Located in northern Italy about midway between Florence and Venice, Bologna is often overlooked by travelers, but it offers many delights from a mouthwatering food scene to medieval architecture. There are many reasons to visit, the only question is when to go. There is no one best time to visit Bologna. While nearly everyone recommends late spring and early fall, it really depends on what you hope to see and do, as well as your own personal travel style and other preferences. If you want to avoid crowds and enjoy a more budget-friendly visit, you might consider traveling in the months of November or February when cheaper prices can be found and fewer other tourists are around. April/May and September/October can be lovely, but hotel rates are unlikely to be heavily discounted and there will be plenty of tourists around, although many consider those periods to be the “sweet spot” for a visit.
The best time to visit Bologna for sightseeing is during the peak of spring in April or May, or early fall, mid-September through October. This is when the weather will be mild, with often idyllic temperatures ranging from the mid-60s to the mid-70s. You’ll enjoy longer days with plenty of light, with sunset after 7 p.m. throughout much of this period, with the exception of late October with the time change shortening days further. As many are discovering the delights of these “shoulder” seasons, there are likely to be some crowds and longer lines but visiting the sights early in the morning or at the end of the day can make a big difference. If you aren’t averse to the cold, consider November or early December. While the days are chillier, shorter, and often gray, it’s a great time to bundle up and explore the sights without having to elbow your way through the crowds.
Bologna’s fabulous food scene can be enjoyed year-round, but autumn may be the best time of all to visit this city for its mouthwatering cuisine, particularly early fall from mid-September through mid-October. The broths will be starting to boil while Trebbiano grapes will soon be turned into balsamic and porcini mushrooms pop up on the menus once again. Food festivals like MortadellaBo, Frutti del Sottobosco, Portico di Romagna, and the Tortellino Festival will all be celebrating the arrival of autumn too. October 4, Bologna’s Saint Day, honoring Saint Petronio heralds the Tortellino Festival which answers the question, “Which restaurant makes the best tortellini in Bologna?” Enjoy a mix of warm and cool, crisp days along with the endless array of delectable local products throughout early autumn along with the opportunity to score some shoulder season discounts on airfare and accommodation. Hiking in the Bologna hills will be ideal now too.
Speaking of hiking and other outdoor activities, Bologna is an outdoor lover’s paradise with the Bologna hills offering miles of scenic trails with plenty of options for short and long hikes with everything in between. There are many parks with paths for strolling and paved routes for biking too. As the summer can be so hot and humid, the best time to visit Bologna for outdoor activities is April, May, or mid-September through mid-October. Those months typically bring plenty of sunshine with milder temperatures that are ideal for all sorts of outdoor pursuits. There are likely to be plenty of others out there enjoying the sunshine and pleasant weather with you, but it won’t be overly crowded. While there are often some nice winter days for tranquil walks, many feel the season is a bit too chilly and wet. If you come now, you’ll be able to take advantage of the idyllic temps for sightseeing too.
When it comes to shopping in Bologna, you might be surprised to learn that this city can hold its own, even against rivals like Milan and Florence. It’s especially enjoyable on the weekends when Zone “T”, Via Ugo Bassi, Via dell’Indipendenza, and Via Rizzoli, are all closed to traffic, making for pleasant pedestrianized shopping. The four main shopping streets all fan out from Piazza Maggiore and include all the big-name Italian designers along with many antique stores and bookshops. For bargain shopping, come during the winter or summer sales. The winter sales start soon after New Year’s Day and run until inventory is depleted. They start with discounts of around 30 to 50 percent off – you’ll get the biggest bargains toward the end although there won’t be as much to choose from. It happens again in July, with the summer sales start and typically running through August or until everything is gone.
If you hope to immerse yourself in the culture, experience daily life, and spend time with some of the locals, visit Bologna during the low season. Without many tourists here, the locals have more time to sit down and chat. Plus, without the high demand for hotels, discounts on room rates can be enjoyed too. The very best months of the low season for an authentic vibe are November (and into early December) and January, after the holidays. Yes, it will be chillier but compared to many places it’s fairly mild, with November the wetter month, a time when afternoon highs are in the low 50s. January is a bit colder, with nighttime temperatures close to freezing and highs in the mid-40s. As long as you have the right clothing, like a waterproof coat, items that can be layered, and warm boots, you can easily enjoy the city sights and a more
January is the coldest month of the year in Bologna as it is throughout the Northern Hemisphere, with an average low temperature of 34 degrees Fahrenheit while highs are in the mid-40s. The least amount of precipitation falls this month with just over an inch although the city does experience fog, frost, and frigid temperatures. Snow is rare, though it can occur occasionally. Despite the cold weather, Bologna is a beautiful city to visit during the winter and it’s an ideal time for those who want to avoid the crowds. If you come after the first week of January, once the holiday visitors have left, you might score a deal on accommodation too. To make the most of your visit, bundle up in multiple layers and top with a waterproof coat. You’ll need a hat, gloves, and ideally some waterproof boots. Plan to wrap up your days early as sunset is at around 5 p.m.
Bologna will still be chilly in February, but it’s starting to warm up with the average high temperature now 50 degrees although the mercury still dips down to just 34 degrees at night. Rain is possible but there isn’t much more than last month, with an average of about 1.4 inches. The sun starts to come out more often but there are usually more grey days. As it is still winter, pack warm clothing, with a good coat, hat, gloves, and scarf essential. Clothing that can be layered is a good idea too. This is the off-season as far as tourism so you might enjoy some discounts on hotel rates and airfare. Plus, if you’re here with the one you love on Valentine’s Day, there will be plenty of romantic dining options. This is also when Carnival celebrations with a parade and colorful costumes and masks can be enjoyed.
The mercury continues to rise in March with the weather mostly mild. Although the weather can be unpredictable this month, temperatures tend to range from lows in the mid-40s to afternoon highs in the upper 50s and the sun comes out more often too. Plus, the days are getting longer, with sunset around 6 pm early in the month, and by March’s end, the sun doesn’t go down until 7:40 pm. Plus, with the arrival of spring, nature starts to wake up with flowers bursting into bloom. It’s a great time to enjoy walks in the surrounding hills or to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca without many others around. On those occasional chilly days, you can always explore the many museums and galleries. While tourism will soon pick up steam, reduced hotel rates and discounted airfare can usually be found in March which can make for a more budget-friendly trip.
Spring has officially arrived in Bologna with the weather starting to warm more significantly now. You can expect afternoon highs in the mid-60s with nighttime lows in the mid-40s. There are typically more sunny days than cloudy ones now, making it a great time to enjoy the outdoor cafes and people-watching. There will be a few more visitors arriving to coincide with the more pleasant weather yet the crowds aren’t at their peak just yet. This is a shoulder season which means shorter lines at popular attractions along with the opportunity to score more affordable airfare and accommodation. You’ll want to prepare for somewhat unpredictable weather by bringing a mix of clothing, ideally with items that can be layered and topped with a light rain jacket. Bringing sunglasses and a couple of items for sunny days and warmer afternoons like short-sleeve tops is a good idea now too.
May is a great month to visit Bologna. It’s really warming now with idyllic temperatures in the mid-70s and frequent sunny skies. While this is the start of the busy season it won’t be as crowded as the summer months and you’ll have more daylight for sightseeing with the sun not setting until 8:30 p.m. The markets will be filled with fresh produce and the streets alive with activity as visitors and locals all head outdoors to take advantage of the warmth. There are a number of events worth taking part in too, such as Diverdeinverde on the last weekend of the month which opens the doors and gates of private gardens, providing visitors with a gorgeous peek. When it comes to packing, you’ll want to bring more clothing for warm weather, including hats and sunglasses for sun protection, along with items for cooler evenings such as a light sweater or jacket.
Early June is a great time to visit Bologna as the weather will still be comfortably warm and the skies sunny, with the average afternoon high now 80 degrees. Even evenings are quite pleasant with the lows in the mid-60s. It won’t be horribly crowded just yet although as the month progresses, it will get warmer and the humidity higher, and an increasing number of tourists will arrive. If you plan to visit now, you’ll want to book your reservations well in advance and secure airfare early too for better prices. This is a time you’ll definitely want a pair of sunglasses, plenty of sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and lightweight clothing such as short-sleeve shirts, tank tops, dresses, capris, and shorts. Bring a water bottle to stay dehydrated too, fountains can be found throughout the city for filling up. The days will be wonderfully long with sunset just after 9 p.m. on the Summer Solstice.
Summer is officially here along with the highest heat and humidity, and the biggest crowds. Rain is unlikely although the occasional thunderstorm may develop. Temperatures average in the mid-70s to the low 90s, so bring breezy dresses, shorts, and the like along with plenty of sun protection like that wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen. As this is the busiest time of year it’s essential to book accommodations well in advance. You might want to plan your itinerary so that you can visit outdoor attractions in the early mornings or evenings when the heat isn’t at its worst. If you are out, with the 25 miles of covered porticoes, it’s possible to enjoy a more shady pleasant stroll. Otherwise, you might head to one of the many indoor attractions with air-conditioning. The Porretta Soul Festival is worth a day trip, taking place during the third week of July in the heart of the Bolognese Apennines, Poretta Terme.
August continues the hot and humid weather, although it will be a lot less crowded. This is when many Italians take their vacations, traveling abroad or heading to the seaside. It’s also the month when university students leave. That means that some businesses will be closed and there are likely to be more tourists filling the streets than locals. There will be plenty of tourist facilities open, including shops, restaurants, and cafes, including outdoor tables for aperitivo, however. You’ll still need to book airfare and accommodation well in advance and pack as you would for July, bringing plenty of items that will help you keep cool and keep your protected from the sun. This month is a great time to enjoy the Cinema Ritrovato Festival or Cinema Under the Stars. Held in Piazza Maggiore through the middle of the month, it’s a great way to spend a summer evening.
September starts out warm, but the weather cools down significantly by the middle of the month with average high temperatures dropping to the upper 70s. There’s a slight increase in the chances for rainfall and later in the month, evenings can be chilly with the mercury an average of just 61 degrees. This means you’ll need to pack a variety of clothing to prepare for the changing temperatures. If you’ll be here early in the month, you can pack as you would for the peak of summer. Otherwise, focus on light, summery clothing for daytime and a sweater or jacket for cooler mornings and evenings. While September is still a busy time in Bologna, the crowds start to thin out with families returning home for back-to-school time. As September is becoming increasingly popular among those who don’t have to worry about school, it’s still a good idea to book reservations well in advance.
Autumn has arrived, with the weather now fluctuating between crisp, cool days to pleasant warm ones with bright blue skies. The average temperatures range from a low of 50 at night to right around 70 degrees during the day, a big dip from August when the mercury often rises above 90. In fact, October is one of the best months to visit Bologna with plenty of sunshine along with the occasional rainfall, with an average of just over three inches this month. There will be a number of food festivals that celebrate seasonal harvests and the arrival of autumn, including the Frutti del Sottobosco and the Portico di Romagna. When it comes to packing, it’s all about layering. Bring a mix of short- and long-sleeve shirts and skirts with leggings or pants. You’ll want a waterproof jacket with a hood to protect from rain, and perhaps a sweater for those cooler days too.
November marks the start of the off-season and more gray days than sunny ones. Rainy days are more common too with an average of four inches this month. This is one of the quieter times to visit Bologna, perfect for those who want to avoid crowds and enjoy a more budget-friendly trip. Come prepared by bringing items for chilly, wet weather, including a waterproof coat and boots along with items that can be layered like last month. You’ll be able to enjoy the sights without interruption or having to wait in long lines. It is important to plan for the shorter days, however, with sunset close to 5 p.m. early in the month and at about 4:40 p.m. by the time November ends. One of the largest festivals continues over weekends during the first half of November, TartuFesta. Held in the Bologna Hills, it celebrates the delectable white truffle.
The first half of December is another great time to visit Bologna without the big tourist crowds with few visitors here now although with the Christmas festivities and holiday shopping, by the middle of the month, it will start to get busier and colder. The high temperature can reach the mid-50s but with lows averaging around 35 degrees, snow is possible although unlikely. This month doesn’t bring much precipitation, with an average of just two inches and skies often bright blue. When it’s grey, the holiday décor and twinkling lights are sure to brighten things up. Of course, you’ll want to pack for the winter weather, bringing a warm coat, hat, gloves, and boots. You can look forward to warming up with the rich Bolognese dishes of the season too. Keep in mind that arriving around the holidays means booking your accommodations well in advance and preparing to pay higher prices for both hotels and airfare.
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