Five Reasons to Visit Bologna with Kids

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I was a little surprised when I heard our hotel concierge at Hotel Touring say that Bologna is not considered a particularly child-friendly city for tourism. Lots of families from the north of Italy pass through the town in the summer though on their way to the beaches and countryside of the south of Italy. Granted the cobblestones are not great for toddlers or baby buggies, but I think Bologna is great for visiting older children. Here are 5 reasons I think visiting Bologna with kids would be a great family city destination.

Visiting Bologna with kids

Compact City Center

The historical city center is beautifully preserved, fairly compact and easily navigable. Parts of the city center are also pedestrianised including a charming area that used to be the medieval market.  Children would have some independence without parents constantly having to be on guard against traffic.

A City Break in Bologna with Kids
There are miles of colonnades great for browsing.

In addition, the 24 miles of colonnades in the historical centre are covered which is great for walking without being directly under the summer sun.

A City Break in Bologna with Kids
The beautiful colonnades are a pleasure in themselves.

The Need for Speed

Your speed-loving children will love the factory visits to several giants of the Italian automative industry in the area. You are able to visit the factories and museums of Ducati, Lamborghini, Maserati and Ducati which are all within easy reach of Bologna.

A City Break in Bologna with Kids

For speed-loving adults and teens with a license, you can take a Ferrari for a test drive.  I heard from Giacomo, our driver, that the accompanying Ferrari sales staff tend to be young, beautiful and blonde so that you can briefly pretend you really are a Master of the Universe.

Great Food

Bologna has been nicknamed The Fat One for its love of good food. Eating in this city is a pleasure for both adults and children. Thanks to its location in a fertile valley, the city has access to all sorts of meats and cheeses, especially prosciutto and parmesan.

There are so many types of dishes such as pasta, lasagne and meatballs available.  I had no idea all the different ways you can cure a leg of ham!! It is especially famous for tagliatelle with a ragu sauce (which became Bolognese sauce elsewhere in the world).

And, no you don’t have it with spaghetti which is a Southern Italian pasta.  Unlike the rest of the world which throws whatever pasta together with whatever sauce is at hand, Italians pair specific types of pasta with specific sauces. Who knew??

A City Break in Bologna with Kids
The traditional tortellini with ragu sauce and parmesan.

Bologna also takes its gelato seriously which, of course, I whole-heartedly support. What could be better to coax away any grumps?

A City Break in Bologna with Kids
photo credit: Nguyen Anh-Le

Most restaurants also closed between lunch and dinner. After all that walking and eating, I think an afternoon nap would be very civilised.

A City Break in Bologna with Kids
Come back for dinner at 6:30!

People-Watching

Closely related to food, the city’s cafes are great for people watching. In fact, Italy takes sitting in a café watching the world go by almost to Olympic sport levels.

A City Break in Bologna with Kids
Comfy seats which are great for people watching.

On the weekend, Plaza Maggiore and the pedestrianized streets attract lots of talented buskers, musicians and artists. I’m sure many of them are drawn from the city’s large student population courtesy of the University of Bologna, Europe’s oldest university founded in 1088. They had that hungry but happy graduate student look about them, their faces unlined from the stresses of the daily grind.

In 2006 Bologna was designated a UNESCO city of music.  Check out this duo called Bucket Busters who make percussion with ordinary home tools seem easy.  The show they put on is very similar to Stomp who appear on Broadway and the West End.

Interesting Historical Monuments

In the Middle Ages, Bologna had about 180 towers belonging to churches, noble family homes etc.  Historically the nobles had a habit of falling out with each other and causing bloodshed.  It probably helped then to have a really tall tower to peer out over your neighbour’s garden wall.

Today only about 20 towers remain but that should be more than enough.  I climbed the 498 steps of the Asinelli and I was good and tired. Most children love to climb towers and peer out from the top. And, what should be the reward for such exercise? Gelato, of course.

A City Break in Bologna with Kids
I can’t believe I climbed the 498 steps of that big tower!

Below the city’s main public library, the Sala Borsa, archeologists have found the ruins of Roman buildings circa 200 AD. It’s free to enter the ruins and have a walk around.  The Sala Borsa itself is a beautiful building.  It’s kind of cool to think that you are literally walking over history.

The basilica of San Luca perches on a hill overlooking the town. It is famous for having a icon of the Madonna and child which has been attributed to Luke the Evangelist (the same man who wrote the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament).

A City Break in Bologna with Kids
A beautiful view of the basilica di San Lucca from the rooftop terrace of Hotel Touring

You can walk under a colonnade all the way up to the church like pilgrims used to do in days of old. It’s a long way uphill (4.7 miles) but pilgrims liked to partake in a bit of suffering. Nowadays, there is the charming little red train that does regular daily round-trips from Plaza Maggiore to San Luca. My kids would want to visit San Luca just to ride in the cute train!

A City Break in Bologna with Kids
Does this little train not look like The Little Engine That Could?!

Info for Visiting Bologna with Kids

Bologna is located in the Po valley, a very wealthy area of Italy.  Flights, to and from Bologna, are frequent and inexpensive. The airport, Marconi International Airport, is one of the busiest in Italy.  Also due to its great location, the city has a train station which is an important hub to other major locations in Italy.  For example, one of the other tourists I met had arrived in Bologna via a short train ride from Florence.  I hope you’ll agree that visiting Bologna with kids would be a very easy city break destination.

I stayed at Hotel Touring which is very centrally located near the medieval city centre. A small, family-run hotel, the hotel provides contemporary accommodation in a historical setting. I believe the only reason it is not a 4 star hotel is because it is missing some of the amenities required of one, such as a pool.  Hotel Touring has 5 large rooms that can accommodate families with a sofa bed and a terrace.  In addition, there are 2 suites, one of which has a kitchenette, and each with their own little private courtyard.

If you don’t feel like driving to the car factories, you can arrange transportation through the fabulous driver I used. His name is Giacomo Colombo and he can be reached via his website. He also can arrange private transportation for families. He has carseats and an 8 seater minivan. His rates are reasonable starting at €25/hour for the first two hours, and €20/hour for transportation exceeding two hours.

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Bologna, Italy, is such a hidden gem! Amazing food, a happy vibe, and a long history are just some of the reasons why you need to visit Bologna with kids. There are plenty of things to do in Bologna, Italy with children. Check this article for Bologna travel tips and suggestions for what to do in Bologna with the whole family. #bologna #bolognawelcome #italy
Bologna, Italy, is such a hidden gem! Amazing food, a happy vibe, and a long history
are just some of the reasons why you need to visit Bologna with kids. There are
plenty of things to do in Bologna, Italy with children. Check this article for Bologna
travel tips and suggestions for what to do in Bologna with the whole family.
#bologna #bolognawelcome #italy

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30 thoughts on “Five Reasons to Visit Bologna with Kids”

  1. Strange that your concierge told you “Bologna is not considered a particularly child-friendly city for tourism”. I traveled to Bologna with my then 10-year-old daughter for 3 nights and we both loved it! The food was fantastic and the sights were easily accessible. We can’t wait to go back soon. Thanks for taking us back there again today!

    1. I guess he was thinking there were no zoos, theme parks, beaches etc. I don’t think those are necessary for a city holiday!

  2. I’ve been to Bologna with my kids who were 9 and 15 at the time and they both really enjoyed it. We took the 9 year old’s scooter and he whizzed everywhere under the porticoes, the 15 year old mainly loved the food! I think your concierge must have been thinking about theme parks etc but that’s not what we ever look for, so Bologna suited us perfectly. #citytripping

  3. I watched Michael Portillo in Bologna recently – one of his great rail journeys. He had fun asking locals for Spaghetti Bolognese and seeing how annoyed they became.
    Looks a great little city and, with the shaded colonnades, perfect for children.
    #citytripping

    1. Lol. Spaghetti is from the south and the people from Bologna think it not befitting their beloved sauce. Not flat enough to absorb etc etc. It’s got to be tagliatelle.

  4. Living as close as we do to Italy, we have covered a lot of it, but haven’t yet been to Bologna… Unbelievable! Loved your tips, we will make it there one day! 🙂

  5. I think people sometimes have a very fixed idea of what child-friendly involves – plus of course a toddler and tween or teen will enjoy very different things! I tend to think most of Italy is pretty family-friendly and Bologna’s food always sounds very tempting. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  6. So funny about the Ferrari and the blond – ha! Bologna sounds like a great place to take the family – we’ve always had such a positive experience with kids in Italy no matter where we are. And the food def helps:). #citytripping

  7. I’m so glad I found your post! I’m actually going to Bologna on Friday, traveling for the first time with my cousins who are 10 and 14. I’m sure they’re going to love it 😀

    1. I’m sure they will! It’s a beautiful city. Make sure to check out Caffe Zanarini – great caffe with chocolate made into iPhones and iPads. My kids loved it and instagrammed it to their friends.

  8. You’ve made Bologna look like a fantastic place to take children. I’m convinced! Why is it we always end up climbing towers whenever we go travelling – even before I had children I always ended up going to the top of every tower! At least it justifies a big bowl of pasta or ice-cream when you come back down…

    1. Exactly! My kids will climb a tower just because it’s there. My husband and I occasionally take turns just to give our knees a break.

  9. Great post! I agree with Cathy – I think people do have a fixed idea about what ‘child-friendly’ means – but most children are fascinated by just being in a different place and seeing new sights. I haven’t been to Bologna – another place to add to the list! I love the drumming buskers by the way – they are brilliant. Thank you for linking to #citytripping

    1. I can’t agree more! Lots of kids just like exploring something new. They can amuse themselves just skipping pavement stones!

  10. We went to Bologna several years ago on a grown-up’s long weekend. It is amazing and feels a bit like a well-kept secret. You’ve mentioned some great parts of it. One of our favourite stops was a shop that sold only parmesan cheese. Delicious.

    1. I’ll bet you were spoiled after Bologna! So pretty and with great food and history. A major tourist attraction like Venice for all its beauty would have been quite a shock with its hordes of tourists.

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