What to see (and eat) with 24 hours in Bologna
Last weekend we made the somewhat random decision to take a trip to Bologna, and fit it into our plans to go to Padova for a birthday party. We were deciding between Florence, Milan and Bologna and in the end, decided on this small norther city because its size made it more manageable to see more of with only one day/night. And with a nickname like “La Grassa”, in reference to its many culinary specialties and authentic foodie culture, I knew it would be love-at-first-taste for me.
It was my first time and I was beyond excited to eat my way through this city, trying all of the ragù alla bolognese, tortellini in brodo, mortadella, and meats/cheeses possible. I wanted to share about my experience there and what I fit into a 24-hour period, but I highly recommend checking out the sources I used myself—Girl in Florence and Bologna Uncovered—blogs that have very specific recommendations for trattorias, aperitivos and many cultural/historic spots that I didn’t get the chance to check out. And please let me know in the comments if you have other must-sees in this city because I already know I’ll be back soon ;)
How to get there from Rome
With a fast train (take Frecciarossa or Italo), you can get from Rome to Bologna in 2 hours and the prices are as low as €15 one way. This means you could easily do a day trip from Rome, but if you can swing staying one night (or 2!), it gives you a chance to really explore the city and even take a look around the surrounding countryside in the Emilia-Romagna region. We ended up only staying for 24 hours because we had an event further to the north in Padova on Saturday to attend.
Where to stay
One thing that I enjoyed about Bologna was how small it actually is. Compared to Rome, Naples and even Venice, there’s so much packed into a small historic center that you’re able to reach everything by foot or bike. We stayed outside of the city walls near the main train station, Bologna Centrale, which ended up being more convenient for us and cheaper too. While we grabbed an Airbnb for €60/night (use this code for €34 off your first trip!), prices go up more if you want to stay in the actual center.
What to do
Especially with only 24 hours in one place, I really dislike packing a bunch of churches, museums and monuments into such a short period of time. Both Edoardo and I love to explore cities and areas on our own and rarely use tours unless we’re somewhere that would truly merit one (at the Vatican Museums for example). So we spent a lot of our day in Bologna wandering around, eating and just enjoying the great atmosphere there.
Before lunch, we saw the hidden canals of Bologna (only visible from a Via Piella street) and did some shopping in the area.
We also took a look inside the Basilica di San Petrioni that was full of amazing art and architecture. Its Chapel of the Magi is famous and well worth the €3 we spent to get inside with an audio guide. In the afternoon, we took a walk over to the Botanic Gardens and enjoyed those and saw a few university campuses that had amazing street art, parked bikes all along the streets and a great feel to them.
I would’ve loved to check out the Anatomy Museum recommended by Silvia but it was vetoed by a certain Italian travel partner. There were plenty of other must-sees on the blogs I recommended above so if you have more time or want to spend less of your trip eating than I did, head over and check those out!
Where to eat
With Bologna’s reputation as a foodie city and because I wanted to experience IT ALL, we dedicated many of our 24 hours to eating. We first stopped for breakfast at a bar along Via dell’Indipendenza, which is one of the main streets in the city and where you’ll find many famous shopping/food chains. After enjoying a long breakfast outside planning with a cappuccino and cornetto, we started wandering around the center and basically counting the hours until lunch.
After checking out the huge basilica, we went to find a plate of Bolognese pasta (don’t forget that in the north of Italy, lunch starts around 12:30 and dinner much earlier around 6:30!)
We tried out Da Pietro, which was located in the center on a beautiful side street with outdoor seating. This trattoria did a great tagliatelle al ragù that Edoardo said had more meat than any ragù he’s ever had, but I was disappointed with my tortellini in brodo. The broth that I was so looking forward to trying was almost tasteless, completely unlike the life-changing brodo that Edoardo’s (Roman) mother makes. Next time, I’d do more research and definitely be willing to walk a bit outside of the center for a great bolognese trattoria.
With the somewhat disappointing lunch experience, the stakes were high for our aperitivo/dinner. We decided to go with a place that I’d heard great reviews for, Salumeria Simoni and their sit-down experience, Simoni Laboratorio. We got one of the best tagliere of my life here and enjoyed it with good wine and the relaxed nightlife of Bologna all around us. The street was packed with tables and other people drinking, but it was such a fun atmosphere. I am more than obsessed with the truffle cheese they served us and the mortadella was fantastic as well, while Edoardo had a love affair with the squaccherone cheese (which has a bite and extremely soft consistency). It’s safe to say we loved it.
24 hours in Bologna was not nearly enough time, but we enjoyed every second of it. I can’t wait to go back again and this time, I’m renting a bike to explore even more and definitely fitting in multiple pasta-eating marathons.
For more pictures and video from this trip, you can check out my Instagram page and the “Bologna” highlight. Thank you as always for reading, I’ll be back soon for some lovin’ on Rome in case you’ve missed it!