Where to Buy Books in Bologna: Market Edition

Even in this age of ebooks, any bibliophile expat is going to be on the hunt for places to buy real books. Whether it’s a big-box store or a seasonal book market, that need to find out where to buy books is strong. My Utrecht blog had a couple of posts about places to buy books in Utrecht and those remain some of my most popular posts to this day.

While ebooks make it easier for people to find books in their language of choice when that’s not the local language, physical books are always nice to return to. There’s something comforting about buying a physical book that you can easily flip through, make notes in the margins, and add to your bookshelves, not to mention give a good sniff. In my various moves, the one thing that has made up the bulk of my moving boxes is my book collection.  We currently have a wall of bookshelves and not much free space left. And I left a LOT of books behind with each move. That’s one of the things I always regret once I’m settled.

Of course, if you’re learning the language of your new home, books are a great aid, not just the textbooks. Children’s books are a surprisingly fun way of practicing and as you advance in your linguistic learning, you can move up in the book age brackets. If you’re like me and enjoy art history, you may find yourself adding books in the new language to your library, such as my book on Italian palazzi, written in Dutch. That was more aspirational than actually at my language level, but I figured it was a fun way to learn some of the architectural terms in Dutch. In past visits to Italy, I’ve picked up books and pamphlets in Italian when visiting various museums.

where to buy books Bologna Book Market Fiera del Libro

There are big chain bookstores here in Bologna, including one of the big ones near the two towers, but I also like finding smaller bookstores and market stalls. While out with Charlie the other day, I came across a Bologna book market that made me very happy. After a bit of research online, I discovered that it’s the Fiera del Libro, which is held seasonally twice a year in the Piazza XX Settembre (over by the bus and train stations). Set up under a tent, this 120-square-meter market sells books, prints, posters, comics, and more, both new and used.

The current spring edition started in March and ends May 1, so I need to go back soon with some cash in hand. When I stopped by the other day, I only had keys and dog biscuits filling my pockets. However, during my quick tour through it, I noticed at least one section selling books in English, with an option of one book for €5 or three books for €10.

The Bologna book market returns again in October and runs through late November. Best of all,  it runs daily, from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. I love leisurely working my way through stacks and shelves of books, almost as much as I love reading books. I could easily spend a whole morning working my way through the whole market. I can’t wait!

where to buy books Bologna Book Market Fiera del Libro

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Shopping at The Garage Bologna

Shopping at The Garage Bologna doesn’t mean buying a new car or car parts. In fact it’s quite the opposite. Yesterday, we went to The Garage, an urban market held at the Dynamo Velostazione. Dynamo is a pretty awesome place on its own, as you can rent and store bicycles or have them repaired and they also organize bike tours. Coming from the Netherlands, it feels natural and familiar. But really, Dynamo is so much more, as it regularly features music, exhibits, performances, has its own lounge area, bar, and free wifi, all in a setting that seems to combine classical with industrial. With bonus bicycles for decoration, of course.

Dynamo entranceThe Garage Bologna Dynamo urban market

The Garage Bologna Dynamo velostazione urban market The Garage Bologna Dynamo velostazione urban market

From what I’ve seen, it looks like yesterday’s edition of The Garage was a one-year celebration. They held the first edition there a year ago today. Inside the fabulous arches, you’ll find all sorts of items on offer, frequently made by the vendor, although there were also some interesting selections of postcards, books, and vintage clothing.

Of the self-made items, some of the pieces that caught my eye were the jewelry made from colored pencils (and their shavings!)  by IngeniumSoul S&V and the beautiful engraved jewelry from Lab.ab. In fact, I was so taken with Lab.ab’s work that I bought one of her rings. G ended up buying a quirky hat from another vendor. Oh, and I also bought an elephant postcard, because I have a thing for elephants these days. It turns out the elephant print was actually a Marimekko print. I should have known. I also seem to gravitate toward all sorts of Marimekko items.

Labab The Garage Bologna Dynamo urban market

After admiring everything on offer and chatting briefly with one of the Dynamo guys, we decided to enjoy the Sunday sunshine and got a couple of glasses of prosecco from the Velo Cíty Bar and sat outside, admiring some of la scalinata del Pincio (Pincio staircase) and the old walls of the Castelli di Galliera.

The Garage Bologna Dynamo urban market

The Garage Bologna Dynamo urban market prosecco flamingo

The Garage Bologna Dynamo urban market pincio

If you’re going to be visiting in early April and are looking for things to do in Bologna, check out the next edition of The Garage at the same location on Sunday, April 2. I suspect I’ll be back. That colored-pencil jewelry is calling my name.

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Finding the Bologna Flower Markets

flower market bologna italy quadrilatero

One of the things I loved about the Netherlands were the flower markets. As well as the big weekly one held every Saturday in Utrecht — in a beautiful setting — there were also always a few stalls set up every day along one of the major canals in the city. The funny thing was that the flower vendors by the canal had big booming voices and sometimes sounded more like the Italian street vendors I’ve seen on TV.  To be honest, a large man yelling in Dutch, even if it is about flowers, can be a bit intimidating! What wasn’t intimidating was the price of the flowers. You could get huge bouquets of tulips for just a few euros and the rest of the flowers and potted trees were equally affordable.

The other week, I was feeling a bit nostalgic for the Netherlands. While out with Charlie for his morning walk, we saw a few stalls/trucks set up at Piazza VIII Agosto. That’s not unusual, as there is a huge market held there every Friday and Saturday with row upon row of matching white tent stalls set up, filling the large square. However, this wasn’t a Friday or Saturday and the few trucks and displays weren’t of the usual clothing and household goods. They were flowers! I’d found a miniature flower market in Bologna!

bologna flower markets piazza viii agosto italy

Despite the smaller selection, there were still a variety of attractive flowers for planting or for simple decoration in a vase. There were even a few small potted trees. The prices didn’t look too bad, though maybe slightly more than in the Netherlands. They even had some tulips, though I didn’t see a price on those as Charlie and I got distracted when we met a lovely big dog and his friendly owner.

bologna flower markets piazza viii agosto italy

Perhaps it was part of the Mercato di Piazza San Francesco, which is where the usual plant and flower market is held on Tuesdays, though it looks like it transferred temporarily to Piazza VIII Agosto last year while some renovations are being done.

Flower Shop

Of course you don’t have to wait for a one-day market to buy flowers. There are plenty of regular flower shops within the city where you can buy flowers, arrangements, and even and laurel wreathes for your graduating student. After all, this is a university town!

If you want something in between your typical florist and the outdoor flower market, there’s always some lovely flower market to be found in one of the achingly picturesque streets in the Quadrilatero in the heart of the old city center. I think this one may be housed in a former goldsmiths guild. Look at all of those arches and vaulting!

flower markets bologna italy quadrilatero

flower markets bologna italy quadrilatero

Now that I know some spots to buy flowers, I really do need to remember to buy some flower vases. I wonder where I can find those?

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Head Shops and Dutch Dogs

dutch dog finds hemp shop head shop in bologna italy qui canapa

Here’s Charlie putting the cane (dog) in canapa (hemp). What do you expect from a Dutch dog? While out walking this morning, his nose zoomed in on Qui Canapa, a hemp/grow/seed/head shop in Bologna. This discovery was soon followed up by a long sniff around the nearby pizza restaurant. I’m not kidding!

Charlie probably recognized some of the scents coming from the hemp shop. After all, in Utrecht, we had three “coffee shops” within a 3-5 minute walk from our house, and one of those places was actually a boat, known as the Culture Boat! (The larger white/blue/red boat on the right.)
Iced In

Despite the Dutch reputation, most people don’t smoke weed/pot/hashish. Tourists and university students probably make up a large portion of the customers, with a few other local regulars. You smell it on occasion, but it’s not like everyone’s stopping in to a “coffee shop” or culture boat on a regular basis. Plenty of people don’t bother at all.

Still, I had to laugh when I realized what the shop was that Charlie was sniffing around so intently this morning. Of course the Dutch dog found the head shop in Bologna. In another bit of synchronicity, I received an email today from Philip Lindeman, a Dutch artist I’d written about a few months ago for my Utrecht blog. He did a great mural on the wall outside of one of the head shops in Utrecht. It’s almost like the universe is trying to tell me something …

Seriously, though, the shop isn’t a Dutch “coffee shop”. Per their website, they are a shop, but also an information point as part of their aim is to make people more aware of the uses of hemp, both in therapy and in a wide range of products. Hemp has long been used for a variety of purposes that had nothing to do with getting high. In fact, the shop sells pasta, beer, chocolate, oil, face creams, bags, t-shirt, glasses and more, all based on hemp/canabis. Hemp is an easily renewable resource, so I’m actually interested in going in some time and checking out what they have to offer. I think Charlie wants to go, too.

dutch dog finds hemp shop head shop in bologna italy qui canapa

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