Any food lover who enjoys the little luxuries in life will get a real kick out of Bologna. This is a charming medieval Italian city nestled in the Emilia-Romagna region, where you will find superb culture and tantalising cuisine. This has lead many to claim that it is the “gastronomic capital” of Italy – a strong statement indeed!
Despite the attractive setting, vibrant culture, stunning architecture and famous cuisine, Bologna remains somewhat of a hidden gem as the majority of tourists flock to Rome, Florence and Venice. It is for this reason that I strongly recommend Bologna as a weekend getaway for foodies.
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Bologna’s Famous Dishes
As you may have guessed, the city has given its name to the much-adored meat-based pasta sauce ragùalla Bolognese (Bolognese sauce). This is an absolute must try during your trip – “when in Rome”, as they say.
This is not all that Bologna is famous for food-wise, however. It is also the home to tortellini, which is a favourite of many foodies. This ring-shaped pasta is typically stuffed with meat or cheese – everything you could possibly want all in a fun-sized morsel. The authentic recipe was registered in the city’s Chamber of Commerce in 1974. It listed the dough as flour and eggs, whilst the filling contains raw ham, pork loin, Parmesan, eggs, nutmeg and mortadella di Bologna. Delicious!
If you are unfamiliar with this final ingredient then you have come to the right place, as this is another of Bologna’s greatest creations. Mortadella is a large cold cut Italian sausage made of hashed or ground heat-cured pork. Although considered a cheap cold cut now, it was once the food of the rich; the spices which were used to preserve the meat were a costly addition.
Another mouth-watering pasta which hails from this fine city is tagliatelle, which is made up of individual long, flat ribbons of egg pasta. Unsurprisingly, topping this with ragùalla Bolognese is commonplace here and something that I encourage you to try.
Where to Buy These Specialities
As a city that is very proud of its culinary history (and rightfully so!), finding these wonderful dishes is not a challenge. There are a few fantastic places to buy your own which are worth visiting for the friendly atmosphere alone.
The medieval market in the Quadrilatero area has been selling its wares since Roman times and has an excellent surrounding shopping area. It is a short stroll from the beautiful Piazza Maggiore; it will not take you long to smell the delicious scents of fresh food and hear the lively sounds of the market. Each small cobbled street is lined with bakeries, butchers, delicatessens, greengrocers, jewellers and other cuisine and craft trades. The unique colours, smells and sounds make this a feast for the senses – you are sure to work up an appetite as you take in your surroundings here.
Elsewhere, head to Dante Zanetti via Pescherie for hand-made pasta, bread and traditional sweets, whilst Salumeria Simoni via Drapperie 5/2a is a great place for cold cuts and Parmigiano Reggiano. Tamburini via Caprerie 1 is a Bologna institution where you can pick up all of the city’s specialities – you can even stop for lunch at their self-service area.
Bologna’s Best Restaurants
If you are like me, then one of the main reasons for a weekend break is so that you can go out to eat and not have to cook for yourself. With such a world-famous culinary heritage, you will also find a wide array of superb restaurants around the city whether you are looking for a casual lunch or a formal dinner. Here are a few of my favourite Bologna restaurants.
- Osteria dell’Orsa – Head here if you are looking for a traditional meal in a casual setting. This excellent eatery has communal tables, friendly waiters and the wine flows very easily. Classic Bologna dishes are fantastic here, but there are plenty of other options if you are in the mood for something different.
- Osteria Della Fondazza – You will not find a better place for dinner on a Friday night than this gem, where you can enjoy an authentic meal and a cool ambience with an attractive wood-panelled décor. I highly recommend the mouth-watering parcels of fried bread that are stuffed with meats.
- Trattoria Leonida – I believe that no trip to a city famous for its cuisine is complete without a meal at a classy and upscale restaurant. In Bologna, Trattoria Leonida is the perfect place for this with an elegant atmosphere, brilliant and efficient waiters and a staggering selection of tantalising pasta dishes that come with generous servings of meat.
How to Get to Bologna
This fabulous city is found in the north of Italy, so a flight from the UK to Bologna (BLQ) will take a little over 2 hours. Direct flights are made regularly by British Airways and Ryanair, so it should not be too difficult to find a suitable flight.
There is no doubt that your stomach will be rumbling once you touch down, so getting to your destination as quickly as possible will be high on your list, allowing you to begin enjoying its culinary delights. The airport is just 12km away from the centre of the city, so it is best to book a private transfer with Shuttle Direct. We can pick you and your luggage up and drop you to your hotel in just 30 minutes, giving you the chance to begin making your dinner plans along the way.
Where to Stay:
Albergo Garisenda – This affordable hotel is located in the heart of the city, opposite the iconic Towers of Bologna. The rooms come with TV and free Wi-Fi, whilst there is also a café bar serving Italian breakfast in the mornings.
Albergo Delle Drapperie – A mid-range hotel which is housed in a beautiful nineteenth-century building, this is just a 3-minute walk from the Piazza Maggiore square. Rooms offer views of the city with private balconies, as well as frescoed ceilings, private bathrooms and air-conditioning. A breakfast buffet is available and Wi-Fi is free throughout the building.
I Portici Hotel Bologna – This luxury accommodation is a 5-minute walk from Central Station and has spacious rooms with a classic or modern design and great views. The rooms also have tea making facilities, flat-screen TV and private bathrooms. One of the key selling points is the Michelin-star bistro restaurant, as well as a stylish bar. Wi-Fi is free and available in all areas.
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