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24 Hours In Bologna

Bologna oozes charm and la dolce vita, but what if you only had one day in Bologna to appreciate all of its good food, good wine and beauty? Here’s a local guide to 24 hours in Bologna, so you can experience as much of the best of this small, but perfectly formed, city in the short time you have. Who knows, you might just end up staying longer!

By Marina Nasi 


Breakfast with the Emperor

Via Caprarie's Pasticceria Impero is conveniently located next to the Two Towers and Piazza della Mercanzia, it serves some seriously good pastries (I'm a sucker for their very own “sweet polenta and raisin”). Avoid the busy and noisy inside rooms and go sit by the outside tables, where you can catch a glimpse of the happy morning crowd of the area: a few workers, some tourists and the lucky locals that can afford a morning stroll and grocery shopping by the Quadrilatero, which is just in front of you.

Culture meets beauty

Walk all the way through Via Orefici and there you are on Piazza Maggiore, Bologna's main square. Enjoy the massive (and weirdly unfinished-looking façade of) San Petronio church and the charming Palazzo D'accursio aka the Town Hall (check the stone sofas in the yard and the long staircases that were originally were made for horses), and admire the freshly restored Neptune Statue. But the true gem, a few steps away, is Archiginnasio, the first headquarters of Bologna's historical University and a jewel of a building. Don't miss the wooden, beautiful library and the old anatomical theatre. 

Grocery shopping with a camera

Now it's time to soak up aromas of parmesan, mortadella, ham, fresh fruits and even fish. Back to the Quadrilatero, pay a visit to old style baker Atti,  get lost between the little decorated stalls of Via Pescherie Vecchie, buy some serious cheese or charcuterie at Simoni, turn into Vicolo Ranocchi and enter Bologna's oldest osteria, Osteria del Sole, where the elderly play cards during the day and hipsters have apertivo at night, and where you can only order wine. Food can be brought in from the outside, try the slightly touristy but still solid Mercato di mezzo and I recommend you to be eat your lunch here; no one will judge you if you grab a slice of mortadella with one hand and devour it with some crescentina bread. Actually, they will think: “One of us!”. Or, if you want a more structured but still fun and cozy option, go for Mercato delle Erbe on Via Ugo Bassi: fresh pasta, good pizza, veggie options and street food ins

Coffee and a bike

Bologna doesn't seem to be particularly affected by this whole “third wave coffee” trend that's so popular in other countries, but this is still Italy, right?Which means, great espresso. The greatest in town is at fancy little Caffè Terzi on Via Oberdan. Then you can rent a bike at the “bike station” Dynamo and either keep exploring on your own (cycle lanes aren't everywhere and drivers aren't super respectful of bikers, so pay extra attention please) or head straight to Giardini Magherita. Here, in the central city main park, you can relax with a book or nap under a tree, or lounge by the cool Le Serre dei Giardini, a glass-walled little cafe surrounded by plants and an edible garden. Also a great place for kids. What did you say, “It's gelato time?”. Sure, the closest gelaterias to the garden are Sorbetteria Castiglione (very good) and Cremeria Santo Stefano (magnificent).

Aperitivo with a view

Bologna's most charming square Piazza Santo Stefano (whose church is definitely worth a visit if you still have energy to explore) is even more beautiful when the light starts fading and it also has many options for a classy aperitivo. You can sit at the elegantly old-style Camera con vista (meaning “room with a view”), sip the local white wine pignoletto at the renewed vinery Favalli or have a cocktail at the little and pretty Vitale e Agricola. Dinner options in the city centre include the traditional restaurant Grassilli, “traditional with a twist” Vicolo Colombina, the lovely and little Sette Tavoli and tiny and cool (and very good) Twinside.  

Drink, dance or “bella figura”?

After dinner, it's a matter of what you want to do. Hip Via Belvedere is packed with bars and people wanting to be seen and meet friends. Wine is abundant and most people are in their thirties and forties. You’ll find a much younger (literally and at heart) crowd at close-by Via del Pratello, a long and iconic pedestrian street where many popular and affordable bars are located. A similar but more strictly studenty vibe is in the area between Via delle Moline and Via Mascarella: get lost at the little independent bookshop Modo, while its adjacent bar L'Ortica is an everybody's favorite. Scruffy but nice. Want to dance? Students go to L'Arteria, live music lovers opt for Locomotiv Club and Binario 66, while Studio 54 has an edgier and slightly more adult vibe. Also, starting in May, a season of open air festivals starts - check the programs of Kilowatt Summer, Parco del Cavaticcio and Biografilm Festival. 

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Time flew by and it's already time for a sunrise breakfast? Students' classic Bombocrep 2 serves crêpes all night and, not too far, Al Mi Furner has freshly baked croissants. Or for a real local vibe, head home where you can order a cornetto at your place from Just Eat!