Are you planning to spend 2 days in Bologna? We’re sharing a complete 2-day itinerary in this guide.
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia Romagna and is also known as “Italy’s Foodie City.” The region is home to Italian classics, such as Parmesan cheese, Prosciutto, Mortadella, Balsamic Vinegar, and well-known pastas like lasagne and ragu.
While food is the main lure to Bologna, the city is also home to incredible medieval architecture, gorgeous palaces, and plenty of historic sites.
We spent over two months exploring the best of Bologna, and we have curated this 2-day Bologna itinerary, so you can experience a mix of both cuisine and history.
This guide includes the best things to do in Bologna in 2 days, our favorite restaurants, and practical information to help you have the best experience.
2 Days in Bologna Itinerary Overview
Here is an overview of the best things to do in Bologna in 2 days. These are all included in this itinerary.
- Bologna Food Tour
- Piazza Maggiore
- Neptune’s Fountain
- Basilica di San Petronio
- Archiginnasio Palace
- Asinelli Tower
- Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca
- Palazzo d’Accursio & Clock Tower
- Seven Churches of Santo Stefano
- La Piccola Venezia
Day 1 Bologna Itinerary
Day 1 Overview: Food Tour, Piazza Maggiore, Archiginnasio Palace, and the Asinelli Tower
Go on a food tour
The first thing we recommend to anyone visiting Bologna is to go on a food tour. Since Bologna is known as the food capital of Italy, what better way to get a taste of the local cuisine than with an expert guide?
We have taken this Classic Bologna Food Tour twice, and we loved the variety of foods we got to try.
On the tour, you’ll try some delicious local coffee, meet sfoglinas (pasta makers), walk through the market, visit the oldest bar in Bologna, taste some tagliatelle al ragu, and learn about the history of the city while you’re at it.
Spoiler alert – you’ll be extremely full by the end of the tour!
Book our favorite Food Tour in Bologna here!
Walk around Piazza Maggiore
Piazza Maggiore is Bologna’s main square and it dates back to the middle ages. The piazza is surrounded by magnificent buildings, from the Palazzo re Enzo to Palazzo d’Accursio and the Basilica di San Petronio.
One of the main attractions in the Piazza Maggiore is Neptune’s Fountain located in a corner of the square called Piazza del Nettuno. This fountain was commissioned in the 15th century by the Pope and stands as a symbolic reminder of the power of the Catholic church.
Look closely and you’ll notice the trident in Neptune’s hand may look a bit familiar. That’s because the Maserati car logo was inspired by the trident.
One of the best places to people watch and take it easy in Bologna is at one of the many bars surrounding Piazza Maggiore. Grab a drink, like a classic Aperol Spritz, or a local wine like Pignoletto, and enjoy La Dolce Vita.
READ ALSO: Best Things to do in Bologna
Go inside Basilica di San Petronio
At the center of Piazza Maggiore is one of the largest churches in the world – Basilica di San Petronio. Construction on the church started in the late 14th century, but it was never completed.
On the exterior facade the lower half is made of pink and white marble, but the upper half is made of exposed brick. There are rumors that the Pope was worried the church would be larger than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, hence, it was never finished.
There are a couple of things worth seeing inside of the basilica.
The first is the 67-meter-long meridian line that was designed by Gian Domenico Cassini.
Around noon everyday there is a small circular light that shines on the line. It changes position depending on the time of year and the location of the sun.
Second, for a small fee, you can pay to visit the Chapel of the Magi inside of the church. Inside of the chapel is a famous fresco by Giovanni di Pietro called “Heaven and Hell.”
This controversial depiction of Dante’s “Inferno” shows Lucifer in the form of a giant monster-like creature eating people who are suffering in hell with saints looking down from heaven above. It’s worth a visit in our opinion.
Opening hours: Everyday from 8:30 am – 1:00 pm / 2:30 pm – 6:00 pm
Ticket price: Access to the main church is free. €5 fee to visit the museum, which includes Magi’s Chapel (Bolognini), Saint Sebastian’s Chapel, Saint Vincent Chapel
Address: Piazza Maggiore, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy
Visit the Archiginnasio Palace
The Archiginnasio Palace is one of the top things to see in Bologna. The 16th century palace is home to the original University of Bologna, which is the oldest university in the world.
Inside, you can visit the Anatomical Theater, a gorgeous room made of wood paneling and wooden sculptures. This is where anatomy lectures were once held, which is made obvious by the “Skinned Men” statues and the marble table at the center of the room where they would dissect corpses.
At the other end of the palace is Stabat Mater Hall – another magnificent room. Law classes were held in this room, and today conferences and other lectures are hosted here.
Inside of this room, you can peek into the Municipal Library. Unfortunately, you can’t walk through the library as this is only available to students.
Take your time to wander through the halls of the palace and admire the hundreds of coats of arms painted on the walls. These represent students that attended the university from the 16th to 18th centuries.
Reserve your time slot at the official website, or purchase your tickets on the second level of the palace. We recommend purchasing in advance if you’re visiting during the high season (June to September).
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Ticket prices: €3 per person
Address: Piazza Galvani, 1, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy
Climb the Asinelli Tower
Did you know there used to be around 180 towers in the historic center of Bologna? These tall and thin towers were privately owned by prosperous families and were built to represent the family’s wealth status.
Today, only a few towers remain in Bologna, and the tallest one is the Asinelli Tower. This tower is 97.2 meters tall, and you can climb the 498 steps to the top for spectacular views overlooking the orange-hued roofs of the city and surrounding hills.
We suggest doing this near the end of the day for the best sunset views and lighting. Don’t forget your camera!
Next to the Asinelli Tower is the Garisenda tower. Officials have feared that this smaller, leaning tower would collapse since the 14th century, but it hasn’t yet!
Together, these towers are know as Le Due Torri, or two towers. They are easy to spot no matter where you are in the city.
Book your tickets for the Due Torri online at the official website. We highly recommend reserving in advance, as time slots book up quickly.
Opening hours: 10:00am – 5:15pm (fall and winter hours vary)
Ticket price: €5 per person
Address: P.za di Porta Ravegnana, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy
DAY 2 Bologna Itinerary
Day 2 Overview: Portico di San Luca, Quadrilatero, Palazzo d’Accursio, Santo Stefano Complex, La Piccola Venezia
Walk to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca
Get up early, put on your walking shoes, and get ready for one of the most unique walks in all of Italy.
The Portico di San Luca is the longest portico, or covered walkway, in the world. From start to finish, the portico is around 3.8km (2.4 miles) long and has a total of 666 arches.
Start your journey from your hotel, or from the Piazza Maggiore, and follow the route on Google Maps until you reach Porta Saragozza. This is the official starting point of the portico and the walk.
From here, get ready to hike. There are a mix of stairs and uphill climbs until you reach the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca at the top of the Colle della Guardia hill.
It takes around 1.5 hours to reach the top from the city center. Make sure to bring snacks and water, as you’ll need it along the way.
You can also stop along the way at a cafe, such as Bar Billi, for a snack and drink.
Once you’re at the top, you can visit the inside of the church and even go to the top of the dome for small fee.
San Luca Express Train
If you’re not interested in walking the Portico di San Luca, then you can take the San Luca Express train instead. This tourist train departs from the Piazza Maggiore every 40 minutes, depending on the time of day, and takes about 20-40 minutes to reach the top.
We’ve taken the train a couple of times and it’s a great alternative to walking. You still get to enjoy the views without having to walk to the top.
Round trip tickets cost €12. Book your train tickets in advance, or you can book your tickets in person at the Piazza Maggiore. Try to reserve online beforehand, as these tend to sell out during peak season.
Read our full guide on walking the Portico di San Luca.
Opening hours: Everyday from 7:00am – 7:00pm
Ticket Price: The basilica is free to visit | €5 fee to climb to the top of the dome
Address: Via di San Luca, 36, 40135 Bologna BO, Italy
Explore the Quadrilatero
The Quadrilatero, located next to the Piazza Maggiore, is Bologna’s oldest outdoor market. Wander around and you’ll find shops selling traditional food and crafts.
From traditional balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Mortadella to fresh produce and fish, you’ll find everything you need here to cook up a meal or to buy some foodie souvenirs.
If you’re looking for a wonderful lunch spot, we recommend grabbing an outdoor table at Salumeria Simoni. Order one of their charcuterie boards to get a taste of the cured meats and cheeses from the Emilia Romagna region.
Here are a few of our favorite shops in the Quadrilatero:
- Osteria del Sole | This is the oldest bar in Bologna where you can bring your own food and purchase drinks at the bar.
- Tamburini | A mini-market selling a fantastic selection of local goods.
- Ancient Aguzzeria Horse | Our favorite place to buy pasta tools, such as pasta stamps and rollers.
- Roccati | A wonderful chocolate shop. Try their Gianduja.
Visit the Clock Tower and Palazzo d’Accursio
One of our favorite hidden gems in Bologna is the Palazzo d’Accursio. We first visited this palace a few years ago and were blown away.
The Palazzo d’Accursio is Bologna’s town hall and has been the home of the local government since the 14th century. Today, you can visit the Municipal Art Collections and climb to the top of the clock tower for amazing views overlooking the Piazza Maggiore.
The art museum is hosted in a series of rooms that are beautifully decorated with frescoed ceilings and walls. We’ve been here a couple of times, and I’m always in awe of the interiors.
You need to pre-book a time slot to climb up the clock tower. Reserve your tickets online at the official website.
If you’re visiting during the fall and winter, you can just book tickets in person.
Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 10:00am – 5:00pm
Ticket prices: €8 for both the clock tower and art collections
Address: Piazza Maggiore, 6, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy
Visit the Seven Churches of Santo Stefano
The Seven Churches of Santo Stefano is a unique religious complex dating back to the 5th century. Step inside and make your way through the seven churches, noticing the difference in architecture, as each one was built in a different time period.
The oldest church is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is a replica of the Holy Sepulcher In Jerusalem. This dates back to the 5th century.
The Santo Stefano complex is open daily and is free to visit.
Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 9:30am – 12:30pm and 2:30pm – 7:00pm | Monday 6:00pm – 7:30pm (only the basilica is open this day)
Ticket price: Free
Address: Complesso di Santo Stefano Via Santo Stefano, 24 – 40125
Get Gelato at Cremeria Santo Stefano
Just up the street from the Santo Stefano complex is the best gelato shop in Bologna – Cremeria Santo Stefano. This small, unassuming shop scoops up some of the most delicious and flavorful gelato you will ever have.
In our opinion, it’s the best gelato in Italy, and Bologna locals agree with us.
There is often a line, especially on the weekends, so be prepared to wait for a bit.
Our go-to flavors are Caffe Bianco and Crema Libanese. Their seasonal flavors like pomegranate, chestnut, and pumpkin are also worth trying!
Bologna is home to over 100 gelato shops, and with two days in Bologna, you’ll have time to eat at a few. Check out our guide to the 8 best gelato shops in the city center.
Wander the Porticoes
In 2021, Bologna’s porticoes were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are over 62km (38 miles) of porticoes in Bologna, and we recommend spending some time wandering around and exploring some of the quieter parts of the city.
Make sure to stop by Piazza Cavour to see some of the most beautifully decorated porticoes in Bologna. The ceilings are covered in colorful frescoes, and it feels like it belongs in a museum – not just on a street!
Find the Hidden Canals
You may not see them, but Bologna has over 60km (37 miles) of canals. Dating back to the 12th century, the canal system was widely used to help power mills around the city center.
Today, most of the canals are covered except a few. Head to La Piccola Venezia to see one of the remaining visible canals through a tiny window.
It gives you an idea of what the city must have looked like back in the middle ages.
Two Days in Bologna Map
From the best places to eat in Bologna to the city’s main attractions, this map will help guide you through this 2 days in Bologna itinerary.
To save the map to Google Maps on your phone or computer, click on the star next to the title. Once you do this, you’ll be able to find the map in your “saved maps” list on your phone.
To see a list of all the items on the map, click the box with arrow on the left. To enlarge the map, click the box on the right.
How to Get around Bologna
All of the main attractions in Bologna are within walking distance. In this two days in Bologna itinerary, everything is within a 10-20 minute walk.
The only exception is the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca, which sits atop the hill. You can either take the tourist train or do the 1.5 hour walk to the top.
There is a bus system in Bologna if needed. You can purchase physical tickets at any tobacco shop, or you can pay with contactless payment on the bus.
How to Get to Bologna
Bologna is well-connected with the rest of Europe via its train station and international airport. Here are some tips on getting to Bologna, Italy.
Getting to Bologna by train
The train is the best and most convenient way to get to Bologna if you are already in Italy.
Bologna Centrale train station has both a regional and high-speed train section. With Bologna being so centrally located, it’s quick to get from other major cities like Milan, Florence, Venice, and even Rome.
Here are some popular train routes:
- Milan to Bologna train: High-speed train takes between 1h 5min to 1h 21min | Regional train takes 2h 50min
- Florence to Bologna train: High-speed train takes 38 minutes | Regional train takes 1h 27min
- Venice to Bologna train: High-speed train takes 1h 33min | Regional train takes 2h 6min’
Getting from Florence to Bologna is the quickest route and is even a popular day trip.
Book your tickets on the Trenitalia website or app beforehand. This is the official site to book trains in Italy. We suggest booking your tickets at least a week in advance for regional trains and three weeks in advance for high-speed trains.
Planning last minute? You can purchase your tickets at the train station on the day of. Just make sure to arrive a bit earlier to give yourself extra time to buy the tickets.
Getting to Bologna by car
We do not recommend driving to Bologna. The train is much easier to navigate than having to worry about parking and driving in a bigger Italian city.
With that being said, if you do rent a car, then park in a garage near the train station. You cannot drive in the city center as these are restricted zones. You’ll most likely end up getting a ticket.
You can easily book a car rental just for the day through Discover Cars, our go-to rental site for cars in Italy.
Getting to Bologna by plane
The Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport is close to the city center and connects you with the rest of Europe.
To get from the Bologna airport to the city center, take the Marconi Express train from to the Bologna train station.
The train runs every 7 minutes throughout the day and costs €11 each way or €20 round trip. You can review the timetable and book your tickets here. You can also use contactless payment to purchase your tickets at the station. We used our credit card and it was super easy!
The monorail drops you off at Bologna train station. From here, it’s a 15-20 minute walk to the center of the city.
Alternatively, you can take a taxi from the airport to your accommodation. It takes around 15-20 minutes and is pretty reasonably priced.
Where to Eat in Bologna
The Bologna restaurant scene is fantastic. With only 48 hours in Bologna, it’s a difficult decision deciding where to eat.
Luckily, we’ve eaten our way through Bologna over the course of 2 months, and we’re sharing our list of the top places to eat below.
- Caffe Terzi – Our favorite cafe in Bologna that makes an amazing cappucinno and brioche. Perfect for breakfast.
- Salumeria Simoni – The best place to go to get a charcuterie board.
- Trattoria da me – A great place to get crescentina and cured meats, plus local specialties like friggione.
- All’ Osteria Bottega – Hands down, one of the best Bologna restaurants and one that we go back to every time we are in the city. Every dish is heavenly, but if you want something unique (and delicious!), try the roasted baby pigeon.
- Da Cesari– A good place to try different varieties of pasta dishes. Try the tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms in the fall.
- Caminetto d’oro – Fantastic grilled meats and truffle pasta dishes.
- Trattoria collegio di Spagna– Try the cotoletta alla bolognese and zucchini dishes.
Make sure to make reservations at least a couple of days in advance. Many restaurants book up for lunch and dinner.
Alternatively, you can try to get to the restaurant right when it opens to see if they have any tables available. Often restaurants will save a couple of tables for walk-ins. We’ve done this several times and it has worked out for us.
Foods to Try in Bologna
Wondering what foods to try during your 2 days in Bologna? We have an entire article dedicated to the best foods in Bologna that you can check out, or here is a shorter list of must-try foods below.
- Tagliatelle al Ragu – The most famous and popular dish in Bologna is ragu served with homemade tagliatelle, an egg-based pasta. It’s a meat sauce that is heavy, rich, acidic, and perfectly balanced.
- Tortellini – This small hat-shaped pasta is often stuffed with a pork mixture. It’s best eaten as a soup with a meat-based broth and topped with some fresh parmesan.
- Tortelloni – This pasta is usually stuffed with a ricotta and spinach mixture and served with sage and butter. During the fall, you can get it stuffed with pumpkin, which is our personal favorite way to eat it.
- Lasagne Verde – This green, spinach-based pasta is layered with ragu and bechamel sauce, creating the perfect combination of rich and creamy flavors.
- Crescentina – Made with flour, salt, lard, and water, this Emilia Romagna staple is most often served with a plate of cured meats as an appetizer.
- Mortadella – This savory meat is served as an appetizer at most restaurants and is a must-try in Bologna.
- Lambrusco & Pignoletto – These are the two wines of Emilia Romagna, both sparkling, and pair well with the fatty foods from Bologna.
Where to Stay in Bologna
While Bologna is not a huge city, we suggest staying in Centro Storico (the historic center). This area is located in the heart of Bologna and everything is within walking distance.
- Best overall Bologna hotel: Art Hotel Commercianti – with a fantastic central location and amazing balcony views from some of the rooms!
- Best Bologna luxury hotel: Grand Hotel Majestic gia’ Baglioni
- Best Bologna boutique hotel: Casa Bertagni
- Best Bologna mid-range hotel: Hotel Touring
- Best Bologna hostel: Dopa Hostel
Hotels tend to book up quickly in Bologna, especially during the busy summer season. Try to reserve at least a few months in advance for the best rates and options.
READ ALSO: Best Boutique Hotels in Bologna
Best time to visit Bologna
The best time to visit Bologna is during the shoulder season. This season runs from April to May and October to November.
Summers are extremely hot and crowded in Bologna. If you’re visiting in June and July, make sure to plan far in advance.
Winters are pretty mild in Bologna and there are plenty of indoor activities to keep you busy. Plus, the heavy foods in Bologna are more enjoyable to eat when it’s colder outside.
Based on our experience, October is the best month to visit. The weather is warm and mild, and the food options this time of the year are amazing (porcini mushrooms, truffles, pumpkin pasta)…
Tip: Avoid visiting Bologna in August. We made this mistake the very first time we visited. Most restaurants are closed, and it’s exceptionally hot during this time. Try to visit in September instead.
Tips for Visiting Bologna in 2 Days
- Weekends are busy: Weekends in Bologna are extremely busy. Both locals and tourists flock to the city, with restaurants booked out, and the main areas especially packed. If you can, try to visit during the week.
- Many restaurants are closed on Sundays: Don’t expect your top restaurant options to be open on Sunday.
- Book restaurants in advance: Restaurants fill up quickly in Bologna. Try to call ahead at least a few days in advance to get a reservation.
- Museums close on Sunday or Monday: Many of the main sights are closed on either Sunday or Monday. Double check the hours that we’ve shared in this itinerary to make sure certain attractions are open on the day you visit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is 2 days enough in Bologna?
Yes, 2 days in Bologna is enough time to see the main attractions and to get a taste of the local cuisine.
Is it worth visiting Bologna, Italy?
Bologna is one of the most beautiful cities in northern Italy and is definitely worth visiting. It’s still a relatively unknown destination in Europe, so it’s a great place to get a feel for authentic Italian life without all the touristy gimmicks.
Is there more to do in Florence or Bologna?
It really depends on what you want to do. Are you more interested in art and art history? Then there is a lot more to do in Florence, with the incredible Renaissance art collections in the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries.
On the other hand, if food is your thing, then there are a lot of foodie activities to do in Bologna. You can visit local factories, go on a food tour, take a cooking class, and eat at some of Italy’s best, local restaurants.
If you have the time, both places are worth a visit.
More Information for your Trip to Bologna
- Best Things to Do in Bologna
- One Day in Bologna
- 3 Days in Bologna
- Best Day Trips from Bologna
- Best Gelato Shops in Bologna
- Bologna Food Guide
- Bologna Train Station Guide
- Bologna Airport to Bologna Centrale Guide
- Is Bologna Worth Visiting?
- Portico di San Luca Walk
ITALY TRAVEL PLANNING GUIDE
Italy Travel Insurance – Should you get travel insurance for Italy? YES! We always get travel insurance before all of our trips for peace of mind. Check out Travel Insurance Master to find the best plan for you.
Italy Rental Cars – Is it safe to rent a car in Italy? Yes! We’ve rented a car in Italy too many times to count, and it’s definitely the most convenient way to get around the countryside. We rented our car through Discover Cars (our go-to rental agency), which helps you find the best rates no matter where you are traveling.
Italy Phone Plans – If your phone plan does not offer free coverage in Italy, then we suggest getting an eSIM. We used Airalo during our trip to Italy, and we had fantastic coverage the entire time. It’s easy to download and you can even top up via the app if needed.
Italy Hotels – Wondering where to book your accommodations for Italy? We’ve been reserving all of our hotels through Booking for years. Their messaging tool makes it easy to communicate with the hotels, and there are endless options to choose from.