Best Art in Bologna: 7 Top Spots for Galleries, Museums & Churches

June 7, 2023

It’s hard to believe, but there’s more than just great food in Bologna. Sure, the city is an aesthetic stunner, but if you’re a food aficionado and you let your stomach and palate guide you, it’s easy to overlook everything else.

A Devour guide in Bologna leads guests in front of the church of Basilica di San Petronio, in Piazza Maggiore

There is plenty of impressive art in Bologna if you know where to look.

Have no fear. There are ample amounts of things to do in Bologna between meals. One of them is marveling at magnificent art. The city happens to be loaded with great art museums, galleries, and art-adorned church walls. You could spend a few days just indulging in the art of the city.

Keep reading to discover the best museums to marvel at must-see masterpieces in Bologna.

Classical Art Museum

Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna

Located smack in the center of the university area, the Pinacoteca Nazionale is the granddaddy of historical art in Bologna. These are where the old master reside. The collection centers around painting and sculpture from the 13th to the 19th century. There are a lot of familiar names here: Raphael, El Greco, Titian, Tintoretto, and Giotto are but a few of the who’s-who from the art world of centuries past.

early renaissance artwork by Florentine painter Zanobi Strozzi is found at the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Bologna

This early renaissance artwork by Florentine painter Zanobi Strozzi is found at the Pinacoteca Nazionale. Photo credit: jean louis mazieres

Modern Art Museum

Museo d’Arte Moderna Bologna (MAMBo)

Affectionately known as MAMBo, this contemporary art museum first opened in 2007 and is considered one of the best modern art institutions in Italy. The museum’s halls and rooms are plastered with the works of Luigi Ontani, Gina Pane, Maurizio Cattelan, Lucio Fontana, Vanessa Beercraft, and Renato Guttoso, among other 20th and 21st-century artists.

Installation art piece at the Museo d’Arte Moderna Bologna (MAMBo) with man sitting and floating above a chair.

The Museo d’Arte Moderna Bologna (MAMBo) is one of the best places to enjoy installation art in Bologna. This piece is from an exhibition by Italian-Austrian artist Aldo Giannotti. Photo credit: Arturo94

Architecture Museum

Museo Civico Archeologico

The Civic Archaeological Museum has been housed in the 15th-century Palazzo Galvani since 1881. The institution is a great way to gain a deeper sense of history of the Italian peninsula, as it contains thousands of pieces of art and artifacts that begin with the pre-Roman Estruscan peoples and carries on with the march of time through the centuries. The Greek and Roman collection here is particularly strong.

Interior courtyard with fountain, statue, and columns at Bologna's Museo Civico Archeologico

Bologna’s Museo Civico Archeologico is also known for its Egyptian collection, which is the third-largest in Italy. Photo credit: Ugeorge

Science and Natural History Museum

Museo di Palazzo Poggi

In a 16th-century Renaissance palace in the university district there’s an intriguing cabinet of curiosities. It’s not your typical art but if you free your mind a bit, you can see the art in these artifacts. The Museo di Palazzo Poggi houses some very rare 18th-century anatomical waxworks, sculpted by Ercole Lilli, one of the best anatomical artists of his day. If you dig art, anatomy, and the macabre, this is the museum for you.

A 17th-Century globe, at Palazzo Poggi, bologna

A 17th-century globe at Palazzo Poggi. Photo credit: Seán Ó Domhnaill

Historic Buildings with Art Collections

Collezione Comunali d’Arte

Set in the 16th-century second floor of the Palazzo Comunale when it was home to Cardinal Legates, the Collezione Comunali d’Arte first opened in 1936. The collection here doesn’t have as many boldface names as the Pinacoteca Nazionale, but it has an impressive set of 13th-to-19th century works. The pièce de resistance is the scale model of medieval Bologna where you can marvel at the old towers and walls that existed in the city in centuries past.

Basilica di San Domenico

This 13th century church houses the bones of San Domenico, the founder of the Dominican order. Down the right aisle, don’t miss the Cappella di San Domenico. It was made by a small handful of now-famous artists, including Nicola Pisano, Arnolfo di Cambio, Niccolò dell’Arca, and a 19-year-old Michelangelo carved an angel on the right side of the altar.

Gilded interior of the church of Basilica di San Domenico, Bologna

The interior of the church of Basilica di San Domenico is incredibly impressive – and another great place to see art in Bologna. Photo credit: Richard Mortel

Museo Civico Medievale

Let’s get medieval! The Museo Civico Medievale, or the Medieval Museum, is worth visiting just to marvel at the building that houses it. The 15th-century late-medieval structures contain a collection of art and artifacts that take visitors through the Middle Ages in Italy, in general, and Bologna, in particular.

There are plenty of sculptures and paintings to gawk at. And the museum does a nice job of taking the visitor through the history of the era, setting the stage for the blossoming of Renaissance art that occurred in the 15th and 16th centuries.

by David Farley

View more by David ›

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