20 Amazing Things Bologna Italy Is Known And Famous For

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Bologna is famous for a trifecta of things: its delectable food, serene landscapes, and charming, bustling squares. Found in Northern Italy, it is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. As a result, it has an enchanting hilly landscape ideal for hiking, at the bottom of the Apennine Mountains.

What Is Bologna Known For? 

Bologna is known for its characteristic red buildings, prestige education, and authentic cuisine that evolved from the city and are quickly spreading to the rest of Italy and the world. Furthermore, its quaint villages in the mountains are the perfect location for nurturing fine wines. 

Ultimately, Bologna is known for welcoming all generations, young and old, with its homely atmosphere and historic attractions.  

History, Culture, And Traditions Bologna Is Known For

Food Capital Of Italy 


Bologna is known for its nicknames: La Dotta, La Grassa, and La Rossa. The ‘La Grassa’ aspect of this means ‘the fat’, which is a tribute to its delicious cuisine. The most typical dish is pasta, cured meats, and cheeses, which are made with authentic recipes that cannot be replicated. 

As a result, you will find many popular food tours in Bologna that not only take you on a gastronomic adventure but are also combined with landmark spotting.

Best of all, there are many different experiences on offer for enthusiastic foodies. From visits to local hidden gems to hands-on cooking classes, you will be spoilt for choice.

> Check Full Day Bologna Food Experience 

The Red City 


Bologna has earned its name as the red city, or ‘La Rossa’. 

As soon as you step foot in Bologna, you will discover the terracotta color of its buildings ranging from house rooftops to museums and galleries. The earthy red hue comes from the clay and bricks used to construct the buildings.

However, many claim that the red color comes from the long history of left-wing ideologies Bologna is famous for consistently portraying. During World War II, Italy fought the Nazis, despite being previously allied to Germany. 

Oldest University In The World 

An interesting fact about Bologna is that it is home to the oldest university in the world.

‘La Dossa’, or ‘The Learned One’, is derived from the prestigious University of Bologna. Established in 1088 by Irnerius, the renowned university has an impressive alumni listing including Nicolaus Copernicus, Pope Alexander VI, and Lord Chesterfield.

In addition to Bologna, the multicampus university also occupies the regions of Cesena, Forlì, Ravenna, and Rimini. There is even a branch in Argentina!

Musical Creativity 

In 2006, Bologna coined the nickname City of Music after winning an award from UNESCO. This is well deserved due to a combination of factors. 

Firstly, Bologna has long portrayed musical talent, evidenced by the successful Bologna Municipal Theater. Built in the 18th century, the opera house is a thriving element of the music scene, hosting various performances from renowned personalities. These include age-old composers, like Mozart, to contemporary singers. 

Additionally, Bologna is famous for throwing some of the best music festivals in Italy. There is often an array of artists performing depending on the genre.  

Districts And Areas Bologna Is Known For

Centro Storico

Centro Storico, or the Historic Centre, is without a doubt the most visited district in Bologna. This is because it has the most attractions and sights within close range of each other. 

The central square, Piazza Maggiore was built in 1200. It was originally designed to hold markets and be a gathering place for important discussions. 

Next to the Piazza Maggiore, you will find Piazzo del Nettuno. The infamous Fountain of Neptune is located here, featuring a bronze sculpture of the god of the sea ruling over mermaids.

Other prominent Bologna landmarks such as the Saint Petronio Basilica and Two Towers are also located in Centro Storico.

University District

The University District sits right next to Centro Storico. It is famed for having the oldest attraction in Bologna is known for – Bologna University. 

Similarly, the quarter has historic and interesting landmarks such as The Museum of Anthropology, Astronomy Museum, and Wax Museum. This district has many educational and insightful things to do if you are looking to learn more about the city and culture.

Conversely, you can imagine that the University District is also vibrant and energetic with all that youthful crowd around. Filled with student bars, loud nightclubs, and entertainment venues, this is the ideal place to visit with friends.

Ghetto Ebraico

Ghetto Ebraico is an important neighborhood in Bologna. Formerly a Jewish Ghetto in the 16th century, the area is a poignant reminder of the antisemitism of the olden days. 

When the Jews were expelled from the common areas of Bologna, Ghetto Ebraico was the place where they called home. As a result, it was crowded and simple. 

Whilst Ghetto Ebraico doesn’t have the density of attractions as other districts, the ones it does offer are equally valuable. For example, the Synagogue of Bologna is a beautiful and classic place of worship, which was once destroyed during air raids. Similarly, the Jewish Museum of Bologna is worth visiting to learn more about the history of the area.

Motor Valley

Motor Valley is a haven for all things automotive. Stretching along the Via Emilia, this region boasts an impressive lineup of attractions that will satisfy any gearhead’s cravings. 

What’s impressive is that Renowned car and motorbike brands call this valley home. We’re talking names like Lamborghini, Ferrari, Ducati. This is where these iconic machines are born, crafted with precision and passion. 

Best of all, you can actually visit the factories and museums of these legendary brands, getting an up-close and personal look at the engineering marvels that have captured the world’s imagination.

There is no shortage of excitement and discovery in this area as you immerse yourself in the rich history and heritage of the Italian automobile industry.

> Visit Ferrari Lamborghini Pagani Factories and Museums

Landmarks And Architecture Bologna Is Known For

Piazza Maggiore


Piazza Maggiore is the central square located in the heart of the city. It holds significant cultural value because it is one of the oldest squares in the country, established in 1200. 

The pre-existing houses were demolished, and a huge square was built, to gather to residents of Bologna during important meetings. 

As it is spacious and historic, Piazza Maggiore is often a key meeting point in the city. You are almost certain to pass by here. The City Walking Tour covers the square as well as other famous attractions.

The Basilica of San Petronio


In Centro Storico you will find The Basilica of San Petronio. Constructed in 1390, the Roman Catholic church commemorates Saint Petronius, a Patron saint and former bishop that Bologna is known for. 

Its design was heavily influenced by Antonio di Vincenzo, known for his ornate gothic style. That striking visual certainly contributes to it being one of the prominent Italian landmarks.

The basilica exterior is grand and opulent. However, if you have the time, the interior of the church is the most striking. There is artwork such as the Madonna with St. Petronio, a traditional wooden crucifix, and over twenty chapels.

Sanctuary Of The Madonna di San Luca


The Sanctuary Of The Madonna di San Luca is an 18th-century church Bologna is famous for because of its unique location and rich history. It is situated on top of Colle della Guardia hill, encompassed by forest. 

The sanctuary is a bit of a trek but trust me, it’s worth every step. Stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with an unbelievable panoramic view of Bologna city. 

But, it’s not just the view that makes this place special. Inside, the sanctuary houses a Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary, adding a touch of spiritual mystique to an already breathtaking location. 

Speaking of that journey up, there’s a district red brick archway that connects to the Baroque church. This walkway, called ‘Portico di San Luca’, is the longest of its kind in the world, with an impressive 666 arches. 

Don’t worry if you are not up for the hike. Two other more relaxing ways to get up there are by bus or the fun-looking San Luca Express train.

Two Towers 

The Two Towers are a pair of medieval towers known as Asinelli and Garisenda. The stone buildings were both founded in 1119, by two affluent families and are now iconic symbols of the city. 

Since they are both leaning, they are notoriously hard to climb. However, the picturesque view from above makes it all worthwhile.

The Asinelli Tower is the taller of the two, reaching over 97 meters. As such, the structure towers over the city and has a birdseye view of the distinctive red buildings that Bologna is so famous for. 

Food Bologna Italy Is Known For

Spaghetti Bolognese


Arguably the most famous of the classic Italian dishes is spaghetti bolognese. The pasta itself is a simple egg noodle that tastes great with a variety of sauces like carbonara or pesto. However, the bolognese sauce is the most famous, and for good reason. 

Traditional bolognese sauce is made with cherry tomatoes, carrots, and celery. Once cooked they are blended and are added to meat, usually minced beef. A healthy measure of white wine is also added.

This sauce was invented by a chef in the 18th century and has been a favorite ever since.

> Take a Pasta Making Class With A Local


We can agree that lasagna was invented during the medieval era, but conflict arises when questioning whether Greece or Italy invented it. 

For Italians, lasagna is proudly rooted in the region of Emilia Romagna, where Bologna is the capital. And one of the reasons is because the dish traditionally uses bolognese sauce. 

To make authentic lasagna, you layer meat, tomato sauce, and bechamel sauce, then top with ricotta cheese. As Bologna is famous for its meat and cheese consumption, you may struggle to find vegetarian options, but there are countless varieties of pasta you can go for.



Mortadella is a luncheon meat that is used in different types of dishes due to its versatility. It is made with ground pork as well as pork fat. 

Although the salami makes a great snack by itself, it is often incorporated into sandwiches. You will find Mortadella is commonly paired with cheese like burrato and a fresh pesto sauce. 

Similarly, boloney is a type of sausage derived from mortadella but also combines other cuts of meat. In contrast, it is not Italian, despite what its name heavily suggests. 

Parmigiano Reggiano 


Parmigiano Reggiano, or parmesan as it is more commonly known, was invented over 900 years ago. It was discovered by the same Benedictine monks who invented champagne and beer, as they were encouraged to be efficient with their limited resources. 

The cheese is named after the Parma region, close to Bologna where it is mass-produced. It is one of the popular things from Italy that has spread internationally.

Parmesan is sharp, as there is not a long maturation process, making it great for eating with fruits such as apples and pears. In addition, many restaurants will offer it to melt over pasta, producing a complex, nutty flavor.

Famous People From Bologna

Guglielmo Marconi

Guglielmo Marconi is one of the most recognised people Bologna is famous for, because of his contribution to wireless communication. 

After years of experimentation, and his dedication to wireless technology, Marconi finally invented the radio in 1895. 

By using radio waves, which were not very well understood at the time, he successfully managed signal transmission. Tweaking this fundamental idea, Marconi created the radio.

Almost a decade later in 1909, Marconi won a Nobel Prize in physics for this important achievement.

Pier Paolo Pasolini 

Pier Paolo Pasolini was a talented academic known for his poetry and film-making. He is famous for writing and directing several movies such as Theorem, The Gospel According To Matthew, and Accattone. 

Although Pasolini was assassinated, his legacy lived on after his death. His clashing views, such as supporting homosexuality whilst being openly Christian, made him respected at a time when this was considered impossible. As a result, Pasolini’s poems and movies continue to prevail.

Serena Grandi 

Serena Grandi is an inspiring actress born in Bologna.

Initially, Grandi was a struggling actress and was only credited with cameos in unsuccessful movies. Nevertheless, her drive and determination finally landed her a role in the horror Antropophagus, or The Beast as it is known internationally.

After this success, Grandi became a sex icon overnight and was accredited with several roles in television and cinema. Her movies, both Italian and American, are considered classic hits and as a result, Bologna is famous for its beautiful and hard-working women.

Chiara Caselli

Chiari Caselli is yet another actress that Bologna is famous for. 

Caselli is best known for her role in My Own Private Idaho, inspired by the play Henry IV by Shakespeare. This movie was a global success, also featuring Keanu Reaves. 

In addition to American movies, Caselli excelled in classic Italian box office hits. She won a prestigious Nastro d’Argento, and David di Donatello Award, for her role in a 1993 drama.

Discovering More Things Bologna Is Known For

Bologna is an idyllic travel destination that can be enjoyed by everyone. Whether you are a foodie eager to sample its world-renowned cuisine, a history buff keen to explore its ancient towers and medieval architecture, or a culture enthusiast looking forward to immersing yourself in its rich literary and cinematic history, there is something on offer.

The city is a vibrant melange of old-world charm and contemporary elegance, effortlessly blending tradition with innovation. You don’t need to choose between a quiet escape in the countryside or a lively holiday with good nightlife. Be prepared to uncover more of what Bologna is famous for during your adventure!



Book Your Flight

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Find Your Accommodation

Booking.com is my usual platform for finding accommodation options as they have one of the largest selections. Hostelworld is great for booking hostels. For more private or long term accommodation, Airbnb is my go-to platform.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is important for to protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances. I usually look at a few insurance companies depending on my travel needs.
  • SafetyWings for Travel Health Insurance
  • IMG Global for added Insurance when doing activities outside of usual coverage
Packing for your trip? Check out the packing list for ideas on what to bring

For more travel resources, check out my resources page for best platforms and companies to use when you travel.

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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


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