What to do in Bologna by Marco Secchi

Things to Do in Bologna: Walk Off Lunch

Bologna is also known as La Rossa or the red, for its terracotta rooftops, it’s a medieval city so you will find beautiful cathedrals and historic buildings but it’s also a left-leaning progressive city with modern art exhibits. There’s no shortage of culture in Bologna.

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Asinelli Tower is the city’s largest tower and you can climb to the top to get a great view. It slightly leans and is actually taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the 498 steps to the top will surely work off the extra pasta calories.

Piazza Maggiore is the main plaza in the city with lots going on from movies in the square to art fairs. To get here travel up Bologna’s main street – Via dell’Indipendenza and you’ll arrive at the famous Neptune Fountain in Piazza Nettuno which is just around the corner. Piazza Maggiore is also home to the Basilica of San Petronio which is an odd looking church as the bottom is pink marble but the top is brick. While it may not be the most beautiful, it is one of the more interesting as it was once supposed to be the largest church in the world until the Vatican discovered the plans and suddenly funds disappeared and were given to the university. Perhaps a better investment anyway.

Stroll the 666 portici in Bologna, or covered terracotta arcades. With an influx of university students, it needed to expand rapidly. No one wanted to expand outside the city so they build on top of the streets, student houses were created in front of existing storefronts with the portices below. They needed to be high enough to allow horse carts through and today over 45km remain, which are fantastic for the hot Italian sun or rainy days.

3 Three things to do in Bologna

1. Climb Italy's tallest leaning tower
Move over Pisa, Bologna has a great leaning tower of its own.When you visit Asinelli Tower in the heart of the city, you won't feel like you have stepped into a tourist trap.This tower is old, it's leaning and while walking up it's teetering stairs, you'll definitely feel like you're on an adventure. The wooden stairs are narrow and all that separates you from a tumble below is a thin wooden railing.But the climb is worth it because you'll come out to an extraordinary view of the ancient city's rooftops.

Cost: €3

2. Try Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
Traditional balsamic vinegar can sell for €50-€100 a bottle and after learning about how it's made and I can understand why.It takes a minimum 7-years to age traditional balsamic with most batches sitting in barrels up to 15 years.Some is even aged for 45 years. This isn't the balsamic vinegar that we buy at the grocery store at home and put on salads, traditional balsamic is thick and delicious.You only need a few drops to drizzle over anything you want including pasta, strawberries and cheese.

Cost: Eat balsamic vinegar it at a restaurant or during Aperitvo, then you won't feel the sting of €100 per bottle

3. Eat Parmigiano Regianno

Speaking of Cheese, Parma is just a short train ride away from Bologna and you must eat Parmesan cheese when visiting. Italians will tell you it is very good for you and you must eat it every day.  After a run,  before dinner, after dinner with prosecco...you name the time of day, we ate the incredible Parmesan Reggiano.Like traditional balsamic, tender loving care goes into making parmesan cheese. It is aged for two years and hand rotated on a daily basis to evenly distribute the flavour. 

What to Eat in Bologna
If you are heartbroken that spaghetti bolognese does not exist in Bologna, have no fear and order the tagliatelle with ragu or order one of many traditional food in Bologna.

Mortadella
Everywhere else in the world we know it as bologna, but here it’s called mortadella and it’s fantastic. Mortadella is an Italian sausage made from ground pork and pork fat. It’s decadent and amazing with a glass of prosecco.

Salame Rosa
Once you’ve had your fill of mortadella, try its lesser known cousin – salame rosa, which means pink salami. If a cooked ham and mortadella had a child it would be salame rosa as it is a cooked sausage made from pork shoulder.

Pizza
In Bologna you will find Neapolitan pizza, so think thicker, softer crust. It’s not my favourite but if you’re on the go it’s a perfect snack.

Tortellini in brodo
Delicate parcels of pasta filled with minced pork in broth.

Piadinas
Italian flatbreads stuffed with cheese and meat.

Torta di Riso
A sweet rice cake.

Gelato
There are some fantastic gelato shops in Bologna; however, I learned early on how to distinguish the difference from those that tourists eat at and gelato shops for locals – real gelato isn’t piled high to draw people in, it’s hidden in canisters beneath a counter so gelato needs to be cold. Makes you wonder how those piles of tempting gelato-like shops keep it cold. When in doubt go to Cremeria Santo Stefano.

Also, don’t miss out on Lambrusco, gorgeous sparkling red wine, that pairs fantastically with cured meat.

Where to Eat and Drink in Bologna by Marco Secchi

This is the home of fresh pasta, the famous mortadella sausage, and nearby there are the finest producers of Parma ham, Parmigiano cheese, balsamic vinegar. There is no better place in Italy for eating out, and it really is almost impossible here to pay a lot of money for a meal.

 

 Pizzeria Ristorante La Brace,
It can come as a surprise but when the Bolognesi want to go out to eat fish they will invariably choose a pizzeria, first because they are run by supposed seafood experts from Napoli or Sicily, and secondly because they are invariably less expensive than a formal restaurant or trattoria. The Brace is a classic example, cheap and cheerful, with a fun decoration of famous footballers' shirts hanging from the ceiling, and a menu that ranges from Pizza Positano, with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella, to grilled squid and prawns, sea bass and tuna. A set menu is priced at €12, and pizzas cost from €4-€8.
• 15 Via San Vitale, +39 51 235656, ristorantelabrace.eu

Osteria Dell'Orsa
 
Whether you turn up at lunchtime or for dinner, the atmosphere is always buzzing at "The Bear", a Bologna locale that has transformed over the years from an alternative punk hangout into a traditional osteria that also has a shop next door selling their handmade pasta to take away. Great place to meet the locals as everyone sits down at communal tables, and at night you might find yourself listening to a live band, a poetry reading or heated philosophical discussions. Pasta of the day could be artichoke lasagna or gnocchi with courgettes, priced at €6.
• 1 Via Mentana, +39 51 231576, osteriadellorsa.com

 

Da Me
Externally, this is certainly not the most prepossessing, but do not let this put you off
Assuredly you will also have had to book, probably several days in advance, for it is well known and respected by the locals
The rather dog-eared menu is short, and I'ld guess only seasonally changed. Similarly, the decor is pretty functional as is often the case throughout Europe with family-owned/run restaurants (this one since 1937), concentration being paid to the main event = the quality of the food
Via San Felice 50/A, 40122 Bologna, Italy
+39 051 555486

Trattoria Anna Maria
The genial Signora Anna Maria looks and acts like the archetypal Italian mamma and has been serving the finest tortellini in brodo (tortellini in broth, €14) in Bologna for 26 years now in her marvellous trattoria. Although prices may be a bit above average – €28 for two hearty courses – you are assured of an unforgettable meal, not just for the delicious food, but the lovingly kitsch interiors, the walls decorated with black and white photos of Mastroianni and Sophia Loren, the ancient waiters in their trademark red waistcoats weaving between the tables, precariously balancing plates piled high with pasta.
• 17 Via delle Belle Arte, +39 51 266894, trattoriannamaria.com

Le Stanze
Le Stanze is right in the heart of the student quarter of the city, and is the one spot that stands out among the dozens of lively bars and cafes that line the surrounding streets. You walk into a stunning lounge that was originally the 16th-century private chapel of the Palazzo Bentivoglio, and the high ceiling is painted with beautiful pastel frescoes. While Le Stanze is a restaurant too (mains around €15), the best deal is to turn up between 6pm and 9pm for the evening aperitivo. The long bar is lined with appetising plates of pasta, grilled vegetables, bite-sized pizzette, cheeses and prosciutto, and all you pay is an extra €1 added on to the price of drinks, which range from €6 for a glass of wine to €9 for a cocktail.
• 1 Via Borgo di San Pietro, +39 51 228767

Osteria Marsalino
Italians are finally waking up to the effect of carbon footprints on what they eat, and every Saturday morning there is an organic market here organised by local farmers. In the food business the term kilometro zero has been coined, and several restaurants highlight regional products on their menu. One of the leaders is this cool, modern osteria, where you can also find lighter, more creative dishes on the menu such as risotto alle fragole (strawberry risotto), a "kmzero" caprese salad or a bowl of farro – spelt with courgettes, baby shrimps and soy sauce.
• €6 for a pasta or salad, €7 for a main course, 13 Via Marsalino, +39 51 238675, marsalino.it

 

La Baita Formaggi
A tour of Bologna's ancient market that crisscrosses the backstreets behind the landmark Piazza Maggiore is a must for anyone interested in food, from the bustling fruit and vegetable stalls to salumerie where the seductive aroma of prosciutto and mortadella wafts out on to the street. La Baita is the most renowned cheese shop, and at lunchtime shoppers can stop off for a proper meal of affettati (cold cuts), not just fabulous cheeses like a unique black Parmigiano or succulent fresh ricotta, but also frittata di verdura, a light omelette, smoked ham and tasty salami, priced from €10-€15 depending how carried away you get when ordering.
• 3 Via Pescherie Vecchie, +39 51 223940

Caffè Zamboni

This is one of Italy's most important university cities, and with more than 80,000 students living here there is a huge choice for budget eating and drinking. The evening aperitivo is a ritual rendezvous, replacing dinner, as each bar vies to offer more to eat in the complimentary buffet. Caffè Zamboni is the hottest spot right now and with the panoply of dishes displayed as you walk by it is no surprise. For €7 the preferred drink is an Aperol Spritz, and while vegetarians will be pleased to see grilled aubergines and zucchini, most people head straight for the huge chunks of mortadella.
• 6 Via Zamboni, +39 51 273102, caffezamboni.it

E' Cucina Bologna
Cesare Marretti is one of the hottest young chefs in Italy, a regular on the Italian version of Ready Steady Cook and a disciple of Jamie Oliver.
His restaurant on Via Senzanome is a funky, design bistro where the light, creative cuisine revolves around fresh, seasonal produce. The three course set menus at lunch range from €10-€20 and include mineral water, a glass of wine and coffee, while main courses at night are priced at €8. A great place to come for healthy salads or grilled fish after too much tortellini and tagliatelle.
• 42 Via Senzanome, +39 51 2750069, cesaremarretti.com

Biagi
The sign outside Biagi says "osteria" but this is actually an elegant restaurant which is definitely the place to reserve for a romantic gourmet dinner that still won't break the bank. While the menu features classic casalinga dishes, lovingly prepared in the kitchen by Signora Dina, mother of the friendly owner and maître d', Fabio, there are also surprising recipes like a galantina di cappone (stuffed chicken) or a warm panzanella salad of beans and plump tomatoes. Excellent choice of local wines, and this is the place to be surprised by the quality of a sparkling red lambrusco. Dinner with wine costs €30-€35.
• 9 Via Savenella, +39 51 4070049, ristorantebiagi.it

 

 

RESTAURANTS
Trattoria Anna Maria, Via delle Belle Arti, 17/A
A few doors down from this warm trattoria, you’ll find women rolling out thin sheets of dough, preparing pasta for Anna Maria’s evening meal. While surrounded by framed photos and autographs of celebrities that cover the walls, tuck into Bolognese classics like tortelloni burro e salvia (butter and sage) and translucent strands of tagliatelle al ragù. The eponymous proprietress buzzes from table to table, checking in on the regulars and welcoming new faces.

Osteria Broccaindosso, Via Broccaindosso, 7/A
This rustic, candlelit spot is best enjoyed on an empty stomach; skip the aperitivo before an evening here. Share plates of antipasti, sample several pastas, and do not miss dessert, an unending, family-style array of sweets, including piles of naked profiteroles ready to be dipped in warm chocolate, and bowls of fresh fruit and fluffy mascarpone to spoon on dense chocolate cake.

Da Maro, Via Broccaindosso, 71
For a brief respite from Bologna’s meat-centric dishes, head to seafood restaurant Da Maro. Run by a Sicilian family, specialties include bright crudo and pasta con le sarde (with sardines) topped with a liberal sprinkling of bottarga, but they also make a variety of other handmade pastas with fish fresh from the local market.

Nicola’s Pizzeria, Piazza San Martino, 9
A wood-fired oven churns out popular, lightly charred pies here, from the usual suspects to more interesting but no less delicious combos like tonno e cipolla (tuna and onion) or the zucchini and egg. Incredibly thin crusts make it easy to polish off one alone.

Ristorante Alice, Via Massimo D'Azeglio, 65/b
Outfitted with plain white tablecloths and simple decor, Alice serves up quintessential Bolognese fare to a mostly local crowd. Let your waiter guide you, but be sure to start with the excellent antipasti, including cured meats, jagged crumbles of Pecorino with balsamic, ceci (chickpeas), and thinly sliced marinated eggplant.

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 afterward. The tortellini in brodo is especially satisfying, with tender dumplings in a simple, perfectly seasoned broth.


SWEETS
La Sorbetteria Castiglione, Via Castiglione, 44 d/e
There are plenty of gelato shops closer to the center of town, but La Sorbetteria Castiglione is worth the wander down a quiet, portico-lined street. Try Michelangelo, an almond gelato peppered with almond praline bits, or Dolce Emma, a ricotta base with honey-caramelized figs.

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 samples and a host of 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.

Majani, Via Dè Carbonesi, 5
Stop into this 200-year-old chocolate-maker’s shop for beautifully wrapped packages of chocolates to take home. It first created the renowned Cremino Fiat in 1911 to celebrate the car company’s Tipo 4 model, and more than a century later the squares of smooth chocolate with hazelnut and almond cream are still a best-seller. A box of cream-filled chocolate tortellini is another perfectly apropos souvenir.

WORTH to try "Cremeria Funivia" in Piazza Cavour


DRINKS
Le Stanze, Via del Borgo di San Pietro, 1
Once the private realms of a wealthy family, Le Stanze is now a lively bar and restaurant with one of the best aperitivo spreads in town. Order an Aperol Spritz and snack on roasted vegetables, pizzette, and savory salads under lofty vaulted ceilings and walls showcasing original frescoes painted in the early 18th century. Be warned, though: It may be tough to return to your hometown bar after a visit here.

Baladin Bologna, Via Clavature, 12
While Italy is historically a country of wine drinkers, its craft beer movement has gained ground of late with a host of breweries making inventive, world-class beers. In the basement of the recently reopened Mercato di Mezzo in the Quadrilatero, you’ll find an outpost of the original Italian craft brewer Teo Musso’s beloved beer bar. Sample from offerings, both on tap and in bottles, including Nora, the unique, Egyptian-inspired spiced brew made with myrrh and ginger.


MARKETS
Mercato delle Erbe, Via Ugo Bassi, 25
In this historic indoor market, shop from stalls of fresh produce, meat, fish, cheese, and other Italian provisions next to locals stocking up on ingredients for tonight’s evening meal. If your surroundings inspire hunger, there are plenty of places to pick up a panino stuffed with prosciutto and arugula or pizza al taglio (by the slice) from trays of vegetable and meat-topped square pies, as well as cozy spots to sit and enjoy them.

Quadrilatero
This small, rectangular grid of streets and cobblestone walkways off the Piazza Maggiore is home to a host of markets, many that spill out onto the street and offer a bounty of meats, cheese, fish, fruits, and vegetables that represent the staples of Bolognese cuisine. Paolo Atti & Figli, Tamburini, and La Baita are among the best.

Paolo Atti & Figli, Via Caprarie, 7
Founded in 1880 and still run by the same family, this celebrated shop sells both freshly made and dried pastas—the latter packaged in lovely boxes perfect for gifting—as well as a bounty of breads, pastries, and cakes. They include a traditional panettone, and perfectly crisp, powdered sugar–dusted sfrappole that permeate the handsome wood-paneled space.

Tamburini, Via Caprarie, 1
In this family-run shop dating back to the 1930s, prosciutto hangs heavily from the ceiling, while tire-size wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano are displayed beside myriad other cured meats, cheeses, and handmade pastas. There are also prepared foods and a small restaurant and wine bar. On a sunny day, opt for a table outside and snack on an epic cheese and meat plate paired with a glass of red.

La Baita Formaggi, Via Pescherie Vecchie, 3/A
A cheese lover’s mecca, find freshly made ricotta and mozzarella, burrata, and practically every other divine Italian cheese that comes to mind, as well as cured meats, marinated vegetables, olives, and salads to take away or enjoy at a table right in the shop.

Worth to try Casa Minghetti in Piazza Minghetti