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What to do in Bologna                                          (Back to Bologna main information page)

Bologna is a city which has developed along fairly harmonious lines ? obviously with its fair share of problems and contradictions ? in terms of developing appropriate architectural structures and buildings to suit its citizens? way of life and recreational needs.

The city has many things going for it: it is strategically located on the road network which links the north to the south, it is a cultural centre and home of the oldest university in Europe, it is the industrial capital of the Pianura Padana region and it is removed from the chaos of the capital and the large northen industrial cities, which means it is not paralysed by traffic problems. It is easy to get around on foot, by bicycle, on a bus, a scooter and in a car (although this is not recommended for getting around the historic city centre).

This small, ancient, carefully-preserved city is full of churches, museums, theatres and thousands of other hidden treasures. It is the place to come if you want to totally immerse yourself in culture. It is also the city of the famous carnival mask ?Dr. Balanzone?, of raucous students, of markets and fairs, and of tortellini and mortadella. In short, good food and entertainment are never hard to find here.

Bologna?s Taverns

In 1300, Bologna was already one of the most densely populated cities in Europe, and contained around a hundred and fifty taverns. This impressive figure probably had a lot to do with the massive influx of students of all nationalities who came here to study at its prestigious university. The cream of European youth would visit these taverns to sit around and have long discussions, while munching on sausages and mortadella and drinking copious amounts of wine. They would come to sing the Gaudeamus Igitur and other student songs, to be ironic and irreverant, sometimes even scurrilous in their attitude towards authority, the clergy and their professors. Students, artists, hardened drinkers, and famous intellectuals (such as Olindo Guerrini and Giosu?Carducci) alike could be found in these taverns and bars every day.

Between the two world wars, many of these taverns disappeared, but the Bolognese still retained a penchant for drinking and socialising. Today, there are over two hundred taverns, wine bars, beer gardens and pubs in the city. One of the most traditional and characteristic taverns is the Osteria del Sole, while the oldest are probably Osteria da Mario and Osteria della Fondazza which both have a very simple charm.

However, there are also several taverns which have decided to go upmarket and become refined and elegant; these have transformed themselves into rustic-style restaurants, such as Osteria Piazza Grande, Osteria dei Poeti, Osteria del Brancaleone, Osteria S.Caterina and Osteria dello Scorpione.

Two particular areas have a high concentration of pubs where you can go to eat, drink and listen to music; these are the Pratello district and the university district.

The pedestrian zone on Via del Pratello is traditionally an extremely popular meeting place. It is situated away from the hustle and bustle of the traffic and is often the scene of shows and seasonal markets. Characterised by its low doorways and streets paved in stone, the area is home to a number of pubs and bars including Birreria del Pratello, Monastero, Mutenye,  Il Rovescio, as well as social, cultural and recreational groups such as Circolo Pavese and also several bars which have managed to maintain the old-fashioned charm of working-class pubs such as Barazzo and Osvaldo.

A couple of metres away is the beautiful Piazza San Francesco on which stands the Gothic church of the same name. In front this is the Bar De? Marchi - the sort of place where you can still play cards and challenge veteran players to a game.

In the university district, there are numerous pubs which are always full of young people, who flock here in the late afternoon to take advantage of the happy hour during which they drink and chat. At the two opposite ends of Via Zamboni, there is an Irish pub - Clauricane Irish Pub - and an English pub - The Lord Lister?s English Pub. Also on Via Zamboni is Caff?del Museo which offers one of the most popular happy hours in the city every Thursday night.

On Via delle Belle Arti, you will find an Italian-style pub - Contavalli. On the nearby Via delle Moline is the small and inexpensive Master?s Pub and Downtown Caf?which offers cabaret and live music.

On Via Borgo S.Pietro stands the Corto Maltese - a ?discopub? which is always very busy and stays open until late and Le Stanze (del Tenente) - an elegant cocktail bar which is housed inside the Palazzo Bentivoglio.

Finally, on Via Mascarella you will find Naked - a small, alternative pub which presents a different DJ every night, the more elegant Bravo Caf?and Cantina Bentivoglio - a wine bar serving food that has been hosting live jazz performances every night for the last ten years.


Eighteenth and nineteenth century music in Bologna is associated with great figures such as Father Martini, Rossini, Wagner (who became an ?honorary citizen? of Bologna), Busoni and Respighi.

Antonio Bibiena left the city his masterpiece ? the Teatro Comunale, which was inaugurated on 26th May 1763 with the performance of Il Trionfo di Clelia. Melodramas have been staged in this magnificent theatre from the eighteenth century through to the present day.

The repertoire of opera and symphonies at the Teatro Comunale, as well as the work of the Conservatory and the Bologna Festival have kept the city?s passion for classical music very much alive.

However, Bologna also has a strong attraction to jazz, and many famous international jazz musicians have graced its stages: from Chet Baker, Steve Grossman and Bill Frisell to Richard Galliano. The Bologna jazz circuit covers a number of pubs and bars which are convinced that good wine and good music should go hand in hand. These include Cantina Bentivoglio, Chet Baker Jazz Club and Osteria dell?Orsa.

Bologna is also the home of many great singers. It has always been an important centre for pop music, and has seen artists such as Guccini and Dalla as well as many other groups and young bands rise up out of obscurity and make the big time. There are several clubs which although not overly spacious, have always hosted pop concerts, such as Il Covo and Officina Estragon.

If the alternative, avant-garde circuit is more your scene, why not try Link - an enormous venue which is dedicated to every type of experimentalist music imaginable, and lots more besides. Concerts and other events are also organised by TPO -Teatro Polivalente Occupato.


In this century, the Emilia Romagna region has shown itself to be ? in the words of film historian Renzo Renzi ? ?the land of cinema?. Many famous directors have worked and produced their best work here in Emilia Romagna and Bologna. These include luminaries such as Antonioni, Avati, Bertolucci, Bevilacqua, Cavani, Di Carlo and Fellini.

Bologna therefore became an important centre for cinematographic culture. This was further strenghthened in the sixties and seventies with the founding of the Cinema Comission (by Renato Zanghieri) and the institution of the DAMS ? a degree course based on comtemporary arts, music and drama, with particular reference to cinema.

This cinematographic culture is of course provided for the benefit of the public. Bologna probably has the highest number of passsionate cinema-goers in the whole country ? it definitely has the largest number of cinemas. This is probably partially due to the activities of the Cineteca Communale which attempted to promote cinema-going with the construction of a major cinema ? Il Lumiere - which showed re-runs of an extensive range of both classical and contemporary classics for people to re-discover.

The Cineteca Communale also organises a variey of festivals.These include: Cinema Ritrovato - an open-air summer festival which screened masterpieces of silent cinema to the accompaniment of live music, Future Film Festival which, since a few years ago has been taking place annually. This festival details new cinematographic technologies and developments in the world of animation.

A couple of major non-commercial cinemas in Bologna which are worth a visit are il Roma and Adriano d?essai. The latter also shows a cycle of films in their original language entitled Maniamerica.

The recently-opened Medusa is a futuristic, multi-screened cinema which predominantly features Hollywood blockbusters. Its brand-new rooms offer extreme comfort and the best new technologies with regard to sound and picture quality.


Theatre is very popular in Bologna: the university hosts various initiatives, there are numerous theatre schools, the repertoires are varied and the public is enthusiastic. The ?Bologna 2000? initiative has also contibuted to the already intense theatrical activity taking place in the city. Many interesting events and meetings are organised here all the time.

The city?s main theatre is Arena del Sole. The restoration work - finished in 1996 - gave rise to a spacious theatre split into two rooms: the larger room is dedicated to major performances featuring world-famous artists and the smaller one - Sala Interaction - is given over to experimental work and avant-garde theatre.

One of the oldest theatres in the city is Teatro Duse which is part of the Ente Teatrale Italiano (Italian Theatre Association). Another historic theatre is Teatro delle Moline, which is extremely small (it has a capacity of fifty) but very successful. It is used by the artsitic directors Marinella Manicardi and Prof.Gozzi (a DAMS graduate) for experimental work featuring predominantly Italian artists.

Teatro Dehon and Teatro delle Celebrazioni offer more commercial shows, particularly the latter which tends to put on musicals and cabaret shows.

A more elite and intellectual audience can go and see avant-garde repertoires at Teatri di Vita (which also stages contemporary dance shows), Teatro Laboratorio San Leonardo (the artistic director of which is head of research into contemporary Italian theatre) and Teatro San Martino.

Children?s theatre is not overlooked: Testoni Ragazzi - a theatre and arts centre for children and young people - offers a series of shows and workshops for children. During ?Bologna 2000?, this includes a project entitled La Citt?dell?Infanzia (?The City of Childhood?) which includes events and meetings aimed at underlining the importance of theatre language and the arts when meeting and communicating with children and artists from other European countries.

There are also many other theatres in the rest of the province, where theatre-going is no less popular. These include Teatro Consorziale di Budrio.

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