You know you have arrived in Italy when the man checking your passport at the airport flirts with you. You know you have arrived in Bologna when you encounter a city so packed with gourmet food shops, gelataris, restaurants and bars that you don’t know which way to turn. Bologna was a special sort of paradise for me. The medieval old city is incredibly picturesque with its soaring, crooked towers, grand promenades and 40km of covered walkways along which the locals enjoy their daily passegiata or evening stroll. However, the highlight in a city known as la grassa (the fat one) was undoubtedly the food.
View over Bologna from the Torre degli Asinelli
The rumour is Trattoria del Rosso is the oldest trattoria in town. It doesn’t look much with its scruffy terrace, plastic chairs and paper topped tables but the queues out the door tell you all you need to know. You can’t book so be prepared to wait and also be prepared to compete for the over worked waiters attention. There is an ultra bargain lunch menu of €10 for three courses but MTV boyfriend and I lashed out and ordered a la carte from the hardly budget breaking selection of €6 primis and €8 secondi. The slightly over powering house wine was also a money saver at €4 for half a litre.
Spaghetti bolognese, just don’t call it that, at Trattoria del Rosso
Creamy, blush pink mortadella, also known as baloney or Bolognese sausage, is a specialty of the region and was glistening and rich spread on toasted bread (€6). The must-order though was spaghetti bolognese (€8). In Bologna it is not made with spaghetti, but instead with tagiatelle which the sauce, known as ragu, clings too more easily too. The pasta was firm, golden and bready and the sauce rich and vibrant. Whatever you want to call it, it was truly delicious.
Details: Via Augusto Righi 30, Bologna, Italy (Ph 051 23 67 30)
Damage: Such a bargain my mother would approve
Bologna has 40km of covered walkways
I left a little piece of my heart in Bologna at Drogheria della Rosa. The restaurant came highly recommended by a friend
and is located in an old pharmacy. There is evidence of its previous life in the dusty apothecary bottles on the shelves and the counter and scales by the door. Emanuele, the owner greeted us as we walked in and talked us through the limited seasonal menu. Whatever you choose the cost is €35 a head including wine. The wine is also selected for you, depending on what you order, in our case a lovely bottle of fruity and plummy Montebruna Barbera D’asti.
Tortellini with courgette flowers at Drogheria della Rossa
Whatever you order, you start with a glass of prosecco to begin, and on our visit an antipasti of sauteed white cabbage and shredded, salty lamb. Next up was primi, the pasta course. Tortellini dressed with wilted courgette flowers was almost ethereally light while a sausage ravioli with a creamy sauce provided more robust but equally delicious fare. Secondi was hearty dishes of meat and fish all served with wedges of roasted potato and vegetables. A large veal chop was browned to a tan but most importantly juicy with a memory of pearly pinkness inside.
Dolce was simple fare but still worth sticking around for. A chocolate pudding oozed molten goodness while a bowl of mascarpone with shaved chocolate on top was classic Italian in it’s honesty and unadorned nature. We had to laugh when a request for a cafe latte to finish the meal was met with “no cafe latte, only cafe normal”. Espressos all round it was then. We had to respect Emannuelle for that. What can I say, it was love at first sight.
Details: Via Cartoleria 10, Bologna, Italy (Ph 051 22 25 29)
Damage: Reasonable. €35 a person for four courses, wine and coffee.
I felt like I could spend all day wandering around this amazing delicatessen. When I ran out of things to look at I was delighted to find they ran a wine bar next door where you could perch next to wine barrels and order wine by the glass along with a €10 board of fabulous cured meats and a wedge of pecorino.
Details: Via Caprarie 1, Bologna, Italy (Ph 051 23 4726)
Small platter at Tamburini
Worth a mention because if you drink here at apertivo time (around 6pm – 8pm) you get generous plates of free snacks which are really quite gourmet. This more than balances out the costs of the drinks which err on the expensive side.
Details: Via de’Musei 40e, Bologna, Italy (Ph 051 648 69 63)
We stayed at Albergo delle Drapperie which was in a brilliant location, with rooms perched high above the market. Thick, wooden beamed rooms gave a sense of history and the reception was extremely helpful in finding us a carpark and with any other queries. On the downside, the style of the hotel was a little chintzy and there was no proper showers in the bathroom just one of those horrible hand held devices you use in the bath.
Details: Via delle Drapperie 5, Bologna, Italy (Ph 051 22 39 55)
Modern, clean bathroom but awful shower at Albergo delle Drapperie
Gourmet Travel Tips
- Flights were €30 each way from London to Bologna with Easyjet and the airport is very close to the city centre.
- Walking tours from the tourist information centre on Piazza Maggiore are a great way to find out about the history of the city and last for about 3 hours (€13). They usually run once a day but the timetable is a bit erratic so make sure you enquire as soon as you arrive.
- We also enjoyed working off some of our pasta by climbing to the top of one of Bologna’s leaning towers, Torre degli Asinelli. For €3 you get to enjoy panoramic views once you get to the top but there are 498 steps.
- For those who need their internet fix, the whole city has free wifi. You just need to get the code from the town hall.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in this post on gelati in Italy
or my review of one of London’s most famous Italian restaurants, The River Cafe