Bologna is such an incredible city it deserves 3 nicknames. “La Dotta” means “the educated’ owing to its renowned University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world founded in 1088 A.D.. “La Rossa” is attributed to all of the red tile roofs that you see scattered throughout Bologna. And finally, “la Grassa” which means “the fat” and signifies Bologna’s amazing food. Even in Italy, Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, is known as THE premier food destination.
I loved Bologna and would revisit in a second. I was turned on to the area because of a book that a chef friend gave to me called “Pasta, Pane, Vino, Deep Travels through Italy’s Food Culture” by Matt Goulding. It is the best book I have read in the past 36 months.
The food will blow you away in Bologna. Upon arrival we ate at Cesari’s, a local enoteca where we were the only non-locals. I urge you to seek out this incredible little place with phenomenal food and an exquisite wine list. Another place that we researched before arriving was Oltre. We walked all over God’s creation trying to find this place and finally, we put 2+2 together. It’s a little bodega that is well disguised. Have a look at the photo and you will see why we couldn’t find the restaurant. Also, how does that white bolognese rigatoni look to you? I assure you, it was even better than it looks.
Since we are on the subject of food, another place worth searching out is the Mercato di Mezzo in the medieval Quadrilatero area near Piazza Maggiore. Here you find old market stalls selling pretty much any type of food items you can imagine and little restaurants dotting its perimeter. It’s an area filled with character and imagination. To be sure, the food is incredible but Bologna is very much more.
One of the things you will first notice is that Bologna is a city of porticoes - 25 miles of them. Not only are they beautiful and shades you from sun and inclement weather but history tells us that these were market stalls in ancient times. Bologna’s porticoes come in all sizes and shapes and are a UNESCO world heritage site.
One of the city's most redeeming features is a side benefit of not being a popular tourist destination. It’s a breathable place where a healthy mix of local, university students and tourists happily coexist. Not many cities in Italy can stake that claim.
While in Bologna, we stayed at the Art Hotel Commercianti, a 4 star boutique with a 1 minute walk to the main square, Piazza Maggiore. I highly recommend this affordable hotel as a great base for your visit to Bologna. You can walk everywhere from the hotel.
One last thing about the food, this place, Il Gelatauro, is considered by some to be the best gelato in the WORLD. And you know what they say, man cannot live by pasta alone!
Bologna is a great base to visit Venice, Florence, Padua, and Modena. All of these towns and cities are very close by and you can retreat to Bologna at day’s end. This will be my plan when I revisit and it should be your’s too.