Dec 6, 2016
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48 hours in Bologna

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How to spend 48 hours in Bologna

We spent 48 hours in Bologna during our month long Italian train tour. Bologna is a central hub to major cities such as Milan, Florence, Rome and Venice.

Map of Bologna, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

Situated in the heart of Northern Italy

Bologna has its own train station, making it an ideal place to spend a couple of days to break up a journey.

Sunset over Bologna Train Station, 48 hours in Bologna, Italy

On the cross-country train route

Tickets to major Italian city can be purchased at Bologna. We stopped for a 2 day rest and we’re glad we experienced a ‘non-conventional’ Italian stopover.

Bologna Central Train station, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

Perfectly situated for an off the beaten path pit stop

Bologna Facts

Bologna is the largest city, and the capital, of the Emilia-Romagna Region with a population of around one million people. The city is home to famous landmarks such as the University of Bologna which is the oldest university in the world. The University was founded in 1088. Bologna also has its very own Leaning Tower. Thousands of students live in the city and they embrace the social life with the many bars and restaurants in Bologna. The cheap eateries with student offers make Bologna a budget traveler’s paradise.

The city is made up of several piazzas (squares) that feature wonderful historical buildings. In between the piazzas, there are a wide selection of bars, lucrative shops and restaurants that cater to the locals. There aren’t many tourists floating around Bologna.

Clock Tower main square, 48 hours in Bologna, Italy

Lots of squares make up the city

Things to do In Bologna

San Petronio Basilica and the Piazza Maggiore

One of the city’s most notable landmarks is the San Petronio Basilica which was one of the highlights during our 48 hours in Bologna. The Basilica is Bologna’s main church and, for a small city, it surprised us to learn that this is the 10th largest Gothic church in the world hosting 22 chapels.

Church in Bologna, Italy. 48 hours in Bologna

The San Petronio Basilica

An Italian writer once said of the San Petronio‘s facade:

“The facade of San Petronio looks like a sloughed field; the rough grooves in the brick have the same color as the freshly ploughed Emilia plains.”

Construction of the church started in 1390 and it was named and dedicated to Petronio, the city’s patron saint with Greek origins who was Bologna’s bishop in the 5th century.

Church in Bologna Main Square, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

A facade like a ploughed field

The San Petronio Basilica is a dominant landmark in the Piazza Maggiore. Piazza Maggiore is the city’s main square and it is one of the best things to see in Bologna. The Piazza Maggiore is lined with many more Medieval and Renaissance buildings such as the Palazzo dei Notai. The Palazzo dei Notai is a palace built in 1381 by the city’s notaries guild.
Main Square church, Bologna, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

Piazza Maggiore is the main city square

The Palazzo del Podestà is a long civic building also in the Piazza Maggiore area and it faces the San Petronio Basilica. This area was notoriously rich in trade and is considered to be the central point of Bologna.
Palazzo Re Enzo is another palace in the square taking its name from Enzio of Sardinia, Frederick II‘s son, who was prisoner in the building from 1249 until his death in 1272.
Main Square, Bologna, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna The Palazzo Re Enzo was built as an extension of the Palazzo del Podestà, which had proven insufficient for the extensive requirements of the Commune of Bologna. The square ia therefore regularly referred to as Palatium Novum (“The New Palace”). The Torre dell’Arengo (Arengo Tower) stands dominantly over the New Palace. The bell within the tower was used to call people during emergencies.
The Fountain of Neptune sits beside the Palazzo del Podestà in Neptune Square (Piazza del Nettuno). Model Mermaids surround the 16th-century fountain topped with the bronze figure of Neptune, who is the Roman god of freshwater and the sea.

Fountain in Main Square, Bologna, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

The Fountain of Neptune

Built in 1287, the Palazzo D’accuriso Comunale (the Town Hall) belonged to the Accursio family, who were the highest magistrates of the commune. The building eventually became the seat of the government. The decorated façade features a portcullis and a Madonna with Child .
Clock Tower, Bologna, Italy

Bologna’s Town Hall

The sculpture outside of the Town Hall is inscribed with “Divus Petronius, Protector et Pater” commemorating the Bishop of the 5th century and the city patron.
Devus Petronius, Bologna main square, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

Commemorative sculpture outside the Town Hall

The Biblioteca Salaborsa is the main public library in Bologna that can also be found in Piazza Maggiore. A memorial to the Bolognans lost to World War II can be found outside the building. Visitors can enter the building for free and take advantage of a glass floor exposing an excavation of roman and medieval ruins.

War memorial, Bologna, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

Tribute to war victims

The Palazzo dei Banchi was the last palace built in Piazza Maggiore. The construction intended to hide the narrow streets of the market that once sat behind the building. It was designed by Vignola at the end of the 16th century. The facade is distinctively made up of 15 arcs. Exploring the Piazza Maggiore is one of the best things to do during 48 hours in Bologna.

Piazza Ravegnana

The Piazza Ravegnana is another square in the city that is home to the two towers. Both of towers stand above the surrounding buildings within the square, and both lean as other famous Italian structures do. The square and the towers are located at the intersection of roads that lead to the five gates of the old ring wall, also known as mura dei torresotti.

Leaning tower of Bologna, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

Bologna’s Leaning Towers

The Asinelli Tower is 97 meters high, and is the tallest tower in Bologna. The Garisenda, mentioned by Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy, is certainly the most leaning one. The names of the towers derive from families which are credited for their construction between 1109 and 1119.
Base of the Leaning Tower of Bologna, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

The leaning seen at the base

At the foot of both towers, there is a statue of Saint Petronius that was built for the Art of Drapers in 1683.
Tower in Bologna, Italy

A tribute to Saint Petronius

The construction of the two towers of Bologna was said to be a competition between the two families to show who was most powerful within the city.
Leaning tower of Bologna length ways, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

Massive towers above Piazza Ravegnana

An ancient church sits beside the towers that was built during the 5th century. The St. Bartolomeo church was built in Renaissance style and is a Roman Catholic church.

Church building in Bologna, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

St. Bartolomeo Church

Piazza Del Francia

The Neo-Renaissance Palazzo di Residenza della Cassa di Risparmio di Bologna building is a 19th-century palace located at the Piazza Del Francia. This beautiful building is the headquarters of the Cassa di Risparmio, one of Italy’s major banks. The bank’s location on the Via Farini is considered to be one of the most lucrative in Bologna.

Pink building facade in Bologna, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

The Cassa di Risparmio’s HQ building one a palace

If you’re looking for a less populated square housing other beautiful buildings, the architectural facades of the Palazzi del mengoni, delle poste (the post office) and zambeccari, can be found at the smaller Piazza Del Francia.
Piazza Del Francia, Bologna, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

Piazza Del Francia

As with most Mediterranean cities, beautifully carved facades can be found around every corner. Everything is decorated in beautiful Italian style. Shades of terracotta, pastel yellows, oranges and blues can be seen almost everywhere.

Yellow facade in Bologna, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

A beautifully decorated city

Ancient Roman ruins can be found if you look hard enough. You don’t need to go to Rome to see the rich history of Italia.

Ruins in Bologna, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

Roman ruins by the Central Train Station

After staying at the AC Marriott Bologna hotel, for a fair price of €60 per night, we were able to relax on our Italian rail trip in a nearby park beside the building. We enjoyed the flowers of spring as well as soaking up the Italian rays.
Daisy chains in park in Spring, Bologna, Italy, 48 hours in Bologna

Fun in the park

No 48 hours in Bologna would be complete without a little indulgence on Italian red wine which was incredibly cheap at a mere €1 per carton.
Wine picnic 48 hours in Bologna, Italy

A ‘wine picnic’

Overall, Bologna gave us a great cultural pit stop in the heart of Northern Italy. It is located away from the usual touristic cities and we recommend at least 48 hours in Bologna to see the magnificent buildings and to experience the stylish Italian student culture. Watch the pointing (and laughing) if you choose to wear flip-flops in this fashion conscious city!

Most bars compete with one another to offer customers the option of a free food buffet with any purchase of a drink for around €5 making it a budget friendly city.

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48 hours in Bologna, Italy

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Europe · Italy

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