So you’re on your way to Bologna? You want to know about all the hidden gems in Bologna, of course! You’ve arrived exactly where you need to be.
Over the years, Bologna has had to compete for tourists’ attention with the more well-known northern Italian cities of Milan, Florence, and Venice. However, more and more people are coming to understand why it’s one of the most interesting and authentic cities in Italy. Bologna’s increasing appeal is due to more than just its piazzas, winding medieval alleyways, and ancient sites.
It is well acknowledged that Bologna is the culinary epicenter of Italy, and it more than lives up to this claim. Even though day-trippers from Venice, Florence, and Milan fill it up in the middle of the day, it merits more time for investigation, especially since it’s such a beautiful place to venture off the beaten route.
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Getting around Bologna
On any of our city breaks, our feet usually take the initiative and lead us in unexpected directions. We often walk everywhere unless we need to travel long distances. Similar to our previous trips, we used Google Maps to save a few locations that we had heard about in articles by other travel bloggers. This provided us with a general itinerary to follow, with a lot of meandering in between. The easiest way to navigate Bologna is on foot, especially if you want to venture off the usual route.
Read on and learn about the hidden gems in Bologna from a different perspective.
Bologna’s Underground City
Ancient underground water systems, air raid bunkers, Roman aqueducts, and crypts dating back a thousand years can all be found in Bologna.
While strolling the charming streets of the city center, you would never guess that beneath the surface are equally intriguing sights that you may visit. The “Friends of the Waterways and Undergrounds of Bologna” or “Amici delle Vie d’Acqua e dei Sotterranei” organizes guided tours to the hidden gems in Bologna city’s most unknown locations.
Location: 40120 Bologna, Italy
Phone: +39 051 623 2255
L’Antico Ghetto Ebraico
Another hidden gem in Bologna is L’Antico Ghetto Ebraico. You can see a section of Bologna that has managed to preserve its appearance from the 16th century at the L’Antico Ghetto Ebraico, also known as the Old Jewish Ghetto. Walk through Via dell’Inferno and the congested streets that cross it through the ghetto, which was only accessible to Jews up until the 1500s.
Jews were compelled to depart in 1593 after the Papal States ruled that there should only be 2 ghettos, one each in Rome and Ancona. You can still receive a seductive sense of a bygone age while strolling around the district with its low vaults and porticoes, lanes, awkward walkways, and ornamented buildings.
Location: 40126 Bologna, Italy
Finding Coffee in Bologna
You’re in for a treat while looking for coffee in Bologna. A thriving coffee culture that accommodates all tastes and preferences exists in this energetic metropolis. You have a wide range of options to satiate your caffeine desires, from classic espresso bars to hip coffee shops.
Finding a good cup of coffee is always our top priority first thing in the morning! Ordering a latte or a cappuccino can result in terrible disappointments in Europe’s warmer nations.
However, you may find cafes in Bologna that serve real, creamy milk from the abundant farms in the Emilia Romagna region. Cafe Aroma on Via Porta Nova is our top choice. The baristas delicately steam the milk at the ideal temperature while brewing the robust, delicious coffee.
Palazzo Poggi Museum
Another undiscovered and one of the most visited hidden gems in Bologna is the Palazzo Poggi, which lies just outside the Basilica of San Giacomo Maggiore and is conveniently accessible from the city center.
The Institute of Sciences and Arts in Bologna’s former administrative center was the Palazzo Poggi. Its frescoed halls, which also housed its library and observatory, held its scientific laboratories and collections up until 1799.
Visitors can now view the superb decor and displays, which cover everything from geography, nautical science, chemistry, physics, and anatomy to military architecture, natural history, and obstetrics, in this historically significant hub of learning.
Art enthusiasts will appreciate the oriental woodcuts from the University of Bologna’s Quadreria, which include portraits of well-known people from the Middle Ages to the 19th century and were created using a traditional method common in Japan and China.
Location: Via Zamboni, 33, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy
Open: Tuesday–Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm
Phone: +39 051 209 9610
European Museum of Students
The European Museum of Students is one of the hidden gems in Bologna and provides a fascinating look at the history of the student population and its relationship to the city. Visitors can discover more than 8 centuries of academic life at the University of Bologna through a special perspective.
More than 400 artifacts from a wide range of media, including manuscripts, paintings, sculptures, posters, historical attire, and even films, are on display in this fascinating museum. These items represent the varied practices and traditions of students throughout history. For those looking to discover the undiscovered gems of Bologna’s cultural legacy, it is a must-visit location.
Location: Via Zamboni, 33, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy
Open: Wednesday–Friday from 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm
Phone: +39 051 208 8690
Santa Maria della Vita
The masterwork by Niccol dell’Arca called Compianto sul Cristo morto, which represents the Lamentation of Christ, is kept in Bologna’s Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vita in the Quadrilatero neighborhood.
You’ll see why Italian poet D’Annunzio referred to it as a “scream in stone.” The sculptures’ faces convey pain so realistically that it appears as though they are screaming in agony. Look into the chapel to the right of the main altar to find it.
Location: Via Clavature, 8/10, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy
Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm (closed on Mondays)
Phone: +39 051 1993 6343
When in Bologna, look up as you cross the Corte Isolani portico, and ask yourself why there appear to be 3 arrows embedded in the beams. This lengthy, covered passageway leads from the Sette Chiese, or “Seven Churches,” square. It leads to Strada Maggiore, Bologna’s major street lined with historic buildings, after passing through courtyards and entrance halls watched over by businesses, offices, and residences. This unique sight is just one of the many hidden gems in bologna awaiting your discovery in this charming city.
The entry is marked from this site by a Romanesque and Gothic structure with a tall wooden portico, where you can see the enigmatic darts. The story surrounding their shooting is that a nobleman who suspected his wife of having an affair hired archers to assassinate her.
Location: Strada Maggiore, 26, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy
While traveling down Via Indipendenza in Bologna, you’ll pass the Palazzina Majani, one of the city’s most distinctive structures. The Art Nouveau structure is designed to resemble a chair from Vienna. The upper facade serves as the back, the semicircular balcony as the seat, and the portico columns as the legs.
It is now occupied by businesses, but it was formerly a gathering place for Bologna’s aristocracy and bourgeoisie in the early 20th century. The Majani family’s cafe and confectionery kitchen were located on the first floor, and a ballroom was located on the second.
Location: Via dell’Indipendenza, 4, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy
The Teatro Anatomico, often known as the “Anatomical Theatre,” is a marvel of architecture and is located inside the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio in Bologna.
This fir wood amphitheater, built in the 17th century, is home to various statues. Twelve well-known physicians, beginning with Hippocrates, are shown lower down, whereas 20 eminent university anatomists are shown higher up.
The stars and Apollo, the protector of doctors, are both depicted in sculptures on the ceiling coffer. On the central table, corpses would be being dissected, and to the left and right of the lecturer’s seat, two ominous figures—the so-called spellati—statues of skinless human bodies—would be there.
Location: Piazza Galvani, 1, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy
Open: Monday–Friday from 10 am to 6 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 7 pm, Sunday from 3 pm to 7 pm
Phone: +39 051 276 821
Summary: Hidden Gems in Bologna Italy
So, here you have it, a perfect list of hidden gems in Bologna. Your list should be quite long by now. Make sure you tick off all of the highlights you really want to do.
What are some of the best-hidden gems to explore in Bologna?
Finding some of Bologna’s hidden beauties is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, but it’s worth it to explore the mysterious Quadrilatero and the enchanted Palazzo Pepoli.
How can I find these hidden gems in Bologna?
I suggest wandering from the usual path, getting lost in the city’s winding paths, or asking locals for tips if they know where to find these secret spots.
Are the hidden gems in Bologna easily accessible to visitors?
Absolutely! The hidden gems in Bologna are a stone’s throw away from the city center, making them easily accessible for curious explorers like yourself.
Are there any guided tours or resources available to help me discover the hidden gems of Bologna?
A local-led walking tour can help you find hidden gems in Bologna, and you can also learn more about the city’s lesser-known attractions by participating in online travel forums.