The city of Bologna, with its porticoed buildings and their vibrant red brick façades, serves as a tourist destination unto itself. Part of the joy in visiting isn't shelling out money to visit museums or eat at the fanciest restaurants but leisurely wandering the streets, in rain or fair weather, protected by the porticos above and surrounded by a gorgeous blend of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. Bologna is by no means a sleepy little city, but its lack of more typical, Italian tourist destinations is refreshing – there are no gondolas or Michelangelo ceilings depicting the creation of Adam here. The city's lively way of life can be attributed more to its ravishing student population rather than ravenous tourists. But there's still plenty to see and do during your visit.
, and its accompanying Basilica di San Petronio
, serve as a striking center for the city. On a sunny day, the piazza is full of tourists and locals taking in the sunshine and posing in front of the impressive bronze fountain in the adjacent Piazza del Nettuno
If one is so inclined to take in a museum exhibit, Bologna has many affordable and often free options, from the Museo Civico Archelogico
to the gorgeous Pinacoteca Nazionale
, which houses works by Giotto and Titian. Bologna's skyline is most striking for its two tilting towers, the Torres degli Garisenda
. For a few Euros, visitors can brave the impressive (and seemingly endless) 498 steps to the top of Asinelli, where they're rewarded with a superb bird's eye view of the city.
Shopping and food are obvious attractions as well – Via dell' Indipendenza is chock full of Italian and international clothing shops. But weekends are particularly ideal for a shopping stroll, with flea markets and open-air antique stands seemingly on every corner. Art, furniture, jewelry, kitsch relics from the past – bring your extra Euros and pick up some souvenirs that will make that Venice snow globe look like it was purchased from Epcot Center.
Check out these three markets throughout the week for a variety of clothing, antiques, books and knickknacks: La Piazzola
on Piazza VIII Agosto on the weekends, Celò Celò Mamanca Market
on Via Aldonica and Piazza San Martino on Thursdays, and Mercato di Antiquariato Città di Bologna
every other Sunday. Depending on the time of year, the city also sponsors a variety of entertainment festivals, and during the university school year, there are regular calcio
(soccer) matches at the Stadio Comunale.
Via Santa Margherita 21
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