It's easy to fall in love with Bologna, even without spending money. A picnic in a park and a free amazing cinema? Or a visit to a very unusual museum and a walk under the portici? Here are my free 5 suggestions to enjoy Bologna. For free.
1. Watch a movie in Piazza Maggiore
It's hard to describe how proud I feel every time I watch a movie in Piazza Maggiore.
It's a privilege happening every year from June to mid-August, when the most famous square of Bologna became an open-air cinema.
The selection of movies by Cineteca di Bologna goes from classics to cartoons, from documentaries to mainstream, but always with great care. All the movies are in original language with subtitles.
Be sure to arrive early to find a chair or bring it from home.
2. Read a book in Sala Borsa
Alice, one of the guides of my food tours in Bologna, usually says that the best part of Bologna is hidden. To agree with her you just have to enter Sala Borsa.
In the past it was used as a basketball arena, a bank, a market, a botanical garden and a lot more, but now is a public library with tons of books, magazines and audio/video.
Read side by side with students, have a coffee or take some rest during hot summer. Or walk through the ruins of Emilia roman street that you see under the glass floor.
Entrance is in Piazza Nettuno, be sure to step inside but I warn you: take a look at your clock because hours pass like seconds.
3. Visit Certosa cemetery
It's hard to explain why you should visit a cemetery without appearing weird. Byron, Dickens and Freud visited it, but it's still not enough I guess.
The fact is that Certosa Cemetery is a lot more than just Bologna's cemetery. It's a city inside the city.
A labyrinth of streets, gardens, porticoes where is easy to get lost. During your wondering, you meet statues of lion and angels, young nobles and brave soldiers. Don't miss a visit to the church of San Girolamo.
Certosa is an astonishing silent museum that a few people know but deserves to be uncovered.
4. Walk up (or run) to San Luca Basilica
San Luca is a lot more than a church for Bolognesi.
Every time I come back from a journey and recognise the Basilica on Colle della Guardia I feel like home.
A bolognese tradition is to walk up there: start at Porta Saragozza to take all the 666 porticoes that bring you at the top. Or get a bus and stop under Meloncello arch to start your rise.
Take your time, it takes about 1 hour if you walk. Or if you had too much ragù put your jogging shoes and run. And when you come back maybe stop for a cheap spritz in one of the most traditional bolognese bar: Billi Bar. You deserved it.
5. Relax on the hills of Villa Ghigi
Bologna doesn't seem a very green city. At least if you just walk around the city centre.
But can I tell you a secret? The gardens are hidden inside the buildings.
If you don't want to sneak inside the gates, not far from the city centre there's the park of Villa Ghigi. From there you can rest under a tree, have a picnic and view Bologna's skyline of towers and red roofs.
To arrive at Villa Ghigi, walk about 600m from Porta San Mamolo and when you meet the news-stand start to walk up on your right. Then pass between some blocks and keep going until you see the first vineyards.
Visit that in Autumn, hand in hand with your lover.
[Photos courtesy of La Repubblica Bologna, rebel_yell80, Marco Franzoso, Mario Ray Borg, Alice Verti on Flickr]