Lay of the Land
Bologna has been an accessible city since 187 B.C., when the trade route Via Amelia was built to connect the region with the present-day Venice area along Italy's northeastern shore. Over the centuries, Bologna has rivaled Venice, Florence, and Milan in terms of population. The Germans even used Bologna as a transportation hub during World War II, until U.S. forces overtook the city in 1945. Bologna's strategic importance, geographically speaking, has in many ways been its greatest asset in terms of development. It's a place where people want to go, or at least go through, and as such bears the imprints of many generations.
Today's transportation infrastructure thus includes highways, railways, bus stations, and airports, all of which make it easy for you to get to Bologna. You can easily find enough to do in and around the city for a few days, or you can make Bologna a one-day stop during a broader vacation itinerary.
Arriving by Air
Guglielmo Marconi Airport, which is colloquially known as Bologna Airport, is just four miles northwest of the Bologna city center. About 20 million passengers fly annually through here, making it the third-busiest airport in all of Italy.
Who was Guglielmo Marconi?
Marconi was an Italian inventor who lived from 1874 until 1937 and who is best known as the father of modern-day radio. He shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in physics, something that no doubt surprised the friends who had him examined in a psychiatric hospital after he first told them he had discovered a way to send messages through the air.
No American-based airlines have routes that fly directly here, but you can pick up flights after stopovers elsewhere in Europe through Air France, Alitalia, British Airways, and Lufthansa. The privately owned Milan-based carrier EuroFly (
The airport's official website, with an English translation, is
Arriving by Train
Bologna Centrale is the main train station in the city, serving about 58 million people each year. It's a principal railway junction in Italy, with tracks running both north-south and east-west. About 500 trains pass through each day. (By comparison, New York City's Grand Central Terminal runs about 660 commuter trains each day.)
Even if you don't arrive or depart Bologna by train, the station is worth a visit. It was built in 1876, and the interior features towering ceilings and arched doorways. There's a decent restaurant on the mezzanine floor if you want to take a look around and have lunch before moving on to other nearby sights. You also might take a moment to visit the section of the station rebuilt after the 1980 terrorist bombing that killed 85 people and wounded more than 200 when an improvised explosive device detonated inside a waiting room full of late-morning commuters. Most of the wreckage has been renovated, though a piece of scarred flooring and a large crack in the wall remain, as a memorial to those who were killed. The station's main clock, too, has been left permanently at 10:25
Arriving by Bus
Bologna has an extensive bus system that includes a shuttle service to and from the airport. There are also intercity buses that you can take from Milan or Ancona. The main bus depot in Bologna is right near the train station. An interactive map of the in-city bus routes is available in English at
Once you arrive in Bologna, you can easily explore the city on foot. Ask a local to point you toward Piazza del Nettuno or Piazza Maggiore, which are in the main part of the city just south of the scenic Parco della Montagnola (a large park) along the main road Via dell'Independenza.
If you are in good physical condition and have a comfortable pair of shoes, you'll be just fine for an entire day of touring. Otherwise, refer to the previous section about bus routes and plan your sightseeing to correspond with the available public transportation. Taxis are an option here, but can quickly get expensive. Remember: Many of the city streets are centuries old. Modern-day congestion is therefore amplified, especially at peak times in highly trafficked tourist spots.