Top 15 Tourist Attractions in Bologna, Italy

Embraced by its green hills, Bologna is the hereditary treasure of ancient Etruscan civilization, at the banks of Reno and Savena Rivers; Inhabited since 10,000 BC, the city is filled with signs and symbols of centuries of faith, culture, and glory.

Cityscape is sprawling with renaissance places and baroque basilicas and complimented with the exquisite kitchen of Italy’s capital of gastronomy; offering the country’s best pastas and authentic cured meat, accompanied with a sparkly beaker of Pignoletto. Delightful food tours in the city help to get you a taste of every delicious bite that Bologna’s cuisine has to offer. Read on to find out about 15 wonderful attractions of Bologna.

1. Due Torri di Bologna – Two Towers

Due Torri di Bologna - Two Towers

Rising high in the city, the leaning towers are the symbolic landmarks of Bologna. Located on Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, stands two of the early 12th century known as Asinelli and Garisenda towers, named after the titleholder families.

The Two Towers, or le Due Torri as referred by residents, towers are highlighted as Asinelli for its unrivaled 98 meters height, and Garisenda for its evident inclination; less-famed in contrast with its Pisan counterpart, Garisenda is the first leaning tower in Italy with a slant greater than the leaning campanile of Pisa.

Climbing the narrow and stairway to Asinelli’s turret recompenses the visitor with an outstanding view of Etruscan hills, Bologna’s city and lively commotion among the city’s thoroughfares; revolving the two towers to a great departing point for an acquaintance tour about the city. The tower’s site is known as one of the hangout hubs for tourists and locals; packed with characteristic street food vendors, hearty taverns and diners.

2. Piazza Maggiore – Grand Square of Bologna

Piazza Maggiore - Grand Square of Bologna

Marking the historic core of Bologna, Piazza Maggiore is the focal point of the city since the past 900 years. It is outlined with monumental edifices of Basilica di San Petronio, Notai Palace, Podesta Palace, and Banchi Palace.

The Grand Square has been an incessant witness to communal announcements from the ruling seat of Bologna, Palazzo Comunale, public courts and executions, and an ancient merchant’s open-air market until the mid-18th century. Today, Bolognese inhabitants gather in the piazza as an innate tradition of their forefathers. An open-air cinema displays movies on the biggest European projector screen, here in Piazza Maggiore.

Visit the magnificent Basilica of San Petronius, the city’s patron saint, surrounded with astonishing renaissance palaces and medieval neighborhoods, and enrich your cultural experience with Bolognese’s ethnicity.

3. Palazzo Comunale – Municipal Palace

Palazzo Comunale - Municipal Palace

Adjacent to Piazza Maggiore is the lofty perch of bologna, Palazzo Comunale. It is known as the principal building in the entire Emilia-Romagna region since the 13th century. Il Palazzo was the residential palace of a Bolognese law academic, Accursio.

Municipal government acquired his palace in 1287; serving as the regional government’s ruling seat ever since. At the entrance statue of St. Gregory blesses every passer leading the way to an arched courtyard at the foot of the palace’s campanile.

On the inside, the colossal stairway known as the horses’ grand staircase; designed by the renowned architect, Donato Bramante, to provide a passage large enough to accommodate the horse-driven chariots to the doorsteps of top floor chambers. Although today, the grand staircase is the path to a new life for newlyweds at Bologna’s Municipal office.

4. Santo Stefano Church

Santo Stefano Church

Located at Piazza Santo Stefano, this church is a complex of seven basilicas built during various eras- hence the nickname, seven churches. The gate to the magnificent basilica’s interior arrives at the Byzantine church of crucifixion; echoing Messiah’s legacy.

A short portal leads the way to the Holy Sepulcher Church; founded on a Roman temple, this church embraces a set of primordial columns, an ancient mausoleum and the crypt of cherished 5th century Bolognese bishop.

Through a labyrinth of scarce passages, the humbly decorated church of Santo Stefano comprises the saints’ sarcophagus. At last, Martyrium is the most prominent church in basilica’s complex, sitting laterally at the back. Built with over 3 thousand years’ history of credence, visitors are awed by a peaceful sentiment amid the church of Santo Stefano; narrating stories through an array of roman, Lombard, and early Christianity era fingermarks.

5. St. Dominic Church

Saint Dominic Church

Basilica of St. Dominic is recorded as Turin’s 13th-century cultural center and one of the final resting places of the French religious leader St. Dominic. Constructed in the 13th century, the brick facade of the church is designed with Romanesque decorative architecture; while the interior is praised with medieval frescos and significant relicts of Dominican monks and St. Dominic himself.

The legendary Pisan artist, Nicola Pisa, designed the magnificent arch of St. Dominic indicates his shrine, in addition to stunning sculptures of Nicolo dell’Arca. Further highlights, artworks, and artifacts were compiled in this basilica through time; including the basilica’s Campanile, or bell tower, in the 17th century.

Parallel to the sacred ossuary of St. Dominic, frescos by celebrated artists as Michelangelo, a pipe organ played by the Mozart at the time of educational his visit to Bologna are the church’s riches. Basilica’s small museum exhibits the remnants of the glorified religious past, relicts of King Louis IX and other treasured articles. Discover one of Bologna’s significant churches and relish the artistic masterpieces of renaissance spiritualism in the basilica of St. Dominic. 

6. St. Peter Basilica – Metropolitan Cathedral of Bologna

St. Peter Basilica - Metropolitan Cathedral of Bologna

A short walk from Piazza Maggiore stands San Pietro cathedral. The original gothic cathedral was reconstructed several times; the presented facade and decorative masterpieces are dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.

Saint Gregory, the ruling Archbishop of Bologna, named the cathedral as Metropolitan in the 16th century; reflecting his holy footprints in Bologna. Reliquaries from the 14th century onwards, astounding paintings by Creti, Carracci, and Fontana, and royal vestiges are presented at the Metropolitan Cathedral.

The 70 meters tall Campanile, or bell tower, showcases the Bolognese rotatory chime and a 360-degree view over the cultural city’s urban area to the border of the surrounding hill lining the Bolognese soil.

7. Pinacoteca Nazionale – National Art Gallery

Pinacoteca Nazionale - National Art Gallery

Located in the vicinity of Due Torri, Bologna’s art gallery exhibits 30 rooms; cherishing Flemish, Byzantine, renaissance and contemporary art pieces. Gallery’s building was the 17th-century habitation of St. Ignatius; an addition to the historical weight and significance of galleys prized collections.

Masterpieces by Reni, Tintoretto, Raphael, and Perugino are some noteworthy elements of Galleria’s vast assortments. Conjoining with art parades, the National Gallery shelters the Fine Art Academy of Bologna, temporary art exhibitions and events; merging together tenure of faith, artistic inheritance, and cultural education.

8. MAMbo Modern Art Gallery

MAMbo Modern Art Gallery

A house to an exciting range of post-WWII to modern-day art, Modern Art Gallery is located at the northern side of the leaning towers. Beneath the modest exterior of the building rests museums, praiseworthy art collections, medieval villas, and a modern art institution.

Galleria was established in 2007; however, it was one of three neighboring house museums in the 20th century. Aristocratic relicts of Bolognese lords, with collections of treasured artifacts, are revealed in House Museum of Morandi and Ustica Memorial Museum, Villa di Rose and Sandra Natali Artist Residence. La Galleria beats with the lively heart of art education, granting Modern Art Institute of Bologna. 

9. Oratory of Battuti and Church of Santa Maria

Oratory of Battuti and Church of Santa Maria

Church of Santa Maria Della Vita is located meters from Piazza Maggiore; a baroque church constructed in the 1600s. The rosy exterior is styled with rococo-Romanesque fusion, while the inside bestows the viewer with a world of artistic astonishment; featuring the world-famous work of Niccolo dell’Arca, Lamentation over the dead Christ.

A small prayer room, augmented with a rich presentation of baroque paintings and frescos, unveils the church’s most charismatic part. Oratory is best known for its fascinating acoustics to peal the melodies of faith. Depictions of Sacred Madonna and the child are the breathtaking illustration of the oratory’s ceiling. Cherish the vivacious frescoes, devotional paintings, and the astounding spectacle of St. Proclus and St. Petronius statues amid the church of Santa Maria.

10. Finestrella Canals

Finestrella Canals

Located at Via Piella, Finestrella is the city’s window overlooking the characteristic locality; nicknamed as little Venice. Bologna Canals are intricate aqueduct systems to channel the Rivers Reno and Savena among the city in means of trade and transport.

Now, a combination of cobbled-stone streets, medieval villas, and modern tarmac roads form a picturesque sight of the grand canals’ remains. Finestrella or Canal Window stipulates a bewildering prospect over Canale Della Moline and the medieval urban neighborhood. The magnificent scenery of canals’ glittering beauty is adjoined with popular restaurants presenting authentic cuisine.

11. Secrets and Ancient Gates

Secrets and Ancient Gates

Bologna was bordered with an ancient wall to pervade the intruders invading the city’s paragon through the 5th to 11th centuries. The walls were accessible through twelve gates, marking bologna with the highest number of entries; although, most of the wall is destroyed and only ten of the ancient gates have endured the time.

The ancient portal of Bologna are; Castiglione, Santo Stefano, Maggiore, San Vitale, San Donato, Mascarella, Galliera, Lame, San Felice, Saragozza. Destroyed by the uncanny impact of wars, many of the gates were reconstructed-consequently altering their original designs.

Gate of Galliera is renowned for its baroque structure and magnificent multilateral facade on the interior. Porta Saragozza is in the vicinity of San Luca church, thereby its name, the Holy Gate. The ancient entrances are scattered across Bologna, commonly adjacent to a cultural or historic edifice.

12. Parco Della Montagnola

Parco Della Montagnola

In the north of the historic center of Bologna, is located the Montagnola Park. A harmonious blend of medieval structures, stunning architecture and refreshing greenery are captivating beauty of this park represented to its visitors. It is bologna’s oldest park, dating back to the 17th century by napoleon order- defining its French style of architecture.

Lined with centennial trees, the park is adorned with a tortoise fountain and a grand staircase. From the historic era to present, Montagnola houses sports events, public venues, and occasional festivals. Neighboring to the park, lies the medieval gate of Mascarella; beaming with antiquity in contrast with its modern surroundings.

13. Ducati Museum

Ducati Museum

Visiting bologna without peeking through the mechanical-age master creations of Ducati brothers, is not complete; giving birth to the world-class Ducati automotive series. Started in 1926, Ducati brothers began their first workshop on via Collegio di Spagna, in the center of the city.

Ducati workshop was reconstructed due to war-related demolitions; today, the factory and its museum are located in Borgo Panigale; exhibiting Ducati two-wheeler collections, racing motorbike collections and historic tokens of Ducati Factory, presented from timely productions of this company. Pre-booking tickets and tours are obligatory at the Ducati Museum of Bologna.

14. Antique Market

Antique Market

Mercato del Quadrilatero is the oldest market of the city dating from 6th century; located on the roman cobbled-stone streets in the historic locality of bologna. Among the thematic medieval edifices, Mercato is a shopping haven, lined with indoor souvenir shops, artisan crafts, fresh produce, and delightful cafes. Street food vendors are the characteristic attraction of the market, offering a colorful array of delicacies to the ancient market’s visitors.

Mercato Delle Erbe, or the Herb Market, is the largest market of the city, sited at a short distance from Bologna’s Ancient Market. It houses the chef’s bazaar, Native aromatic herbs, cheese and local wine bordered with appetizing food stalls. Various daily and weekly markets are held regularly in Bologna; providing an enchanting combination of medieval setting to stroll about, in an entertaining addition to shopping activities.

15. Margherita Gardens

Margherita Gardens

In the vicinity of Porta San Stefano and Porta Castiglione, Giardini Margherita is a hidden refuge from the city’s lively mayhem. Partaking an area of 26 hectares, the English-styled Park was built in the honor of Queen Margherita at the end of the 19th century.

The emerald beauty and 12th century Savena Canal is infused with prehistoric stature; encompassing an Etruscan civilization burial grand together with garden’s travertine tomb. Greenhouses of Giardini have merged a contemporary project; aimed to intensify the community sense of Park’s culture of Music, theatre and other intellectual events. At the banks of the garden’s artificial lake, the Chalet serves the visitors with refreshments and it is one of the nightlife attractions of Bologna for a drink and dance.

In Bologna, locals often talk about the city’s secrets; the 12th-century sophisticated canal system of Bologna, Neptune statue at Piazza del Nettuno, Corte Isolani Arrows on the courtyard of Strada Maggiore and most lucrative of all, whispering Gallery at Palazzo del Podesta – Where you can share your secrets to the confession walls.

Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca is located at the hilltops of Bologna; proposing invigorating air, an outdoor hike, and an unflustered refuge. 

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