cons guide

Italy is an amazing place, I think we can all agree on that. But is Bologna worth visiting? The answer is a definite yes, if you ask me! Get the pros and cons in this post.

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Bologna is home to a plethora of architectural and cultural sites, delicious food experiences, and vibrant nightlife.

Perfectly located between the tourist hubs of Florence and Venice, this charming city has a lot to offer when it comes to unique attractions and absolutely amazing food. Yet – many travelers overlook Bologna.

If you’re wondering if Bologna is worth visiting, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll go through the pros and cons of the city so you can decide for yourself.

Let’s dig in.

❄️ Read next: 12 things to do in Bologna in winter + Christmas

Is Bologna worth visiting

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Is Bologna worth visiting?

Facts about Bologna

Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy. Situated between the Po and Reno rivers, this city is home to some of Italy’s most iconic architecture, including the Towers of Bologna, Basilica di San Petronio, and Fountain of Neptune.

  • Population: 388,367
  • Language: Italian
  • Currency: Euro
  • Region: Emilia-Romagna
  • Warmest month: July (30°C on average)
  • Coldest month: January (6°C on average)
  • Average trip length: 3 days in Bologna

Is Bologna worth visiting? Pros and cons

To give you a better overview of the pros and cons, I’ve listed them here below. As you can see, there aren’t many drawbacks to visiting.

ProsCons
✅ Delicious food Gets cold in the winter
✅ Rich culture and history Pickpockets
✅ Vibrant nightlife People don’t speak English well
✅ Less touristy
✅ Very safe for women and LGBTQ
✅ Less expensive
✅ Good air quality on average
bologna itinerary

What is Bologna known for?

Bologna, the vibrant capital of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, is often known as:

  • La Grassa (“the fat one”- for it’s cuisine)
  • La Dotta (“the learned one”- for its famed university)
  • La Rossa (“the red” – for its red rooftops in the historic centre)

Bologna is known for many things, from its delicious food to its porticoes, main square and cobbled narrow streets. Here are the top 8 things that make Bologna unique:

1. Bologna is the gastronomic capital of Italy

Bologna is known for its culinary scene and is considered the gastronomic capital of Italy. Bologna’s signature dishes are the meaty and hearty Bolognese sauce, known locally as tagliatelle al ragu, as well as mortadella, lasagne, tortellini, and Parmigiano reggiano.

Bologna has also kept its old food markets where locals buy fresh fruit and fresh produce, and it’s one of the main attractions in this Italian city. Basically, Bologna is the perfect destination for food lovers.

Read next: 10 best Bologna food tours you should try

2. The oldest university in the western world

The University of Bologna is considered the oldest continually operating university and has a long tradition of excellence in education and research. It was founded in 1088.

3. Porticoes

If you’ve seen pictures of Bologna, you’ve probably seen its porticoes, which is a city trademark. Bologna has over 38 kilometres of porticoes, which are covered walkways that extend from the city centre to the hills. They were constructed in medieval times and remain a significant feature of the city’s infrastructure today.

4. The two towers of Bologna

Bologna has about twenty towers from the medieval period, with the most famous being the iconic Two Towers – Asinelli tower and Garisenda tower – in Piazza di Porta Ravegnana.

5. Historic architecture

Bologna has a wealth of historic architecture dating back to medieval times.

6. Gelato

The city of Bologna is known for its delicious gelato, with many amazing gelaterias spread throughout the city. Italian ice cream is the best!

7. Piazza Maggiore

Bologna’s grand central square, Piazza Maggiore, is a bustling hub of activity and home to several historic buildings and landmarks.

8. Art and Culture

Bologna is home to numerous museums and galleries, including the famous Pinacoteca Nazionale. The stunning Archiginnasio Library is another famous landmark in Bologna, and it houses the University Anatomy Theatre.

One day in Bologna
The Anatomical Theatre
Reasons to visit Bologna

The pros of visiting Bologna

✅ Delicious food

The delicious food in Bologna is reason alone to visit! The tagliatelle al ragù (what you know as spaghetti bolognese), mortadella, and tortellini are dishes that are unique to the city and have been perfected over time. Bologna is also home to balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese.

As the food capital of Italy, Bologna is the perfect place to devour tasty food and learn how to make home-cooked pasta at a cooking class.

Read next: 10 delicious traditional foods you must eat in Bologna

One day in Bologna

✅ The 38 km poticoes are UNESCO World Heritage

The city center of Bologna is famous for its extensive network of porticoes, lining virtually every street. The city has 38 kilometres of these charming covered walkways, which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.

The porticoes serve as both public and private spaces, where you can drink aperitivo on bar stools just meters away from someone’s front door.

Often compared to the canals of Venice, Bologna’s porticoes are a defining feature of the city’s charm, and they makes it one of Italy’s most beautiful cities.

One day in Bologna

✅ The Basilicas are breathtaking

The basilicas are another reason to visit Bologna Italy – they’re simply stunning! The two most beautiful basilicas are:

The Basilica di San Petronio: A prominent feature of the vast Piazza Maggiore in Bologna. As the most important church in the city, it has impressive dimensions, stretching 132m long, 66m wide, and 47m high.

The Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca: Another stunning basilica worth visiting, located on a hill just 10km southwest of the city centre. From the top, you can see all of Bologna.

3 days in Bologna
At San Luca

✅ Beautiful museums

Despite its size, Bologna has quite a collection of museums.

If you like contemporary art, the MAMbo is an excellent choice, while the Piancoteca Nazionale di Bologna is home to the Academy of Fine Arts.

The Museo della Storia di Bologna offers you a glimpse into the city’s society and culture over the years with its hi-tech exhibitions. And the Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica di Bologna houses over 80 instruments and an incredible collection of historical documents.

✅ Vibrant nightlife

Bologna is a lively city around the clock. After dark, though, it’s transformed into an energetic and international city.

It’s a student city so you can expect lively bars, clubs, young people and aperitivos en masse.

✅ Great location for day trips

Bologna is located perfectly if you want to explore other parts of Italy. From the train station you can easily get to Florence (35 mins), Verona (52 mins), Venice (87 mins), or Rome (113 mins).

You can also take a day trip to some of the charming villages in the Emilia Romagna region such as Dozza or Modena.

1 day itinerary bologna

✅ It’s less touristy than other Italian towns

Despite the amazing food and architecture, many tourists overlook Bologna in favour of other Italian cities.

But if you visit Bologna, you’re more likely to experience the local language when you walk around town, which gives you a feeling of “the real Italy”. That’s the benefit of visiting places that are off the path.

✅ And less expensive

Bologna isn’t expensive to visit compared to more touristy cities in Italy like Milan, Florence, Rome. Accommodation is cheaper, and restaurants, bars, and cafes have more reasonable prices that avoid exploiting tourists.

✅ Bologna is authentic

One of the best things about Bologna is that it’s authentic. In the city, you’ll find the markets frequented by both tourists and locals, and authentic salumerias, where you can sample some of the best meats, cheeses, and prepared pasta dishes.

The street food and aperitivo scene in Bologna is fantastic, with a growing number of options for craft beer enthusiasts.

✅ Bologna is a safe destination

Last of all, Bologna is one of the safest destinations in Italy, with very low crime levels and a strong police presence. You’ll feel safe to explore the city during the day and go out at night.

You should always take the standard safety precautions no matter where you visit, though.

IS BOLOGNA WORTH VISITING?

The cons of visiting Bologna

Although the pros may seem to outweigh the cons, there are a couple of things to know when traveling to Bologna, as these particular cons may influence your Italian travel plans.

Pickpockets

As Bologna is a highly popular and attractive tourist destination, the risk of pickpocketing is relatively high. To protect yourself, you should store your wallet, phone and passport in a secure place. Don’t keep anything of value in your back pockets, and avoid storing all of your money in the same place.

People don’t speak English as well 

Just like this is a charming pro of visiting Bologna, it’s also a con. Not many locals are able to speak English as well as in other tourist destinations.

Whilst many of the students and those working in service roles generally have a reasonable grasp on English, there are still times where you may find yourself being responded to in Italian.

I never had any problems, though. Restaurants have English menus, and signs in major tourist areas are in English as well. I think we’re kind of spoiled, we English-speakers. We’re just used to everyone speaking English.

The best you can do is to learn a few Italian phrases. A simple “Ciao” or “Grazie” will go a long way, and locals will appreciate your efforts.

Gets cold in the winter

One of the cons of visiting Bologna is its chilly winters. Temperatures can drop to -1 °C (30 °F) in December and January, with night-time temperatures often going even lower.

If you plan to visit during this period, be sure to pack warm clothes and boots!

The best time to visit Bologna between May and October when temperatures are more mild and pleasant.

How many days in Bologna is enough?

Most people spend 1-3 days in Bologna. I recommend 3 days, which gives you time to explore some of the beautiful villages around Bologna and to take a food tour.

Over the course of these few days, you can visit many of the city’s iconic sights, including the Piazza Maggiore, San Petronio Basilica and the Accademia di Belle Arti.

One day in Bologna
The fountain of Neptune

The verdict: Is Bologna worth a visit?

Yes, absolutely! If you’re passionate about food and like authentic Italian culture and architecture, then Bologna is the place for you. There’s so much to experience in Bologna and it’s the perfect gateway to exploring the Emilia Romagna region. I say go, definitely go.

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2 Comments

  1. We were in Bologna last year. This is a place to be if you’re a foodie plus it isn’t touristy like Florence and Venice. Food shops and many restaurants. Al Brindisi – Enoteca di Ferrara the oldest wine bar in the world and about an hour away.
    We didn’t have an issue with pickpockets and those who spoke English were helpful.
    If you are familiar with Arthur Ave in the Bronx, this is Arthur Ave on steroids.

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