Bologna travel guide

Bologna is the capital of what is now called Città Metropolitana di Bologna and used to be the province of the same name. The city is best known for its university and has a very beautiful historic center. It is also the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region.

Bologna travel guide

Practical information

Region: Emilia-Romagna. Province: Bologna. ZIP code: 40100. Area code: 051. City Hall: Piazza Maggiore, 6 – 40124 Bologna (tel: +39 0512193111). There are two tourist offices in the city. The main one is at Piazza Maggiore, 1E (tel: +39 051239660) and the other one at the airport (Via del Triumvirato 84 – tel: +39 051 6472201).


The airport of Bologna is called Aeroporto Guglielmo Marconi and is located in Borgo Panigale. For intercontinental flights, however, one must divert to Milan’s Malpensa Airport.

Public transportation

Central station Bologna
Central station

Bologna is one of the most important railroad hubs in Italy. There is a direct connection to Milan and Florence as well as to Rome. There are also direct connections with Rimini and Bari, as well as Pistoia and Ravenna.

Tourist attractions

Piazza Santo Stefano Bologna
Piazza Santo Stefano

The center of Bologna is characterized by a number of towers, the most famous being the Torre degli Asinelli and the Garisenda. The Palazzo Comunale is flanked by the Torre dell’Orologio.

The most beautiful palaces are the Palazzo Bolognini, the Palazzo del Podestà, the Palazzo dei Notai, the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio and the Palazzo Davia a Bargellini.

The cathedral of Bologna is dedicated to San Pietro. Other interesting churches include the Gothic San Petronio Basilica, the San Martino Church, the San Francesco Church, the San Domenico Church and the Santuario di San Luca. This last shrine is built on a hill outside the city.

The most beautiful square is the Piazza Maggiore, onto which all the city’s famous shopping streets (Via dell’Indipendenza, Via Ugo Bassi, Via Rizzoli and Via D’Azeglio) open. The most beautiful fountain is the Fontana del Nettuno (“Neptune Fountain”) and the most famous theater is Antonio Bibiena’s 18th century city theater.

The Piazza del Nettuno is adjacent to the Piazza Maggiore. The most important building in this square is the Palazzo Re Enzo, where the king of Sardinia was imprisoned for 23 years.

The city also has several interesting museums. The most important ones are the Pinacoteca Nazionale, the Archaeological Museum, the Ship Museum, the Museo Aldrovandiano and the Museo Carducci.

Porticoes Via dei Mille Bologna
Via dei Mille porticoes.

A general characteristic of the historical center is the presence of long rows of porticoes in most of the main streets of the city. Some of these are only functional, others are elaborately decorated. The total length of the porticoes is 38 kilometers, only counting the ones within the city walls.


The main shopping street of Bologna is the Via dell’Indipendenza, which connects the central train station to the Piazza Maggiore.

A brief history of Bologna

The area where Bologna is located was already inhabited in the Bronze Age. On the site of the present city there used to be the Etruscan capital Felsina in the 6th century BC. In the 4th century BC this was occupied by the Gauls and in 189 BC it became a Roman colony. After the Barbarian invasions, the city became part of the Exarchate of Ravenna (a part of northern Italy controlled by the Byzantines between the 2nd half of the 6th century and the year 751). Later occupiers were the Lombards and the Franks.

Towards the end of the 10th century Bologna became a municipality and a century later the first university in Europe was founded there by the jurist Irnerio. During the struggle between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, the city fought with the former against Frederick II.

After having been property of the Pepoli, Bologna came into the hands of the Visconti family. This lasted until the death of Cardinal Egidio di Albernoz in 1367, after which Bologna became a republic.

After being a fiefdom of the Bentivoglio family in the 15th century, Pope Julius II brought the city under the dominion of the Church in 1513.

When Napoleon founded the Cispadan Republic in 1796, he made Bologna its capital. This republic, however, did not even exist for a year when it was swallowed up by the Cisalpine Republic. After the end of the Napoleonic period, it returned to the hands of the Church.

Over the centuries, the city grew from an agricultural center to a commercial and industrial city. The clothing, book and metal industries are particularly important.

How to get to Bologna by car

Bologna is situated along the A1 motorway, which leads south from Milan via Florence and Rome. From the southern Adriatic coast the A14 leads to the city and from Padua this is the A13.

Bologna travel guide