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Mar 9, 2023

The Italian Job - What to eat when in Bologna

The first time you visit Italy, it may come as a surprise just how good Italian food is. It does not matter what part of the country you tour; what Italians consider the worst food will feel like some of the best food you have ever tasted.

However, suppose you want to sample some of the best food Italy has to offer. In that case, there are few better places than Bologna, a city that many people consider to be Italy’s gastronomic capital.

Experiencing Bologna’s amazing food and wines is a certain assurance to change the way you look at Italian food forever.

The Bolognaise food culture does not stop at the city’s eponymous pasta dish (paradoxically, spaghetti bolognese does not exist in Bologna). Instead, as the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna is the origin of parmesan, balsamic vinegar, parma ham, tortellini, and mortadella.

The region has more than 42 protected origin statuses (DOP), many of which may surprise you, like Bologna’s sparkling red wine.

So, while the city has beautiful medieval buildings, over 50 museums, and incredible, world-renowned culture to enjoy - Bologna is, frankly, worth a visit for the food alone. Here are some of the reasons why the city is foodie heaven:

A Pasta Lover’s Paradise

While spaghetti bolognese is well-known around the world, it is a bastardized dish that is only a small part of the pasta culture of Bologna. A paradise for pasta lovers, Bologna is right up your alley if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and sample the varieties available.

We recommend that you start your journey by trying the city’s famous Tagliatelle al Ragu. It is, after all, the signature dish of Bologna and is the inspiration behind spaghetti bolognese. You could then spread your wings and sample other types of pasta like the Lasagne Verdi al Forno, Tortellini in Brodo, or Gramigna with Sausage.

When visiting Bologna, eating Tortellini in Brodo is a major part of the experience. It is a simple dish consisting of handmade dumplings dipped in a savory broth and is a favorite for both the cold winter months and Bologna’s hot summers.

Pignoletto Wine

If you love drinking wine - or even if you don’t - try out the exquisite Emilia Romagna wines, and you are sure to become a new fan. Visiting the countless wineries in the region is a magical experience and a great way to experience this beautiful part of Italy.

What is most appealing about Emilia Romagna wines is that they are as unpretentious as those who produce them. The region’s winemakers are innovative and open to trying new things. After all, they want to make and drink great wine, and it just happens to be some of the best wine you will ever taste anywhere in the world.

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Daily Aperitivo

In the late afternoon, the workday starts to wind down in Bologna, when the tables and chairs come out, and people start to gather in the streets for Aperitivo. Most local restaurants offer specials on Aperitivo for a small fee. Usually, they include a cocktail or two and a small plate of regional snacks, making it a satisfying and filling dinner.

However, if you are in the mood for something a bit fancier, you could try an Aperol Spritz. This drink is arguably the cocktail of choice whenever you are in Italy. However, if you find the bright orange liquor too bitter for your taste, you could choose the Hugo Spritz, made from elderberry liquor instead. The Hugo Spritz is from South Tyrol and is a popular drink throughout Northern Italy.

Market Fare

Bologna’s markets are some of the liveliest in the world and are truly a sight to behold. First, there are the crowded streets in the Quadrilatero, a neighborhood located behind the Piazza Maggiore, and is packed with a selection of generations-old specialist food stores. You could also visit the terrazzo-floored Tamburini deli, Atti & Figli bakery, or La Baita - a cured meat and cheese emporium featuring full legs of ham hung alongside its chandeliers.

Next on your foodie tour should be at least one of the city’s covered markets like the Mercato Delle Erbe, which is home to stall after stall of home-grown, artisanal produce. You could also try out the Mercato di Mezzo which is full of street-food vendors, music, and several basement craft beer dens. The Mercato del Novale is also an open-air venue for the Slow Food movement, where farmers tout fresh local produce and host cooking demonstrations.

What is the best way to enjoy fruit on your Bolognese market trip? You can visit the Osteria del Sole - a pub that’s operated continuously since 1465. Wine prices start at €2 per glass, and the pub does not serve any food. Instead, they encourage you to bring your pickings from the market and offer you aboard to lay it out and enjoy.

Molto bene.

Explore The Gelaterios

Bologna takes its gelato seriously - there is even a museum dedicated to gelato on the city’s outskirts. Head out to the Carpigiani factory, where you can get the full “scoop” on the city’s gelato history and sample delicious ice cream made from 19th-century recipes. You also have the chance to make your own.

However, if you would rather leave the ice cream-making to the pros, there are many great spots in town. You could try Il Gelatauro, which has scoops made from the finest Italian produce like caramelized strawberries or goat milk. Cremeria Funivia offers adventurous combinations that include white chocolate or toasted pine with puffed rice. There’s also Cremeria Santo Stefano, which is a family-run establishment that features exotic ingredients, including Turkish pistachio.

Delicious icecream in beautiful Venezia, Italy in front of a canal and historic buildings

Visit Bologna For a Culinary Experience To Remember

From grandmotherly sfoglinas who welcome you with tasty pasta dishes made from basic ingredients to friendly shopkeepers offering Vignola cherries, the people of Bologna live and breathe food like nowhere else in the world. With an embarrassment of food riches from the Emilia-Romagna valley, their culinary obsession is understandable.

And the best part? Visiting Bologna’s food scene only requires minimal investment beyond reserving your hotel room and visiting the PLAY Airlines website to book your plane ticket.

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Culinary tours in Bologna