In our freaky hearts there’s a little special place for this peculiar city. Yes, Bologna is quite peculiar. In Italy we have different nicknames for this city: Bologna the Fat (soon you’ll understand why!) Bologna the Erudite (its university is the oldest in the world, being settled on 1088!) and Bologna the Red (some say because it used to be a left-wing city, others more skeptical think it is simply due to the colour of its buildings).
We’ve been living in Bologna for about four weird years. Indeed, in Bologna many weird things happen all the time. During the whole time we’ve spent there we’ve always wondered why it’s not a touristic place, because actually Bologna has plenty of amazing experiences to offer to the most curious explorers, from beatuiful museums and churches to fun and inspiring festivals.
When we started to prepare this post we realized that the list of places to visit was two pages long. So, take a sit and get yourself comfortable!
WHERE TO EAT
Have you ever thought that some of the most popular Italian dishes actually come from Bologna? Let’s think about some of them: tagliatelle, tortellini, lasagna, ragú sauce, piadina and mortadella. Believe us when we say that all those things are way tastier in Bologna than in any other part of Italy.
Beside these famous dishes we recommend you to try as well the tigelle and crescentine (not suitable for the veggie fellows, sorry!) with a generous spread of pesto Bolognese, a mix of pork fat with aromatic herbs. In one word: superb.
Here we offer you a selection of some of the best places where to eat in this food paradise, which wouldn’t have ever existed without the precious help of our bolognaise spies Lara and Michele:
This place is a true milestone of Bologna. Osteria means a specific kind of popular restaurant, where you can find all sort of people from students to professors, from families to business travelers. At the Osteria dell’Orsa you will find the best dish of Tagliatelle al ragú, at the best price and in a unique atmosphere. Here you will sit in long shared wooden table, as the tradition of the osteria commands. It is a place full of story and we recommend you to go there not only for the food, but specially to have a taste of the true vibrant life of the city.
Osteria del Sole
This is possibly the best place in town. It is not the same kind of osteria as the previous one. This one it is hidden in a tiny picturesque street in the middle of the medieval hearth of Bologna. The Osteria del Sole is there since the 1465. It is a jump into the past times. You will not find food in here, but you can bring your own food, like cured meats, cheese and freshly baked bread (or whatever else you like!). Spending the evening there with a good glass of local wines (we personally love the San Giovese) and good friends is an invaluable experience.
This place is crazy! Seriously, it is! The main courses are quite traditional and the quality fits into the overall range of the others restaurants in the city. However, there’s something unique about the Osteria Broccaindosso: the desserts. Be careful with your choices, and make sure to not eat too much before asking for the “little desserts” (as they told us the first time we went there). If you ask for a dessert here be prepared to receive a huge mountain of pastries, cakes, and creams as you can count: a full tiramisú, a couple of whole cakes, several bowls of creams, an entire budino and so on….it depends on the daily kitchen offer. We still remember the face of the girl who was sitting at the table beside us when she saw the desserts. She was quite fit. She looked at the waiter and said: “May I have just some fruit?”. “Of cooouuurse darling!” he said back and brought her 2 kilos of mandarins and a bowl of candied fruits.
If you go to Italy, probably all you want is just to have a traditional Italian dish of pasta. Well, believe us when we say that this is the best Indian restaurant where we have ever eat. Seriously. We lived and travelled in many place around Europe. We tried many Indian restaurants in the desperate seek of something just slightly similar to Moghul. But there is nothing like this. Nothing. Few days before leaving Bologna we went there and had a great dinner. Ilaria said to the restaurant’ owner – an elegant a sever man from India – “Your restaurant is one of the best in Bologna”.
Traditionally Bologna (and Italy in general) is not very veggie-friendly, but thanks to its open-minded and progressive attitude it’s quite easy to find good vegetarian or vegan meals here.
Maybe you don’t know that we have been vegetarian for some years (and after a too long break, we are now back yuu uh!) This restaurant played a key role four this lifestyle chose. Here they are able to elaborate original and rich meals which are able to conquer also the hearths of the meat lovers. The atmosphere is very welcoming and friendly, the furniture is simple, making the Estravagario the perfect place to enjoy your lunch in the city.
Bologna is famous for its beautiful surroundings, and we warmly recommend you to visit the Colli Bolognesi, if you have time to explore a little bit the region around the city. Dulcamara is more than a simple restaurant. It is also a sustainable farm and hub, which aims to promote a slow and eco-friendly lifestyle in the middle of a beautiful natural park. Our spies brought us here, because for them it is a place of the heart. We sent a memorable day with them at Dulcamara. It is definitely worth to plan a visit there, especially if you are travelling with children or during the spring time.
COFFE AND DESSERTS
We guess that after having so much food around the city you will need a good coffee to help your digestion. This tiny café is one of the best in the city. Here the coffee is simply perfect. A real traditional, strong Italian coffee. If you are visiting the city during the winter time Aroma offers also a very interesting selection of hot chocolates, prepared from real fine chocolate bars. And if you didn’t reach the mint-point yet (only those who knows Monty Python’s sketches will understand!) we recommend you to try one of the exquisite pastries. The two owners of Aroma with their charming welcome are just the cherry on top.
We’ll tell you only this: go there. Wait no more! This is an ice cream heaven. It’s been a while since the last time we went at the Sorbetteria Castiglione, but we still remember our favourites. Bologna is not Sicily, but it makes no difference when it comes to ice cream.
Now it’s time for few suggestions by our spies on the field:
Trattoria Baraldi: located in Via del Pratello – a vibrant center of Bologna’s nightlife – especially recommended for the price-quality deal.
Fram Cafe: vegan cafe. Beautiful and cosy atmospehere, but slightly pricy.
Caffetteria Araba Al Salam: great food. Seriously, don’t be fooled by the simple atmosphere. Here you will find kebabs and falafels of a superior quality. And it’s always a good choice even if you have “meat issues” (quote of the owner…this guy is a genius!)
Last, but not least: remember to plan the length of your journey in Bologna accordingly to the number of meals, because our list is not yet finished! Here other two spots. Bologna is a very cultural and charming city, and the Music is essential here. That’s why before closing this food dissertation we must suggest you two gorgeous places where you will find amazing food and amazing concerts: the Bravo Café (here we had the pleasure to listen Mike Stern…ah, such a great concert!) with its lounge and sophisticated atmosphere. And the Cantina Bentivoglio highly recommended for wine lovers.
After eating so much food we would suggest you to have a digestive walk at the Giardini Margherita. Sit on the grass overlooking the lovely lake at the center of the park, grab your travel guide and start planning which highlights of the city you want to see before the next meal…oh no, we meant before leaving!