[by Tanja] In a country so famous for its cuisine, the lesser-traveled city of Bologna is not the first that comes in mind when picturing a mouthwatering plate of pasta al tartufo. But it is this historical city in the North that reigns as gastronomical capital of Italy. Its nickname, La Grassa – the fat one – hints at culinary (calories) promises that awaits you here.
The largest city in the Emilia-Romagna region is famed for its pasta’s, tortellini, tortelloni, tagliatelle al ragù or, as the rest of the world calls it, Pasta Bolognese.
The original college town, La Dotta (another nickname meaning the “the learned one”) is also home to the University of Bologna, the oldest in Europe, which gives a vibrant energy to this ancient medieval city.
Where to stay in bella Bologna?
We opted for a cosy, little B&B: Casa Bertagni. Perfectly located right next to the National Art Gallery in one of the little side streets in the lively university district. Close to the iconic Two Towers of Bologna and the main square Piazza Maggiore where you’ll find restaurants and shops.
Our room – la Giustizia – breathes a balanced mix of antiques with elements of contemporary art and design. Every room (three in total), has its own unique interior.
The delightfully presented breakfast consists of quiche, fresh fruit, baked buns and cereals. Served by the lovely owner Stefania, and even though we appeared quite late at her table, we didn’t feel rushed by her at any point.
Attention to detail and professionalism is characteristic of the owners and their staff. We received a careful briefing from Stefania and custom maps about the best places to visit and eat in Bologna. Mille grazie!
What to see in Bologna
Tip: explore this city on foot. The beautifully preserved centre is compact cobble stone streets. Leave your 12 inch Manolo’s at home.
Start strolling under Bologna’s miles of splendid portici, the porticoes that line the streets. Sip a cappuccino – never after noon – in the Piazza Maggiore while admiring the gothic Basilica of San Petronio. I like to taste my way through this historically and culinarily rich city.
- PIAZZA MAGGIORE
Near Via IV Novembre. This square is the centre of the Bolognese universe, the belly-button of the cosmos.(Bolognesi like to claim that tortellini are modelled on Venus’ navel).
It changes according to the time of day. In the morning, it’s a square of crossing paths as people hurry to work, to the lecture theatre, to the bar, to lunch. By the afternoon, it has its regular public of old men sitting in the shade and children chasing pigeons.
- MUSEO MORANDI
Museo Morandi is located on the top floor of 14th-century Palazzo d’Accursio, the huge bastion of a town hall overlooking Piazza Maggiore. Morandi (1890-1964) painted bottles, jars, jugs and the occasional tin in the most wonderful colours. On the rare occasions when he felt the need for a different subject, Morandi painted what he could see from the window of his studio: rooftops or the tangle of trees in the courtyard.
Palazzo d’Accursio – Piazza Maggiorre 6
Where to eat or drink in Bologna
- Il Gelatauro, Via San Vitale, 98
When this tiny shop opened in 1998, it was among the first in Bologna to make gelato with organic ingredients. It offers both seasonal and classic flavors (the stracciatella and chocolate-orange are popular scoops) as well as fresh fruit sorbetti; it’s easy to find something to love here.
- Trattoria Meloncello, Via Saragozza, 240/A
Burn off some newly acquired calories with a brisk walk up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, perched on a hill overlooking Bologna, and stop into this nearly 100-year-old eatery for a well-deserved lunch . The tortellini in brodo is recommended!
- Le Stanze, Via del Borgo di San Pietro, 1
Once the private realms of a wealthy family, Le Stanze is now a lively bar under lofty vaulted ceilings and original 18th century frescoes. This is the place for the best aperitivo in town. Order an Aperol Spritz and snack on roasted vegetables, pizzette, and savory salads. Be warned, though: you have to walk back.
- Bistro Camera con Vista, Via Santo Stefano
Dinner time! The historic Palazzo Isolani – built in 1700 – now accommodates restaurant Camera con Vista, ‘Room with a View’. A lovely restaurant (with the most friendly staff) with an intimate, refined atmosphere but fortunately still remains easy and casual.
What a lovely day. Our Spritz on the terrace out front with a view on the Piazza Maggiore, delicious pumpkin filled tortelini and… Balsamico & Pannacotta for dessert. Highly recommended as is the rest of the city of Bologna, Italy’s Culinary Capital!