Today I am going to take you back to December 2016 – my twentysomething birthday and a break to Bologna, “The Fat One” – Yeh…I get why they say that now.
We traveled over on my birthday morning – a Friday, and Mr H’s card sums up our life together pretty well I thought.
I like to celebrate special occasions with a bit of exploration and the question this time was “where can we go that is not too far, not toooooo much to see and we can get some great food and wine with relative ease”. Italy was obvious to us and Bologna stood out for its culinary credentials and so here we are.
Where I’m Sleeping…
The city centre is compact and it’s easy to walk to all major areas. I chose to stay at Porto San Mamolo. It was a quirky little place with a cute courtyard which I imagine is beautiful for breakfast in the spring and a rather old school elevator which you operate yourself.
Reaching the hotel after a very long walk from where the airport shuttle drops you, the train station (do yourself a favour and take a cab if staying here given its location on the other side of the city!), we ventured out in search of food and to see what this place had to offer.
Winding Streets and Lots of Eats
There is not a great deal of “touristy” things to do in this city but that is one of the points which drew me here. It houses arguably the oldest university in the world and at its heart is still a student stomping ground filled with markets selling local street food and bars teeming with delicious wines and free buffets at aperitivo time to draw you inside out of the cold.
You will find a huge square – Piazza Maggiore, winding streets full of foodie delights to graze on for lunch and of course the famous towers of Bologna – Le due Torri.
As I am sure many are aware, Bologna is famed for it’s culinary offerings laying claim to some seriously big hitters – Tagliatelle al Ragu Bolognese I am looking at you! It would have been rude not to try to sample as much of what this historic city had to offer and a girl’s gotta eat so here is a run down of a the places I managed to sample in this short trip.
The evenings in Italy are crying out for you to go out and experience the aperitivo culture. Sat on a stool in a local indoor market, I could have been in one of the many current London food festivals. There were people all around drinking, chatting and eating any number of delicious things, counters full of fresh pasta cooked to order and buffets of local meats and cheese – free when you buy a drink (like we needed an excuse!).
A couple of Campari Spritz and some local Lambrusco later we meandered down to Cesari for a dinner of local specialties.
The star of the show for me had to be the green ravioli stuffed with rabbit and smoked goats cheese which was absolutely delicious and very different to anything else. The other dishes were simple and traditional but full of flavour. I was not convinced on the idea of tortellini in broth. Being a lover of pasta through and through and mostly covered in some sort of unctuous creamy sauce, I thought it might be bland but the meaty flavour was seriously “beef-ed” up.
I had read about an amazing butcher’s shop and so the next evening we headed out to Simoni where we queued to get a table in this tiny working shop. Sat on a tall stool in a tight dress taking in the buzzy atmosphere, we chose a small(ish!) board of local meats and cheeses and 2 glasses of the local Emilio-Romagna wine made from the classically Italian Sangiovese grapes, which was perfect.
It would have been rude not to sample one last lunch before we left and so we opted for Zerocinquantuno. I had yet to sample any of the famous ragu (not bolognese!) and so obviously it had to be this with tortellini and a splash more Lambrusco. A perfect end to the trip.
After a whistle stop tour of the city, we spent the morning before we flew home winding through these food laden streets deciding what to bring home.
But what did we bring home? Well we found an amazing place which has been doing business since the 1800’s selling fresh pasta among other yummy things. Paolo Atti sent us home with some beautifully packaged tortellini. Definitely check this place out if you are lucky enough to visit.
I was then able to cook up some authentic tortellini in broth for Mr H which we both agree was bellissimo!
I will be updating you on a couple of more active things you can do in and around Bologna in another post soon. If you love the idea of Bologna, why not extend your trip and try visiting the culinary triangle of the area and add in Parma and Modena? I have sure added them to my list.
Mrs H x