F&W's newest contributor, Élodie Noël, recounts a day spent eating her way around the city of Bologna during a recent trip to Italy.
It is Europe’s oldest university town, dating back to 1088, and Bologna continues to exude a young buoyant vibe. Edgier and less touristy than Florence, its flamboyant neighbour, the Tuscan town deserves recognition for its fantastic food offering; after all, it gave its name to arguably the most popular Italian dish worldwide, the pasta bolognese.
Bologna’s trio of nicknames reflects well the spirit of the city: la dotta (the learned), la rossa (the red, for its left-wing politics, and maybe also for the omnipresent red brick walls) and la grassa (the fat). Food is such a big deal here, as it is throughout the Emilia-Romagna region – the home of Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto ham and balsamic vinegar, some of the most famous Italian delicacies. But there is more to Bologna than its eponymous meat sauce and parmesan, as you will discover on your stunning food tour.
8am Cafè Terzi
Don’t expect to find a big cooked breakfast anywhere in Italy - Italians don’t sit down for their colazione, but they take their morning coffee very seriously. To feel like a local, head to Cafè Terzi for a quick breakfast on the counter. Order the ricotta filled cornetto (the Italian version of croissant) or if you are feeling particularly naughty, the Nutella one, with a cup of cappuccino con cioccolato. The grating of dark chocolate will bring your morning cup to the next level. This quick and delicious breakfast will set you back a mere fiver, so maybe grab one of the beautiful cookies displayed on the counter for the road.
Address : Via Oberdan 10/d - Phone : +39 3667172312
11am Mercato di Mezzo
After admiring the Piazza Maggiore and the Neptune fountain, stroll around the Quadrilatero and its Mercato di Mezzo, an area which since the Middle Ages has been a centre of trade in Bologna. A session of window shopping will bring you to countless pastry and pasta shops. Try a Budino di riso, a typical Tuscan pastry which is like a mini rice pudding pie, and buy some fresh pasta from Paolo Atti bakery.
Get prosciutto and mortadella from Simoni, and admire the fresh seasonal vegetables on the colourful stalls brightening up the narrow streets. If you want to sit down for a quick bite, the Mercato di Mezzo also hosts a good array of Bolognese specialties, from pasta to cold meats and affordable wine, in an indoor market. Order a selection of food and enjoy them sitting at one of the high tables. If you want to bring some pasta, olive oil or other Tuscan delicacies home, check Eataly, the Italian food temple which has several antennas around the world and is located in this area.
Address: Via Clavature, 12 - Phone: +39 051 228782
12.30pm Gran Bar
Go and learn about the long rich history of Bologna at the Palazzo pepoli, then head back to the centre because it is now time to “spritz up”. You can enjoy an early aperitivo at the Gran Bar with one of Italy’s greatest drinks, served alongside olives and various nibbles. Get the Spritz Antico and the Spritz Select and decide which one you prefer. The drink won’t be the cheapest of your trip (€8 for a cocktail), but the experience is worth it and the staff truly friendly.
Address: Via D'Azeglio, 7 - Phone: +39 051 227522
1.30pm Drogheria della Rosa
One of the most unique features of Bologna is its almost 40 kilometres of porticos, which have been protecting walkers from the rain, the wind and the sun since the Middle Ages. Enjoy a lunch under the medieval arches at Drogheria della Rosa, a former pharmacy turned into a restaurant by chef and owner Emanuele Addone. The menu offers the most iconic dishes of the Bolognese cuisine, including the lasagna verde (where spinach has been added to the pasta dough) or the ubiquitous tagliatelle al ragù - the original version of the spag bol.
Address: Via Cartoleria, 10, Phone: +39 051 222529
3pm La Sorbetteria Castiglione
There is ice cream, and there is Italian ice cream. While the essential ingredients are milk, sugar and cream, gelato is made with more milk and less cream than ice cream, and boasts much stronger flavours. After your lovely lunch al fresco, get a couple of scoops from La Sorbetteria Castiglione, only a couple of blocks away. The Cioccolato Fondente (dark chocolate) is as thick and decadent as it gets and pairs beautifully with the Dolce Karin, a house special made of white chocolate and hazelnuts from Piedmont. This unpretentious shop is probably one of the best gelaterias in Italy, so don’t miss it.
Address : Via Castiglione, 44 - Phone : +39 051 233257
7pm Osteria del Sole
If you want to feel like a local, this is the place to go - as it’s been the case since 1465 (yes, you read right, it is by far the oldest bar in Bologna). The Osteria del Sole, as the name doesn’t imply, focuses on wine and beer and allows guests to bring their own food. So stock up on meat and cheese from the shops nearby and enjoy the fuss-free atmosphere. Sitting on long wooden tables, you will get to try some incredibly affordable tipples, from red wine from the Chianti region to fresh beer.
Address : Vicolo Ranocchi, 1/D - Phone : +39 347 968 0171
9.30pm Ristorante Ciacco
Named after one of the characters from Dante’s Divine Comedy, Ciacco is an old bolognese restaurant nestled in a 17th century cellar, which was brought back to life by a team of food enthusiasts in 2004. They focus on seafood and traditional Bolognese food, using the season’s best produce. In spring, don’t miss the artichoke flan with cream of Ragusano cheese. Then, if you feel audacious, order the linguine with anchovies, cauliflower, coffee powder, and candied lemon peel - the unconventional combination of flavours works incredibly well. Or go classic with a traditional local dish, the tortellini in brodo di carne, stuffed fresh pasta served in a meaty broth.
Address: Via San Simone, 1/C. Phone: +39 051265441
11.30pm Camera con vista
Bologna is a young city and while the mornings start late, you can feel in the air that as the night falls, the town really comes to life. Walking in the street in the evening, you will come across plenty of bars and enotecas bursting with students enjoying loud and playful conversations. But the city also hosts chic cocktail places if you fancy sitting down in a refined atmosphere. Located on the beautiful Piazza Santo Stefano, Camera con vista offers fine bistro food and some lovely cocktails, until 1.30am.
Address: Piazza Santo Stefano. Phone: +39 051224268
Author: Élodie Noël
Élodie is a French journalist who relocated to Dublin about three years ago. She immediately fell in love with the island and its amazing food and has been writing about it on her blog Lemon Lipstick. You can follow Élodie's food adventures on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr.