Somewhere For The Weekend: Bologna

The ancient city of Bologna is home to palaces, winding streets and a little invention they call 'pasta'.



Bologna is one of Italy's most underestimated tourist destinations. Within its ancient city walls, you'll find Renaissance treasures, beautiful palazzi and one of the oldest universities in Europe. The food in Bologna is some of the best the country has to offer - after all, one of the world's most popular dishes takes its name from this beautiful city. For more information contact the Italian State Tourist Board on 020-7408 1254 or see


Bologna's Aeroporto G Marconi (00 39 051 647 9615; is located around 6km from the centre of the city. There is a regular bus connection every 20 minutes, with single fares costing €4 (£2.65) one-way. However, the airport is closed until 2 July for completion of a runway extension. Until then, you have two options; Forli, which is 60km away or Rimini, which is 110km away.

Ryanair (0871 246 0000; flies to the former from London Stansted from around £50 return; easyJet (0871 750 0100; usually flies between London Stansted and Bologna, but has switched airports to Rimini during the closure. Return fares start from around £70. British Airways (0870 850 9850; will recommence its flights from London Gatwick to Bologna from 2 July with fares starting from around £64 return.


Central Bologna's centro storico sits within ancient city walls and is easily navigated on foot. Almost perfectly preserved, it is littered with palaces, churches and notable buildings, many of which once belonged to powerful noble families. One of Bologna's most beautiful features is over 40km of covered walkway. The focal point of the old city is the Piazza Maggiore, a car-free square lined with palazzi such as the Palazzo dei Notai, Palazzo dei Banchi and Palazzo del Podesta, and the Basilica of San Petronio.

Adjacent to this is the Piazza Nettuno and the celebrated Fountain of Neptune. Bologna's main throughfare is the Via dell'Indipendenza, which runs from the Piazza Maggiore to the Porta Galliera, where the old and modern parts of the city converge.

Being medieval in origin, Bologna has no regimented street plan, with tiny streets darting off randomly. The old city's burnt umber hues and arcades assume a particular theatricality at night, when you can wander the quiet streets, peering into courtyards.

The main tourist office is located in Palazzo Podesta, Piazza Maggiore 1 (00 39 051 246 541; Pick up one of its leaflets detailing several walking tours around the city. It opens Monday to Saturday from 10am to 2pm and 3pm to 7pm, and Sunday from 10am to 2pm.


Grand Hotel Baglioni, Via Indipendenza 8 (00 39 051 225 445;, is, as the name suggests, the city's grandest hotel. It is housed in the historic Palazzo Ghisilardi Fava, and boasts priceless frescoes by the celebrated Caracci brothers and extremely friendly staff. Double rooms start from €268 (£178) with breakfast, but it offers a special weekend rate with a minimum stay of two nights for €228 (£151) per room for the two nights with breakfast.

Nearby, the Hotel Orologio (00 39 051 231 253;, Via IV Novembre 10, is housed in a centrally-located building near the Piazza Maggiore and has double rooms from €150 (£100) per night with breakfast.

Albergo delle Drapperie, Via Drapperie 5 (00 39 051 223 955), is a small pensione in the heart of the Mercato di Mezzo with double rooms from €65 (£43).

One thing to remember is that in the spring and autumn, Bologna plays host to a number of trade fairs, so make sure you book your accommodation in advance if you plan to visit around these times.


Move over, Pisa: Bologna's skyline is dominated by not one, but two leaning towers. Both dating from the 12th century, the Due Torri (two towers) are the 97m Torre Asinelli and the smaller and more precariously tilting 48m Torre Garisenda. For a panoramic view of the city, buy an entrance ticket and climb to the top of the former. This costs €3 (£2) per adult, but give it a miss if you are of a nervous disposition - the narrow wooden steps curve up through the centre of the tower and have just a handrail for reassurance. However, those brave enough are rewarded with fabulous 360-degree views.

The hulking mass of the Basilica of San Petronio dominates the Piazza Maggiore. It's actually a civic temple rather than a basilica and is worth a peep for its spacious but austere interior. It was begun in 1390 but was never completed, and along the edges are 22 side chapels. It opens daily from 7.30am to 1pm and 2.30pm to 6.30pm. Admission is free.

Don't miss the beautiful complex of Santo Stefano, Piazza S Stefano. This is a cluster of four churches, a monastery and pretty cloister. It opens from 7.30am to noon and 3pm to 6pm. Admission is free.


In a city so obsessed with gastronomic pleasures, food shopping in Bologna is a delight. The daily (except Sunday) Mercato delle Erbe is the central food market a few minutes' walk from the Piazza Maggiore. This is where you'll find some of the best produce Emilia-Romagna has to offer. Make sure you visit the the Mercato di Mezzo, a small network of streets behind the Piazza Maggiore, once home to the city's traditional merchants and artisans. Join the locals browsing shop after shop selling everything from vegetables and fresh pasta to delicious breads, meat and oil. Nip into Gilberto (00 39 051 223 925), Via Drapperie 5, and buy a bottle of balsamic from the nearby city of Modena or some chocolates. Most of Bologna's designer shops, Armani et al, are concentrated around the Via L Farini.


The Bolognese are serious about their food: this does after all, lay claim to being the home of pasta and also produces divine mortadella ham. Tamburini (00 51 234 726;, Via Caprarie 1, is one of the best food shops you will ever come across.

Drogheria della Rosa (00 39 051 222 529), Via Cartoleria 10, is a former pharmacy cluttered with pictures and ancient jars with glass stoppers. The food is simple but delicious; pastas such as delicately flavoured ravioli and secondi such as grilled lamb cutlets. Dinner with wine costs around €37 (£24).


The Bolognese like to party, and being a university town there are a host of options. The Café Le Palais (00 39 051 648 6963; buzzes with the beautiful people of the city. The tables spill out onto the covered portico and are decorated with flickering candles. Inside, it's an eclectic mix of velvet banquettes, twinkling chandeliers and stuffed hunting trophies. Drinks are accompanied by a delicious array of nibbles including mini mortadella sandwiches and nuts. A glass of wine costs around €4.50 (£3).

The writer travelled as a guest of Citalia (0870 909 7555; It offers three nights at the Grand Hotel Baglioni from £481 per person in June. The price is based on two sharing and includes bed and breakfast accommodation and return flights from London Gatwick to Bologna.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape