The day before I moved to Bologna, a friend of mine from Austria told me that he wasn’t too fond of Bologna — it’s very industrial, he said. With these words ringing in my years, I admit I was a little apprehensive my first day in Bologna while walking around the Medieval city center. In my nervous state, the buildings seemed dusty and old; my eyes locked on the dog wiz and cacca on the side walks; and I didn’t see a single tree or patch of grass. But I soon discovered that there’s plenty of greenery to be found in and around Bologna. If you peek through entrance gates and doors as you stroll through Centro, you’ll be in awe with some of the beautiful courtyards and gardens that lie behind the Medieval building facades. And shortly after leaving the city walls, you’re in what the locals call the colli (the Bolognese hills). Upon entering the colli, any nature deficit that you’ve been feeling will immediately fade away.
Now that Spring is here, we plan to spend much of the coming months outdoors. Here are five of our favorite parks and gardens in and around Bologna where we head when the sun’s shining and Mother Nature starts calling.
This is Bologna’s main and most popular public park, located just outside the city walls at Porta Castiglione. There’s a 1-mile running loop around the perimeter. The park also has a lake, a cafe, a gelato/coffee stand, basketball courts as well as bumper cars and a trampoline for the kiddos.
Parco San Pellegrino
This park occupies a panoramic position in the Bolognese colli. It offers great views of the city center as well as of Bologna’s beloved landmark, the Basilica of San Luca. It’s most easily reached by car, but you can get there by foot by walking down Via Saragozza and then up through the grounds of Villa Spada. We usually drive there and park near #37 on Via Casaglia.
Parco di Villa Ghigi
This park also sits in the colli just outside the city center. It offers immediate and total immersion in nature with good views of the city and surrounding hills. In the center of the park, sits Villa Ghigi, which dates back to the 1600s. The park has three entrances: one on a branch of via San Mamolo, another on via dell’Osservanza (after the junction with via di Gaibola), and one on via Martucci.
The Orto Botanico di Bologna is a botanical garden operated by the University of Bologna. It’s a peaceful place, perfect for enjoying some greenery. It contains about 5,000 specimens representing 1200 taxa. It is located at Via Irnerio, 42 and open for free to the public everyday except Sundays. Established in 1568, the garden is one the oldest in Europe. The garden moved to its current location in 1803.
This park is located in Casalecchio. It’s official name is Il Parco della Chiusa, but it’s often referred to by its former name, Parco Talon. There’s a bike path that connects Bologna’s city center to Parco Talon, which is a pleasant and flat ride that gets you to the park in about forty minutes. You can pick up the bike path in Centro around the intersection of San Felice and Via Riva di Reno or near Bologna’s cemetery, the Certosa di Bologna, on Via Andrea Costa.