I have been visiting Italy for more than thirty years. On numerous times I have traveled through Bologna en route to Venice or Milan. But up until this year, I have never spent any time in Bologna or the region of Emilia-Romagna.
With the support of the Ordine Dei Giornalisti Emilia-Romagna, I recently received my resident visa to live in Italy. Part of the pre-requirements was that I reside in the medieval capital city of Bologna. I searched Airbnb for a one-bedroom apartment and selected the Appartamento Elios in the Porta Saragozza neighborhood on Via Fillipi Turati. It was a one-bedroom, with an ample kitchen dining area and modern bathroom with a dual-use washer/dryer. Total cost for 9 days was USD 781.00. The apartment was located in a quiet neighborhood convenient to restaurants, cafes, a grocery store and bus to Bologna Centrale. Our host Maurizio and his facilitator Mariolina were very friendly and accommodating.
Fondly called “The Fat City” Bologna is located in Northern Italy. The city planners lined the streets with a 25-mile network of arched portico’s to shield pedestrians from frequent bursts of rain so that shopping and dining are uninterrupted. The city has many surprise cultural attractions, music venues, and world-class museums.
Bologna has a unique vibe that cannot be discovered in more touristic, more popular Tuscan cities. Its ancient university (Europe’s oldest) keeps the population youthful against its beautiful backdrop of the preserved historical center. At its core, you can gaze at the Due Torri (leaning twin towers) and visit the nearby Piazza del Nettuno (Bologna’s statue of Neptune) and its Gothic Basilica de San Petroni in Piazza Maggiore.
Where to Eat and Drink:
There are many, many options for finding fine dining to fast food in Bologna. Least appealing to me was when I stumbled across a Domino’s Pizza.
Here are a few notable places worth a visit.
Mercato Di Mezzo (Middle Market)
This market has been in operation since the Middle Ages and has been transformed into an indoor market. It is open daily from 8:30 am to midnight. Visitors can discover three floors of food stalls and restaurants to enjoy a meal or take home delicacies like Mortadella, cheese, bread, wine, meats, seafood, and fresh vegetables.
Signorvino-Wine Bar and Enoteca
Located in Bologna’s main square, Piazza Maggiore, Signorvino is the perfect place to enjoy a glass or bottle with some savory or sweet appetizers, pasta or entree’s. Their Signorvino Platter presents a kaleidoscope of Italian meats, cheese and apps € 25.
They sell a wide selection of Italian wines categorized by regions for enjoyment on-premise or to take out. Serious wine geeks will love their “Legends in a Glass” program that allows customers to try a glass of legendary wines from bottles that are in their airtight Coravin wine preservation system.
•AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CL. 2010 Bertani – Veneto Glass € 14,9
•BAROLO “BRUNATE” 2011 Oddero – Piemonte Glass € 19,9
•BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2013 Biondi Santi – Toscana Glass € 24,9
051 Osteria is a highly praised restaurant located on the active pedestrian side street Via Dè Pignattari just off of Piazza Maggiore. They offer excellent hand made pasta like mini tortellini stuffed with cheese or meat, pasta with meat ragu, steak and chicken dishes. The staff is friendly and the wine list quaffable.
Osteria 3 Leoni (Three Lions)
Located in the Saragozza neighborhood this place is a favorite amongst locals. It is a family-run restaurant offering traditional Bolognese cuisine.
Starters include Stecchi fritti alla petroniana (Mortadella wrapped cheese, that is breaded and deep-fried) € 7, Tartare di fassona Piemontese (Beef tartar with lemon) € 10, Lasagne Verdi alla Bolognese (Spinach Pasta Lasagna with meat and creamy besciamella cheese sauce) € 12, Gran cotoletta di Vitello alla Bolognese € 15 (their take on Veal Milanese with a Gorgonzola Sauce).
We tried a bottle of Nugareto Bologna Canto Bianco, Colli Bolognesi D.O.C., an organic white wine made locally from 100% Sauvignon Blanc € 18, the wines fruity, fresh citrus flavors paired well with our food. http://www.nugareto.com/en/home
Osteria 3 Leoni
FICO Eataly World Bologna
If you have visited one of the Eataly stores in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago or Las Vegas you are familiar with the concept. The stores showcase quality Italian artisanal products and wines. Eataly World Bologna offers a Disneyworld-like version that boasts 1 million square feet of space. There is a reason that bicycles with large baskets are made available at the front door. This place is huge.
Eataly World has the space to educate visitors about farming, manufacturing and the origins of foods. There are 45 Trattorias, food kiosks, retail areas (wine, pasta, meats, olive oils, balsamic vinegar, kitchen accessories, etc.) and a farmers market offering daily Italian groceries. If you plan to visit, go hungry and expect to spend at least a half-day exploring the place. Restaurant La Carne offers aged meats cooked on high heats by the chefs in an open kitchen. Il Mare di Guido is Eataly World’s high-end seafood restaurant providing ultra-fresh seafood.
Bologna is Italy’s central railroad connector to access just about any other city. You can reach Florence in 45 minutes, Rome in 2 hours, Milan in 1 hour and Venice in 1.5 hours. But considering all of the fantastic foods (Handmade pasta, Mortadella, Parmigianino Cheese, Parma Ham, Balsamic Vinegar, and Gelato), and wines (Sangiovese, Lambrusco, Barbera, and Malvasia), that Emilia-Romagna has to offer, you won’t want to leave. If you must, you can take a short taxi ride to Fico Eataly World (the world’s largest food park) or dine at one of the world’s most revered restaurants, Osteria Francescana in nearby Modena. Plan ahead as the reservation list is 90 days in advance.