Summer in Bologna? 17 Ways to Beat the Heat

Published on: July 30, 2018 | Last Updated on October 8, 2019
Bologna in summer

An article I recently wrote for suggests that visitors to Italy in summer should head to Bologna (the capital of the Emilia Romagna region) to avoid the hoards of tourists and long queues they’ll likely find at more popular tourist cities like Rome, Florence and Venice.

Bologna is one of our favorite places in Italy because it is filled with art, history, jaw-dropping architecture, world-class foods and wines, and a citizenry who welcomes tourists warmly.

Forbes article on summer in Bologna

Forbes article on summer in Bologna

However, I couldn’t promise that Bologna would offer any respite from the high temperatures and humidity that typically plague most parts of central and northern Italy in summer.

For example, this past July (2018), much of Italy experienced a mini heat wave. How hot was it?

Not to get too graphic—but meteorologists dubbed it “the anticyclone Minos, after the mythical Greek king who in Dante’s Inferno has a snake-like tail and guards the gates of hell,” reported the Italian edition of The Local, an English-language digital newspaper.

Although the average temperature in Bologna was 78, daytime temperatures soared as high as 93.

Wherever you travel in Italy in summer, you’ll need to find ways to avoid the punishing heat. There any many opportunities to  beat the heat in Bologna. Here are a few of them:

1- Watch movies under the stars

On summer evenings, attend Sotto le Stelle de Cinema, which offers locals and visitors the opportunity to watch free movies under the stars on Europe’s largest outdoor screen. Screenings, accompanied by live music, are held in the magnificent Piazza Maggiore.

2- Visit a photographic exhibit in the Palazzo Pannolini

The Jewish Museum of Bologna has curated a photography exhibit, part of “Celebrating Israel 70” (being celebrated worldwide), that tells the story of Israel through its people. It’s held indoors in a beautiful palace that housed nobles in the 15th and 16th centuries.

3- Listen to music at the Bologna Jazz Festival

This UNESCO City of Music always has something musical to intrigue visitors. One such event, the Bologna Jazz Festival, organized by the Association of Music in Bologna, includes a number of summer performances.

4- Cool off with gelato

In Italy, gelato is synonymous with summer. In addition to its abundance of wonderful gelaterias throughout the city, Bologna is home to the Carpigiani Gelato Museum, where visitors can learn about the history of this cool dessert and participate in tastings.

5- Swim with locals

In summer, taking a dip outdoors is another way to cool off. Piscina Sterlino is an Olympic-size swimming pool with umbrellas and beach chairs that is open to the public.

6- Experience a one-of-a-kind theme park

Bologna is also home to  FICO Eataly World, the world’s largest theme park centered around food. Food enthusiasts visiting this air-conditioned, indoor agri-park learn about the relationship between food and the earth. There are also ample opportunities to sample foods and purchase them at retail markets.

One of the inviting restaurants at FICO Eataly World (Credit: Jerome Levine)

One of the inviting restaurants at FICO Eataly World (Credit: Jerome Levine)

More ways to chill in Bologna in summer

Piazza San Stefano in Bologna (Credit: Jerome Levine)

Piazza San Stefano in Bologna (Credit: Jerome Levine)

Well, I thought I had most bases covered until I received a kind Facebook message from someone in Bologna, whom I didn’t know previously, Laura Bizzari. Laura is an Italian teacher who is passionate about her home (Bologna) where she teaches both English and Italian to foreigners. She and her students came up with some other great ideas to beat the heat in Bologna so I’m adding them to the list. (Since I hadn’t experienced these myself, I made sure they were vetted by the city tourism office.)

7- Explore the hills

Compared to the city, the hills around Bologna (called the Colli Bolognesi) tend to be cooler, especially when you stop at one of the many small rivers. You can drive there or rent a Vespa!

8- Stop into one of the churches

Interiors of churches are always cool places that are filled with art and history. Wikipedia lists no less than 43 churches in Bologna. We have been to a number of them and were never disappointed.

San Petronio Basilica overlooks the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna (Credit: Jerome Levine)

San Petronio Basilica overlooks the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna (Credit: Jerome Levine)

Dome inside Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna (Credit: Jerome Levine)

Dome inside Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vita in Bologna (Credit: Jerome Levine)

9- Visit a series of palaces

While many palazzi (palaces) are private, you can step inside the Palazzo Pepoli (Museum of the History of Bologna), the Palazzo Fava (a museum with 17th-century frescoes) or Palazzo Poggi (the headquarters of the University of Bologna).

10- Spend time in the park

You can bask in the shade of a tree or find a nice spot beside a fountain at some of the parks in town or nearby, such as: Giardini Margherita, (the largest and most popular park in the city), Parco Talon, Villa di Villa Ghigi, Parco Cavaioni (just outside of town).

11- Hit the beach

A lot of Bolognesi go to the Lido di Casalecchio, a seaside resort with a beach that’s close to Bologna, where the Reno river flows.

12 – Eat light

Yes, eating light while eating well is possible in a city known for its fabulous foods. You probably won’t be interested in a steamy bowl of tortellini en brodo on a hot summer day. Instead, order melon with prosciutto di Parma or pasta fredda (cold pasta) with cherry tomatoes. You won’t be disappointed!

One of the shop windows in the old Quadrilateral market (Credit: Jerome Levine)

One of the shop windows in the old Quadrilateral market (Credit: Jerome Levine)

13- Visit a chilly underground site

The Conserva di Valverde (also called the Bagno di Mario) is a truly unique historical site. The cistern was built during the Renaissance to bring water to Bologna’s famous statue of Neptune. Guided tours can be arranged through the tourism office,  Bologna Welcome.

14- Head underground

Take a guided tour of the Crypts of Bologna to explore and learn about three underground crypts that have been made accessible to the public.

15- Relax at a spa

Known for its mineral waters, the Terme Di San Petronio is the only health spa in Italy located in the historic center of a city.  Another alternative: The Terme Felsinee Spa Centre, located in the foothills of the San Luca Basilica, is a favorite of health and fitness enthusiasts.

16- Spend your time in shops

Visit a shop called L’Angolo della Freschezza (aptly called the corner of freshness), a cheese shop in nearby Cadriano or La Caramella, the famous pastry shop created by award-winning Chef Gino Fabbri who is famous in Italy and abroad.

17- Disconnect at a very cool tower

The Torre Prendiparte is an ancient family-owned tower (one of the few surviving ones in Bologna) that has been converted into a bed and breakfast with just one bedroom. Warning: You’ll have to ascend 300 steps to get there!

What is Ferragosto?

One other caution for summer travelers throughout Italy:

August 15th is Ferragosto, a public holiday that celebrates the Catholic Feast of the Assumption of Mary. Some Italians treat it as a long weekend; for others, it represents that start of the summer vacation extending throughout the month until September 1. On that weekend, traffic may be particularly heavy on the autostradas (highways).

While most museums and cultural institutions remain open, many family-owned businesses (e.g. restaurants and others shops) close up so owners and workers can head to the beach or visit relatives in other parts of Italy. It’s important to check whether these and other attractions are open if you are traveling to Bologna (or elsewhere in Italy) in the second half of August.



Also on MoreTimeToTravel:

Bologna in Winter? Six Reasons We Say YES!


  • Reply
    Carol Colborn
    July 30, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    My three picks: Bologna Jazz Festival, Gelato Museum, and FICO Eataly World. Thank you so much for the tip about Ferragosto!

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 30, 2018 at 12:53 pm

      We once made the mistake of driving from Lake Como to Florence on the weekend of Ferragosto and we’ll never forget it!

  • Reply
    Pamela McKuen
    July 30, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    A theme part devoted to food? FICO Eataly World sounds delicious. That and the Gelato Museum! Thanks for such a wide range of inspiration to a part of Italy I didn’t know about. I usually don’t think of Italy as being spa-rich, but now I will.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    The Carpigiani Gelato Museum and the beach will help me cool down. Thanks for the wide range of choices.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      July 30, 2018 at 3:35 pm

      Yes, it’s nice that there are so many different ways to beat the heat!

  • Reply
    michele h peterson
    July 30, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    Great selection of ways to beat the heat. I love the suggestion of prosciutto di Parma or pasta fredda (cold pasta) with cherry tomatoes. Yum!

  • Reply
    Leyla Giray Alyanak
    August 1, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    I keep kicking myself that I only live six hours’ drive from Bologna at most, plus I’m a foodie – and I haven’t been to Bologna. I think there’s a special hell for people like me. But you’re tipping me over here – I’m not going to be able to resist much longer. I’ve wanted to visit FICO (despite the controversies) since it opened, and there are several positively chilly suggestions here. Soon, soon!

  • Reply
    Charles McCool
    August 2, 2018 at 7:48 am

    Looks like so much to do in Bologna, including gelato! I remember the town as one of the best culinary delights in Europe and I would love to return. Hot weather or not!

  • Reply
    Cathy Sweeney
    August 5, 2018 at 1:14 am

    Gotta love the Italians — “the anticyclone Minos, after the mythical Greek king who in Dante’s Inferno has a snake-like tail and guards the gates of hell,” Great tips for spending time in Bologna in any kind of weather.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      August 9, 2018 at 9:12 pm

      Pretty timely, too, because there is a heat wave all over Europe!

  • Reply
    Janice and George (SandInMySuitcase)
    August 7, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    Now you’ve got us tempted to visit Bologna! But maybe we’d try for an autumn or spring visit :-). Palaces and pasta sound like a winning combo to us. The crypts must be interesting to visit too, right? Anyway, great story with lots of tips :-).

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      August 7, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      I do hope you get to visit one of my favorite places anywhere!

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