The historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, in northern Italy, Bologna is Italy’s seventh most populous city. The city is home to endless porticos, cheap wine, good food, a lively university and amazing architecture.
I spent 3 weeks in Bologna on just €20 a day! So, here’s a week’s worth of things to do, that I did, to help you to enjoy the best of Bologna while on a budget!
Get yourself over to the friendly tourist information office, Bologna Welcome, for a free city map and other useful travel resources. You can even book train tickets here!
Bologna Welcome is situated in the popular Piazza Maggiore square. While you are there, soak up some sun, appreciate the architecture and take a photo next to the San Petronio Basilica. Make sure you go inside too! It’s free and it is one of the most impressive churches I have ever seen.
The sun is probably shining so head south to find La Sorbetteria di Castiglione and sample the best Gelato in Bologna.
After a day of exploring, grab a pizza from Pizza Casa. This take-away on the corner of Via delle Belle Arti is always busy, always tasty, and always good value.
Margherita pizza: €2.50
You are probably wondering by now why there are tall towers dotted around the city. Some say they were originally built to show off wealth, for strategic defence, or both. It is unclear exactly why they were there but many historians say there were up to 180 towers standing between the 12th and the 13th century!
According to Toni Pecoraro, medieval Bologna looked like what I imagine it would in a few hundred years.
Of the 180 towers, there are 20 remaining today and you can climb the tallest for €3!
Asinelli Tower was built in the 11th century and standing at over 97 metres with 498 steps, it is the tallest in Italy.
Torre Asinelli ticket: €3.00
Find the ‘Finestra sui Canali’ and discover a window to Venice, right here in Bologna!
Before motorised transport, Bologna is said to have been similar characteristics as Venice. That was until roads were built over the waterways, leaving a network of secret canals below the city.
Every year in Piazza Maggoire, Cineteca di Bologna holds host to cinematic festivals celebrating the best in international film.
In June and July, you can experience eclectic film festivals like the Il Cinema Ritrovato, transporting you through world cinema from the past few hundred years. Grab a bottle of wine, some popcorn and go enjoy a free movie under the stars!
Bologna is famous for its food. If there’s anywhere you should go to sample some of Emilia-Romagna’s most mouth-watering dishes, it’s Mercato Di Mezzo.
Mercato Di Mezzo offers artisanal beers, meat, fish, bread, wine, fresh pasta, and the best brioche I have ever eaten and probably ever will.
Just a few steps from Piazza Maggiore and open seven days a week, from 8,30 a.m. until midnight, there’s no excuse not to stop by for a meal. I did, almost every day.
Tagliatelle All’Ortica Con Ragù from COOP Alleanza: €7.50 (it’s enough for two people!)
Brioche from Centrale Del Gusto: €1.30
On my last day in Bologna, I took a 3.8km pilgrimage through 666 arches to reach the Sanctuary of the Madonna Di San Luca.
This unforgiving climb through the longest portico in the world was the highlight of my trip. If you visit Bologna, make sure you do this!
That’s it! That was a week’s worth of my favourite things to do in Bologna, on a budget. If you have any other suggestions or tips please let me know in the comments.