Gay Bologna · City Guide
First time in Bologna? Then our gay Bologna city guide page is for you.
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The capital and largest city of the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. Bologna is Italy’s 6th largest city and the heart of a metropolitan area of over 1 million people.
With settlments located here since around 1000 BC, Bologna has a rich and varied history. After the fall of Rome the city was repeatedly sacked by Goths before being rebuilt by Petronius, the city’s patron saint. In 1088 the University of Bologna was established and it is widely believed to be the oldest University still in operation today.
Nowadays, Bologna is a cultural hub and is frequently rated amongst the top ten cities in Italy in terms of quality of life. It has a thriving economy and the Bologna provice has the third highest GDP in Italy. Visitors are drawn to its amazing old town, great gastronomic culture and varied shopping opportunities.
Gay Rights in Italy
For information about gay rights in Italy, please see our Gay Rome City Guide page.
In terms of gay venues and party scene, Bologna offers a modest selection of saunas, cruise clubs, and bars and dance clubs. It does, however, have a large selection of LGBT organisations that have their main bases in the city including Arcigay, Italy’s largest gay advocacy organisation, and Gay News, Italy’s national gay newspaper.
In June there is a vibrant pride festival that attracts guests from all over Italy and abroad. The end of October and beginning of November sees the Gender Bender arts festival take place, showcasing new and innovative works in dance, cinema and art that explore contemporary queer identities.
Getting to Bologna
Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport (BLQ) is located about 6km north west of the city centre and is the 7th largest airport in Italy. It serves many destinations across Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and there are seasonal charter services to Mombasa and Cancun.
TPER offer a shuttle bus service called Aerobus that takes you into Bologna city centre in around 20 minutes (traffic depending). Tickets cost €6 but they are valid for an hour on all Bologna bus services once validated. The service runs every 11 minutes between 5.30 am and 12.15am.
Taxis can be hailed from the airport or ordered in advance and offer a quick and easy route to the centre. A journey to Bologna’s central train station should cost between €15-20 depending on what time of day you travel, whether it’s a bank holiday or if you have large amounts of luggage.
Bologna is the rail hub of Northern Italy and is well connected to the majority of Italian major cities. There is an overnight sleeper service to and from Paris and is one of the locations on the iconic Venice-Simplon Orient Express.
Getting around Bologna
The best way to get around Bologna is on foot as this is the best way to take in the majesty of the historic city centre. The iconic Due Torri is a good landmark to rely on to avoid getting yourself lost. Remember to look out for scooters and motorbikes, however, as they frequently drive up the back lanes.
Buses in Bologna are a relatively inexpensive way to get from a to b. Singles cost €1.50 and are valid for 75 minutes. They can be purchased on the bus or at newsagents, tobacconists and cafes (24h passes are €5). The majority of routes run from 6am to 11pm however there are a handful of night services.
Taxis in Bologna tend to be quite expensive but can be easily hailed on the streets or caught from the many taxi ranks across the city. Realistically, you probably won’t need to take one as the city centre is relatively compact.
Due to Bolgna’s large student population, cycling is a very popular method of transportation here. There are many cycle hire schemes in operation here. If bringing your own bike do take precautions as bike thefts are not uncommon, especially around the university area.
Where to Stay in Bologna
For some of the best hotel selections in Bologna, visit our Gay Bologna Hotels page.
Things to See & Do
Due Torri – these two towers are probably the most iconic image of Bologna’s cityscape. The legend has it that the two towers were built by competing families in the 12th Century to show which of them were the most powerful but that remains up for debate.
Piazza Maggiore – Bologna’s main square and the beating heart of the city. Here you will find many restaurants where you can sample the dish that Bologna is most famous for internationally- ragù alla bolognese.
Jewish Museum – this museum, located in Bologna’s former Jewish ghetto, traces the history of the city’s Jewish population. An interesting and sobering experience.
San Petronio Basilica – enormous gothic church on the Piazza Maggiore. This church is the tenth largest in the world in terms of volume and is notable as being the birth place of Bolognese bell ringing art.
Lamborghini Museum – if you needed a reminder that Bologna was one of Italy’s richest regions, than look no further. Located about 50 minutes on bus from the city centre, here you can discover the history of one the world’s most iconic luxury brands.
Galleria Cavour – the place to go for the ultimate in high-end shopping. Here you will find all the high-end brands should you wish to splurge.
When to Visit
Bologna experiences extremely warm summers which results in many local residents leaving the city, giving it an almost “ghost town” like quality. Spring and the fall are pleasant as the weather is fine and the students bring life to the city. Winters are cool with the occasional dusting of snow.
There are a wide range of festivals and events that take place in Bologna. In July there is a film festival held in Piazza Maggiore which showcases restored silent films as well as modern classics. In December the city also hosts the MotorShow which brings a wide range of impressive vehicles to the city.
Italy is a member of the euro zone. ATM’s (bancomat) are widely available. Shops love cash. You will not be refused a discount in many independent stores if you pay cash. Most shops will ask for ID if you pay with a credit card.
Foreign exchange offices (cambio) are located close to all main tourist areas but generally offer poor rates of exchange.
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