Ah, Bologna. Italy is known for its marvelous food, but Bologna is arguably in a class by itself. Nicknamed “La Grassa” (the fat one), it’s an extravaganza of incredible regional specialties.
Sure, Bologna is not as popular a tourist destination as some of Italy’s larger cities. And while there’s plenty of English, some shopkeepers and hotel clerks do not speak a second language. But the city does have an interesting history – and is worth a trip just for the food.
That’s why we chose to include Bologna, only a 38-minute train ride from Florence, in our most recent trip to Italy.
But how does one learn the most about these gastronomic delights in a short visit?
Here are three ways to immerse yourself in Bologna’s food scene. We used all three. 😊
1. Indulge in a Range of Restaurants
There are a lot of types of restaurants to help you experience Bolognese cuisine. We had a ton of options to choose from even though we opted to limit ourselves to places within walking distance from our hotel in the historic district.
We recommend such diverse finds as Ciacco Ristorante, in the cellar of a 17th-century building that used to store wine in the old Jewish Ghetto, Sette Tavoli, which only has seven tables, Parlor, a relaxed “foodie lounge,” and the elegant Michelin-recognized I Carracci in the Grand Hotel Majestic, where you have your choice from six different types of olive oil for the table.
Note that many equate Bologna with its signature dish, the well-known pasta Bolognese (which is called “ragù” in Bologna). While it’s a must-try and on many menus, I suggest you branch out and also sample some of the more unsung food delicacies that I didn’t know were big in this region, like pumpkin (coming from elongated pumpkins called “violins”) and cuttlefish. Fantastico!
2. Go on a Walking Food Tour
Taking a walking food tour is a fabulous way to learn about a place’s food like an insider, and we usually take a food tour whenever we’re someplace new. Bologna was no exception.
There are several great-sounding Bologna walking food tours on the internet. We chose one with Withlocals since we’ve successfully used this tour company in the past and the food experience is customizable. Our tour guide, Marco, was amazing and very personable; we learned much more about Bologna than just the food.
Our tour included a visit to the Mercato delle Erbe, founded in 1910 and recently featured on 2022’s reality TV show Amazing Race (on any food tour make sure that you get to visit at least one food market). We ended up sampling so many more foods than we were expecting.
We even got to experience lunch in the unmarked hole-in-the-wall wine bar Osteria del Sole, the oldest tavern in Italy, dating to 1465. This is a place where you bring your own food and buy the wine. We never would have found this local gem without the food tour.
3. Get into the Countryside
Another way to immerse yourself in Bologna’s food scene is to tour the facilities where some of the area’s iconic food is produced. Emilia-Romagna, the region where Bologna is situated, is known worldwide for certain delicacies, such as balsamic vinegar, prosciutto ham, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Yes, you can taste all of these without leaving Bologna, but it was so much better to see how and where these food items are made (we’ll delve into more detail about that in a later post).
We took two different tours into the countryside, a not to be missed food tour with Alessandro of Italian Days and a very nice tour with Bologna Tour to sample the Emilia-Romagna wine, such as Pignoletto, Lambrusco, and Italian Riesling.
Been to Bologna or contemplating a trip there? Tell us how you immersed yourself in the Bologna food scene. What additional recommendations would you make? Share with our readers! We’re at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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