Semester Abroad, Global Correspondents Bologna 101: Food, Hidden Gems, and More

December 14, 2023
By Alice Andrews, CAS '25

SA: Bologna Consortial Studies Program

Aliceone of the Semester Abroad Global Correspondents, shares her experience abroad during the Fall 2023 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.

There is nothing better than pre-travel research for the best food, housing, transportation, and must-see monuments of your destination abroad. Personally, I think I watched every YouTube vlog I could find that took place in Bologna out of a mix of excitement and anxiety, because of course, the prospect of living in a foreign place is both exhilarating and terrifying. So in an attempt to ease some of your nerves if you plan on visiting or studying in Bologna, here are some of my best tips for navigating the city, broken down into a few categories.


There are many staple Bolognese dishes you must try during your travels including tortellini in brodo, tagliatelle al ragù, crescentine, lasagne verdi alla bolognese, mortadella, tigelle, and more.

Best traditional Bolognese food:

  • Va Mo Là (has good vegetarian options)
  • La Montanara
  • Trattoria La Finestrella
  • Trattoria Belfiore (the owner Luca is very kind)
  • Trattoria da Me (one of the more famous trattorias in Bologna)
  • Trattoria Leonida
  • Buca San Petronio
  • Osteria Al 15
  • ZEM Vegan Bistrot (a great way to try Bolognese food if you are vegan)

Best gelato:

  • Cremeria la Vecchia Stalla
  • OGGI Gelato
  • Cremeria Santo Stefano
  • Gelateria Gianni
Fradiavolo Pizza.

Best pizza:

  • Berberè Petroni
  • Il portico di San Donato
  • Pizzium
  • Fradiavolo Pizzeria
  • Pizza Casa (quality is not incredible but the pizza is 3€ so it is popular among students)

Best street food:

  • Bombocrep dal 1978
  • Ciao Kebab
  • Flower Burger (vegan)
  • Bottega Portici
  • 2 Torri
  • Pasta Fresca Naldi (amazing fresh pasta to-go)
  • Indegno (here they have the famous crescentine of Bologna)
  • Mò Mortadella Lab

Best cafe/bars:

  • Fram Bistrot Bio Veg (vegetarian, they also have amazing lunch)
  • Zoo
  • Le Salentine
  • Comix Café
  • Camera A Sud
  • Naama Cafè (amazing Turkish coffee and pastries)
  • Il Forno di Un Chicco
  • Falegnami
  • Pappare’
  • Caffè Terzi


  • Amole (Szechwan/Chinese)
  • Venchi Cioccolato e Gelato (specifically for their hot chocolate)
  • La Prosciutteria (sandwiches and the best charcuterie/cheese boards)
  • Fermento (good sandwiches)
Fontana Del Nettuno.


Bologna is a very walkable city, but you may have classes that require you to use some sort of public transport. Although there is no metro system, here are some other transport options:


  • RideMovi app (Bologna’s bike-sharing system)
  • Buses (fairly reliable)
  • Taxis (expensive and somewhat unreliable but useful for getting to/from the airport)


  • BlaBlaCar (car ridesharing app; really useful for traveling between cities and sometimes cheaper than a train)
  • TrenItalia (the main train company in Italy, has both the regional and the “FrecciaRossa” high-speed trains; I always booked through the app, just make sure you validate your ticket before the train leaves)
  • Italo (another popular high-speed train company in Italy; will give you rewards if you book enough times through the app)

Must-see Monuments & Best Squares

Santo Stefano.

Bologna is known particularly for its medieval history. But of course, like any other Italian city, it has plenty of historical monuments so I will just name a few.

  • Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna
  • Le due torri
  • Piazza Maggiore (Fontana del Nettuno, Basilico di San Petronio, etc.)
  • La finestrella
  • Giardini Margherita
  • Parco della Montagnola
  • Piazza Santo Stefano (Le Sette Chiese, etc.)
  • Piazza Minghetti - Basilica di San Francesco
  • Museo Civico Medievale - Cineteca di Bologna
  • San Luca


Housing is hard to find nowadays in Bologna, but here are a few places to start.

  • Camplus Zamboni (this is where I lived and I loved it! Lots of amenities and its in a great location)
  • Camplus Valverde (if you love nature, this is the place for you)
  • Camplus San Felice
  • Camplus Mazzini
  • Dove Vivo
  • The Social Hub (mostly international students)
  • Laude Living

Hidden Gems

Due Torri.

Here are some more places that I enjoyed this semester!

Thrift stores:

  • La Leonarda
  • Armadi con Vista
  • Infernotto Vintage Boutique
  • Diorama Boutique
  • Humana Vintage

Markets & Weekend Events:

  • There are lots of markets held in various squares (e.g. Santo Stefano) in Bologna on the weekends. Check out @ingiroconalice on Instagram to see up-to-date markets in Bologna and other tips on things to do in the city!
  • DumBO often hosts various events with food, music, and local artists - If you are visiting during christmas, look out for all of Bologna’s christmas markets! My favorite is a French christmas market in Piazza Minghetti.

Best Places for Gifts:

  • Double Trouble Bologna
  • Fabrica Features Fab Feat Store
  • Pepaflaca Ceramics
  • Dedosjewels
  • La Bottega di Cocò
  • Majani Cioccolato Boutique (one of the oldest chocolate shops in Italy and home to the famous FIAT chocolates)
  • Folks
  • Checkpoint Charly (postcards by local Bolognese artists)
  • Periptero
  • Dr. Vranjes Firenze


  • Mia Nails centro estetico


I thought it would be fun to include a few Bolognese colloquialisms that I have learned since living here.

  • Vèz → this is used to casually address a friend (think “bro” in English)
  • Balotta → this is used to reference a group of friends (think “squad” in English)
  • Tiro → your Bolognese friend might say “dammi il tiro,” essentially, “let me in” or “open the door”
  • Rusco → this is the Bolognese version of “spazzatura” in standard Italian or “trash” in English
  • Polleg → to “stare in polleg” means to be in a state of tranquility or relax yourself but it can also signify being lazy/sitting around all day
  • Sportina → someone may ask you if you want a “sportina” when you are done shopping; this is the Bolognese way of asking if you would like a bag for your goods
  • Umarell → this is a Bolognese word that references a type of retired older man who stands and watches construction work; these men often have their hands behind their back and wear hats (yes, this is an actual thing)

I hope these recommendations are helpful to any future travelers. Bologna is a truly wonderful city to both visit and live in, and I am sure you will love it! Buon viaggio, happy travels!

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