Bologna is the largest city in the Emillia Romangna region of northern Italy. It is kind of half way between Venice and Florence. Known as La Rossa (the red), La Grassa (the fat) and La Dotta (the learned), Bologna is famous for its ancient architecture and terracotta colour buildings, rich beautiful food and being home to the first and oldest university in Europe. Not as busy as Venice, Rome, or Florence but certainly a city that is worth a visit when travelling through Italy.
For me, it was all about the food! Being a huge fan of Italian food and in particular Spaghetti Bolognaise (hey that is what it is called in Australia) I knew I had to make Bologna a stop on my recent trip to Italy. After two hectic days in Venice, Bologna was a very welcomed change of pace for me.
To get to Bologna from Venice, I jumped on a train that took about an hour and 20 minutes and cost $25 AUD. Too easy! I chose to stay in the university neighbourhood in the Centro Storico (historical centre) of Bologna which is literally a 10-minute walk into Piazza Maggiore and the Fountain of Neptune. Through Booking.com I managed to find a lovely 1-bedroom apartment to which the owner was simply lovely and very accommodating giving me loads of handy hints, places to eat and areas to explore. My review of Le Casine Di Vladimir (my apartment) is here.
After familiarising myself with the apartment I was off to explore the area. I spent a few hours roaming around Bologna’s famous (and very beautiful) porticos, people watching, grocery shopping and beer drinking at Cluricaune Irish Pub. Upon numerous recommendations from locals and people back in Australia it was an absolute must that I try out one of Bologna’s most famous Osterias ‘Osteria dell’Orsa’.
The place is loaded with people at all hours looking for a cheap, simple but authentic meal. Often there is a wait for a table with people queuing out the front, but the lines apparently move fairly quickly. With this in mind, I decided to miss the crowds and line up and have an early dinner. I managed to score a seat on a shared table filled with the united nations of diners. My table was mixed with a few locals, Germans, Singaporeans, a solo Israeli traveler and this solo Aussie chick. Every single one of us ordered the same. Tagliatelle al Ragu. Or as Australian’s like to call it, spaghetti bolognaise (I promise to never call it that again!)
Let. Me. Tell. You…. How AMAZING this simple bowl of pasta was. It was freaking delightful, never have a tasted a pasta dish like it. So good that I am pretty sure that my eyes rolled back in my head at one point. My dinner comrades must have felt the same as you could hear a pin drop at our table while eating, only 5 minutes before that we were all laughing and telling travel stories! The food is all sourced locally and the pasta is home made. The wine is sourced from a town called Imola which is located 40 kilometres from Bologna. If you’re in Bologna, definitely definitely, definitely put Osteria dell’Orsa on your must do list.
With a full belly, I left the Osteria, grabbed some wine and headed off to Piazza Maggiore to do more people watching while reading, writing and drinking my wine like a local. On a warm spring night there is no better way to enjoy the best of Bologna, the locals certainly enjoy it probably more than the tourists.
The next day I had booked myself on a walking foodie tour. Being in the food capital of Italy doing a food tour was simply a must. You can read more about the food tour in my review ‘Best of food in Bologna’ but, this is when I had my first of many gelati on my trip to Italy. I was soon to become hooked! I was also able to take in more of Bologna’s famous sites, including the famous leaning Asinelli towers. Situated in the heart of Bologna, the towers were built in the 12th century and both have an impressive lean on them which is an interesting view from below when looking up. These two towers have more than a lean on them than the famous ‘Leaning Tower of Pisa’. Pretty impressive. After the tour I wandered around the food market and purchased my dinner Lasagne alla Bolognese as well as some really rich balsamic vinegar and other foodie treats for the rest of my trip. It was an early exit to the Cinque Terre the next morning so a home cooked meal fresh from the market in my humble little apartment was a perfect end to my short stay in Bologna.
Bologna really is an Italian food lover’s paradise. The Bolognesi are clearly very passionate about their food, wine and produce and so they should be! It all really is of such high quality. The absolutely lovely thing is that they also nurture the recipes that have been passed down from generations. The food is traditional and while it is simple you really can feel the love and care that has gone into perfecting these recipes. When eating out in Bologna you really get the impression that you are eating food that has been lovingly passed down from the chefs Nona.
Although my stay in Bologna was quite short, it was really enjoyable. I felt safe, comfortable and relaxed. It is a picturesque city with a really cool vibe. I will definitely head back to Bologna and stay longer the next time I am in Italy.
Read how full of food and happy I was in 2 days exploring Venice in my blog post 2 days in Venice, Italy: Lost, happy & full of food!