Hi friends! I’m home from a week-long stay in Bologna which I found to be low-key, easy to wander on foot, and satisfying in the fullest sense of the word. Bologna seemed like the obvious choice as a base for myself after wrapping a photography assignment in Italy and here is why; Bologna is the capital of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region which is where bolognese ragu sauce, prosciutto di Parma, parmesan cheese, and aged balsamic vinegar originated. It also doesn’t hurt that Bologna is perfectly situated for easy day trips to Modena, Verona, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre and Rimini.
My Bologna AirBNB apartment is a spacious one, located in the historic center and I recommend it for those looking for a comfortable place to stay in the area. The streets are lively both day and night and I appreciate that they are closed to automobile traffic on weekends. While I wouldn’t say this a particularly clean city (unfortunately many small streets have ugly graffiti, for example) I’ve found it to be without pretense which is nice.
One thing which makes this city unique is the twenty-five miles of covered walkways (porticoes), a proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Preserved for centuries due to their importance in Bologna’s history, each one is unique: medieval wooden-porticoes over buildings, gothic and renaissance porticoes that are integrated into buildings, and nineteenth-century porticoes where lower classes once lived. After an hour of wandering under the porticos it’s clear that they are all works of art in their own right and they are an essential part of modern city life.
First Things First. Where to Eat in Bologna
I do not regret my choice to eat bolognese pasta for dinner each night; tortelloni, tortellini, tagliatelle, or lasagna—just try and stop me! I quickly learned that bolognese sauce goes best with tagliatelle (and not spaghetti) because the meat sauce sticks best to wide noodles. I actually returned back to the US with bundles of bacon ricotta tortelloni and pumpkin tortellini. Yumm!
Equipped with restaurant recommendations from locals I enjoyed several places I can recommend including Trattoria Anna Maria, All’Osteria Bottega, Cremeria Santo Stefano, Caminetto d’Oro, and Trattoria Belfiore. The size and style of each place different from the last, it struck me that some things remained the same: the food simple and hearty, the house wine great, the company loud and Italian with the waiters joining boisterous table conversations. Further, I noticed that often the walls are sprinkled with sketches of nudes or street scenes, an observation that extended to my apartment and shops I visited. I wish I had tried the refreshing Pignoletto (regional fizzy white wine) prior to my farewell dinner because I could have been enjoying it every day. Pignoletto is similar to Prosecco, sometimes characterized by flavors of green apple and lime.
Are there more important things in life than pasta and wine? Well, Bologna is also world-famous for their mortadela, salami and sausage and their value is clear from the window displays alone. My mouth watering, several times I found myself gazing into the windows of some of the best delis in town and even wandering inside just to imagine how great it all tastes. Eventually I surrendered to Salumeria Simoni and later La Salumeria da Bruno & Franco, both at the top of their deli game and baking fresh bread each day. I could have tried every single thing they sell. Just. Need. More. Time….
Honestly, I’m not sure you could go wrong with any food in this city. Wait! I take that back–I bought some food and wine from a chain grocery store and it was a total waste, so maybe don’t bother with that. It’s easy to find the alleys lined with small charming restaurants and tables outside. Between the restaurants are typically specialty shops selling meats, vegetables and fresh pasta. Here’s the thing of it… none of this is some touristy gimmick; there’s no mistaking that this is a culinary hub and enjoying good food is a way of life.
My last evening in Bologna culminated with a serenade by a 98 year-old Italian gentleman as I dined on a covered patio, and then a walk home in the rain passing by musicians and lively groups gathered under the ancient porticoes. This is certainly a satisfying way to walk off lasagna bolognese and red wine.
Grazie mille, Bologna. I hope next time I can bring friends who will enjoy your food as much as I did.