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. After the fall of the Empire several centuries of decline and neglect followed.
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, has been 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 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
Gay News is a national Italian gay newspaper, based here in Bologna.
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.
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 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 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.
Kinki Club (via Zamboni 1), art exhibitions, video installations, 2-level nightclub September through May dance parties, occasional LGBT events.
Stile Libero (via delle Lame 108/A), mixed cocktail bar, buffets, DJs, open 6pm-3am, gayest on Sundays for l'Aperitivo Gay.
Black Sauna (via del Tipografo 2), steam and dry saunas, indoor and outdoor pools, bar/cafe, solarium, mostly young set.
Cosmos Sauna (via Cesare Boldrini 16), dry and steam saunas, cruise area, dark room, porn videos, older locals crowd.
Steam Sauna (via Ferrarese 22/i), saunas, Jacuzzi, darkroom, cabins, massage, bar/cafe.
Igor Libreria (via San Petronio Vecchio 3), LGBT bookstore, Italian and English books and magazines, etc.