Such a charming city is an underrated gem of Italy, full of incredible secrets. Its vibrant atmosphere and medieval architecture are sufficient reasons to visit Bologna.
Surprising you at every corner, you should spend at least 2 days in Bologna, but you could easily stay longer, yet it’s one of the most underrated weekend breaks in Italy.
The historical soul of Bologna offers a fantastic ambiance, and with the rich food culture this city offers I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
The long arcades that shape the city create Bologna’s unique character. Entitled as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, these arcades or porticos make Bologna a pleasant city to visit in any type of weather.
Discover the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region in this detailed two days in Bologna itinerary.
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Table of Contents
How to get to Bologna
It’s easy to reach Bologna because of its central position in Northern Italy. Located only 2 hours by train from the famous Florence (even shorter with the fast train), it’s easy to go on a day trip from Florence to Bologna too.
Though the Venice Marco Polo Airport is more popular, Bologna has its own airport. Sometimes the European flights are even cheaper to Bologna Airport, than to Venice or Milan.
Bologna’s G. Marconi International Airport is located about 30 minutes from the city center.
Once at Bologna Airport, you can reach the central train station by Aerobus. Having departures every 11 minutes from 5:30 AM, it’s pretty convenient to get to the city center from the airport. The price of the Aerobus is 6€.
Marconi Express is a quicker way to get to central Bologna as the newest way of transport. In less than eight minutes you can be at the main train station.
Being active from 5:40 a.m. till midnight, the train runs every 7 minutes during the peak hours. The return ticket costs 17€.
If you’re already in Italy, the easiest way to reach Bologna is by train. Trains in Italy are very affordable so on the shorter routes you can buy the ticket at the last moment. Check the availability and departure times here.
From the railway station, you’ll need only 20 minutes to walk to the historic center of Bologna.
How to get around Bologna in 2 days
The best way to explore Bologna is on foot, that’s why I recommend staying in the city center. It’s enjoyable to walk under the covered arcades in the medieval ambiance.
If you’re staying outside of the city center, Bologna has an efficient bus network. TPER is the name of the local bus company, which runs the daily service from 6:30 to 23:00.
The tickets are available at newspaper stands, Tabaccaios, or directly on the bus. Upon validating your ticket, it’s valid through multiple journeys within a 75-minute period.
The best time to visit Bologna for 2 days
Though the warmer months from April to October are the most attractive, Bologna is a lovely place to visit all year round.
July and August hold the higher temperatures so if you can plan your trip outside these months, you will have a more pleasant time.
Rather choose the spring or autumn time. The outdoor events and concerts in spring make the city specifically vibrant.
Enjoying the free films during the festival “Sotto le Stelle del cinema“ is a popular event in summer at the main square and a fun way of spending the evenings during a weekend in Bologna.
But Bologna in winter is also a lovely and festive time to visit. Especially December in Bologna is a fabulous time to explore the Christmas market and festive winter atmosphere.
Where to stay in Bologna in two days
The most convenient way to explore Bologna is to stay within the city walls. Being within walking distance from Piazza Maggiore is the best solution to be close to all the attractions.
Alternatively, the distance from the train station also matters if you’ll be doing day trips from Bologna. In any case, I honestly recommend staying more than 2 days in Bologna so that you also get time to explore the surrounding towns.
Following, I’ll give you some recommendations for hotels for different budgets.
LUXURY – Grand Hotel Majestic Gia’ Baglioni – a 5-star hotel that bursts with elegance within the 18th-century palace. Located only 250 meters from Piazza Maggiore, you’ll enjoy the medieval atmosphere within the antique interior and unique frescoes. It includes a spa and wellness center, private parking and garage (covering extra costs) and an excellent restaurant.
MID-RANGE – Hotel Corona d’Oro – a fabulous 4-star hotel, very close to Piazza Maggiore. Except for the cozy rooms, the hotel has gorgeous decor. Rich breakfast, private parking (at extra charge) and free bikes are available.
BUDGET – Hotel Marconi Express holds pleasant rooms near the train station and Montagola Park.
HOSTEL – Dopa Hostel – your ultimate choice in Bologna, conveniently lying in the University area and only 10 minutes from Piazza Maggiore. Its specialty is handmade furniture while you can enjoy a common kitchen and free breakfast.
Day 1 – Two days in Bologna itinerary
Though 48 hours in Bologna goes quickly, it’s the perfect amount of time to experience the city in its full charm.
Bologna’s nickname “La Rossa, la Grassa, la Dossa“ (The Red, The Fat, and The Learned) picturesquely describes the essence of the city.
It honors the oldest university in the Western world, its culinary heritage, and its terracotta roofs.
Now, let’s dive into your Bologna 2 day itinerary to explore the best things to do in Bologna on a weekend.
Piazza Maggiore is the vibrant heart of Bologna, one of the largest and oldest squares in the country, and a prominent landmark in Italy.
Simply strolling around and absorbing the historical heritage will unveil the medieval shine of Bologna. It will also uncover the lively atmosphere while you admire the impressive buildings.
Elegant cafe bars surround the main square of Bologna making it a lovely place for people watching.
The fantastic architecture of Piazza Maggiore includes Pallazo d’Accursio, the Palazzo del Podesta, the Basilica di San Petronio, and the Palazzo Comunale.
Adjacent to Piazza Maggiore lies the Piazza Nettuno with the marvelous Fountain of Neptune.
The Basilica of San Petronio, dating back to 1390, is an unfinished but magnificent edifice worth visiting.
The open-air concerts enrich the atmosphere during the special celebrations.
Porticos of Bologna
The endless porticos of Bologna are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and create the stunning design of the city.
Their fascinating story starts in the late Middle Ages as a way to create additional living space. Porticos also served as the extended threshold of the University in the past.
Only in the historic center, you can find 40 km of the arched walkways. Each one represents a unique story with their paintings and frescos.
A guided walking tour is the best way to understand their beauty and meaning.
The original wooden porticoes in Via Marsala and porticoes in Piazza Cavour are among the most fascinating. The longest portico in Bologna is the one that leads to Santuario di Madonna di San Luca.
While exploring the porticos, you’ll come across several cafés and trattorias where you can grab some lunch.
Whether you prefer to get a sandwich or a pizza to go and eat on a bench in one of the Piazza’s or you want to eat pasta accompanied by good wine in a restaurant, you will find it in Bologna.
Fountain of Neptune
The symbol of Bologna, the Fountain of Neptune, is an exquisite answer to the ones in Rome. Dating back to 1565, it was an artwork of the Flemish sculptor Giambologna.
It depicts the naked Neptune around the lactating mermaids and thus creates the sexual controversy from the beginning.
Created from marble and bronze, the Neptune Fountain symbolizes the power of the Pope, just like Neptune was the God of the seas.
Climb the Assineli Tower- the best view of the city
Two towers that dominate Bologna’s skyline are the leaning towers, taller than in Pisa. Asinelli and Garisenda towers took the name of the Italian families, responsible for their construction in the 11th century.
The view that sparkles from Asinelli Tower shows the marvelous shine of Bologna, especially during the sunset.
Once there were 180 towers in the city, but today only 20 stand. At the end of Via Rizzoli, you can experience the power of the rich families by climbing the Asinelli tower.
Find La Finestrella
The secret canals of Bologna unveil the time of the Middle Ages when they served industrial purposes. La Finestrella is the most popular spot to catch the surprising canal view, though Bologna hides several others.
On Via Piella you’ll find la Finestrella (“window“ in Italian) and the picturesque canal Reno. This sweet little window is almost unrecognizable, but you’ll see the sign on the wall.
La Finestrella is located next to Trattoria dal Biassanot and sometimes long queues of people come along. Yet, it should be on any list of what to do in Bologna for 2 days.
Dinner in the historic center
In the evening, go for a stroll in the historic center and find a restaurant for dinner whenever you feel hungry. There are plenty of great restaurants for every palate.
Besides, the evening vibe in Bologna is fabulous!
2 days in Bolognia – Day 2
Visit the markets
Start your day by absorbing the pure local spirit and visiting the markets will fill all your senses.
Quadrilatero is the oldest market in Bologna, next to the Piazza Maggiore. Since the Middle Ages, Quadrilatero gathered a panorama of culinary activities.
All kinds of local products from freshly made pasta to various cheeses and wine take a rule here.
Colorful and vibrant, it’s where the greengrocers intertwine with artisanal bakeries. Relaxing in the small cafe bars brings plenty of energy for a new day.
Mercato delle Erbe has been the largest covered market in Bologna, ever since 1910. It’s where you’ll find gorgeous restaurants and rich food stalls.
Mercato di Mezzo, inside the bustling Quadrilatero, offers a stunning break for a quick snack. Finally, Mercato Ritrovato is a paradise to find local products from the Bologna countryside.
Visiting the markets is a great way to slow down when exploring Bologna in two days and the perfect opportunity to pick out some fresh food to have for lunch in the park later.
Discover the parks of Bologna
A stroll through the city’s green spaces is a great way to continue your Bologna weekend trip.
Montagnola Park will welcome you shortly after coming from the train station in an elegant manner. It’s the oldest park in the city, where people enjoy concerts and summer events.
The original design belongs to the Napoleonic area and thus the French style prevails. The name Montagnola took inspiration due to its hilly shape.
The impressive staircase, which serves as an entrance, shows the history of Bologna. The lovely fountain once belonged to the Margherita Gardens.
Margherita Gardens is the most popular park in Bologna, lying south of the historic center. Strolling around the small lake, it becomes vibrant during the night with the live music.
Kilowatt at its western corners is a multi-functional space, which hosts a restaurant, a vegetable garden, co-working facilities, and more.
This is truly at the top of the list of what to see in Bologna in 2 days.
Visit the famous Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca
Next on your Bologna Italy itinerary, head to the marvelous Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca.
Either taking a long walk or the tourist train San Luca Express, you can marvel at the stunning views of Bologna. The icon of the Virgin Mary is the highlight of this church.
The stunning interior awaits with beautiful frescoes from famous Italian painters like Creti, Reni, Pestrini, and others.
The observation deck requires a ticket and leads to the gorgeous views through a narrow spiral staircase.
Coming by foot involves the longest porticoes in the world- Portico di San Luca. This is a great way to round off any Bologna 48 hours trip with such epic views.
Other secrets of Bologna
Not only does Bologna hide its picturesque canals, but the network of other secrets worth exploring when visiting Bologna in 2 days.
- The echo effect at Piazza Maggiore is known as the “wireless phone“. Communicating from one corner to another creates so much fun at the archway of Palazzo del Podestà.
- One of the archways in Via Independencia honors the historical meaning of cannabis with the phrase “Cannabis Protectio“.
- Beyond the stunning view of the Asinelli Tower, you’ll also see a broken vase.
- It might be difficult, but seeing three arrows in the courtyard of Corte Isolani will unveil the murder legend.
- The ancient University of Bologna holds an interesting piece of wisdom. The Latin phrase “panun resis“ means that knowledge is the basis of every choice.
These secrets of Bologna cover the mysterious history of the city.
If you have more than two days in Bologna
If you have more than 2 days in Bologna Italy, there is plenty to do nearby the city too.
Bologna is surrounded by cute, medieval towns and villages, which shine with the tranquil entice. One of them is the painted village of Dozza, close to Imola, and is well worth the visit.
Though Abano and MontegrottoTerme are closer to Venice, you will also have a recharging day trip from Bologna. Burano Island is a fantastic idea if you want to have a slice of Venetian magic.
Reflections on a 2 day Bologna itinerary
Bologna is a marvelous city that lives under its medieval shell. In Bologna, 2 days are enough to experience its historical spirit and the most significant sights.
You will still have the time to absorb the relaxing rhythm of its parks on your Bologna itinerary. 2 days of the vibrant atmosphere of the city will immerse you in a desire to come back soon.
AUTHOR BIO: Gabi Zec is a travel enthusiast from Croatia, a poetic soul passionate about writing. Her blog, Under Flowery Sky, focuses on the outdoors, gardens, and mountains. She also loves photography.