August 1, 2023

Walking tour in the center of Bologna, the complete guide

FILED IN: Italy, Travel

Embark on a walking tour in the center of Bologna, through its charming streets, network of porticoes, and historic landmarks. Each corner holds a tale of centuries-old history and cultural treasures. From iconic medieval towers to bustling market squares, this captivating journey will lead you through the heart of the city. So lace up your walking shoes and explore the timeless beauty of Bologna’s historic center.

I provided a map to give you an idea of the proximity of each stop on this walking tour. The itinerary offers an easy and flexible experience, allowing you to customize the pace according to your preferences. Whether you prefer a quick exploration or savoring each stop, this is perfect for you. So, let’s embark on this unforgettable adventure together and discover the captivating charm of Bologna!

Le Due Torri – The Two Towers

The Two Towers, Torre degli Asinelli and Torre Garisenda, stand tall as iconic landmarks of Bologna.

Torre degli Asinelli (on the right), reigns supreme as the tallest tower in Bologna. Climbing its ancient wooden stairs is an adventure in itself and the panoramic views from the top are simply awe-inspiring. Gazing upon the red-tiled roofs and cobblestone streets below, you’ll understand why this tower holds a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors.

On the left side is Torre Garisenda, the smaller but equally captivating sibling of the duo. Its most striking feature is its characteristic lean, which is even more pronounced than the famed Leaning Tower of Pisa. Despite measures taken over the centuries to stabilize it, the tilt remains, giving the tower a unique and endearing charm. Though not open for ascent, marveling at its lean from the ground is an unmissable experience.

The construction of Bologna’s towers dates back to the 12th century and was driven by both practical and symbolic purposes. At the time, tower-building became a popular trend among wealthy families, who sought to showcase their status and power. The towers also served essential defensive purposes, offering vantage points to spot threats and protect the city during turbulent times. Additionally, the towers served as landmarks for orientation in the densely packed medieval city. Over the centuries, they have stood as enduring symbols of Bologna’s rich history and the united spirit of its people.

Piazza Santo Stefano – walking tour in the center of Bologna

Piazza Santo Stefano is a captivating square that exudes so much charm, making it my favorite piazza! It is home to the Basilica of Santo Stefano, a complex of seven unique churches. This collection of interconnected churches is often referred to as “The Seven Churches”. Generally, the complex is open to the public for free visits Tuesday – Sunday.

The piazza’s serene ambiance invites visitors to explore its cobbled streets, soak in the harmonious blend of ancient Roman ruins, medieval architecture, and Renaissance elements. Stop for an aperitivo, grab an ice cream, or just wander through to take in its beauty!

My fave aperitivo spots: 051 Osteria Santo Stefano (great for a classic spritz) & Vineria Favalli (better for hand-picked bottles of wine)

Gelato: Cremeria La Vecchia Stalla – they have multiple flavors of pistacchio which immediately won over my heart and my stomach.

When to see wisteria

I remember the first time I happened upon Piazza Santo Stefano during wisteria season. I instantly fell in love with this corner of Bologna.

Wisteria season in Italy is a magical time that enchants with its breathtaking beauty. Typically occurring in late spring, from April to May, the countryside and historic towns across the country burst into cascading colors as wisteria blooms adorn buildings, trellises, and archways. Delicate, fragrant flowers create mesmerizing canopies of purple, lilac, and white, transforming streets into dreamlike passages –making spring my favorite time to explore Italy.

Monthly antique market

Mercato Antiquario Città di Bologna is an antique market that comes alive on the second Sunday (and Saturday before) of each month in Piazza Santo Stefano, except in July and August. Visitors can browse through a diverse selection of antiques and vintage items. I have found some wonderful old prints and jewelry that I had to take home with me.

Il Quadilatero – walking tour in the center of Bologna

Located in the heart of Bologna’s historic center, the Quadrilatero is a vibrant area steeped in a rich craft, mercantile, and commercial history that traces back to the Middle Ages. It’s home to specialized craft and commercial establishments with a rich legacy, where trades are passed down through generations.

This charming district is a maze of narrow streets and alleys lined with a blend of traditional and contemporary establishments. Renowned for its gastronomic delights, it’s a foodie haven with a mouthwatering array of local delicacies and culinary delights. From artisanal cheese shops and fresh pasta stalls to bustling markets and cozy trattorias.

My favorite spot to eat in this area is Simoni, a family-run salumeria offering a wide selection of traditional cured meats, cheeses, and gourmet sandwiches. The inviting aroma of cured meats and aged cheeses inspires exploration of the diverse selection of prosciutto, salami, and mortadella. The friendly staff can guide you through the choices, offering insights on what to order.

I prefer to order a panino (sandwich) as well as a tagliere (cutting board) with an assortment of meats and cheese, paired with a delicious wine of course. This place captures the essence of one of the most important aspects of traditional Bolognese food culture – salumi.

Piazza Maggiore

Piazza Maggiore is a captivating square that embodies the city’s vibrant spirit and historical significance. Surrounded by majestic buildings, this spacious plaza serves as a lively gathering place for locals and visitors alike. The focal point of the square is the Basilica of San Petronio, a magnificent Gothic cathedral showcasing impressive architectural splendor. The iconic Neptune Fountain stands tall, adding a touch of grandeur to the scene. Throughout the year, Piazza Maggiore comes alive with cultural events, open-air performances, and bustling markets.

Sotto le stelle del cinema – Cinema under the stars

Cinema under the stars is a cherished summer tradition, uniting movie enthusiasts and locals. As the sun sets, the majestic square transforms into an enchanting open-air theater, with a large screen against the backdrop of historic buildings. Chairs are scattered across the cobbled ground, creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere. You can also opt to sit on the steps surrounding the piazza.

The program features a curated selection of classic films, cult classics, and international masterpieces, catering to diverse tastes and interests. As the movie begins and stars twinkle overhead, you can enjoy the magic of the silver screen amidst Piazza Maggiore’s stunning architectural beauty.

A walking tour in the center of Bologna is a captivating journey through the heart and soul of this enchanting Italian city I now call home. From its historic landmarks and iconic architecture to its vibrant local markets and hidden gems, Bologna offers a rich tapestry of cultural heritage and culinary delights. As you meander through the cobblestone streets, you’ll discover the city’s unique blend of ancient traditions and modern vitality. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, food lover, or simply seeking a taste of authentic Italy, this walking tour provides an immersive experience.

Buon viaggio!



  1. Alex Lafleur says:

    wow looks great, I will read more

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Growing up near Pasadena, CA, my creativity blossomed as I delved into the LA food scene, food styling, photography, and storytelling. Now, I curate content centered around food, beverage, and travel, while indulging in hobbies like thrifting. Italy holds a special place in my heart, where I found love and embarked on a new chapter in Bologna. Join me on this creative journey of food, travel, and love.