Before travelling to Bologna to take part in this years #blogville, I really didn’t know that much about the city. Everyone always talks about Milan, Venice and Rome but people rarely mention beautiful Bologna…unless of course they’re talking about food! Searching for, researching, eating, dreaming and discovering food in Bologna is one of the most fun things you can do while here and in a region famous around the world for its artisanal food products, you’re sure to leave with a full belly and a happy heart.
I of course knew there would be lots of pizza and lots of pasta, we are in Italy after all! I didn’t fully understand, however, that discovering the best food in Bologna is an activity in itself and often seeking out these hidden tavernas and hole-in-the-wall pizza places is half the fun and more.
After eating buffalo mozzarella pizza sitting on a bench at the side of the road, devouring homemade pasta dripping in pesto and olive oil in an underground taverna with a room full of locals and walking for 30 minutes just to find one of the cities oldest and most beloved gelato makers, I have a whole new outlook on what it means to eat good food.
If you’re travelling to Emilia Romagna this summer, be sure to eat as many of these delicious creations as possible, and if you have the time get outside of Bologna for a day or two to visit the worlds best cheese producers, taste Balsamic that has been ageing for decades and get up into the hills to taste the wine this region is famous for. You won’t regret it!
Food in Bologna You Must Try
You can’t travel to Bologna and not eat Tagliatelle Ragu. While many people believe that Spaggetti Bolognese comes from Bologna, the locals would say otherwise! In reality, there’s actually no such things as Spagbol in Italy, at least not the way the rest of the world pictures. Tagliatelle Ragu is a dish that originated from Bologna in the 18th century, and is made with homemade tagliatelle pasta and meat based sauce (as opposed to the tomato base the rest of the world uses.)
Where to eat: Osteria dell’Orsa restaurant, Via Mentana. €6+ for a dish.
14. Parmigiano Reggiano
Cheese lovers rejoice! The region on Emilia Romagna is probably most famous as the home of Parmigiano Reggiano, that famous cheese known the world over that we finely grate and sprinkle on top of our pasta! While you can of course taste Parmigiano Reggiano in Bologna, i highly recommend heading to one of the small producers in Modena to see how its made and buy a big chunk of cheese right from the producers. P.s. It’s not parmesan by the way…Parmesan is the fake stuff, THIS is the real deal.
13. Pizza from PizzArtist
One of the most delicious slices of pizza I had while in Bologna was from PizzArtist right smack bang in the city centre. It’s really just a hole-in-the-wall joint with no formal seating bar a bench on the footpath outside and 2 or 3 tall stools to lean on while munching on a mouth watering slice of Buffalo Mozzarella pizza. Of all the delicious food in Bologna that I tried, this is the one place I would return to again and again. Plus, it’s cheap as chips! YUM!
Where to eat: Via Marsala, 35/A, 40126 Bologna
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Why I (already) love Bologna: some of the absolute best places to eat are just tiny hole-in-a-wall type joints. Last night we had dinner at @pizzartist – loads of amazing pizzas to choose from and you pay by weight. There's a simple bench and 3 picnic chairs outside if you care to "sit down and eat". And O can tell you their buffalo mozzarella pizza was one of the tastiest I've ever had!! #inemiliaromagna #blogville #bolognawelcome #bologna #pizzartist #pizzaitaliana
12. Modena Balsamic Vinegar
While Modena is where this world-famous balsamico is produced, you’ll find it on tables at all the best restaurants and eateries in Bologna and it’s a must-try. Be sure to check for the Modena label to make sure it’s the real deal, and the smaller the bottle and the thicker the liquid, the better, more aged (and pricier!) the vinegar!
Where to try: Any decent restaurant in Bologna or at a producer in Modena
11. Dine Al Fresco
While this isn’t something particular you must eat, the experience of dining outdoors is a fun one and very popular in Bologna. We actually did a day trip to Brisighella, a small village about an hour from the city, and loved that all the small cafes here encouraged dining al fresco. We has a lovely breakfast outside a cafe called Bruschette, while soaking up the morning sun and watching the locals prepare for the work day ahead.
In Bologna, most restaurants have tables and chairs outside, so try get yourself a table with a view so that you can enjoy that early evening sun with a bottle of Lambrusco and a giant pizza!
10. Do a gelato tour
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. Not in Italy you don’t, as here it’s all about the hand made gelato! There are so many gelateria’s in Bologna that it would be a crime to visit just one. Everyone you talk to, both locals and tourists, have their favourite flavours and favourite gelateria’s so you might as well try them all. There’s even an official Gelato Tour that takes you around to many of the city’s most famous gelato makers. That sounds like my type of tour! The Travel Bite has a full review here and you can book with the local tourism board here.
Where to eat: La Torinese 1888 or at La Sorbetteria Castiglione.
9. Taste some Brisighella Olive Oil
Olive oil is one of those things that I seem to totally forget when back in Ireland and become totally obsessed with on each return to Italy. Italians ability to use olive oil to brighten up the blandest meal is commendable!
Whether you choose to dip your break into it, dribble it on some cheese, lather your pasta with it or use it for salads, there’s something very unique about Italian olive oil. In the village of Brisighella, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, just outside of bologna, they are famous for their Olive Oil and have 3 different strengths of oil to taste – ranging from mild to memorable!
8. Drink some Lambrusco
If you’re keen to taste some wine that is synonymous with the Emilia Romagna region, then you’ll need to pop open a bottle of Lambrusco. While Lambrusco is often looked down upon in Ireland as being an inferior, and cheap, wine product, the Lambrusco you’ll taste at the many wine bars in Bologna will put a smile on your face. This fruity, sparkling wine is super refreshing and the Rose Lambrusco has to be the perfect drink for sitting out on a piazza on a sunny day and watching the world go by.
Where to drink: We loved the wine bar on Piazza Maggiore
7. Afternoon Aperitivo with Aperol Spritz
No visit to Bologna would be complete with out stopping off for some afternoon apertivos. The Italian tradition of the apertivo is much loved one by locals, but it often unknown to tourists who really miss out.
Every day from about 5pm until 7pm, when locals head to bars for an after-work tipple, you are provided with an endless stream of free snacks and nibbles to your table, for as long as you stay drinking. Order more drinks? Get gifted more edible treats!
6. Hand made Tortellino
The fact is you can get delicious hand made tortellino anywhere in Italy but the strong food culture in Emilia Romagna and Bologna in particular has convinced me that this city is where you’ll taste some of the best hand made tortellini you’ll ever have the pleasure to try.
We tried it at a few different restaurants and my favourite by far was Taverna …. there’s no official menu as it changes daily based on what the chef is inspired to cook. If there’s a group of you (more than 2!) they serve it up in one large sharing bowl which you’ll never manage to finish, but oh my god is it the food of Gods!
5. Ice cream with balsamic
On our Balsamico tour in Modena, we were introduced to the practice of eating pretty much every course with balsamic vinegar! I must say I was slightly hesitant to try it on ice-cream but it turns out being oddly delicious! You can’t have too strong a flavour, but with something like custard flavour ice-cream, it goes down a treat!
Where to try: The tavern inside Acetaia Pedroni serves delicious food! Website here.
4. Warm Piadina
If you’re looking for a delicious lunch on the go, a warm Piadina is the perfect choice. You can get it to go in any local cafe or taverna, and with a few slices of buffalo mozzarella and some parma ham, it really is the most delicious lunch treat. Also super easy to cook at home – just warm it up on the pan, add your toppings, and you’re good to go!
3. A plate of Prosciutto di Parma
Did you know Parma (ham) comes from the Emilia Romagna region? There’s probably no better place in the world to eat it than here in beautiful Emilia Romagna. If you spend your evenings sipping on wine and enjoying apertifs, you might even get to taste some for free!
2. Morning, afternoon and evening caffe!
Coffee, coffee, coffee. Be it in a cafe indoors, a bar outside on a piazza, in your hotel or apartment or on the go, Italy really is home to some of the best coffee in the world and Bologna is a great place to try it!
Wondering what else Italians eat for breakfast, decided coffee of course?! Here’s a quick and fun guide to Cappuccinos and Cornetto’s.
1. Risotto with shaved truffles
While pizza and pasta are the bread and butter of Italy, Risotto is another firm favourite originating from Northern Italy. Once they add some onion, parmesan and scoops of butter, they transform a bowl of rice into one of the tastiest dishes you’ll ever have the chance to savour. Add some shaved truffles from the region and you have yourself a meal you’ll never forget. Heaven!