Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

Two Days in Bologna Italy

Enjoy a Brief Visit to this Amazing City

Location: Bologna Italy

Two days isn’t really enough. But that is what we had so we made it work. We actually had a little more than two days, but we arrived in Bologna after a 32 hour travel day that started in Koh Chang Thailand. So by the time we got to our hotel, we were exhausted. But the next morning we hit the ground running, to see and do as much as we could with our remaining time – Two Days in Bologna Italy.

Beautiful Bologna

Three or Four Would Be Better

I wished we had three or four days, mostly so we could just wander. This beautiful and ancient city was a treasure of antiquities dating back thousands of years. In addition it’s a fabulous foodie city. And don’t forget about the shopping. In and around the ancient history, it has a hip and young vibe, and although we were there in the winter, it was alive with visitors and locals out enjoying the city, it’s food and it’s rustic beauty.

Lots of Italian Caffe gave us energy for Two Days in Bologna Italy

A Brief History (thank you Wikipedia)

Originally Etruscan, the city has been an important urban center for centuries, first under the Etruscans (who called it Felsina), then under the Celts as Bona, later under the Romans (Bonōnia), then again in the Middle Ages, as a free municipality and later signoria, when it was among the largest European cities by population. Famous for its towers, churches and lengthy porticoes, Bologna has a well-preserved historical center, thanks to a careful restoration and conservation policy which began at the end of the 1970s.

Every turn something old and beautiful

Where We Stayed

I loved our little Bed and Breakfast in the Santo Stefano Piazza. A perfect location to walk to all the historic sites and restaurants. The piazza itself is home to a lovely church, several restaurants and weekly vintage market. Our Bed and Breakfast called Casa Isolani was on the top attic floor of an ancient Palazzo, still owned by the original family. A new addition of an elevator takes you up three floors, but then you need to walk up two additional flights. Breakfast is included but down the street at a very popular Pasticceria Santo Stefano where every morning we enjoyed fabulous Italian coffee, juice and brioche.

Santo Stefano Basilica
View of Bologna from our room
Ancient Palazzo staircase in our hotel
Ancient beams in our room

How to See the City in Two Days

After breakfast we spent our first day exploring on foot using GPS My City – one of our favorite apps for getting around a new place. GPS My City/Bologna is an easy to follow guide to 13 of the most significant sites within Bologna’s historic center. We spent several hours enjoying the sites using GPS My City. We missed a couple, but here are our favorites we did on day one;

GPS My City Bologna

Piazza Maggiore – Bologna’s main square, a gathering place for centuries, is home to multiple landmarks. Don’t miss the astonishing Basilica of San Petronio, the Notary Palace, the Clock Tower, the Accursio Palace/Salaborsa Library, and the Bianchi Palace. Music and festivals happen here throughout the year and the piazza is home to many shops and restaurants. It is the place to see and be seen.

Neptune Fountain – a major landmark of the Piazza Maggiore is the Neptune Fountain. The bronze statue of Neptune was completed in 1566 to commemorate the election of Pope Pius IV. Most local walking tours meet and start at the foot of the Neptune Fountain.

Basilica of San Petronio
Neptune Fountain


Basilica of San Petronio – This church which dominates the Piazza Maggiore was begun in 1390 but the exterior was never completed. But be sure to go inside – the soaring vaulted ceilings are amazing.

Saint Peter Cathedral – a church has stood on this site since 1028. The current church was built in 1184 with additions and changes made to the Baroque church multiple times through the centuries.

Basillica of San Petronio
Cathedral of Saint Peter

The Towers

Asinelle and Garisendo Towers – Via Rizzoli (Rizzoli Street) is a major thoroughfare that links Piazzo Maggiore to the Two Towers; Asinelle and Garisendo. These ancient leaning structures are named after the families who built them. In the photo below, there is an artists rendition of what Bologna may have looked like in ancient times when an estimated 180 towers existed. Both for defensive purposes but also for rich families to show off – each trying to build their tower taller than their neighbor. Only a handful of towers remain, with the Asinelle and it’s shorter neighbor the Garisendo the most famous.

The Asinelle Tower is 97 meters and is the tallest leaning tower in Italy with a 1.3 degree slope. The Garisendo Tower is currently 48 meters. Originally 60 meters, it was lowered in the 14th century when it’s slope became dangerous.

Unfortunately neither tower are open to the public. Asinelle was closed recently and the ground around the towers is currently being stabilized in hopes of saving both towers. It is unknown if the public will be able to access the towers (Asinelle has 496 wooden steps to the top) in the future.

Artist depiction of medieval Bologna towers
The towers today undergoing structural work

On day one we also did a little shopping, had a manicure and got my hair cut! It was a busy day.

Delicious Bologna Specialties


Mortadella Bologna is one of this regions most well known specialties. And if you, like me, grew up on American style Boloney sandwiches you need to be re-educated. Mortadella Bologna is a delicious, soft and sweet ground pork style cured meat. The name derives from the ancient use of a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients. This is not American bologna. It’s ubiquitous around the city and easy to find good quality delicious mortadella sandwiches, charcuterie, pizza and more. A must when in Bologna.

Amazing mortadella
Open wide, so delicious


Parmagiano Reggiano – Italian Parmigiano Reggiano can only be produced from the milk of cows that feed in a strictly defined area between the cities of Parma, Reggio, Modena, Bologna, and Mantova. The first record of Parmigiano-Reggiano making is from 1254. Throughout Bologna you will find delicious parmigiana. We stopped for wine and cheese at Simoni, a famous producer and distributor in Bologna. I really wanted to take an entire wheel home with me.


Bolognese – well you can’t visit Bologna without eating Bolognese. One of my favorite things to eat when I am in Italy, but I rarely order it in the USA. There is just something about the way the Italians make this rich and delicious meat sauce, served at La Trattoria Del Tempo Buono over homemade tagliatelle

Wine and Parmigiana at Simoni
Bolognese at La Trattoria

Day Two

Despite some rain in the morning, we set out on day two to climb to the Sanctuary of San Luca . The climb is the amazing part of this destination, although the cathedral at the top is also beautiful. However, from our hotel in Santo Stefano Piazzo we walked the four miles to San Luca with 95% of the walk being undercover in Bologna’s famous porticoes. Bologna’s Tourist Website says;


The Sanctuary of San Luca, located on Colle della Guardia, has been the symbol of Bologna as well as a place of religious worship for centuries. It is connected to the city centre by a road that, starting from Porta Saragozza, unwinds for four kilometers with a portico that boasts over 600 archways and is the longest in the world. Together with the other city porticoes, it was included in UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2021.

Sanctuary San Luca (Canva)

The portico started being built in 1674 and, during Ascension week, a procession has been walking along it carrying the Byzantine Madonna with Child to the Cathedral since 1433. The Sanctuary church was, however, built later in the 18th century to replace a previous 15th-century construction. 

The sanctuary offers marvelous views over the surrounding landscape. In addition, the panoramic terrace opened in 2017 at a height of 42 metres above Colle della Guardia (300 m asl), enables visitors to admire a unique 180° view of Bologna from the hills to the centre stretching out as far as Casalecchio di Reno.”

The View

Portico Climb

It was a fascinating way to see this ancient part of the city, all under cover so perfect no matter what the weather. It’s a workout too. We were doing the climb on a Saturday, and lots of locals use this climb for their weekend run, hike and even cycle. The view from the top was bellisima!

Sanctuary San Luca

Returning back down to the city we visited the Mercato di Mezzo, a lovely market with gorgeous fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese, fish, meat and fresh pasta. We worked up an appetite for our next excursion, a food tour.

Mercato produce

Food Tour

We spent the evening with Tours and the City a local company providing walking food tours in Bologna and elsewhere in Italy. Our guide was great and she helped us learn more about the wonderful foods of this region of Italy. We tried new-to-us things like Tigelle and Lambrusco and had lots mortadella, prosciutto, parmigiana, pasta and gelato too. I definitely recommend doing a food tour to get a wide understanding of the delicious and varied foods of this region.


Final Night

Yep – we did all of that in two days. It really was too brief, but if you only have Two Days in Bologna Italy, you can enjoy it. I highly recommend the food tour, and the GPS My City tour. Don’t miss the porticoes and San Luca, and eat everything you can!

Portico in Santo Stefano Piazza

Two Days in Bologna Italy

I have traveled a lot in Italy over the past forty plus years, but had never made it to Bologna. In fact only recently has Bologna gotten on my radar. It’s the lesser known city with most tourists hitting Florence, Rome, Venice and Milan. I’ve been to all of those and I have to say Bologna has just as much to offer with incredible history and delicious food and an ancient beauty all it’s own. It’s time to get Bologna on your travel radar. Next time I will definitely stay longer.

Thank you for reading my post Two Days in Bologna Italy. See last week’s post Sometimes We Enjoy a Travel Perk or Two here. Be sure to keep following for more about our Italy adventures – coming up next week our visit to San Marino.

This week’s book review After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell

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  • Reply Janey Mccormick

    You are killing me!!! One of my new friends while staying in Assisi was living in Bologna while her husband worked there. I didn’t get to go there but I felt like I had after listening to all her stories. I’m dying for the foods in Italy after reading this post! And wondering…are y’all going to back to tuscany at all? If so you MUST visit Vicopisano and my friends Marie and Lorenzo! @authentictuscany. She was my landlord while I was traveling around tuscany. Lisa stayed there with me too!
    She’s got a lot of apts and b&bs and provides lots of great tours. Plus she is a sweetheart!!

    February 23, 2024 at 2:45 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      The food is amazing isn’t it? We will not be visiting Tuscany this time. But I’m sure we will again in the future so I will hang on to this information. Thanks for always supporting the blog!! ♥️

      February 23, 2024 at 11:31 pm
  • Reply Lisa Bundesen

    Great itinerary. The Bed and Breakfast you stayed in looks amazing. I love staying in authentic places. And great food experiences are always on our list of things to do.

    February 24, 2024 at 12:37 am
    • Reply Laureen

      Thanks so much!

      February 24, 2024 at 1:16 am
  • Reply Tigrest

    Just love Italy!!! The food, coffee, beautiful architecture, museums, churches… Bologna looks stunning, need to visit this city one day

    February 24, 2024 at 2:28 am
    • Reply Laureen

      It was a great surprise!

      February 24, 2024 at 12:40 pm
  • Reply Zara

    This looks like foodie paradise! Must add to my list, so I can eat my way around this city!

    February 24, 2024 at 3:12 am
    • Reply Laureen

      My kind of city!

      February 24, 2024 at 12:39 pm
  • Reply Sonia

    I love the look of the B&B you stayed in. The Portico looks like a fun climb and great way to explore the city.

    February 24, 2024 at 5:47 am
  • Reply Terri

    I have wanted to visit Bologna since my friend enrolled in Italian classes and spent a month in the city. You travel like I do – pack in everything in 48 hours if you don’t have an extended visit. Great post.

    February 24, 2024 at 6:40 am
  • Reply Linda (LD Holland)

    Your post brought back so many great memories of Bologna. We would have wanted more days to enjoy more of the great food of this region. A food tour in the city would be amazing. Definitely on our list for a return visit.

    February 24, 2024 at 1:45 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      The food was the best!

      February 25, 2024 at 2:34 am
  • Reply Laura Deaton

    Your post has really inspired us to go to Bologna someday. Great Airbnb. Thanks for the great tip about the GPS CityTour app, too! We also are traveling Europe right now (southern Spain and southern France) in the off-season. We are off to see Avignon in a few days and we will use the app. Enjoy Sicily—we are following your journey!

    February 24, 2024 at 10:47 pm
    • Reply Laureen

      Thanks so much. We find GPS My City available in many places. Enjoy and be safe!

      February 25, 2024 at 2:35 am

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