If you're looking for fun things to do in Bologna, Italy to give you a true sense of this medieval city, stroll and shop the Quadrilatero - the oldest market in Bologna. It's the hub of activity in the historic city center and a foodie's dream!
It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it should be the first place you visit when you arrive in Bologna. The feeling you have when you step into this bustling enclave will stay with you forever…it’s the feeling of Bologna. Few places exist in the world where you can still feel the medieval past haunt your every step and that feeling of authentic history surrounds you. In some parts, the buildings look the way they did back then, though today they're dressed up in fresh marketing and modern awnings.
I absolutely love exploring areas like this, where a leisurely stroll turns into so much more. Especially if this is your first time to Bologna, don't miss this part of town.
Bologna has largely been spared the earthquake devastation other parts of the country have endured through the centuries, leaving the city fairly preserved and looking as though a horse and carriage could come around the corner at any moment, though you'll hear their hooves on the cobblestone streets long before.
This is the Quadrilatero - the area every visitor to Bologna finds themselves entering and feeling this was just the place they were looking for!
History of the Quadrilatero
The ancient mercantile center of Bologna gets its name "Quadrilatero" from the word Quadrilateral referring to a defensive system or fortress. This area had its greatest development in the Middle Ages and has remained relatively unchanged over time.
It was here that the major craft guilds of the city formed including the painters, furriers, goldsmiths, butchers, fish mongers, the Salaroli or meat processors, and barbers.
Back in the day, the merchant guilds were set along a small enclave known as the Mercato di Mezzo, but today the area has greatly expanded and is just steps from the Piazza Maggiore, the historic heart of Bologna. It's bounded by a large quadrant of streets: the Via Rizzoli, Via Castiglione, Via Farini, Piazza Galvani and Via dell'Archiginnasio.
Today you'll find jewelers, butchers, delis, fish markets, produce stands, bakeries, and high end apparel stores. It's a lively social scene with wine bars and eateries where locals and visitors enjoy an evening Aperitivo with friends. If you're looking to try the iconic food in Bologna like the ever-popular tortellini in brodo or a hearty Bolognese, foodies will find them all right here.
Osteria del Sole
When you stroll the Quadrilatero, not only are you in the oldest commercial center of medieval Bologna, you're also steps from one of the oldest pubs in the world - Osteria del Sole - in existence continually since 1465...1465!
Osteria del Sole is a great place to hang out with friends and catch up on the latest news. We found one of the best things to do in Bologna was shop for lunch or dinner in the Quadrilatero, bring it along to the pub and grab a seat at one of the communal tables. Beer and wine is available here, and one of the best social experiences you can have!
If You Go
A visit to the Quadrilatero is one of the best things to do in Bologna, and a great way to see the city, talk with the merchants (many of them speak English), and purchase a picnic lunch.
Check out the Bologna Tourism website for lots of great information to help plan your visit. Better yet, stop in their office on the north side of the Piazza Maggiore and meet them in person!
Have you been to Bologna and the Quadrilatero? What historic cities do you love?