Transportation and Accommodations

Getting There

Bologna is the capital of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. The city is very much comparable in size to Florence with a population just under 400,000 and definitely feels like a larger city rather than a small town. The city has its own airport (Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport) located about 20 minutes outside the city center, making it very easy to fly into and then head into the center of the city. Bologna has direct flights to many cities within Europe including London, Rome, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and more. To travel to and from the airport from the city center, there is the Marconi Express which runs every 15 minutes or even every 7 minutes at peak times. Alternatively, a taxi will only be about 15 - 20 euros from the city into the airport.


For those traveling from within Italy already, train travel may be easiest. Italy has a widely connected train network, with fast trains running between many of the larger cities and regional trains making stops in a lot more towns. You can purchase tickets directly at the station for your journey. Be sure to validate your ticket before getting on the train. Bologna Centrale is the main station in Bologna, also very easily accessible to the city center as it is right on the edge.

Getting Around

The city of Bologna is larger than other quaint towns in Italy, but still smaller than the large cities of Milan and Rome. For those able to easily walk, walking the city is a good way to explore and a good way to get around the city. Some locals use bikes, but this can be challenging as the roads are often narrower and clogged with people so not how I would want to visit, especially with the cobblestone roads.

For longer journeys, you can take a taxi as the cars do drive in the city. For similar reasons noted above about biking, I would not want to drive in the city but traveling in a taxi could be helpful in certain instances.


As the city is mainly cobblestone, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. Heels and platform shoes are not recommended as the likelihood of tripping is high! On the weekends, the very central area is pedestrianized, which is helpful with the large crowds that are out and about when the weather is nicer.


When visiting Bologna, consider staying within the city center to make it easy to walk around the city. The prices in the city are quite affordable, providing a range of options based on what you are looking for. We opted to stay closer to the train station as we planned to arrive and depart near the station. This limited our walking time with luggage as we opted not to use a taxi to and from our accommodations. Do keep in mind that being at the very central may mean it is a bit nosier in the evenings.

Things to do and see

Two Towers

There are two well-known towers in Bologna: Asinelli tower and Garisenda tower.


Piazza Maggiore

The main square in Bologna, and a good reference point for the city center. This large square is where the Basilica di San Petronio can be found.


Basilica di San Petronio

Next to impossible to miss in Piazza Maggiore, the church is very large and stands at the center of the city.


Mercato delle Erbe

Local market open every day but Sunday offering local produce and goods



An area of narrow streets filled with food shops selling local specialties. The area is essentially a street market area with producers and sellers having operated here for many many years. This is a nice area just to get a bit lost in the skinny streets of admiring all the shops and perhaps buying some snacks along the way


La Finestrella

These little hidden canals pop out of nowhere when you pass by in the city



Another impossible one to miss, Bologna is known for being the city of porticos. Porticos are essentially awnings which extend over and in front of the storefront creating a covered passage. Years ago, Bologna had a housing problem and offered a tax incentive to owners who built porticos as it enabled additional rooms to be built above the porticos. Today these can be found all around Bologna.


Walk to Basilica di San Luca

The church up on a hill which can be seen when you take a step outside of the city center, there is a portico covered path running from just outside the city center all the way up to the top of the hill where the church sits. Take this 3.8km walk to the top and enjoy a stroll to the base of the church.

Food Tour

Why not consider taking an organized food tour in the city to get a flavor of all the local specialities!


1/2 Day trip to Modena

  • Take the train from Bologna Centrale to Modena. There are about 3 trains an hour (slightly varied price as some are on the regional line while some are on the longer haul routes), but the price differential is from approx a 4 euro train to a 10 euro train. Get off at the Modena station and walk towards the town center. Head towards Piazza Roma, about 10 minutes from the station.
  • A day in Modena is best spent wandering the streets, sitting for a coffee, wandering some more, sitting for a gelato and just enjoying the smaller city.
  • Within Modena, you'll want to check out the Duomo di Modena, Mercato Storico Albinelli (local market where you can sit for a bite or where locals may do their weekend shop), and Piazza Roma.
  • A few food recommendations include:
  • Gelateria Bloom (gelato)
  • Enoteca di Duomo (wine bar and snacks)
  • Zelmira (dinner) - located on a back street with a nice garden area outside


1/2 Day trip to Parma

Take a train from Bologna to Parma and enjoy a day in the home of Parma Ham and Parmesan. The train from Bologna to Parma is about 1 hour and passes through Modena on the way. Head all the way to Parma and explore the town on foot

Plan to walk around and find something to eat in this medium sized town. Don't miss a tour to learn about Parmesan and Parma Ham when in their home


Day trip to Parma and Modena

  • Take a train from Bologna to Parma and enjoy a day in the home of Parma Ham and Parmesan. The train from Bologna to Parma is about 1 hour and passes through Modena on the way. If you want to do both in a day, consider getting an early start and starting in Parma. This would allow you take the longer train journey first. Enjoy a morning and early afternoon in Parma before hopping to Modena.
  • In Parma, don't miss taking a tour to learn about the local specialities
  • Modena is smaller than Parma so can be done in a few hours. For those looking just to see the town, this will be perfect, but consider sitting for a drink or a gelato to enjoy some time in this quaint town

Food and Drinks

Bologna and the Emilia Romagna region are known for their food and I can confirm it is incredible in the city. When outside of Italy, the cuisine is ofcourse referred to as Italian cuisine. What gets so interesting about Italy is once you're in the country, each region has local specialties and often will have quite different menus than other regions.

Emilia Romagna has some local specialties including:

  • Balsamic Vinegar from Modena
  • Parma Ham from Parma
  • Parmesan from Parma
  • Bolognese from Bologna
  • Lambusco (sparking red cold wine)
  • Tortellini - these little pasta shapes are EVERYWHERE
  • Mortadella - Italian sausage


Local dishes:

  • Tortellini in brodo - tortellini in a beef broth
  • Tortellini or tagliatelle ragu
  • Butter and sage tortellini
  • Tortellini in parmesan crema


Interestingly, there are not many tomato (pomodoro) based dishes in the typical Bologna cuisine! 

Quick Bites

Sfoglia Rina

A local favorite for quick and delicious homemade pasta, this is a great option for after you arrive and are looking for something for lunch. It is a very casual dining spot, but often has a queue around peak lunch time. They offer a standard menu with local favorites including Tagliatelle ragu, butter and sage tortellini, and tortellini in brodo, but also have a weekly changing menu with more unique options to give a try.


La Prosciutteria

Perfect for the panini or board lovers, stop by here to grab a delicious panini or sit down and share a charcuterie board and a drink for an aperitivo


Osteria Zerocinquantello

Located on a busy food street just off Piazza Maggiore, this spot has phenomenal pasta dishes. This was another good spot for off-peak hours if looking for a lunch pasta or afternoon snack. Do not miss the tortellini ragu here as it is phenomenal! The chaos of the city can very much be felt when dining on this street, but embrace it and enjoy people watching while you indulge in a delicious bowl of pasta.


They also have a sister location down the street which does small plates bites including and charcuterie boards.



Very much a shop selling local specialties like cheese and meats, this spot also does paninis. This spot is especially helpful for those looking for paninis earlier in the day and wanting to have an earlier savory bite or wanting to take it to go on your journey for the day. Simple sandwich, but fresh and delicious, I definitely enjoyed my prosciutto crudo panini.

Enoteca al Duomo


If you make a day trip to Modena, this is an excellent spot to enjoy an afternoon drink in the main square.

Pick-up to make at home:

  • Salumeria Simoni
  • Paolo Atti & Figli Panificio


Sette Tavioli

A bit outside the area where you find all the hustle and bustle, Sette Tavioli serves many traditional Bologna dishes.


Ristorante San Pietro

Sitting on a back street with tables inside and outside, this corner restaurant provides cozy Italian vibes. The restaurant has a delicious tagliatelle ragu and a tortellini in brodo.

Trattoria Serghei

Small restaurant near the "hidden canals" in Bologna. With only about 12 tables, the seating here is limited, but the food is delicious. Consider making a reservation if this spot is calling your name.


Cremeria Santo Stefano

A bit outside the city center, the cremeria is well worth the extra steps. There will likely be a queue when you arrive, but gives you time to pick what you’d like to try here. They are known for their Ciocolloato de Santo and it is clear why, as this chocolate is delicious.


Cremeria la Vecchia Stalla

Another favorite in Bologna, and often also with a queue, stop here for an afternoon gelato on a warm sunny day.

Gelateria Bloom


If you make a day trip over to Modena, be sure to pop in here for some delicious gelato. They offer some standard flavors but also have some more creative options.

Other Notes

City notes

When traveling to Bologna, be prepared to be visiting a city. It is busy and chaotic, as many cities feel with lots of people. As long as you are prepared for this, Bologna may be a city you love after visiting. If you're looking for a more relaxed, quieter Italian town, I'd recommend passing through Bologna and continuing onward to other small towns.


Time of Year

The Emilia Romagna region is on the eastern side of Italy, slightly north of the middle of the country. The land is very flat in this region, unlike its neighbor Tuscany, but temperatures pick up early in the season. This makes visiting Bologna a great option for April and May, before the heat of the summer in Italy really hits. As the summers can get pretty warm, and the city is busy and landlocked, it would not be recommended to visit here in the summer. Alternatively, visiting in the autumn would also be nice, especially if you use it as a jumping off point to visit vineyards in the neighboring regions as well.


Dining times

The city has a large number of restaurants, with tons of options and tons of good options. If you have very specific locations you'd like to dine at or if you are traveling with a larger group, definitely consider making reservations in advance. If you are flexible and prefer not to be bound by a reservation, then you can look to walk-in.


In general, Italians eat a bit later. Many restaurants will not open until 7pm or 8pm and then do not get to their busiest until at least 9pm. With this in mind, it may mean you are more likely to walk-in and be seated with an earlier seating.



Italy uses the Euro and many places allow for card payment. Nevertheless, it is always helpful to have a bit of cash on you for the smaller payments or places where they may only take cash but know this is not the norm anymore


Parma vs Modena vs Bologna

Bologna is the biggest city of the three, and the one you would fly into or likely use to pass through when visiting the others. Modena and Parma both are known for being quieter, and Modena specifically can be a bit sleepier as it is the smallest of the three. That being said, it can be nice to see more than one and compare.


As Parma and Modena can easily be done as day trips from Bologna, I'd recommend staying in Bologna and using this as a home base to visit other areas. As it was also noticed that the food is so highly valued in Bologna, with a large amount of restaurants, it's nice to have evenings here.



A weekend trip is the perfect amount of time to see the city, enjoy some good food, and even get a day trip out to some of the smaller towns. If you're eager to do more than one day trip, or a specific food tour, you may want to make sure you have two full days. However, from my perspective, a normal weekend is the perfect amount of time for a first visit.


Transportation and Accommodations

Things to do and see

Food and Drinks

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