A first impression of Bologna leaves you wanting to explore the entire city completely. From the famous two towers of Bologna to the outdoor markets of Bologna, there’s so much to see around the medieval and historic central district of the city.
I’ve always heard about this gorgeous medieval city of Bologna, the regional capital of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, but I never had the right opportunity to visit the area. Finally when the right occasion dropped into my lap, I quickly jumped at the opportunity and made plans to visit and experience all the attractions, activities, cuisine and landmarks in the city. I totally loved every facet exploring Bologna and it was more than what I expected in visiting this colorful city and its medieval center. Check out all the highlights of A first impression of Bologna in Emilia Romagna – it’s definitely worth a visit if you are in the regional capital.
What to do and see in Bologna
The first views of a city to me always makes an instant impression and coming out of the main railway station at Bologna was almost overwhelming – all the noise, the crowded exits and bustling energy – walking out into the main artery leading into the central district for the first time was quite exciting and visually stimulating. Old neoclassical buildings, mixed in with medieval architecture and then juxtaposed with 70s to 80s bland boxed buildings were all blaring out at me and giving me a wonderful first flavor of the city.
I followed my guide Catia, who was escorting me to my hotel on the outer edge of the historic district and soon enough we cross some of the many unique porticoes that the city is known for.
Walking through Bologna’s graceful porticos
Passing through a series of arcades, I was in awe of these grand porticoes, some very simple, some very ornate and painted in fine details. It was amazing to walking through them, I wanted to stop every few steps to take a picture. But I let things sly and just enjoyed the experience and looking up at all these artistic details and flourishes. I knew that I would eventually get to explore most of them and never tire from the novelty of each arcade and destination.
Exploring the university area of the historic district
Exploring Piazza del Maggiore
We entered many piazzas and then a grand piazza that I knew I would be passing through regularly. Of all the Bologna attractions, the Piazza del Maggiore stood out immediately. A grand square with many of the medieval landmarks surrounds the historic center of Bologna. Here lies the unfinished basilica San Petronio and the various pallazos that mark the government buildings and monuments that surround the piazza in all this medieval glory – I know I will be coming here regularly in the next few days and will be well acquainted with all the grand boulevards that lead into this piazza.
Adjacent to Piazza Maggiore is the another famous Bologna site, the Piazza del Nettunno which houses the grand fountain dedicated to the god Neptune and surrounded by more magnificent medieval buildings that house the main library – Sala Borsa, the tourism office – Bologna Welcome and other city government offices.
A tunnel view to Neptune’s fountain
It seems like my hotel is on the extreme opposite of the railway station, but no worries, I’m enjoying seeing these amazing buildings, art and architecture. We pass by so many ancient and impressive structures and I’m hopeful that I will get to visit and learn a little more about them on my discovery tour of Bologna, and so far I’m quite amazed by the grandness of this city.
Hotel accommodations in Bologna
We finally come to my hotel, the Hotel Touring which is known for a beautiful rooftop garden and magnificent view of the city, so I’m just dying to make it up to see the city from high above and try to decipher the layout and landmarks of the city. But first my room is calling for me to settle in, unwind and maybe take a quick nap before I head on out again to explore in more detail. I drop all my heavy belongings and explore the bedroom interiors – its plush and comfortable. The bathroom is modern and has all the right ammenities even a dual shower head from above and coming from the side walls which I must try. The best feature is the fluffy and inviting bed and of course I jump right into the middle to test the soft bouncy factor and it is quite devine – I think I will take a very short nap just to refresh and then take on the city fully charged.
Additional places to stay in Bologna
There’s so many fantastic choices of places to enjoy and base yourself in the city which is walkable, so being central is key in visiting all the main attractions and markets in town. Here are some of our favorites below.
Located in the historic district and a four star hotel with excellent and comfortable rooms, breakfast service and even a top level hot tub with views for soaking away your tired feet at the end of the day.
Located in a two hectare park, gorgeous swimming pool and grounds, this elegant boutique hotel is comfortable, family friendly and includes a breakfast service. In a more quiet and residential area but still accessible to public transportation, it is a haven in a dense and noisy city to explore and base yourself in.
Located next to the central railway station and a short walk to the historic district, the convenience of this modern and comfortable hotel makes it an easy stay at very affordable prices.
Check out some of these other best rated hotels and inns here for current prices and availability while staying in Bologna.
Looking for a place to eat in Bologna
I’ve heard so much about Bologna being a fantastic food scene with plenty of outdoor markets, food specialty vendors and amazing restaurants to try. I asked the concierge about visiting the famous public markets and they suggested I go to the old market called the Quadrilatero just off the main square at Piazza del Maggiore. After entering the square, it was not hard to find the side streets leading to the market area and it was quite lively even late in the afternoon to evening timeframe with market stalls still open for business. I check out the colorful stalls and enter a few food shops and check out some menus before I decide to eat at a restaurant with some outdoor seating. This definitely was the place to see and be seen at night time with music, entertainers and other live acts happen right on the streets and its fun to just explore the area and find a place that appeals to your own sense of adventure.
10 foods to eat in Bologna
Check out this video of some of the secret places and foods to eat in Bologna
Conclusion to my first impression of Bologna
I’m glad I had accommodations close to the historic district and everything was walkable from my hotel. I could see that there are so many wonderful venues, museums and places to visit in the historic district and areas around the city. I’m sure you will also find Bologna to be charming, intimate and filled with fun things to do and explore in this lively city.
If you enjoyed this, check out these other Bologna posts
Visiting Bologna’s outdoor markets and specialty food venues
Bologna agriturismo tour and cooking class
5 reasons to visit Bologna with kids
Conclusion to a first impression of Bologna in Emilia Romagna
I hope you enjoyed this first impression of the city of Bologna in Emilia Romagna, stay tuned for more discoveries and exciting tours of the city in my upcoming articles. If you enjoyed this post, please do share it with any of the social media buttons around the post, thank you.
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Beautiful Bologna, the hot tub would be a great amenity for this time of year.
Your photos are too dreamy and made me feel as if I was right there. Oh how I’d love to do a photography course with you Noel! Never been to Bologna, but it looks so beautiful – medieval and sophisticated too. Do I follow you on Instagram? I’m at Lifestyle Fifty (will follow you back)
Noel, it looks like you found plenty of lens candy in Bologna and, as usual, did it justice.
Wait till you see my post on the markets and specialty food venues of Bologna – totally mouth watering good!
So beautiful. I felt like I was there as I looked at your photos and read your blog!!
Stunning photos! Now I really can’t wait to be in Italy in May.
I have been following your trip on Instagram! Love your photos!
All I want to say is you’re full of Bologna! I love historic cities and architecture. Bologna’s arches are wonderful. Great photos as always.
Bologna is on my bucket list radar and now so is Hotel Touring!
I loved Bologna. Hope you enjoy it (especially the food!)
I have yet to visit Bologna. Your first photo is terrific. Italy is certainly a country I’d like to spend time in – for the photographic opportunities alone. I look at yout photos of all the grand buildings and have a hard time imagining how the place looked when it was being built.
Bologna sounds like a city where you just have to put away your camera for the first day and just absorb the sights, sounds, crowds and amazing beauty and sights. And then, take some gorgeous photos to share with the rest of us who haven’t made it there yet! Magnificent and I can’t wait to see it…
the place looks so grand. Gorgeous photos
The ceiling of the arches are beautiful! The roof tops of the European cities are always a worthy and interesting view! I can imagine Italy is beginning to grow on you:)
Beautiful photos, Noel! You’ve inspired me to add Bologna to my travel list ~
I love getting sneak previews of a square and your through the tunnel shot is a shot to inspire my curiosity. Emilia Romagna looks very promising. 🙂