5 things free in Bologna


This city in northern-Italy is a foodie's heaven, but you don’t need to save for pricey dinners and coffees in Bologna – you can do plenty of other things for free! Here are our top picks…

Catch a movie in Piazza Maggiore

You’re going to need to head there a little early to bag yourself a chair – or you can bring your own – but it’s well worth it at Bologna’s open-air cinema. It’s open every summer, from June to mid-August, and the films range from classics, cartoons, documentaries and blockbusters – all shown in their original language with subtitles.

Walk up San Luca Basilica

San Luca isn’t just a church. It’s tradition for the Bolognesi to walk up it, starting at Porta Saragozza and taking all 666 porticoes that bring you to the top. Don’t forget your trainers – the walk will take around an hour. But don’t worry – if you’ve filled up on too much spaghetti, you can always take a bus to the Meloncello arch.

Read a book in Sala Borsa

It may have once been used as a basketball court, bank and market, but Sala Borsa is now home to a public library with numerous books, magazines, videos and music. It’s a pretty unique place, and is perfect for people watching (under the guise of reading, of course!) and take in the true Bologna. You can even take a stroll through the ruins of Emilia roman street – you can see it under a glass floor.

Get a hit of nature at Orto Botanico

You will never breathe air as fresh as this. Operated by the University of Bologna, the Orto Botanico is home to more than 5000 plant specimens, including trees, tropical greenhouses, ponds and even a herb garden. It’s the perfect spot to escape the busy city for an hour, and give you some serious me-time.

Enjoy the city’s street artists

Bologna has a rich history of housing street artists, from singers, dancers, artists and general performers. They are often spread out along Via dell’Indipendenza, Piazza Maggiore, Via Ugo Bassi, Via Rizzoli, and other small streets nearby, which are all pedestrian-only zones on the weekends. Among the many artists is the famous 70’s rock guitarist Beppe Maniglia, who puts on shows every Saturday and Sunday afternoon outside the Sala Borsa library (see above!), often accompanied by a dancer. He’s also joined by fire jugglers, bubble men, and other weird and wonderful people.

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