Highlights, tips and info to live authentic going out experiences in Bologna
What time do people go out and how is the nightlife in Bologna?
Bologna is the oldest European university city, with one of the most numerous, lively and active student populations of Europe. You can easily visit the town by foot, which is not to be taken for granted for a city with four hundred thousand inhabitants, and a fairly effective public transport service (including night lines - a rarity in Italy). The center, enclosed by the boulevards of the ring road, is small and vast at the same time: small, because it’s all contained in a very compact and dense hexagon; vast, because it’s quite extended. It’s in fact one of the largest medieval centers in the world. If everything around it is rational and well-delineated, inside instead it's all a discovery. The ancient feel of the fifteenth and sixteenth century buildings, alleys, secret glimpses. In this city, you can really feel at ease, and at night it can become a very comfortable, or very adventurous, place to live. If before going out you’d like to do some last-minute shopping, keep in mind that shops, especially those outside the center, close on Thursday afternoon (and not on Monday as in the rest of Italy). In terms of eating, in Bologna people usually have lunch around 1 pm and dinner around 8:30 pm, typical Italian timings. Who wants to start drinking early goes to a bar around 6 pm, where you can also enjoy an “aperitivo” with delicious local food. After dinner instead, the bars in the most frequented areas start getting crowded around 10 pm and most of them close around 2 am. Clubs start filling up around 1:30 am and close, depending on the area where they are located, between 5 and 6 am. There are often municipal regulations which prevent the consumption of alcohol outdoors: inform yourself well, they are respected very scrupulously. The university area and that of Pratello are the “freest” of the city but, in general, it’s better not to consume light drugs anywhere. If you go around by bike, be careful: always lock it if you stop somewhere. As in every other city, you have to pay attention and not make too much noise on the streets, especially in the historical center, as someone might complain and call the police.
Which are Bologna's best neighborhoods to go out?
Starting from the center, in the areas of Piazza Maggiore, Nettuno, Due Torri, Quadrilatero and the Mercato, you go to eat and do shopping with the historical rich families of the city. There are two “nocturnal hearts”: Via del Pratello (which has always been the “artists’ street”), a marvellous alley full of life at any time – annoying neighbors permitting - with many bars and restaurants never too expensive, as well as quite a few extravagant people; and Via Mascarella, less adventurous, but well set in the university area. During the day, everything starts in Piazza Verdi: for the better or the worse. In the city center there are only a few clubs and concert halls left. Grumpy neighbors have led to various closures. In the Pratello area you can listen to good jazz music spending little at Barazzo Live, as well as at Cantina Bentivoglio or Bravo Caffè in the Mascarella area, but here prices and average age rise. The vitality of the city leads to continuous openings and re-openings of experimental places, where you can listen to improvised sessions of noise and baroque music or discover the latest trends of the most extreme multimedia arts; often in summer certain squares become crowded meeting places - always keep an eye on what's happening in the area between MamBo, the Cineteca Lumiere and Cassero. Speaking of which: it is perhaps the only real club in the city center, besides the very interesting Studio 54 and the newborn USB, as well as that absurd but beautiful and unmissable place that is Nero, the most important LGBT cultural center in Italy. In the area of San Donato, you can find the historical Covo Club, a small temple of indie music with an incredible past and a still excellent present. Then, going almost towards nowhere, you can find Sottotetto, the temple of reggae, and the legendary Link. A bit less legendary compared to its first version behind the Central Station, which in the ‘90s together with the “old” TOP and Livello 57 made Bologna one of the most interesting, extreme and avant-garde places for music in Europe; but still now, if it opens, it guarantees almost always impactful nights of techno and house music, even though much more conventional. Livello 57 doesn’t exist anymore, while TPO has moved to the “raggiera” of Via Zanardi. Taking Via Stalingrado means to first “overlook” from the overpass very interesting places: Freak Out, Buco, Mikasa and, a bit further, the temple of quality live music Locomotiv. And then end up in the area of Kindergarten, more underground, mutable and unpredictable, Numa, with big numbers, nice people and EDM nights, as the area of Fiera, home of roBOt Festival in the last years. Except for Link and Sottotetto, all the other places, with patience and good legs, can be reached by foot.
How expensive is to go out in Bologna?
Bologna is a city where eating can be quite expensive, a pizza and a beer can rarely be found for less than 15€. A dinner out will cost you around 25€, 30€ per person; drinks in bars, even the fanciest ones, never exceed 7€, and a glass of nice wine costs 4€ or 5€. At your own risk, there still are historical bars which offer liquors at 2€: consult your liver before you venture out on this path. In general, there aren’t specific cheap areas, apart from the “battle” bars at Pratello or in the university area, as there aren’t expensive ones either. As far as partying is concerned, the great presence of students as well as the city tradition have helped to keep prices still reasonable. Of course, for the big names of live music and deejaying prices are now standardized (and are high), but it’s not difficult to find nights or concerts with entry fees of no more than 5€ or 10€. One warning: many places require also an annual card (Arci, Aics, or others, around 10€) in addition to the entry fee. If you stay in town for at least three or four days, it’s an expense that pays off quickly. If this isn’t the case, you still have to accept it and not complain: club owners risk very high fines if they let people in without a card.
What's the dress code in Bologna?
Bologna is a city full of students, but a distinction is needed: the university students from Bologna are mostly well dressed, elegant, and if they come from good families they like to make it noticed in the coolest places; the outsider students instead are very informal, and in some cases make you think of still being in the ‘90s of raves and cyberpunk, with baggy military trousers, piercings and raver tattoos. In general, Bologna is a very tolerant city where it’s more important how you behave rather than how you dress. With the exception of the richest and more commercial places, every form of expression is allowed and appreciated. Don’t worry about it. Don’t get too well dressed if you go to Pratello or Mascarella: there’s no need, and people will feel sorry for you (…how many beers or glasses of wine could you have bought instead of those fancy clothes?).