The Best Time to Visit Bologna 2023: The Ultimate Guide
When you think of a dream trip to Italy, why not think about Bologna? There are so many fabulous things to see and do when in this old city, and you will find this Italian experience truly memorable. Bologna is one of the best places to come if you are a foodie or want to explore more of Northern Italy.
The biggest question is when should you plan your trip to Bologna? Each season has its advantages and disadvantages so the answer to that question lies in what you are hoping to see or do while you are on vacation. The best time to visit Bologna may be when the weather is cooler and there are fewer tourists, but if you prefer warmer weather and bigger crowds summer is wonderful.
Prices for accommodations also fluctuate with the season as do the number of things to see and do. If you visit during August when many Italians plan their own vacations, there will probably be fewer restaurants and attractions open and those that are open will cost more. When visiting during off-peak times, you can expect to see lower prices and more hotels and restaurants available.
Piazza Maggiore is a major part of this beautiful city and is a wonderful site to see no matter the season. There is always something interesting and exciting going on at the piazza whether it is films in the plaza in the summer or a New Year's celebration in the winter.
When you get to Bologna look for a place where you can leave your bags while you choose your hotel. Explore worry-free and pick up your belongings once you've found the perfect spot. Then, head out and start experiencing all that this ancient city has to offer from cobblestone streets to iconic towers. And the food in Bologna is always amazing, so expect to gain some weight while vacationing here!
Summer in Bologna: June-August
Summer in Bologna does get pretty hot with average temperatures being mid-70-degree F range to the low 90-degree F (20-30C) range. The relative humidity is also high during the summer. Visiting during the summer is generally ideal as that is when the kids are on break from school and the weather is nice. June and July are generally good times to visit if you like the heat and crowds.
Late July into August, things can get to be a bit complicated as many Italians take their own vacations around August 15th, which is Ferragosto or Assumption Day, an Italian public holiday. Almost everything closes on this day so if you happen to visit Bologna during this time, plan to spend the day at your hotel relaxing or meandering through very quiet streets.
The Piazza Maggiore near the Bologna city center holds an outdoor film festival in the summer complete with a huge screen set up in the middle of the plaza right below the Bologna Cathedral steps. Street food vendors are on site while the movies are playing. The festive atmosphere is something you do not want to miss.
Food festivals tend to taper off in late July through mid-August as well. So, if you are in Bologna to enjoy the culture and food, you may find fewer street food vendors, food festivals, and restaurants that you will be able to visit.
Because summer is a popular time for tourists to visit, you can expect to pay a premium for hotels, dining, and even select attractions, especially water parks or places that will help you beat the heat. Bring your sunscreen and soak up some sun while visiting Bologna during the summer months.
Fall in Bologna: September-November
Fall in Bologna is lovely to see with the temperatures beginning to cool with the highs being in the low 80-degree F range and the lows in the mid-50-degree F range (12-25C). The temperature changes are usually gradual, but there are times when it does drop quickly so be sure to pack weather appropriate clothing.
Bologna sees many wine festivals and food festivals during the fall months. Nearby towns also have their own festivals, making is super easy to take a day trip to some of these surrounding towns. Mushrooms are also in season so many dishes at restaurants and festivals will showcase these delicious fungi.
Visit in September to partake in the Festival for Prosciutto di Parma held in Parma and the Coppa Festival held in Piacenza. Stick around for Bologna’s Saint’s Day on October 4th when there are even more fun and exciting celebrations.
November also sees its fair share of festivals including the November Porc held in Parma. Imola plays host to Baccanale, an enormous festival that lasts for 16 days and has food markets, exhibitions, wine tastings, and live entertainment.
Weekends in October and November in Bologna sees one of the largest festivals in the fall. The TartuFesta is held in the Bologna Hills and celebrates the truffle. Bologna hosts the biggest wine exhibit in the region and the Mortadella Queen is also crowned during this event.
The Piazza del Nettuno looks fabulous all year round but it is an exciting place to be in the fall when the crowds are generally thinner and you can get a closer look at the Statue of Neptune. The statue was started in 1563 and completed in 1567. The square and statue are located between the Palazzo del Podesta and the Palazzo d’Accursio. The majestic statue dominates the piazza and should not be missed.
Early fall is still considered to be a peak season to visit Bologna, and therefore accommodations are still more expensive than off-peak seasons. You will want to book your reservations early in hopes of getting better prices for your hotel.
Winter in Bologna: December-February
It can get rather cold in Bologna during the winter with high temperatures in the mid-50-degree F range and lows dropping into the low 30-degree F (10 to -1C) range. People do tend to not travel to Northern Italy during the winter months, but really, Bologna can be a magical place to be especially during the holiday season.
The decorations and holiday shopping bring Bologna to life. Special events are hosted throughout the city, some just for adults, but most are family-friendly and geared toward younger kids. Since the iconic porticoes of Bologna are found throughout the city, you can still get out and explore even in less-than-ideal Bologna weather.
Come to Bologna for their impressive New Year celebration. The biggest celebration is held in the Piazza Maggiore. The City Council set up a small structure shaped like a man, called a “vecchione”. This vecchione is used to symbolize the old year and during the celebration it is set on fire to basically say “out with the old”.
After all the fabulous fall festivals, you would think winter would be quieter with not as many things to do. However, winter brings forth celebrations of Bolognese food. Traditional foods take center stage during this time and tortellini in broth is one of the main dishes that Italians love to eat. Meat dishes such as zampone and cotechino are also popular during the winter in Bologna.
Zampone is made with fresh sausage and ground with pork rinds, seasonings and salt and then stuffed into a pork trotter. A port trotter is the pig’s foot or front leg. Cotechino is also fresh sausage ground with pork, pork rinds, and back fat and then stuffed into a casing to be cooked or boiled. The colder temperatures make eating the heavier foods a little better, so eat tortellini and stay warm.
You can even take a cooking class, or two, while you visit in winter. The Culinary Institute of Bologna offers low-cost cooking classes where you can learn to make homemade pasta and how to whip up zingy sauces from scratch. You will be able to impress family and friends back home with your exceptional new culinary skills.
Hotels will generally have lower rates or excellent deals for visitors who brave the winter in Bologna. You will want to wait to book your accommodations until after all the fall festivals are completed and the hotel prices drop. It will save you a lot of money if you wait to book your hotel. With the festivities of the holidays, winter is the best time to visit Bologna.
Spring in Bologna: March-May
Average temperatures begin to rise in March and become pleasantly warm by May with temps ranging from the mid-40s to the mid-70s (5-20C). The weather is also drier during the spring which is typically the opposite in several regions. Springtime is usually wetter than other seasons but Northern Italy has dry weather from March through May.
Food and wine festivals begin to gear up beginning in April so if you do not want to brave the heat and large crowds during summertime, you may find Spring is the best time to visit Bologna. Di Verde celebrates the local Italian gardens in Bologna and is held during May.
Festivals are not just held in the Bologna city center, they take place throughout the entire Reggio-Emilia region and you can take some day trips outside the city and enjoy the festivities. The Wild Asparagus Festival is held in May and the dishes created to pay homage to this green vegetable are so creative and delicious. The Lambrusco Festival is held in June and celebrates this unique drink.
The botanical garden is also in full bloom during the spring and it makes spending time in Bologna just that much more pleasant. There are a few holidays to make note of so you do not find yourself sitting in your hotel with nothing to do on an Italian public holiday. May 1st is International Workers’ Day and June 2nd is Republic Day and that is when most things will be closed.
Spring season is a great time to enjoy a walking tour of Bologna. There are several tour companies that offer guided tours throughout the city. You can even download an app that will take you through Bologna and hit the highlights such as the main churches and plazas and teach you about the history of the area.
You will want to make any reservations for accommodations in advance to ensure you have a hotel room ready when you arrive. Prices do tend to start rising with the Bolognese temperatures so expect to pay a little more unless you are able to snag a good deal online before things start to go up.
Enjoy visiting Bologna all year
While many will argue the spring season is the best time to visit Bologna, just as many will say that fall is the best time. One thing is certain, you will want to have good weather when you head to Italy. Warmer months will see more tourists while the coldest month will probably give you the best deals when visiting Bologna and help you save money on flight prices and hotels.
High season is generally late spring and early summer when the temperatures start to rise. Low season is definitely winter when people do not want to be out and about in the cold. A Bologna travel guide will help you find the best hotels and restaurants, just remember many restaurants close for a time in August.
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