The Best of North Italy: 3 Best Things to Do in Bologna in a Day

There are so many great travel destinations you shouldn't miss in Northern Italy. From the romantic city of Verona to the hidden gem in Turin, the region has something for everyone! 

Bologna is the historic capital of the northern Italy province Emilia-Romagna, and while it's quite popular among tourists, it's pretty underrated compared to other cities in North Italy. 

Today, we have Chris from Authentic Traveling to share some of the best things to do in Bologna in a day, especially if you don't have too much time to explore the city while trying to explore the most of Bologna with some budget-friendly activities there. 

So, check this out if you're looking for Bologna things to do in a day!

Top 3 Bologna Things to Do in a Day

Bologna might just be one of the few remaining hidden gems in Italy less affected by the mass tourism of more popular destinations like Rome, Venice, and Cinque Terre. But while most people outside of Italy haven’t heard of Bologna, chances are you’re familiar with the food.

Bologna is known for world-famous Italian dishes like tagliatelle bolognese, lasagna, and parmigiano cheese. Bologna is just a 30-minute train ride from Florence and an easy day trip from Italy’s Renaissance capital, but the city is completely different in character from Florence due to its medieval founding.

Bologna is frequently referred to by Italians as “Bologna – La Rossa, La Dotta, La Grassa”.

The city, red in color, was nicked named “La Rossa” or the red one for not only its color but its communist roots. “La Dotta” meaning the erudite one refers to the University of Bologna, the world’s oldest university. Lastly “La Grassa” or the fat one, refers to the food properly noting Bologna’s status as the King of Italian Food, making it one of the best foodie destinations in the country. The latter is so prominent that you can easily find food-related tours in Bologna, from pasta making workshop to walking food tour in Bologna

But while many might think it would cost an arm and a leg to try some of the best Italian pasta in Italy, it’s possible to get a great meal in Bologna for as low as $10!

I was fortunate enough to spend a year studying in Bologna at Johns Hopkins University, and as a student, I slowly became an expert on finding some of the best deals in the city. So, here are some cool things to do in Bologna you can do in a day!

1. Indulging in authentic Bolognese food and wine

My favorite restaurant in Bologna is Osteria Dell’Orsa. Popular with tourists and locals alike, this restaurant is always open and constantly serving up delicious Italian food at affordable prices. Sometimes you’ll have to wait for a table, and you might get seated at one of the shared tables, but that all makes for the experience.

I recommend ordering the tagliatelle bolognese or the lasagna – both just €6.50 or about $7.00.

Most foreigners aren’t familiar with all the types of Italian pasta, but essentially for each possible variation in size or shape, the pasta gets a new name.

Before I came to Italy, I thought everything was just spaghetti. I quickly learned that wasn’t the case. Tagliatelle is a slightly thicker noodle which better catches the thick Bolognese sauce. Whatever you do, don’t ask for spaghetti bolognese or they might throw you out of the restaurant!

After ordering you food, make sure to get a glass of their house red wine. The wine comes in all sorts of sizes, but a glass or two should cost more than 2-3 euros capping out our 10 dollars.

2. Enjoying the Bologna city view from the Due Terre

If food isn’t for you or you have some extra time to check out the city, I recommend climbing the Due Torre to catch a beautiful view over Bologna. The tower costs just €5.00 for adults and €3.00 for students. It’s one of the cheapest things to do in Bologna and arguably the best.

3. Hanging out around Piazza Maggiore

When you’re done, you can do my favorite Bologna past time – get a bottle of wine and a pizza and people watch in Piazza Maggiore. Piazza Maggiore is the central hub of Bologna right in front of the Basilica di San Petronio.

Every summer there is a film festival in Bologna with free movies nightly in the piazza, but during the rest of the year the piazza is always filled with young people enjoying their evenings.

A student pizza joint called Pizza Casa is one of my favorite places for a cheap meal in Bologna. A margarita pizza costs just $3 and it’s big enough that it is pretty difficult to finish by yourself.

I like to grab a pizza then head to one of the grocery stores to pick up a bottle of Italian wine. Wine typically cost $3-$5 per bottle bringing our total, tower included, to $10.

My favorite wine from the province is Sangiovese – a sweeter red, but some other favorites are Lambrusco (a bubbly red) or Pignoletto (Bologna’s version of prosecco). The great thing about Bologna – and all of Italy – is that there are no outdoor drinking laws.

Save some money and crack open a bottle of wine in the piazza with friends because you’ll never have problems with the police for drinking outside.

If you’re looking for other things to do, check out my article on the Best Instagram Photo Locations in Bologna. I show you some of the most photogenic spots with links to more articles on other awesome things to check out in Bologna.

Contributor: Chris from Authentic Traveling

Chris started traveling solo in 2012, and since then he hasn't looked back as he has visited over 90 countries in total. He is on a mission to break out of the main tourist areas, use public transport, and explore deeper to find real authentic travel experiences. 



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