Bologna in photos: 44 stunning photos that will inspire you to visit
Here is a collection of our favourite photos from Bologna, a city we fell in head over heels in love with.
Bologna is entirely unlike the rest of Italy.
It doesn’t have the glimmering canals of Venice, nor the catwalks of Milan. It lacks the artwork of Florence, and it certainly doesn’t have the colosseum that draws tourists to Rome.
Yet Bologna is easily the most captivating Italian city we’ve ever found ourselves in.
What Bologna does have is over 40km of porticoes and a gritty jumble of beautifully worn, medieval buildings. Its walls are the inviting colours of a forest in autumn’s throes; rich terracotta and tuscan yellows, burnt ochres and faded ambers. Lights and shadows, contrasts and angles; the city is truly enchanting feast for the eyes.
We’d been told before arriving that Bologna is the kind of place you go to be a local, not a tourist, and that’s absolutely true. This is the kind of place you come to observe. To discover where people drink their morning coffee or buy their fresh bread. To ponder where they’re going when they whiz past on their bikes. To sit in Piazza Maggiore and soak in the atmosphere, as locals meet their friends and drift away.
But the best way for us to observe Bologna was with our cameras in hand; wandering those quaint and winding streets, and admiring its rustic beauty. It was only fitting then, that we share with you our Bologna photo diary; a collection of our favourite images of Italy’s red city.
44 photos that will inspire you to visit the stunning city of Bologna
Everyday life on the Streets of Bologna
The atmosphere created by Bologna’s narrow streets, tiny windows and curious corners make it a great place to explore.
Brimming with colourful porticoes, hipster shopping, bars and restaurants, the streets of Bologna are a wonderful place to spend an afternoon enjoying the mix of trendy boutiques, vintage stores, bars and street art.
Piazza Maggiore and the surrounding steets
One of the largest and oldest squares in Italy, Piazza Maggiore is the epicentre of political and social life in Bologna, and the starting point for everything to do in Bologna.
Surrounded by some of Bologna's grandest buildings, including the Basilica di San Petronio, Palazzo dei Notai, Palazzo d'Accursio, Palazzo del Podestà, Palazzo dei Bianchi and the fountain of Neptune, Piazza Maggiore really is the most beautiful European squares we've laid eyes on.
But the beauty of Piazza Maggiore lies beyond its attractive facade. For centuries, locals have embraced and enjoyed this space, and it really is the true definition of a public square. In fact, Piazza Maggiore was home to one of Europe’s biggest open-air market until the mid-1800s with products coming from all over the world, which explains how it grew into the meeting spot for locals in the city.
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The market streets of Quadrilatero
The colourful streets of Quadrilatero are the trendy, beating gourmet heart of Bologna.
Its somewhat odorous alleyways are filled with greengrocers and fishmongers shouting the days specials, while the warm scent of fresh-baked bread wafts from the local artisanal bakers. Quaint cafes churn out morning espressos for their regulars, while tourists slowly wander through taking in all the sights and sounds. Quadrilatero is a sensory overload in the best possible way.
Set on the site of ancient Bologna, the Quadrilatero was the home to many markets and food stalls during the Middle Ages. It is now the commercial heart of the old town and the place in Bologna to find all the incredible local produce, including freshly made pasta, local balsamico, aged cheeses, delicious charcuterie, and of course terrific (and inexpensive) wine.
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Bologna from above | the towers of le due Torri
The twin towers of Bologna, otherwise known as Le Due Torri, are the number one attraction in the city and one of its most commonly recognised symbols. Commenced in the 11th century, the towers were constructed by the prominent Asinelli and Garisenda families as defensive fortifications (and status symbols), strategically placed at the entry point in the city of the ancient Via Emilia (Aemilian Way) to warn off any potential invaders.
The panoramic views over the red city are incredible - you can see Bologna in every direction. To the west is the marvellous Piazza Maggiore and Basilica of San Luca, to the south west, the ancient Roman road of via Emilia. To the south, the green rolling hills of the Emilia Romagna region.
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The stunning porticoes of Bologna
Lights and shadows, unique architectural angles, columns, capitals and frescoes; Bologna's porticoes create the most fascinating urban landscapes.
There are close to 40kms of porticoes throughout the city of Bologna, each with their own unique style and structure. By simply strolling the city's porticoes, it felt like we were getting to know the city and its history, one step at a time.
Locals use the porticoes in different ways, whether it be friends sitting under their arches to have an espresso or a smoke, or to walk their dogs in the absence of rain. University students even use them as advertising boards for the latest parties in town.
The incredible food of Bologna
Quite simply, eating is one of the best things to do in Bologna, and in a country famed for its cuisine, the city reigns supreme as the gastronomic capital of Italy.
The first thing to know is that Bologna is the birthplace of bolognese, or tagliatelle al ragù. Secondly, the region of Emilia Romagna is home to the glorious Parmigiano Reggiano, or parmesan, tortellini, tortelloni, mortadella, Parma ham, balsamic vinegar, and many other delicacies. And thirdly, consuming all this incredible food won't break the bank.
For traditional Bolognesi cuisine, the street of via della Moline offers a large variety of traditional restaurants, all with large terrace areas perfect for summer dining. Our pick of restaurants was Trattoria del Rosso, which served the most impressive tortelloni we had in Bologna. On the other hand, one place we would recommend missing was Osteria dell'Orsa, the Tripadvisor-famous restaurant we felt didn't quite live up to the hype - instead, head to Trattoria Anna Marie for the most authentic, home made Tagliatelle al ragù.
The best Travel photography Tips For Bologna
While Bologna is super photogenic, to get the perfect shot requires the right timing, light and composition. Here are our top Bologna photography tips to get the most of our your time in the city.
SHOOT AT SUNRISE AND SUNSET
The golden rule of photography is to shoot in golden hour, and Bologna is no different. The warm light illuminates the ‘red city’ beautifully, with shadows and and contrasted scenes filling the city’s streets.
There’s no ‘perfect’ spot for golden hour, however the narrow streets off Piazza Maggiore, and the view of Bologna from Parco di San Michele In Bosco during sunrise is a good idea!
Another benefit of shooting at sunrise is the porticoes will likely be empty, allowing you to photograph them at their best.
USE A FIXED PRME LENS FOR STREET PHOTOGRAPHY
Bologna’s streets are built for street photography, so consider using a fixed prime (we used our Sigma 35mm f1.4, or Canon 50mm f1.8). The 35mm forces you to get close to your subjects, but is wide enough to use in cramped, narrow laneways and for the cinematic city vistas.
A fast prime is also perfect for the blue hours, and at night, with the maximum aperture ranging from f1.4 - f 1.8 great for the lower light.
The best areas for shooting street photography are in the main squares, such as Piazza Maggiore, Piazza Santa Stefano and Piazza Guiseppe Verdi, or the streets and laneways in the old town.
GET HIGH ABOVE BOLOGNA
Bologna is blessed with ancient towers, some of which provide the most epic views from above Bologna. Le Due Torri is your best bet to look down upon the city and its terracotta-tiled roofs (it’s also one of the best things to do in Bologna). Alternatively, a great view over Bologna and Le Due Torri can be seen from the terrace of the Basilica of San Petronio (€3 fee), which can be accessed from the rear of the Basilica.
Parco di San Michele In Bosco is another great view over the city, and if you’re after the perfect view above Piazza Maggiore, head to the second floor of Palazzo D’Accursio.
The best Travel photography gear For Bologna
Bologna is a seriously photogenic city, so we definitely recommend investing in some good photography gear before visiting.
Below is the photography gear we used to get all of our shots in Bologna.
The Sony A7RII produces brilliant photos and video
The original photography beast which keeps going strong, the Canon 5D MKIII produces the best colours
The Canon 24-70mm is known as one of the best zoom lenses on the market; it's exceptionally sharp, small and lightweight, which makes it perfect for travel photography
The Canon 70-200mm f4 is our favourite lens, hands down. The image stabilisation works a treat, even on moving trains!
Check out the rest of camera gear here.
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