What to do in Bologna for free in august

It took me some time (you know, some errands here, a pandemics there) but I’m back. Just in time for giving away some tips on how to face this weird august in the city, with less tourists than the years before and more locals around because the economic consequences of the recent lockdown made it more difficult for many Italians to enjoy their traditional Ferragosto holidays.

So what can we do when the city’s not empty but the purse can be? Luckily, there are several options for those who wish to enjoy a sweet urban summer without spending too much money. And I must personally admit that I quite enjoyed the massive lesson on frugality the lockdown proved to be, and wish to continue to experience a lifestyle where less is more.

So here we go, if you need some ideas on what to do on an expenses-free day in Bologna, consider some of the following options, and feel free to add up your own tips.

LOUNGE ALL MORNING AT LE SERRE DEI GIARDINI

Lush plants, naturally socially-distanced tables, non stop chill-out music and even a small, romantic edible garden with a little gazebo at the center of it make le Serre, right in the heart of Giardini Margherita park, one of the most charming places in Bologna, and one where you can spend hours for free. You’re welcome to bring your own food and to fill your water bottle at the public taps, while enjoying a relaxed atmosphere. A favorite among students and romantics during the day, it also has a cool evening program with free open air documentaries, movies and lectures. Check their program here.

WATCH AN OLD MOVIE AT PIAZZA MAGGIORE

Open air vintage cinema on the piazza is the signature event of summers in Bologna, one that initially seemed destined not happen this year. Yet the local Cinemathèque managed to save the 2020 edition while respecting the safety protocols, so bring on your mask and reserve your free spot on the reservations website . Usually oriented towards the classic/vintage/niche genre, the program is always palatable both for the cinephile and the more occasional viewer, all movies are in the OV with subs and the atmosphere is just majestic. Don’t miss it.

NB: The last week of august is dedicated to Cinema Ritrovato Festival, which means that finding a place might require a little bit of a bigger effort and all movies are rigorously vintage. Yummy.

HIKE TO SAN LUCA

Here’s another classic. One of the longest arcades in the world, the Portico di San Luca is 3.5 km long and connects Porta Saragozza with the San Luca Sanctuary, on Colle della Guardia. Even if more and more tourists are lately discovering this traditional Bolognese activity, you’ll aways meet locals under the arcades that take you up to the basilica, running, walking briskly or just panting and trying to make up for the big portion of tagliatelle they enjoyed the evening before. It may be a little challenging and quite steep towards the end, but it repays you with a breathtaking view of the city and its beautiful surrounding hills.

DO A PIC NIC ON PARCO DEL PELLEGRINO

A lesser known path than the San Luca hike, a walk to the Parco del Pellegrino also offers the advantage of having you almost always walking on grass (but the disadvantage of not having the arcades protecting you from the sun). You can still begin your hike from Porta Saragozza, but instead of walking towards San Luca go to Villa Spada park. This is already a very nice area to stop and have picnic with a view, but if the weather allows it and you’re up for another little hike I’d strongly recommend you to walk towards the panoramic Parco del Pellegrino. From this beautiful and more intimate area with plum and fig trees you can enjoy an amazing view of San Luca. Instead of the Via Saragozza/Villa Spada path, you can also reach the park climbing 300 steps from Via di Casaglia 37. 300 Scalini is actually the name it is known for, as well as that of a little garden café slash cultural hub.

JUST CHILL ON PIAZZA SANTO STEFANO

Bologna’s most beautiful piazza (my friends make fun of me because I constantly tag myself there on my Insta) is also a great spot for spending a few quiet hours reading, drawing or just observing people pass by. There are four cafés with open air tables in the piazza, but you can actually just sit by one of the small walls under the arcades. If the weather isn’t too hot, my favorite moment is around 2PM, when there’s few people around, the atmosphere is lazy and sleepy and a gracious shadow on the Via Santo Stefano side allows you to relax and listen to the grasshoppers sing while contemplating the sun-kissed beautiful façades of the buildings in front. If you look for a more vivacious vibe though, opt for aperitivo time or the evening.


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