Bologna Is The Best Place To Live In Italy — Here’s Why

According to a leading financial newspaper, Bologna has the highest livability index in Italy.
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Move aside, Florence. Take a seat, Rome. Venice, you have your watery charms, but this is not your moment in the sun. For the second time in five years, Il Sole 24 Ore (one of Italy’s leading financial newspapers) has ranked Bologna as the best place to live in Italy.

If you consider yourself a gourmand, this will not come as a surprise. After all, La Grassa is famous for some of Italy’s most beloved pasta, including tortellini, tagliatelle, and lasagne. Bologna may not be modern like Milan, or artistically stunning like Florence, but it is an uncontested gastronomic paradise. Of course, there are many reasons beyond food and wine that put Bologna at the top of Italy’s livability index. Affordability, education, and political engagement are just some of them.

Il Sole 24 Ore: Livability Index

For the last 33 years, Il Sole 24 Ore has been collecting data on the standards of living in Italy. 90 indicators are divided into six macro-categories: Wealth and Consumption, Business and Employment, Environment and Services, Demography and Society, Justice and Security, and Culture and Leisure Time. In total, Bologna accrued 590.28 winning points this year thanks to its high levels of education, employment, and cultural offerings.

Some of the areas that deserve mention include:

  • the number of people with at least a high school diploma
  • the average education level of residents over the age of 25
  • the number of newly registered residents, and
  • the economic value added per inhabitant

It is no wonder that Bologna is still referred to as “the learned one” (La Dotta) more than 900 years after its university was founded in 1088. The city remains the most highly educated in Italy and as a result, among the most prosperous.

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Other Cities In The Ranking

This year, second place went to Bolzano. It tied with Bologna with five gold medals each since the classification began in 1990. Florence, Siena, and Trento rounded out the top five. Milan was #8, Venice was #20, and Rome was a dismal #31. It is interesting to note that several of Italy’s best-known cities have never ranked among the best places to live for Italians.

In our effort to verify the accuracy of the quality of life index, we asked some of our Bolognesi friends to share their thoughts about the city. Born and raised in Bologna, Mariagrazia has deep roots in the city and surrounding region. “I truly believe that Bologna has offered me opportunities that I would never have had in other cities.” “Though I did live outside Bologna for a few years, I had to return because I could not be without my city,” she continues.

Clara, another respondent agreed. Bologna is “the best place where I have lived because I have found personal balance and the transportation system is very convenient,” she said.

©Livia Hengel

A Welcoming Place

There was consensus from everyone surveyed that Bologna is an extremely welcoming place with space for all colors and creeds. Giulio, a local doctor, told us that he moved to the city a decade ago from southern Italy and has no regrets. For him, the favorable reception he experienced made the transition very easy, and it has been smooth sailing ever since. Through his work, he has “met many people who live in Bologna, but come from other parts of Italy or the world. They all feel welcomed and valued here.”

This atmosphere makes sense in a city that boasts 90,000 university students from all over Italy. Not to mention more than 7,000 international students. The foreign-born resident population is not insignificant either, making up close to 16 percent of the city’s total. A ratio that is reflected in the growing international cuisine options.

It is worth mentioning that Bologna did receive some of its lowest marks on the Qualità della vita 2022 report in the area of Justice and Security, ranking 95th in the nation. Bologna had 4,978 criminal reports filed per 100,000 residents, significantly higher than the national average of 3,109 per 100,000.

©Instagram/benadventure_flickr

Our respondents were, of course, most excited to share their favorite haunts and hangouts in the city — places that you should add to your list next time you visit Bologna.

Bologna Insider Tips


Il Forno di un Chicco

As suggested to us by Giulio, Il Forno di un Chicco is a specialty panificio that makes a wide variety of bread and pastries. The forno utilizes grains like kamut, farro, and semolina to produce goods without dough refrigeration or additives. “It is an excellent coffee shop and bakery in the center of town that uses unique flours and seeds, but also sells very classic cakes, tarts, and cookies. Everything is delicious and it is the perfect place for a snack with friends!” he says. A macchiato, a slice of torta degli addobbi, and some good conversation would make for the perfect afternoon.

©Gelateria delle Moline

Gelateria delle Moline

Our respondent Mariagrazia has been leading gastronomic tours in and around Bologna for the last three decades, so her word should be considered gold! She admits that there are many fantastic gelato options in the city, but for her, the unrivaled spot is Gelateria delle Moline. A short walk from the Instagram-worthy “Little Venice,” this gelato shop has been operating since 1978 and is known for its classic flavors like pistachio and stracciatella, as well as Sicilian specialties like granita and cassata. She tells us that it’s not unheard of for gelato enjoyers to stop here more than once a day…

©Pane Vino e San Daniele

Pane Vino e San Daniele

After several stops at Gelateria delle Moline, you may not have room for a hearty meal alla romagnola, but we’re sure you’ll make do. Right across from the Cathedral of Bologna, you will find the wittily named Pane Vino e San Daniele. Anytime there is a reference to a Gina Lollobrigida film, it won’t be hard to convince us! If you are a lover of mortadella, prosciutto, and lardo, you should have a field day. If one happens to be on a pasta diet, typical dishes like lasagne verdi alla bolognese and tagliatelle al ragù can be found.

©Biblioteca Salaborsa

Biblioteca Salaborsa

A marvelous hybrid of ancient and modern, the Biblioteca Salaborsa is Bologna’s main public library. Located inside the Palazzo d’Accursio which dates back to the 13th century, the library took over the building in 2001. Giulio loves spending time here. “It is one of my favorite places because it is truly a fascinating space,” he explains. “You can see the archaeological ruins of the old city through the glass floors when you enter, and there are cultural events and art exhibitions always going on.” Plus it’s air-conditioned and there is free WiFi available, something that locals and tourists alike can appreciate.

©Instagram/micolgiorgi

Certosa di Bologna

A monumental cemetery may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but for Clara, this is one of her favorite places in the area. The cemetery has some of the most beautiful sculptures in Bologna, and it is the resting place of a host of Italian heroes. For those familiar with early Italian history, opera legend Farinelli, Nobel prize winner Giosuè Carducci, and composer Ottorino Respighi are buried here. If you are more into sports cars and pop music, the graves of both Alfieri Maserati and Ferruccio Lamborghini, as well as Lucio Dalla, can be tracked down. It was a hot spot during the era of the “Grand Tour” and Lord Byron waxed poetic about the heartfelt epitaphs he saw there.

©Instagram/irmopradelli

San Michele in Bosco

Those wanting an escape from the hustle and bustle will appreciate the natural peace of San Michele in Bosco, a 30-minute hike from Bologna’s center. Our interviewee Giulia told us she prefers avoiding the noise and stress of the city when she has free time and goes for long walks in and around San Michele. Monks have inhabited the hills above La Grassa for the last 16 centuries, so it is one of the oldest religious sites in the region. Both Augustinians and Olivetans were involved in the development of the community over the millennia, through plague and invasion. The view from San Michele is unrivaled, making it an ideal location for a picnic or romantic date. A good way to walk off the tortellini so you can go back for more!

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