5 ways to live Bologna like a local

Categories Bologna

Did you visit San Petronio, Piazza Maggiore, Sette Chiese and do you think you’ve seen everything Bologna has to offer?

No way!

The real Bologna experience begins after your daily activities! 

There must be something in the air: the moment you put your head under a portico, you realize that you can’t just be a tourist here, you have to experience bolognese lifestyle!

Here’s some tips to spend a few hours feeling like a real Bolognese guy… enjoy it and relax.

1. Walk around listening to some music


A city full of students always means a city full of life, and Bologna has always been famous for being Italy’s queen of nightlife and good music. All year along you can find a program full of concerts and events: it’s very easy to find something that you’ll like to hear.

Furthermore, many musicians chose Bologna as their home town putting something of the town spirit into their music and of course the love is fully reciprocated.

So, if you feel like listening to some vintage Italian songs and want to experience the real sound of the town, just put your headphones on and take a walk through the city center listening to Lucio Dalla, Francesco Guccini, and Samuele Bersani. It will be quite an experience, even if you don’t understand the lyrics.

Here’s a playlist you can use:

And don’t forget to have a little walk in Via D’Azeglio and Piazza de’ Celestini to look at Lucio Dalla’s balcony. He was a great singer and one of the best testaments of bolognese lifestyle. He used to have long walks under the porticoes, chatting with every kinds of people, and always open to young artists, helping and supporting them.

He died suddenly in 2012, leaving a big house in Bologna. Sometimes, his heirs open the house to the public, and the queue to entry is really endless!

Lucio Dalla’s House – Via d’Azeglio, Bologna

2. Spend a day like a student – and party like one!

Being a student in Bologna is great, but even if you’re not so young anymore you can still wear your sneakers, put a McLuhan book in your backpack and have a look around.

The University of Bologna was founded in 1088: that means that it is the most ancient University in the world.

So, if you ever have been curious about the smell of a 15th century book, or the feeling of opening your books on a table that is four centuries old, you’re definitely in the right place!

One of the rooms in Archiginnasio
One of the rooms in Archiginnasio Palace

In Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio you can find all the vintage-studying stuff you can imagine. The walls are covered with the coat of arms of students and teachers from all over the world.
On the first floor, the Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio library keeps more than a million of items in printed books, manuscripts, drawings, prints and photographies.
You can consult a 19th century book, ask to browse a 16th century manuscript – there’s a room exclusively dedicated to that – or just enjoy the silence in one of the fully frescoed reading rooms. 

A few steps outside of the Archiginnasio, heading to Piazza Maggiore, take a glance to your right at Libreria Nanni, the oldest bookshop in town.

Bookcases at Libreria Nanni in Bologna
Bookcases at Libreria Nanni in Bologna

Book displayers were made at the beginning of 1900s to look like the stands on Paris quays. It was many Italian intellectuals’ favorite bookshop, including the director and poet Pier Paolo Pasolini, who wrote: “I started buying books there, and it was wonderful, because you’ll never read anything with the same joy, in all your life, like you read your first books.” 

After all this studying, you may need a rest! Take a walk in Via Zamboni and its surrounding streets, such as Via Marsala, Via Guglielmo Oberdan, Via Mentana and Via dell’Inferno, these are also the former jewish ghetto. 

You can taste all the Spritz drink you like (they are cheaper here), and choose if you are more of an Aperol or Campari kind of guy/girl (Aperol is sweet, while Campari is bitter, they are both perfect with Prosecco wine in Spritz).

Aperol or Campari Spritz?

3. Choose your favorite “Gelateria” in town

Everybody knows that in Italy food is a serious matter.
However, in Bologna, it is also another opportunity to chat with people!

Of course we love tortellini, ragù (bolognese sauce), and tagliatelle, and we always have the longest debates about them, but there’s one kind of food that’s becoming more and more important among locals.

Every single year, in every single group of friends living in Bologna, there comes a precise moment when they have to discuss the “hottest” topic in the bolognese summer: which one is the best gelato in town.


Bologna is the place to come if you want to taste a great gelato: it has a long tradition of gelato making and Carpigiani, one of the most known ice-cream machines factories, is based near Bologna.

In the last years, gelato makers from all over Italy come here to join the challenge.

Do you prefer salted Pistacchio of Cremeria Santo Stefano, or organic Cheesecake Pistacchio of Islanda? Are you crazy about Sicilian organic flavours of Cremeria San Francesco or are you addicted to the fresh fruit granita of Galliera 49?

Just be careful: you can’t simply pick one of them and tell everybody it’s your favorite. You’ll have to motivate your choice by trying all of them! 

4. Get in shape climbing to San Luca sanctuary

One of Bologna’s nicknames is la grassa, the fat one, and if you already had some typical meal here, you surely know what I’m talking about. So, what do locals do if they eat too much? And, of course, it is not so unusual. Easy: they take a walk under the portico of San Luca!

The portico of San Luca
The portico of San Luca

It’s the longest portico in the world, built by people of Bologna around 1760s, brick after brick.
The sanctuary on the top keeps a holy Madonna with child image, painted – they say – by Saint Luke the evangelist himself. Ever since its cunstruction, the portico has the main purpose to keep the image dry when it is brought down to town, once a year.

But for locals, in present days, San Luca arcades mean only one thing: work out!

Probably, there were no personal trainers in 18th century, but if there’s a chance they were, the surely lived in Bologna, and helped design this portico.

The work out starts at the Meloncello arch with a hard climb. Then, it becomes softer, and then harder, then softer and harder again, until you reach the sanctuary on the top, tired but perfectly trained.

If you’re not an athlete, it will take you about 40 minutes to reach the top, and the view from up there is completely worth the effort. On the terrace on the right of the church, if the day is clear, you could be lucky enough to see both Alps and Adriatic see.

Sky under the San Luca Arcades
Sky under the San Luca Arcades

5. Watch the sunset on red roofs

Sure, we love to walk along the streets of Bologna and discover every corner. But when the day is over and daylight is fading away, there’s one thing we like to do the most: go up!

Bologna is called the red city, and it is even more red during sunsets.
Watching the sun light fall over the red roofs is a great way to enjoy all those amazing colors.

Bologna from the top of Asinelli Tower
Bologna from the top of Asinelli Tower – Bogdan Dada photography

The queen of top-viewing is undoubtedly the Torre degli Asinelli, the tall tower in the center of the city. It is 97 meters high, just one meter less than London’s Big Ben, and it takes a 498 wooden steps climb to get to the top. But when you get there, the view is simply amazing.

A little lower, but still really charming, San Petronio terrace is on the roof of city’s main church. Looking at the square from up there is quite an experience, and the atmosphere is magical.

But if you’re looking for something more intimate and far from noise of the city, Trecento scalini (three hundred steps) is definitely the place to go.

Trecento Scalini Panorama

As the name suggests, it won’t be easy to get there! You’ll have to drive or walk (about 30 minutes) to Via Casaglia and then run the three hundred steps staircase along the hill. On the top, you can sit on the benches and enjoy the amazing view on the town, listening to the sound of nature around you.

If you want to spend the evening like a real local bring some food with you, sit barefoot on the lawn with a couple of beers and… relax!

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