Photo by Ready Set Jet Set
Bologna was my favorite European city on this trip because it was quiet, quaint, and felt distinctly non-touristy. The buildings in Bologna are all beautiful shades of terracotta red, and the city lends itself to leisurely activities like wandering the streets, taking in the medieval architecture and eating. Because it’s a smaller city, it was easy to walk around and explore on foot. The people were so friendly too!
I arrived on the Eurail from Lyon ready to get acquainted with a new place, and I found cafes, towers, porticos, and piazzas all over this easygoing university town. As the capital of the Emilia Romagna region, it’s got great art, museums, markets, and amazing restaurants too. Bologna has actually been called the culinary capital of Italy. Here’s my guide to eating and exploring the city I fell in love with!
BREAKFAST AT PAPPARE’
You know a place is good when it’s swarming with tourists. We originally came for one croissant and left with three croissants! They were super flaky and filled with a delicious cream filling of chocolate, Nutella, and pistachio. This is a great place for when you want something more than a simple espresso – they have fancy coffee drinks, savory pastries, and a full menu of brunch options too!
Via De’ Giudei 2
LUNCH AT PAPPAGALLO
Pappagallo is a Bolognese institution that’s pretty famous throughout Italy. It’s located in the city center near several tourist attractions, and the walls of the restaurant are lined with signed celebrity photographs. The restaurant is known for their fresh homemade pastas, and the tagliatelle with bolognese was delicious!
Piazza della Mercanzia 3
Photo by Ready Set Jet Set
CLIMB THE TWO TOWERS
It’s 498 steps up and 498 steps down. We decided to not make the trek and instead admired the view from a local coffee shop. Legend has it that the Asinelli Tower is named after a pair of donkeys from the 12th century (asinelli means “donkey” in Italian). The local story says that a poor bricklayer was hauling gravel with his two donkeys when they began digging and uncovered a chest full of gold coins. The bricklayer continued to live the life of a poor man until his son met a beautiful girl that he wanted to marry. The girl’s father was wealthy and, as a joke, said the boy could marry his daughter when he built the highest tower in Bologna. His father gave him the treasure to build the tower, and the two were married!
Tickets: €5, buy here.
Piazza di Porta Ravegnana
This is considered by many to be the best pizza in Bologna and after trying it, I believe so too! The cornmeal crust was so good. Pizza originally hails from Naples, and this restaurant serves both local and Napolitano-style pizzas, with toppings like prosciutto, artichokes, mozzarella di bufala, and classic margherita.
Piazza San Martino 9
AFTERNOON COFFEE AT VETRO
This is a beautiful, airy, Instagram-worthy cafe that’s made out of a greenhouse. The locals come here to work and catch up over coffee or tea. Vetro is connected to a park and has its own kitchen garden so you can walk around and explore.
Via Castiglione 134
DINNER AT TRATTORIA DEL ROSSO
I visited this local restaurant for dinner and kept it simple with fresh pasta, tomatoes, and mozzarella. It’s a casual place with lots of classic dishes from Bologna like lasagna, cured meats, and tortellini in brodo (broth). Located in the historic center, they’ve preserved the atmosphere of the 1860s with the wooden tables and paper napkins of the traditional Italian trattoria built there long ago.
Via Augusto Righi 30
Eataly World is so massive that it requires at least two hours to explore the whole of it. There are 45 restaurants, trattorias, bistros, and food kiosks where you can eat, along with traditional shops, factories, rides, and even farms. You can take workshops to learn how to make fresh pasta by hand and sign up for lessons in cheese-making. The place is so big you can rent a bike for free to explore (with a basket to hold your purchases, of course). Eataly is open from 10AM until midnight, so you could spend a whole day here if you wanted!
Via degli Orefici 19
For a nightcap, go to Le Stanze for an evening aperitivo between 6PM and 9PM. This stunning bar was originally part of a private chapel and it has high ceilings, beautiful frescoes, and 400-year-old walls. It’s located in the student quarter alongside other lively bars and restaurants. For €1 extra with your drink, you can sample the array of snacks on the bar, including grilled vegetables, cheeses, meats, and more.
Via del Borgo di S. Pietro 1
Photo by Ready Set Jet Set
There’s a couple of great shopping streets in Bologna where you’ll find big names like Zara, Zara Home, H&M, Bershka, and lots of other Italian brands selling everything from leather and shoes to makeup. I bought a jacket from Zara and it ended up being $50 cheaper than if I’d gotten it on the US Zara website!
If you live outside the European Union, you can claim back the 22% VAT that Italy charges on most goods. If you spend more than €154.95, ask for the tax-free form in the store. You will need to bring along your passport.
Via dell’Indipendenza and Via Rizzoli
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