the sporty type

Let’s start by saying that Bologna has always been a bike-friendly city. In recent years, however, due to the development of an extensive cycle network, the desire to cycle has become an obsession and the fines for undisciplined cyclists have doubled. Be careful: although the huge cycle network literally covers the whole city, the porticoes are not the best places for bikes, even if you do see the odd person speeding along them despite the fact that they’re forbidden. To adapt to local customs, just rent a bike from BikeinBO on Via dell’Independenza. As well as renting out bikes and ebikes, the shop organises great excursions into the hills and Apennines around the city. Another alternative is Bike Rental Bologna  in Via Rialto.

Ready? Saddle up and let’s go for a warm up spin. Start at the church on top of San Luca hill.  To reach the sanctuary to the south-west of the city, climb along a short but challenging road, which in 2009 gave rise to one of the most exciting endings to the Giro d’Italia in recent years. From the church on the top you can enjoy a beautiful panorama of the city. But don’t get distracted for too long. We’re here for what’s behind the Basilica. Turn around and look – the Bolognese hills! With their endless routes, it’s natural to start with a good bit of cross country. The route comprises continuous ups and downs, along which you’ll be accompanied by beautiful scenery, with ochre-coloured churches and red and yellow houses. This is just a first taste, though.

Margherita gardens Bologna
Margherita Gardens
Porta Saragozza Bologna
Porta Saragozza
Museo Ducati, Borgo Panigalle
Ducati Museum

Now that you’re nice and warmed up, follow me to the city. Let’s start with a homage to a passion for two wheels… and an engine! We’re in Borgo Panigale for a visit to the headquarters of Ducati, the most famous road, track and Italian MotoGP motorbike. At the entrance, they ask me if I want to take a look at the factory, discover the history museum or the factory store. After an historic motorbike tour, I can’t resist the Ducati Riding Experience and I book a preparatory day (there’s also the option of two days to improve my track and off-road technique. Former champions like Carlos Checa teach you in person how to weave your way around traffic cones, bend around corners or zoom along uneven dirt tracks. Equipment and motorbike are provided.

Your legs will still be shaking when you leave Ducati. There’s so much adrenalin in my system that I get back on my bicycle and climb a few dozen metres before joining my route again. Let’s head towards the historic shooting range in Casalecchio di Reno. First, though, pause on the bridge along Viale Togliatti to watch the ruzzola players. A ruzzola is a kind of disc, similar to the shape of a large cheese round, which is tossed as far as possible using a long string. Each player must cover one or more treppi, or fields, marked out by long strips made by precisely cutting grass, in fewer throws than their opponent. It can be played one against one, in pairs or in teams. Look down below you: there’s the Parco dei Noci [Garden of Nuts], where children play on the swings and ruzzole whizz along among the jokes of players and spectators alike. From MotoGP to a medieval game in the space of a few kilometres!

Ducati Museum, Borgo Panigale

After time travelling like a pro, head back towards the city centre for a break from the saddle and a different kind of sport altogether. Given that there’s talk of incorporating video games (esports) into the Olympic Games in 2024, perhaps it’s time to get training at the Archivio Videoludico within the Cineteca di Bologna film archive, which houses over 5,000 titles and a whole host of fun for all ages. The Cineteca is an important venue for the sector: every year, in addition to the festival run by Svilupparty programmers, the NERD SHOW is also held, in February. Champions from all over Italy, including the official Bologna FC FIFA team, compete in the most famous games, while the public can try their hand at one of over 400 free-to-play stations. Prefer to move about more? Visit Xcalibur in Casalecchio sul Reno: 35 minutes of laser tag – you’ll have a fantastic time!

Now that you’ve cycled to the north and south of Bologna, the time has come to don your running shoes and explore the thirty-eight kilometres of porticoes in the historic centre. Shops, stalls, bars, churches, houses and palaces. Head to Piazza Maggiore, preferably in summer, when there is an open-air cinema there in the evening. Full of young people, locals and murals, it’s immediately obvious that Bologna is one of Italy’s main university cities.

A timid ray of sunshine is enough to lure you to one of the public parks, better still the Margherita gardens, equipped for every need, with running tracks, a tennis club and courts. Speaking of courts: basketball reigns undisputed in this Italian basketball city par excellence, which in the 1990s had two teams at the top of the European championship: Virtus and Fortitudo. Of course, not all the courts are perfectly maintained, but you can use them for free and they’re very popular. As is the park of the Resistance where next to the baskets there’s a beautiful mural depicting the great NBA players. Or Piazza Unità, where a court has been renovated among the palaces. There’s always someone to challenge or recruit for your team for 3 a-side thrills. If you’re in the area in the summer, though, don’t miss the Romainville 4 a-side tournament in Casalecchio, a feature on the calendar that is so loved by fans, it has become a tradition.

Olympic swimming pool Bologna
Olympic swimming pool Carmen Longo
Dall'Ara Football Stadium, Bologna
Dall’Ara Football Stadium

Be honest, you were just starting to think that I’d forgotten to mention Bologna’s football team. Impossible! “Till death do us part” is the motto of Bologna fans, some of the most loyal in Italy. A sentiment that you’ll also find in the bars full of team scarves, flags, shirts and photos. Hop over to the Dall’Ara football stadium, surrounded by porticoes like the rest of the city. From an architectural point of view, it’s a fascinating building constructed in the 1920s. On the Via De Coubertin side there is a plaque dedicated to Arpad Weisz, the Hungarian coach who won two championships with Bologna and who, persecuted for being of Jewish origin, died in Auschwitz.

Next to the stadium, on Via dello Sport, stands the almost 100-year-old Bologna Olympic pool, which recently underwent magnificent remodelling. The building is worth a visit even if just to admire its spectacular glass and steel roof. Inside is everything you need to stay in shape: from swimming and aquagym to free diving. And nearby there’s yet another basketball court, which you can’t miss. Go to the end of Via De Coubertin and you’ll find the entrance gate to the Meloncello centre, where one of the first courts in the city is housed. From here, cross over the Arco di Meloncello pedestrian portico and, as if by magic, you’ll find yourself once again opposite the climb up San Luca hill, your starting point. Take a deep breath, climb up to the top and… how about going around all over again?


di Paolo Ermano

Maneggio vicino San Luca Bologna
Horse Riding Club
Resistenza park Bologna
Resistenza park

View from the Monastery of San Michele in Bosco

other itineraries

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