Bologna Inside - Second Edition

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PLUGGING IN (See also Chapter 1)


If you are a city dweller, this chapter will give you some ideas about spending your free time in the greater Bologna area. If you live in provincia, or are thinking about moving there, you’ll find important supplementary information specific to living outside city limits.

It is helpful to think of the city and its outskirts as a series of concentric circles with the centro storico in the middle. The next circle, known as fuori porta (outside the gates), falls between the viale (ring road) and the tangenziale (beltway). From the tangenziale you’ll see exits for various city quartieri, the airport, the fiera, the A1, A13 and A14 autostrade (highways), as well as for the closest outlying towns.

In total, the province is comprised of 60 comuni. After Bologna, the next largest city is Imola, with 65,000 inhabitants. Casalecchio di Reno, San Lazzaro di Savena, San Giovanni in Persiceto and Castel San Pietro Terme are next in terms of population, each with between 20,000-30,000 inhabitants. The comune with the fewest inhabitants is Castel del Rio with 1,256 residents, where processing your paperwork is sure to be a cinch.

The borders delineating comuni are often natural landmarks such as rivers, valleys or mountain ranges and residents feel a sense of belonging to their geographic area as delineated by these landmarks. It is not uncommon to hear an Italian refer to his or her geographic area, such as “the valley of the Reno,” rather than citing a particular town.

Generally speaking, the province is divided into three geographic areas: l’Appennino, the mountainous area south and east of Bologna to the Tuscan border, la Pianura, the expansive plain north and west of Bologna and l’Imolese, the area surrounding Imola to the east of Bologna.


L’Appennino Bolognese is comprised of five valleys formed by the region’s biggest rivers, most of which eventually flow into the Reno. Each valley has distinct characteristics – for example, the Samoggia valley is known as the route of cities, castles and cherries while the upper reaches of the Reno valley are the gateway to high Apennine excursions. The north end has farmland and foothills, but the area is mostly mountainous woodland and riverside terrain covered by deciduous forests where a variety of flora and fauna thrive. The cuisine reflects this mountain heritage, with unique dishes such as ragù made with cinghiale (wild boar) and fried crescentine, tigelle and borlenghi, once considered mountain region breads.

The summers are cooler and the winters often bring significant snowfall, requiring residents to have front or four-wheel drive and sometimes chains. The main highway routes run along the river valleys (such as La Porrettana) as well as the ridge tops (for example, La Futa). Environmental tourism is increasingly important as the number of agriturismi (guest farmhouses) multiplies each year. The mountains are traversed by a web of well-maintained and marked trails, some of which are the same mule trails and footpaths used by residents for centuries. For more information on the Appennino, see the following websites:


Reno Valley: Camugnano, Casalecchio di Reno, Castel d’Aiano, Castel di Casio, Castiglione dei Pepoli, Gaggio Montano, Granaglione, Grizzana Morandi, Lizzano in Belvedere, Marzabotto, Porretta Terme, San Benedetto Val di Sambro, Sasso Marconi, Vergato. See area website:

Samoggia Valley: Bazzano, Castello di Serravalle, Crespellano, Monte San Pietro, Monteveglio, Savigno, Zola Predosa.
See or (also in English).

Savena and Idice Valleys: Loiano, Monghidoro, Monterenzio, Monzuno, Ozzano dell’Emilia, Pianoro, San Lazzaro di Savena.


La Pianura, sometimes referred to as la bassa (lowlands), is characterized by wide open spaces dotted with large farmhouses and stables. The Pianura’s agricultural lands were once owned and managed by noble families, who employed contadini (farmers) to live on and work the land, under contracts called mezzadria. The rich farmlands are divided by an intricate system of canals and irrigation waterways, once the commerce routes of the region. This abundance of water creates more humidity in the summer and in the winter months, la nebbia, a pea soup-thick fog resembling the moor in a Thomas Hardy novel. The area is noted for its excellent fresh pasta and high quality pork production.

Alongside the agricultural tradition is a thriving industrial sector. Many of its comuni have well-defined zone industriali (industrial zones) where much of the province’s manufacturing activity takes place. Among these areas is the Centergross fashion trading center with 650 companies and the immense Interporto customs weighing station. Some of the comuni, notably Budrio, Minerbio, Pieve di Cento and San Giorgio di Piano, recall Bologna with their arcades and cobblestone streets. Residents of the Pianura often travel by bicycle, ideal in town as well as along the bucolic, flat routes.

For more information on the area, see the following sites: (Pianura Bolognese tourism site)

I really love the area where we live, in the hills south of Bologna. Every morning when I open my shutters, regardless of what season it is, I’m still astounded as to how beautiful it is here. We have the most magnificent views and walking trails right outside our front door… and without any tourists! This means we may need to drive a bit to find a good Indian or Japanese restaurant, or even to have contact with other expatriates for that matter, but for me, living outside of Bologna has really helped me to integrate easily into Italian culture, with the help of my husband and in-laws, of course!

Kristin Post


Anzola dell’Emilia, Argelato, Baricella, Bentivoglio, Budrio, Calderara di Reno, Castello d’Argile, Castel Maggiore, Castenaso, Crevalcore, Galliera, Granarolo dell’Emilia, Malalbergo, Minerbio, Molinella, Pieve di Cento, Sala Bolognese, San Giorgio di Piano, San Giovanni in Persiceto, San Pietro in Casale, Sant’Agata Bolognese.


This area of the province includes a corner of western Romagna (according to locals, everything east of the Santerno River) and also borders on the municipal district of Ravenna. In fact, several small cities have been under both provinces at one time or another. L’Imolese is home to some high quality vineyards, known especially for whites. The Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna, in Dozza, is a must stop for wine buffs visiting Bologna. For more information, see this chapter under ‘Tempo Libero.’ Imola itself is perhaps most well known for the Formula 1 Gran Prix and other important international races held at the autodromo (race track). The tradition of racing in Imola dates back to the ancient Romans who raced their two-wheeled chariots there. Imola is proud of its excellent gastronomic heritage and there is no better food and wine festival to celebrate it than the longstanding Baccanale held every November. For more information, see

Imola also has many fine art museums and archives. For more information see the Imola Tourist Information System, accessible through the site of the Comune di Imola.

Tourist Information Office Imola

Via Mazzini, 14
Tel. 0542.602207 (also in English)


Castel Guelfo di Bologna, Medicina

Santerno Valley: Borgo Tossignano, Casalfiumanese, Castel del Rio, Fontanelice, Imola, Mordano.
See area website:

Sillaro Valley: Castel San Pietro Terme, Dozza.


The Province has a helpful URP and website, with handy portals for accessing various services and interesting statistics about local demographics, environmental factors and political trends.

URP Provincia di Bologna

Via Benedetto XIV, 3
Tel. 051.6598218
Numero verde 800.239754

Each individual comune also has its own website, easily located by following the model www.comune.[insert name here] For example, the website of the Comune di Budrio can be found at, the website of Zola Predosa at, etc.

If you are not fluent in Italian, you may find the Emilia Romagna regional tourism site helpful, also available in English:


If you live outside Bologna city limits, Telecom Italia will provide you with the yellow and white pages for your geographical area only, for example Provincia Nord (North Province). If you would also like to have the phone books for the city of Bologna, you must contact SEAT Pagine Gialle directly. The volumes requested will be sent to you via corriere (delivery service) who will accept payment for both the volumes and delivery.

SEAT Pagine Gialle

Numero verde 800.011411


Most paperwork, with the exception of immigration documents, can be handled in the comune offices where you live. These offices are usually all located in the same building and due to a lower volume of business, are known to be more efficient than their counterparts in Bologna. Check area yellow pages under COMUNI E SERVIZI COMUNALI.