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What to do and see for free in Bologna

Updated on 05 March 2020 From Bologna Welcome

Looking for a free exhibition or museum in the city? Do you want to see places related to university, cultural and student life without spending a euro? In Bologna there are plenty of things to do and places to visit totally free of charge. Here are a few not to be missed!

A cultural itinerary

Every corner of Bologna is steeped in history and culture; a walk through its medieval historic centre – one of the world’s best preserved – is like wandering through the rooms of an open-air museum. There are numerous sights to see free of charge – such as Piccola Venezia (Little Venice) or the Tre frecce (Three Arrows) in the trusses of Corte Isolani, and just as many buildings.

One of the important of them is in Piazza Maggiore: Palazzo D’Accursio, the seat of the Municipality, has in its time been witness to major historical events. Inside, you can climb the 16th-century staircase – attributed to Bramante – and visit the loggia-rooms and chapels. The city’s Roman remains can be admired through the glass surfaces of the Salaborsa floor. And finally, the University Library incorporates monumental halls where you can lose yourself in history packed with events and illustrious characters. It can be accessed by taking part in one of the guided tours conducted in Palazzo Poggi.

Lose yourself in nature

As well as the famous Giardini Margherita (Daisy Gardens) and the many parks and green spaces dotted around the city, such as Villa Ghigi or Villa Spada, there are two unmissable experiences for discovering rare and fascinating plants and animals. On Via Irnerio, you can delve into the four greenhouses of the Orto Botanico (Botanical Gardens) – two for tropical and two for succulent plants – as well as a small greenhouse for carnivorous plants. You can also visit the Zoology Collection, part of the university system and one of the most important collections in Italy, with a variety of rare and fascinating animal species. 

Visit unusual museums

In Bologna you can find free collections and specialist exhibitions free of charge. The Collezione delle CereAnatomiche “Luigi Cattaneo” (Luigi Cattaneo Anatomical Wax Collection) hosts a collection of nineteenth-century waxworks designed to divulge everything about the human body. But if technology, art and innovation are your passions, the Fondazione MAST (MAST Foundation) offers projects aiming to bring business and community closer together, with free activities for all ages and a programme of engaging exhibitions. The Museo per la memoria diUstica (Ustica Memorial Museum) houses the remains of the DC9 Itavia aircraft shot down while in flight from Bologna to Palermo. The lights, black mirrors and loudspeakers of Christian Boltanski's installation pays tribute to the victims of the tragedy. The Museo Davia Bargellini (Davia Bargellini Museum) on the other hand, houses the Davia Bargellini Collection and the applied arts collection along with furniture, fine furnishings and rare objects. Finally, the Collezione Lercaro (Lercaro Collection) features works by such illustrious names as Mimmo Paladino, Giacomo Balla, Giorgio Morandi and many others.

Lose yourself in the rooms of the Pinacoteca Nazionale (National Art Gallery)

Did you know that the Pinacoteca offers free admission every first Sunday of the month?
With an extensive programme of extraordinary openings, the Pinacoteca Nazionale and its annex in
Palazzo PepoliCampogrande beckon you to wander through their magnificent halls. In addition, every Friday in summer, you can enjoy a free stroll among the works of prestigious artists as you discover Emilian painting from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century, viewing works by giants such as Giotto, Perugino, Raphael, Titian, Carracci, Guido Reni and others. 

Find out about all theopenings

Immerse yourself in the city’s religious culture

Let’s not forget the churches, those pearls of history and culture, from San Petronio to Santo Stefano to San Domenico and San Luca. Each of them is architecturally unique and brimming with precious works of art. Under the portico bordering the Church of San Giacomo Maggiore you will happen upon the Oratorio di SantaCecilia e Valeriano (Oratory of Saint Cecilia and Valeriano), housing the most important painting cycle of the Bolognese Renaissance. The monumental cemetery of the Certosa di Bologna (Charterhouse of Bologna) is also a must-see. Built on the foundations of the pre-existing Carthusian monastery, it exemplifies the local neoclassical culture. Inside are the tombs of Lucio Dalla, Giosue Carducci, Giorgio Morandi and many other illustrious figures. Finally, picturesquely set on one of the hills is the Complesso di San Michelein Bosco monastery. Be amazed by a journey through the corridor where you can experience the “telescoping” optical effect. You can also view the great book collection, the frescoes, the cloister and the refectory created by Giorgio Vasari.

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