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Life in Bologna

Bologna is one of Italy’s most dynamic cultural centers, home to a rich tradition of food, recreation, arts and expression.  As Europe’s original college town, you will join other students from around the world exploring a rich and authentic cultural experience.

Sports and Recreation

One nickname for Bologna is Basket City, referring to Bologna’s obsession with basketball. The city hosts two professional clubs, Fortitudo and Virtus. Division I (Series A) soccer is also played in Bologna. The Bologna Football (soccer) Club was founded in 1909. Tickets are inexpensive compared to American prices for professional sporting events. Some of the best soccer teams in Italy (Roma, Inter-Milan and Juventus) make their way to the Bologna stadium for Sunday afternoon games.

Students will find that bicycling is the number one pedestrian activity in the city. Bolognese young and old love to ride their bikes. Spring Hill College students are encouraged to buy a used bike at one of the many shops in Bologna. Gymnasiums (Palestra) can be found throughout the city, and students may be eligible for discounts.

Bologna is located in the shadows of the Apennines (small Alps). The hills are within walking and biking distance of the city center and offer leisurely walks and escapes on the weekends. For the more ambitious outdoor type, the Italian Alps are within a three-hour train ride from Bologna. Villages in the Alps are well equipped for tourists (skiing, hiking and biking) and can be explored without the necessity of a car. Beach lovers may enjoy the Italian Riviera, a 90-minute train ride from the Bologna Central Station. September, April and May are the best months to enjoy the Adriatic Sea.

Art and Music

The city boasts of an active film, arts, theater, opera and dance scene. The University of Bologna’s DAMS Art Department attracts a broad spectrum of talent to Bologna. Those on budget can find street music played in the city’s piazzas (public squares) nearly every night. The Bologna city streets are alive with musicians, buskers and artists at all types.

During the fall semester, Spring Hill College students will arrive in time for the highly anticipated annual MTV concert in September. For those who prefer jazz, Bologna offers two of Italy’s best jazz venues. When the 100,000-plus college students are in town (October to June) many of the U.S. and Europe’s top bands appear in Bologna. If your favorite musician isn’t playing live in Bologna, then Milan is a one-hour fast train ride north of Bologna, where many of the world’s top musicians appear at one time or another. The city was recently awarded the United Nations (UNESCO) Cultural Diversity Award for its music scene, which serves as a vehicle to fight against racism.


Bologna is known across Italy as “la grassa” (the fat), renowned for its rich culinary tradition. It has given its name to the well-known Bolognese sauce, a meat-based pasta sauce. Situated in the fertile Po River Valley, the rich local cuisine depends heavily on meats and cheeses. As in all of Emilia-Romagna, the production of cured pork meats such as prosciutto, mortadella and salami is an important part of the local food industry. The City is chock-full of low cost Osteria (small diners), Trattorias (mid-sized cafes) and Bolognese Restaurants. Prices are affordable even for a student living on a budget. It is fair to say that even among the Italians, Bologna is known for its outstanding food.

Festivals and Events

Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna region actively fund and promote cultural festivals throughout the year.
The Human Rights Nights Film Festival is an international festival dedicated to human rights cinema and presents filmmakers who use their cameras for commenting on injustices in the world.
The opera and ballet season in Teatro Comunale is excellent. Running from the end of October to Early June, it is a favorite source of entertainment and culture. It is a superb venue for enjoying music and culture unique to Italy. Spring Hill College staff will organize an opera night, but students are encouraged to frequent the opera house time and time again.

In late January, the Fiera di Bologna (Convention) is held. It is an international exhibit created to show the contemporary arts of the city. More than 250 galleries participate in the event.

The most important religious festival in Bologna is held in May. This is the celebration of the Madonna di San Luca. The practice began after the image was brought to Bologna in 1433 and the heavy rains miraculously stopped. Since then, the image of the Madonna is brought through the city to the Basilica di San Petronio for the blessing before it is returned to the Santuario di San Luca.

Bologna is the home of the Ducati and Lamborghini factories. In May, these companies as well as Ferrari, Maserati and a few others compete in the San Marino Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Imola racetrack. This is a major event in a country that loves speed. Trial runs are made on Friday and Saturday with the main event happening on Sunday.
Also in early May, the seaside resort of Cervia sponsors an incredible International Kite Flying Festival, attracting artists from across the world.