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Things To Do In Bologna – Month By Month

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Written by David Mason | @masononsocial | 21st Dec 2023

TLDR: This guide is an indispensable resource for solo travellers adventuring through Bologna, a fabulous city celebrated for its great food, schools and beauty.

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  • An unmissable experience in Bologna is the ascent of the Asinelli Tower, offering panoramic views of the city and its distinctive red roofs and historic porticoes. Read more like this below.
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About Bologna

Bologna, known as “la dotta, la grassa, la rossa” (the learned, the fat, the red), is a city rich in history, gastronomy, and vibrant academic life. It is the largest city and the capital of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy, renowned for its medieval cityscape, the University of Bologna – established in 1088, making it the oldest university in continuous operation in the world, and its culinary traditions that have earned it the nickname “la grassa”.

The city’s well-preserved historic center, one of the largest in Italy, is filled with architectural marvels such as the Piazza Maggiore, the Two Towers, and the Santo Stefano complex, offering a glimpse into its storied past. Bologna’s long-standing culinary heritage is showcased in its rich cuisine, famous for dishes like tagliatelle al ragù, mortadella, and tortellini served in broth, which draw food lovers from around the globe.

Bologna’s cultural scene is as lively as its streets, with numerous theaters, galleries, and music venues that host international and local performances year-round. The city also stands out with its unique porticoes, stretching for about 40 kilometers, providing sheltered walkways throughout the city, and are now a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage.

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The city enjoys a subtropical climate with hot summers and cold, damp winters, offering a variety of seasonal experiences. It’s a city of contrast and convergence, where ancient academia sits alongside modern innovation. Each year, Bologna attracts numerous visitors, not just for its historical and architectural splendours but for its dynamic cultural festivals, trade fairs, and vibrant student population. It offers a journey through the cobbled streets laden with stories, art, and the aroma of rich Italian cuisine, ensuring a memorable experience for every visitor.

What Else To Know When Visiting Bologna

Accommodation Tips Solo Friendly: Consider staying in the University Quarter or near Piazza Maggiore for a central location bustling with activity. These areas are filled with a variety of accommodations, from budget-friendly hostels to charming boutique hotels, ideal for solo travelers looking to immerse themselves in Bologna’s lively atmosphere.

Dining Solo Local Delights: Bologna is the gastronomic heart of Italy, so indulge in local specialties like tagliatelle al ragù, tortellini, and mortadella. Visit the historic markets like Mercato di Mezzo or enjoy the casual vibe of an osteria where you can enjoy sumptuous meals and maybe strike up a conversation with locals or fellow travelers.

Safety Tips Staying Safe: Bologna is generally a safe city, but it’s wise to be cautious in crowded places, especially at night. Ensure you’re aware of your belongings and avoid secluded areas after dark.

Language and Culture Language Basics: While many Bolognese speak English, particularly in the student areas, knowing some Italian phrases will greatly enhance your interaction with locals and deepen your cultural experience.

Getting Around Transportation: Bologna’s historic center is compact and walkable, but it also has an efficient public transportation system. For a unique experience, rent a bike and navigate the city like a local under the miles of porticoes.

Meeting Fellow Travellers Social Hotspots: The student-filled areas around the University of Bologna and the lively bars of Via del Pratello are perfect spots for socializing and meeting new people. The city’s many piazzas are also frequented by locals and tourists alike, making them ideal for people-watching and mingling.

Budgeting Cost-Saving Tips: Explore the wealth of free sights like the historic porticoes and piazzas. Enjoy delectable yet affordable meals at the city’s many trattorias and street food stalls, and look out for Aperitivo time in the early evening, where you can enjoy a drink and a generous buffet at a reasonable price.

What’s On In Bologna Month By Month

Bologna unfurls a calendar full of cultural, gastronomic, and academic events reflecting the city’s unique character and spirit. Whether you’re wandering under the shade of its extensive porticoes, exploring the historical richness of its medieval structures, or savoring a moment of culinary delight in one of its bustling trattorias, this guide is an indispensable resource for the finest experiences year-round. Engage with Bologna’s deep-rooted heritage and its animated contemporary scene, finding unique monthly adventures perfect for solo travelers in this storied Italian city.

January: Arte Fiera

Arte Fiera is Bologna’s prestigious art fair, attracting collectors and art lovers to view and purchase a wide array of modern and contemporary art. The fair features galleries from around the world, offering an insight into the latest trends and movements in the art world, with events spread across the city’s galleries and museums.

  • Location: Bologna Exhibition Centre (Fiera di Bologna)
  • Cost/Budget: 10-30 Euros for day tickets

February: Bologna Carnival

Bologna Carnival brings the city to life with parades, masquerades, and traditional feasting. This time-honored celebration is marked by its elaborate costumes and lively street parties, allowing locals and visitors to enjoy the festive spirit that sweeps through the streets.

  • Location: Various locations in Bologna city center
  • Cost/Budget: Mostly free; costs for costumes or special events vary

March: Women’s Film Festival

The Women’s Film Festival in Bologna celebrates female filmmakers and stories with a selection of screenings and discussions. This festival is a significant cultural event, offering a platform for women in film to showcase their work and engage with audiences.

  • Location: Various cinemas and cultural institutions in Bologna
  • Cost/Budget: 5-15 Euros per screening

April: Bologna Children’s Book Fair

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair is the leading international event dedicated to the children’s publishing industry. Publishers, authors, and illustrators gather to explore the latest in children’s literature, making it a paradise for young readers and a vibrant meeting place for professionals.

  • Location: Bologna Exhibition Centre (Fiera di Bologna)
  • Cost/Budget: 20-50 Euros for day tickets; free for children under a certain age

May: Biografilm Festival

Biografilm Festival is dedicated to biographical movies and documentaries, presenting a curated selection of international films. Audiences love the personal and real-life stories brought to screen, often followed by discussions and meetings with the filmmakers.

  • Location: Various venues across Bologna
  • Cost/Budget: 5-15 Euros per screening or event

June: Il Cinema Ritrovato

Il Cinema Ritrovato is a film festival dedicated to the restoration and rediscovery of classic movies. Film enthusiasts flock to Bologna to enjoy rare screenings of restored films in various venues, including open-air cinemas in historic piazzas.

  • Location: Cineteca di Bologna and outdoor screenings in Piazza Maggiore
  • Cost/Budget: 50-100 Euros for festival passes; individual tickets around 5-10 Euros

July: Bologna Estate

Bologna Estate, or Bologna Summer, is a city-wide summer festival offering a diverse program of music, theatre, cinema, and cultural events. The city comes alive with outdoor performances and events, making the most of the warm weather and providing endless entertainment options for residents and visitors.

  • Location: Various outdoor locations across Bologna
  • Cost/Budget: Many events free; some concerts or special events may charge a fee (10-30 Euros)

August: Ferragosto

Ferragosto is an Italian holiday celebrated with special events, concerts, and feasts throughout Bologna. While many locals leave the city, those who stay can enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere and various cultural events organized to celebrate this summer holiday.

  • Location: Throughout Bologna
  • Cost/Budget: Mostly free outdoor events; personal picnic or dining costs vary

September: Bologna Design Week

Bologna Design Week showcases the latest trends in design, architecture, and art, transforming the city into a hub of creativity. Exhibitions, workshops, and talks take place, attracting designers, architects, and enthusiasts to the city’s showrooms and cultural spaces.

  • Location: Showrooms and cultural spaces throughout Bologna
  • Cost/Budget: Mostly free; some workshops or special events may charge a fee

October: BilBOlbul International Comics Festival

BilBOlbul is an international comics festival celebrating the art of graphic novels and comics. The event includes exhibitions, artist talks, and workshops, making it a colorful and engaging event for comic lovers and creatives.

  • Location: Various galleries, libraries, and venues in Bologna
  • Cost/Budget: Mostly free; some workshops or special talks may charge a fee

November: EIMA International

EIMA International, held in November, is an expansive exhibition of agricultural and gardening machinery. This event, taking place at the Bologna Exhibition Centre, is a major draw for industry professionals and enthusiasts alike, featuring the latest innovations and technological advancements in the field.

  • Location: Bologna Exhibition Centre (Fiera di Bologna)
  • Cost/Budget: 15-50 Euros for day tickets

December: Fiera di Santa Lucia

The Fiera di Santa Lucia is a traditional Christmas market held in the heart of Bologna. It’s known for its charming stalls selling crafts, gifts, and seasonal treats, providing a festive atmosphere where locals and visitors shop for unique holiday items.

  • Location: In front of the Basilica di San Petronio, Bologna
  • Cost/Budget: Free to visit; variable spending on gifts, food, and activities.

Heading Back

Here ends our detailed guide through Bologna’s annual calendar of events and cultural offerings, thoughtfully put together for solo travelers eager for unique and memorable moments. From the artful displays at Arte Fiera that start the year to the festive spirit of the Fiera di Santa Lucia in December, every month brings its own celebrations and gatherings. Whether you’re tasting your way through the Gastronomy Festival, exploring literary adventures at the Children’s Book Fair, or soaking in the historic ambiance during Bologna Estate, the city’s diverse cultural and historical landscape serves as the perfect setting for all these activities.

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