Is Bologna Worth Visiting? Pros and Cons + My Opinion

Rome, Florence, and Venice are pretty much always in the classic Italy tours, especially for first-time visitors. Bologna, however, not so much. So, is Bologna worth visiting? It totally is!

The local food famous all over the world, the charming medieval architecture, the elegant porticoes covering the streets, and the ancient university are only some of the reasons why I always suggest including Bologna in your Italy itinerary.

Image: Tagliatelle with ragù during Tastes and Traditions of Bologna Food Tour with Devour.

Is Bologna worth visiting? My honest opinion

Pros of visiting Bologna

The food

If you are wondering why you should visit Bologna, food is certainly one of the city’s strongest points. To be fair, the whole Emilia-Romagna region is famous for its food, and traveling to Bologna is your best way to try it all if you don’t have the time to visit also the surrounding cities.

Ever heard of fettuccine, tortellini, mortadella, prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Balsamic vinegar? Bologna has it all, and if you want to sample the best of everything while discovering the regional culinary traditions, you can join the lovely food tour I joined recently.

Image: Archigynnasium ancient university one of the places Bologna is worth visiting.

The history

La Dotta (the Erudite), la Rossa (the Red), la Grassa (the Fat). Throughout the centuries, Bologna has earned many monikers linked to its history and architecture.

Why Bologna la Dotta? Because its 11th-century Alma Mater Studiorum university has been the first in the Western world. Why Bologna la Rossa? Not for its leftist political past but because of the red bricks used in its buildings.

Why Bologna la Grassa? Well, have you tried its food? For Bologna’s locals, eating well is one of the top priorities in life. This reflects on the many delicacies you can savor all around the city’s restaurants and cafes.

Image: Porticoes in Bologna.

The architecture

I find Bologna look very aristocratic and elegant. The historical palaces and buildings of the city center clearly maintain the local medieval style. If you climb Torre degli Asinelli tower, you can appreciate all the shades of red on Bologna’s rooftops.

Strolling around the alleys of its Quadrilatero feels like unearthing a secret around every corner. The famous porticoes that line up the streets of the city center make the atmosphere cozy and somewhat mysterious.

Every portico is a piece of history and Bologna’s past is tightly intertwined with the modern boutiques, bars, and restaurants populating the city center.

Image: Archiginnasio in Bologna.

The location

It’s almost impossible to skip Bologna. The only way you are justified to skip it is, in fact, if you have very limited time in Italy. Whether you are traveling from Florence to Venice or the other way around, Bologna is on the way, so if you can afford to stretch your trip a bit longer, I suggest devoting one or two days to visiting Bologna.

If you don’t have the time to stop in Bologna for a few days, you can consider making it a day trip from Florence since the Florence-Bologna train ride takes barely half an hour.

Day trips

This, I think it’s a very nice pro of visiting Bologna. From the city, you can plan many easy day trips by train or by tour. For example, cities like Parma, Ravenna, and Modena are very interesting and if you have limited time, you might not want to stay more than a day in each of them.

Other places like Maranello and its Ferrari museum are also very popular and easy to reach from Bologna. If you are a fan, you might be interested in this experience organized by LivTours with a visit to the Ferrari factory and museum and also a test drive.

Image: Fresh pasta in local markets in Bologna.

Its markets

Bologna’s markets are an important piece of local history and still a vibrant place to visit and to have a casual meal.

In the city center, you can’t miss Mercato delle Erbe, the old veggie market that still now sells fresh produce as well as other regional delicacies like Parmigiano, Modena’s balsamic vinegar, mortadella, and fresh pasta.

Here, there is also a section with rustic restaurants where to have a delicious local meal.

Image: Is Bologna worth visiting? You will find fewer crowds.

Fewer crowds

If you are coming from Venice or Florence, you are definitely going to enjoy sightseeing surrounded by fewer crowds. Bologna, in fact, is still much less touristy than other Italian big draws.

This makes it one of the reasons to visit Bologna because you can have a more authentic experience and a better quality tour altogether.

Cons of visiting Bologna

The weather

I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of the weather in Bologna and the Emilia Romagna region in general. In winter, it’s cold and foggy, in summer, it’s stifling hot. When we visited Parma in August, we were badly attacked by mosquitoes.

The prices

Even though much less expensive than Venice, Bologna is not the cheapest city to visit in Italy. For example, a single bus ticket costs €1.50 like in Rome, but in Rome, it has a 100-minute validity while in Bologna it’s only valid for 75 minutes.

Accommodation-wise, too, Bologna is a bit pricey and if you don’t mind walking or using the bus, you can consider staying out of the historic center. To eat out, you will find plenty of options, also not too expensive, so this won’t be your biggest expense.

Is Bologna worth visiting? My honest opinion

In short, yes, Bologna is absolutely worth visiting, especially if you are a foodie or interested in local gastronomy in general because many of the Italian foods famous all over the world are from the Emilia-Romagna region.

I’m very passionate about history and culture, and I loved visiting the Arciginnasio, Bologna’s ancient university, the oldest in Europe.

It might not be worth staying for five days like I suggest for Rome, but I think Bologna is a great destination to hit if you are in Italy.

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