Planning a day trip to Bologna? There are at least seven downtown sites you must see, and the Asinelli Tower is just one of them.

May of Bologna’s beautiful sites are found in the city center and can be easily visited on foot. It may therefore be a perfect stop for a hit-and-run visit: the capital of Emilia is so beautiful and has such a strong identity that, even if you’re short on time, you will still enjoy a full immersion in the culture and spirit of the place. So here are the seven steps not to be missed to visit Bologna in one day and enjoy an excellent budget meal downtown.

1. Bologna on foot: towards Piazza del Nettuno

The first stop is Piazza del Nettuno: anyone visiting Bologna must see it at least once and sit on the steps of Sala Borsa or San Petronio and admire the square. From Central Station, it’s a 15-minute walk under the distinctive Via dell’Indipendenza porticoes and you’re there.

Bologna in un giorno Piazza del Nettuno

This is the heart of the downtown district. Along with the beauty of the square, you’ll appreciate Bologna’s iconic fountain, topped by a Giambologna’s bronze statue depicting the Greek god of the sea.

If you suddenly feel peckish, just a 14-minute walk from Piazza del Nettuno you will find Osteria di Santa Caterina, on Via Saragozza. Its marble countertop will take you back to the typical atmosphere of the most gluttonous and traditional Bologna eateries. The slicing machine on display is now a legendary icon that beckons to the regulars, and you, too, will look forward to seeing it in operation and sampling the city’s delicacies. Mortadella? Did someone say mortadella?

2. A touch of culture: Sala Borsa

Bologna in un giorno Sala Borsa

© Gianfranco Goria via Flickr

In Neptune Square stands Sala Borsa, one of the favorite haunts of Bologna’s locals: a huge public library in which to read books, magazines, and newspapers, listen to music, or just stop and sit in the armchairs.

During warm weather, you can rest while sitting on the huge steps leading up to its entrance or, given the extreme friendliness of the city’s inhabitants, simply chat with those sitting next to you.

3. Piazza Maggiore, San Petronio and Via delle Pescherie Vecchie

Bologna in un giorno Basilica di San Petronio

As you leave the Sala Borsa, you cannot help but head toward Piazza Maggiore, and the imposing Basilica of San Petronio will catch your gaze. This is the true ancient heart of the city: continue your itinerary along Via D’Azeglio or on to Via delle Pescherie Vecchie, where you can admire the charm of the historical fruit, vegetable, and spice stores, restored in all their charm.

If you love take-out specialties, you are in the right place: street food in Bologna offers tantalizing treats of all kinds. To appreciate this diversity, we recommend that you take advantage of our selection of addresses for eating well while spending little – satisfaction is guaranteed!

4. The two Towers, Bologna’s quintessential symbol

In less than five minutes from via delle Pescherie Vecchie, skirting the Jewish Quarter, you will find yourself under the city’s two iconic Towers. The lower one is the Garisenda, and the taller one is known as the Torre degli Asinelli, reliable landmarks that enable any tourist (as well as the townspeople themselves) to find their way around the city center.

Bologna in un giorno Torre degli Asinelli e Garisenda

How to organize your visit to Bologna’s Towers

The Asinelli Tower is open every day, from 9.30 am to 7.30 pm from March to October and from 9.30 am to 5.45 pm in the winter months. You can climb all the way to the top: tackling the stairs for about twenty minutes will definitely be tiring, but the stunning all-round cityscape will reward you!

5. Piazza Santo Stefano and the Seven Churches, among the most beautiful places in Bologna

At this point, it’s so close that you must make another stop and explore this place of rare beauty. In about five minutes, you’ll reach Piazza Santo Stefano, where the “Seven Churches” complex stands: a basilica that contains six others from different periods. A truly unique place in the world.

Bologna in un giorno Piazza Santo Stefano

Time for a break? This is the place to be: a stone’s throw from Piazza Santo Stefano, you find “Stefino”, probably the most popular ice cream shop in the entire city, famous for its organic ice cream and the novel inventiveness of some of its flavors. If you’re traditionally inclined, play it safe with plain vanilla; otherwise, try wasabi or lemon and basil: a delicacy indeed!

Bologna in un giorno Gelateria Stefino

© Gelateria Stefino Bologna

6. Explore Bologna’s Music Museum

Bologna in un giorno Museo della Musica

© Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica

If you are a music lover, you definitely must include visit to Palazzo Sanguinetti. Accessible from Strada Maggiore, always in the center, the palazzo houses the International Museum and Library of Music. Admire musical instruments from various eras and original scores in detail at first hand, you will be amazed!

7. Walks in green surroundings: Bologna’s Margherita Gardens

No doubt Bologna has fully captivated you by now! However, you also deserve a break amidst relaxing greenery after many architectural and artistic wonders. No problem: a fifteen-minute walk along Via Castiglione from Strada Maggiore will take you to the Margherita Gardens, where many of Bologna’s urbanites spend their free time during balmy days.

Bologna in un giorno Giardini Margherita

© Mapio

The best way to enjoy them is to stretch out on the lawn and enjoy the moment of relaxation, but you can also take advantage of the benches set up along the ponds or take a walk among the shady paths. If you are looking for the right atmosphere for a weekend as a couple, do not miss our suggestions on Bologna’s most romantic getaways! If you then linger until the evening and feel like dining with some traditional fare, all you have to do is try tortellini in Bologna’s best restaurants.

What you must see in Bologna: our short list

Here is a one-day itinerary to visit seven sites Bologna:

  1. Piazza del Nettuno
  2. Sala Borsa
  3. Piazza Maggiore, San Petronio and via delle Pescherie Vecchie
  4. The two Towers
  5. Piazza Santo Stefano and the Seven Churches
  6. The Music Museum
  7. Margherita Gardens

Reaching Bologna by train

Are you looking forward to a tour of the city, or you plan to attend a business event, such as a meeting at Bologna’s Fico Park? Every day, Italo provides you with more than 60 trains to Bologna from Brescia, Florence, Milan, Naples, Padua, Reggio Emilia, Rome, Salerno, Turin, Venice, Verona and Ferrara. In short, you have the itinerary, and all the connections you need (from Milan to Bologna it only takes 1 hour and 14 minutes, from Rome to Bologna 2 hours and 15!), and that’s before the discounts (for example, the offers on the trains for Carnival time!) – now it’s up to you! Have a good trip!