THE LOCALS: Angela and Serena
WHY YOU SHOULD TRUST THEM: Angela has lived off and on in Bologna for over five years. Although she and her boyfriend have lived elsewhere, he is a real Bolognese, so Bologna “called back” after being away for a while. Serena was born in the area outside Bologna, but lived in the city throughout high school and University. She now lives further away, but Bologna is her favorite city in the world so goes back as often as she can!
1. Favorite place to stroll?
Angela: Around the city centre, you can witness amazing scenery with every step. I love getting lost in the small streets close to Piazza Maggiore, smelling the street food and feeling hungry at every hour of the day! One of my favorites is Via Cartolerie.
Serena: Via Indipendenza, the area underneath and around the Torri (towers) and Piazza Santo Stefano are the best places to wander. That area is also very close to the old University buildings and is a great spot to see all of the historical buildings of Bologna.
2. Best coffee shop or bakery?
3. Essential Bologna tip?
It’s very hard to enjoy the cuisine of Bologna if you’re a vegetarian; pork is a very prevalent ingredient in the local cuisine and the way it’s cooked is absolutely delicious! Be prepared to walk a lot- in our opinion, it’s best way to enjoy the city. Bologna is also very close to several other beautiful cities, so after a couple of days exploring the city, we recommend visiting other Italian towns nearby. Florence is only a 30 minute train ride away; Venice and Ferrara are only an hour away by train. If you plan to stay for a week or so but want a “home base”, Bologna is the perfect central point so that you can take day trips to other cities or plan a road trip of the countryside.
4. Local food/drink you must try?
There are so many local foods you should try! We recommend Mortadella (or any type of salami/prosciutto/ cured meat), Tortellini in Brodo, and either Sangiovese or Lambrusco wine. Pastas to try are Lasagne alla Bolognese or Tagliatelle con ragu’ alla Bolognese. Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma are also local specialties that you can find almost anywhere in the city. If you can, you should try Tigelle and Crescentine, which are typical Bolognese dishes. These are dishes that are eaten at most family meals, but the restaurants that offer then usually overcharge, so if you have an opportunity to try them at a local’s home, do it!
5. Your recommended Saturday night agenda?
7-8PM: Aperitivo and dinner at Mercato delle erbe
11PM: Drinks at a bar/club/cafe in Via del Pratello
In the summertime, a nice place to do everything in one place is Le Serre dei Giardini Margherita, inside the greenhouses of the Margherita gardens. They have a florist, a small restaurant, tables outside for alfresco dining and drinks, and they often have concerts or movies playing there. Locals simply call it ‘Le serre’.
TripAdvisor’s Top Bologna Attractions
1. Basilica – Santuario di Santo Stefano– Big thumbs up! The church is in the most beautiful piazza of the city. The church has a great history and beautiful frescos inside.
2. Piazza Maggiore- Thumbs UP UP UP! A beautiful square that is very touristy but is never completely packed. The square is surrounded by the Duomo of Bologna (Basilica of San Petronio), the former city hall, the former banking offices and the former police station; in the center is the Fountain of Neptune.
3. Torri degli Asinelli e Garisenda– Thumbs Up! From the Torre degli Asinelli (or the Towers of Bologna, as they’re also called) there are beautiful views of the city. The two medieval towers were built between 1109 and 1119 in the middle of Porta Ravegnana.
4. Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vita– Thumbs Up!
5. Santuario di Madonna di San Luca– Thumbs Up!!! This is a symbol of the city and is worth the trek up the hill. If you’re not interested or able to walk, you can drive there too!! The most direct way to reach the basilica is on the San Luca Express, a tourist ‘train’ that leaves Piazza Maggiore six times daily, four days a week during peak tourist season.
Did TripAdvisor miss any top attractions? Would you add any to the list?
I would add the buildings of the old University, like the Archiginnasio. There’s a lot of history to learn and see there, including an anatomical theatre from the 1600s!
Bologna Locals Favorite Restaurants
- Il Posto: Amazing, traditional restaurant but with very original food. In our opinion, Il Posto has the best food for the price you pay and and is our favorite restaurant in Bologna!
- Osteria Bottega
- Pizzeria Regina Sofia
- Tamburini- A family-owned salumeria that is perfect for a panino with mortadella for lunch or some take away cured meat; in the evening, they open to the public and you can order platters with salumi (cured meat) that they make in-house paired with a wine from the region.
- Vito: Very good local food, but we don’t know if it’s tourist-friendly… in fact, the staff can be quite rude and we’re not sure if they speak English. If you’re up for the adventure, give it a try!