How to explore Bologna | A wonderfully gastronomic city

Being lovers of all things Italian it would be long before we were drawn to this wonderful region, it’s amazing history and wonderful food culture.  Bologna is the historic capital of the Northern region of Italy called Emilia Romagna. It sits in a wonderful fertile valley and is renowned for it’s classic Italian food products and many of the things we now take for granted as everyday ingredients such as Parma Ham, Parmesan cheese to name but a few.

Know to the Italians as the red city due to the overriding colour of the buildings,  the fat city in recognition of its food culture and the learned city as it is famed for having the oldest continuously working university in Europe.  In Italian this translates as ‘la dotta, la grassa, la rossa’.

We saw Rick Stein’s long weekend program about the food of Bologna and decided we couldn’t put off our visit any longer.  We were not disappointed this truly is one of the most amazing places to visit in the whole of Italy, if not the world, and we highly recommend you include it as the highlight of your next trip.

Bologna
Bologna from the tower

Local wine & delicacies

There are over forty protected food products in the Emilia Romagna region here are a few of our favourites. Mortadella is a cold cut made up of processed ham studded with pork fat and sometimes pistachio nuts.  It is used as part of the stuffing for the famous Tortellini usually served in a rich clear broth known as brodo.  Probably the most famous export form the region is Parmigiano Reggiano the king of cheese first produced by local monks the name can now only be used for cheese from the region and must adhere to very robust production criteria.

Prosciutto di Parma is a dry cured ham from the region as you probably know this too is one of the most well known exports as is Balsamic vinegar rich thick and with a strange sweetness, it is used in many recipes not just Italian ones. Last on our list but by no means our least favourite is Lambrusco. Please don’t get this wonderful wine confused with the cheap white plonk you used to get in the supermarket in the seventies.  This is a beautiful rich, slightly sparkling deep red wine.  It is usually slightly sweet and must be served straight from the fridge.  Most who try it are hooked, it is truly delicious.

Bologna
Mortadella in Bologna

How did we get there?

So before we get into the foodie side of our trip we drove down to bologna from Monza where we’d attended the F1 Grand Prix.  Click here for more info on our Monza trip. We took the A4 motorway down and you can find directions HereThe drive down took about 2 hrs 30 and passed through some beautiful countryside where a variety of produce seemed to be growing.  We drove past the towns of Parma, and Modena before arriving at Bologna.   IT was a great drive down.  

Where did we stay in Bologna?

We had done a bit of research beforehand and found a campsite only a km or so from the centre of Bologna.  This seemed perfect so we headed there. 

The Campsite Centro Touristico Citta di Bologna was perfect.  Close to the city and after a hectic weekend at Monza we were after somewhere we could just relax and this campsite fit the bill.

Where is the campsite?

The campsite is just on the east side of the city and accessible from the motorway.   Set in a rural setting its actually quite close to the main city and transport routes although when you’re there it seems so peaceful

Piazza Maggiore Bologna
Piazza Maggiore Bologna

If your not camping

Not everybody reading this will be camping. If you have come to Bologna by another method there are plenty of excellent accommodation option to suit all budgets. When not camping we tend to use Booking.com for all our accommodation needs as they are reliable easy to use and you can also cancel most properties without charge if your plans change.

What is there to do in Bologna ?

Bologna has an abundance of things to see and do.  With its red terracotta buildings its no surprise that the city is nicknamed La Rossa.  and here are just a few of them:

People watching in the Piazza Maggori 

The Piazza is in the centre of Bologna and is surrounded by important political and religious buildings such as the Basilica of San Petronio which is the Duomo of Bologna and a stunning building. 

In the Northwest corner of the Piazza it opens out to the Piazza  del Nettuno where you’ll find Neptunes fountain.  When we were there they were doing some work on the base so we didn’t get a good full picture but it was magnificent all the same. 

Porticos of Bologna
Porticos of Bologna

Find the famous Porticos of Bologna

So what is a portico – Its a structure consisting of a roof supported by columns at regular intervals, typically attached as a porch to a building and there is no other city in the world with more Porticos than Bologna.

The Porticos of Bologna are listed as a unesco world heritage site and date back to the Middle Ages when wealthy homeowners projected their property onto public land to make their land seem bigger than their neighbours.  

There aren’t many streets in Bologna where you can walk without finding yourself under one of the fabulous porticos.   Once you’ve seen one, you’ll see them all the time and they’re all different and all beautiful.

Asinelli Tower Bologna
Asinelli Tower Staircase Bologna

Climb one of the two famous central towers – The Asinelli Tower.

The two towers are widely known as the symbol of Bologna and if you’re feeling brave then you can climb the tallest of the two towers, the Asinelli Tower. 

The ticket booth is at the base of the tower and it is quite a walk up a wooden platformed staircase to the top of the tower.     There are landings at different stages on the climb up where you can take a minute to catch your breath so there’s no rush to get to the top.  Once you do get there however the views are spectacular and you get a real feel for the city and its wonderful buildings.   

Explore the winding market streets of the Quadrilatero 

This has to be one of our favorite places in Bologna.  By day its full of market stalls selling all types of wonderful fruit and vegetables, fish and cheese and the sights and sounds are amazing.   As the sun goes down the same streets come alive with restaurants serving wonderful Italian treats such as meats, cheeses, lasagnas and of course the famous Tagliatelle alla Bolognese which is definitely not to be confused with the British spaghetti bolognese which is a British mixture of dishes from the north and the south of Italy

Bologna Street
Bologna Street life

And now for the very reason we visited Bologna – THE FOOD!

I mentioned above about the local delicacies traditional to the Bologna region and we sampled them all.  Here are some of the restaurants we tried and would visit again. 

Ostaria del Sole 

This little bar is amazing and is the oldest bar in Bologna dating back to 1465 with little changing in that time.  Their speciality is wine and the local Emilia Romagna wine is top of their menu.   There are no soft drinks, only wine and beer. 

For food the locals, (and also some of the food tours), visit the local deli’s down adjoining streets to get meats, cheeses, breads and accompaniments and enjoy a delicious picnic feast with their wine.   

Osteria del Sole Bologna
Osteria del Sole Bologna
Bologna
Meats, Cheeses & Tigella Bread Bologna

051 Osteria

This was one of those restaurants who appeared in the evening on the street where a fruit and veg stall was in during the day and it had a great menu.  

We shared 2 meats and cheese platters between 4 of us and we had the traditional tigella bread which is an ancient bread bun from this area and imprinted with a relief from the individual bakery.

Veccia Malga Negozi

This restaurant was one of the places where we had lunch and it was delicious.  A deli downstairs and a restaurant upstairs and the food was really good. 

Our dish of choice again was meats and cheeses which didn’t disappoint and served with honey which was a nice accompaniment.  After lunch bought some supplies from the deli downstairs to take back to our campervan for future lunches and snacks. 

Bologna
Veccia Malga Salumeria Bologna
Le Sfogline | The Pasta Ladies of Bologna
Le Sfogline | The Pasta Ladies of Bologna

Le Sfogline

The pasta ladies of Bologna are known the world over and have unesco status.  We first saw them on a TV program with Rick Stein and made a promise to ourselves to pay a visit.

Tortellini a Brodo is quite a traditional dish to this area.  Little pockets of pasta filled with mortadella and pork and served in a tasty stock. Fantastic watching them work and the pasta we bought was superb.

Our view

Bologna is a wonderful place to spend a long weekend. It has everything you could wish for on a city break.  Fantastic food heritage an absolute foodies delight. History round every corner and the birthplace of some of the most iconic car brands in the world. Don’t miss this amazing city.

Booking resources for your trip to Bologna

Flights

You can compare cheap flights on the Expedia platform or here on the Aviasales website.  Both will give you a good idea of how much its going to cost you to get to your chosen destination.

Accommodation

We have always tended to use Booking.com having said that if your on a tight budget another good site to try as a comparison is Hostelworld, If your looking to compare different sites you can do that on Hotellook, we tend to look on here first to make sure we are getting the best deal.

Tours & Tickets

You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site.  Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.

For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.

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