What to Do in Bologna with Kids?
We spent one day in Bologna with kids focusing on the city center. Bologna is a great family city destination and its central square (Maggiore) is the base for exploring it. Starting from here you can go to the towers, visit the impressive church of San Petronio and Neptune’s fountain in the center of the piazza. You can just hang out either on the church steps or in the cafe while street entertainers take care of your kids.
Climb the Towers of Bologna
Pisa is famous for the Leaning Tower, but Bologna is known as a town of towers. In the past, there were about 180 towers. It sounds like almost every family had a private one. We wanted to climb the top of the highest tower in the city center made up of 498 wooden steps (Torri Degli Asinelli e Garisendabut), but the tower was temporarily closed. Anyway, it would take us a few years to climb up there with the kids.
Many would agree that Bologna is one of the most beautiful Italian cities because of its magnificent architecture; medieval buildings, Renaissance palaces (The Palazzo Torfanini, Palazzo dei Banchi, The Palazzo Felicini) and many arcades.
Basilica San Petronio
The children suddenly started running in the direction of the Basilica San Petronio which dominates Piazza Maggiore. A person might think that they couldn’t wait to see all that impressive architectural, but…They stopped just next to the church, looking enthusiastically not at the gothic facade, but at a ball-machine. Our art historians begged us to give them a coin to get a ball with a toy surprise inside.
Anyway… Next to the impressive ball-machine is the Basilica San Petronio. It is a combination of gothic style and later periods with 22 chapels inside, frescoes from the 16th century, and a beautiful sculpture by della Querica. The facade looked unfinished to us, but we found out that this building still isn’t finished even though they started construction in the 14th century. Maybe this unfinished sacral piece of architecture depicts a life that does not end. Entrance is free, but don’t celebrate so quickly; they ask you to pay 2 dollars for a photo.
The oldest University
Bologna is world-known as the center of education. The University of Bologna is the oldest university in Europe. Many artists and scientists studied there. The most famous student of this university was an Italian poet, Torquato Tasso.
One of the main city attractions is the Fountain Neptune at Piazza del Nettuno, created in the 16th century by Tommaso Laureti. It was the most beautiful fountain we didn’t see! It was all covered up and under construction.
Despite that, we used the power of visualization and told the children that in Roman mythology, Neptune was a god of earth and earthquakes. In Greek mythology, Neptune is known as Poseidon. Neptune’s (and Poseidon’s) sign is a trident.
There is also a planet named after Neptune. They were not very impressed, but when I mention that his son was Triton, their eyes shone. – “Triton is the father of Ariel, The Little Mermaid!?- they asked. “Of course, he is. And Neptune is her grandfather!”
Where to eat in Bologna?
Bologna is known for spaghetti bolognese, which, by the way, is not an Italian invention. They just created a good story around it. We didn’t try it because we are vegans. It seems that kids didn’t like even the smell of some local products at street market.
At many other places, rain can spoil sightseeing, but not in Bologna because the main streets are full of arcades under which you can walk and enjoy the beauties of the city or perhaps some shops.
People do all sorts of things to make money on the street, like dancing, drawing and performing acrobatics, but this was the first time we had seen someone trying to make money by playing chess.
If you plan a holiday with kids in Italy, you can read our family travel stories about other Italian destinations.