Inhabited since the 9th century BC, the area has a long and complex history. Boii Celts dominated here from the 4th century BC until the Romans first arrived in 196 BC. Some of the language of this Gaul-Etruscan civililization survives today in the local dialect. After being on the losing side with Hannibal in the Punic Wars, the city was taken over, but thrived under the victorious Romans to become one of the ancient world's most prosperous cities. Several centuries of decline and neglect followed the fall of the Western Empire.
The University of Bologna, European's oldest university, was established here in 1088, attracting students such as Dante, Boccaccio and Petrarch. The famous towers were built and a system of canals made it a successful trading center -- by the end of the 13th century Europe's fifth largest city. Some canals, still located beneath the city, can be visited on rafting tours, and over twenty towers remain of an original 200 or so. In 1256, the Legge del Paradiso abolished feudal serfdom and freed the slaves, (using public money), and during the Renaissance Bologna allowed women freedom to excel in the professions, and earn a university degree - rare elsewhere at the time.
Much of the charm of Bologna today, the arched sidewalks and passageways, are the work of 13th-century town leaders, who decreed that roads could not be built without being lined with porticos. Little has changed since then, (except for some WWII bombing damage), with an historic center of 350 acres full of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque structures, and some 38 kilometers of arcades.
This university town with a young, lively population and generally left/liberal leanings, has a body politic that's quite open-minded in attitudes about gay people. The local gay scene is only moderate in size, but Bologna's gay and lesbian center Cassero is unrivaled in Italy, and the national gay activist organization Arcigay has their central office here. Bologna Pride takes place each June.
See some 26 local restaurant suggestions in our map/listings pages. In Modena, about 20km to the northwest, Osteria Francescana, owned and operated by chef Massimo Bottura, was rated the world's best restaurant by Restaurant Magazine in 2016. With 3 Michelin stars and just 12 tables you'll need to reserve well in advance.
Bologna’s Aeroporto Guglielmo Marconi is about 4 miles from the city center. Shuttle buses and taxis are on hand to take you to your hotel. FS, the national Italian rail company, runs express buses between the airport and the main train station, from where you can catch a train to most any place in Italy, or beyond.
Much of the historic center is off-limits to cars, making this a great city for strolling. Buses can get you to sights that are outside the center. See Tper for public transportion info, including car and bike sharing, in Italian. For an overview of the system in English see Bologna Welcome.
Currency and Money
Italy is part of the Euro Zone, so the euro is the accepted currency. There are ATMs in every city.
Bologna’s Cassero gay and lesbian center is in one of the medieval gates of Bologna, with lots of social events in addition to their services, making it worth a visit
For whats happening in the arts in Bologna, see the website Arte.it, "The map of art in Italy."
For gay and gay-friendly business map locations and web links, see our gay Bologna listings section.
Baracca e Burratini (via Irnerio 39a), gay-friendly restaurant/bar near the Botanical Garden; American-style full breakfast, lunch and dinner; veggie options, free WiFi.
Barattolo (via del Borgo di San Pietro 26/a), "con la nostra anima ribelle;" gay, youth and activist-popular cafe/bar with patio and garden.
Bar't (via Polese 47a), sex bar from 10pm nightly, porn videos, play area, sling, naked parties, bear nights, DJs.
Cassero (via Don Giovanni Minzoni 18), gay & lesbian center dance parties and Wednesday through Saturday special events such as Absolutely Queer Disco Night, drag shows, Feed the Bears, House of Techno, GhettoFab, and Speed Date.
Chalet dei Giardini Margherita (viale Massimo Meliconi 1), lakeside day cafe, summertime parties and disco dances include Easy Staff, mixed crowd.
DOK at Numa (via Maserati 9), autumn through spring weekly Saturday cabaret music shows, art, fashion, food and design performances; dinner at 9pm, acrobats, dancers, four rooms of DJs, Coup'Théàtre animations, Block Room, Les Folies pour Homme, new young talents, VIP private room - constantly reinvented/mutating/innovative atmospheres, theme evenings, performers, costumes and equipment.
Dynamo La Velostazione (via dell'Indipendenza 71/z; Porta Galliera & Parco della Montagnola), gay-friendly bar and summer beer garden with DJ sets and live bands; also bike rental shop, luggage storage and tour services near Central train and bus stations.
Kinki Club (via Zamboni 1), art exhibitions, video installations, 2-level nightclub September through May dance parties, occasional LGBT events.
Osteria BoccaBuona (via degli Usberti 5/a), LGBT/mixed restaurant/cafe and bar at the Center; veggie menu options.
Red Club (via del Tipografo 2), Saturday midnight to noon Pool Dance swimming pool with music, games, drinks, entertainment, spa and dark room, cruise disco, porn, Red Boy go-go dancers, outdoor area. Monthly SWEAT parties with Black Sauna, plus Gorillas men-only dance parties every few months. Also 3-5pm Fridays Eagle Nest sexual health care counselling.
Stile Libero (via delle Lame 108/A), mixed cocktail bar, buffets, DJs, open 6pm-3am, gayest on Sundays for l'Aperitivo Gay.
Trattoria di Via Serra (via Luigi Serra, 9), gay-owned/friendly Bolognese seasonal local-source foods restaurant, bar; AC/WiFi.
Black Sauna (via del Tipografo 2), open 2-11pm daily except Tuesday, steam and dry saunas, indoor and outdoor pools, bar/cafe, solarium, dark room, bar, TV lounge, mostly young set.
Cosmos Sauna (via Cesare Boldrini 16), dry and steam saunas, hot tub, sun beds, movies, music and reading recreation rooms, cruise area, bar, dark room, porn videos, mixed age crowd.
Steam Sauna (via Ferrarese 22/i), Anddos membership saunas, Jacuzzi/spa, darkroom, cabins, massage, cruisebar/cafe.
Igor Libreria (via Santa Croce, 10), LGBT bookstore, Italian and English books and magazines, etc, at the Senape Vivaio Urbano urban living store and plant nursery, with cafe/lounge, garden and WiFi access.