Just over twelve months ago we spent three nights in the medieval centre of Bologna, heart of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy and the perfect location for meat loving gourmands. The Atlantic Hotel was home during our stay and it was well situated between the train station and the main piazza. It did take us a little while to find it, for some reason I lost all sense of direction and had us going the wrong way before Hubby stepped in to ask for directions. Each of us had a role on this trip, Hubby was languages and I was logistics, it worked really well most of the time. Once settled in our hotel we set off to find typical Bolognese food to eat. We had experienced illness on and off since arriving in Paris, it had affected our appetite and our energy levels and we were keen to use our time in Bologna to recover. The main reason we included Bologna on our itinerary was food, we’re not connoisseurs of gourmet food but we do like eating good food and exploring the medieval old town also had its appeal.
Tamburini deli is the most amazing shop to walk into, from floor to ceiling the shop is stacked with the most tantalising produce. I was in heaven. The choices were overwhelming so we asked them to recommend something suitable for a picnic in Piazza Maggiore. Unlike other Italian cities we were not discouraged from eating in the piazza, surrounded by like minded tourists and locals we devoured the selection of cheese and mortadella that had been prepared for us, delicious with chunks of fresh, crusty bread. That simple but tasty meal was the beginning of our food focused visit to Bologna. While enjoying the atmosphere of the piazza we got talking to a couple of university students, one of them was walking his neighbour’s dog, a cute French bulldog called Frati (I think that was his name). Sadly, Frati’s owners didn’t take him out much because he had wheels as a result of not being able to walk properly so this student kindly took him out for regular walks. Frati was extremely friendly and seemed to really appreciate the chance to be out of the apartment and say hello to random strangers. I certainly appreciated the opportunity to get some puppy cuddles and I tried taking a few photos but Frati was too busy and the lighting was poor. So typical of me to remember the name of the dog but I don’t remember the name of the students, both spoke english beautifully and were happy to chat with us about travel, Australia and the Paris attacks (which had happened a week before). They recommended checking out the part of Bologna where all the students go to eat and drink, there we would find good food and wine and good prices. We took their advice and spent an evening in that more lively part of town and we tried the wine, it was good and of course we could not help but indulge ourselves at one of the many gelaterias.
Eating out in Bologna was a bit like walking into Tamburini, so many choices that deciding where to dine was really hard. One night we seemed to walk around in circles before coming across a small, underground restaurant in the back streets and for lunches we returned to a busy little cafe situated in the old market in the Quadrilatero, the food was good and the prices were right for our budget. During our stay we tried all the typical dishes: tortellini in brodo, lasagna, antipasti platters of cheese and meat, meatballs, roast pork, grilled seasonal vegetables and little round bread called Tigelle. The narrow alleys of the old market was thriving, lots of noise and activity as shoppers and shop keepers went about their business. Dining alfresco provides the perfect opportunity for people watching however I tired of the beggars constantly hitting us up for money, at one sitting we were approached by at least 5 different beggars. The following day we sat indoors, the weather was much cooler so it didn’t take that much to convince Hubby. The begging in Bologna was constant or so it seemed, perhaps because the central historic area is smaller and more condensed than some of the other cities frequented by tourists. Hubby and I tended to buy dog food at the supermarket and give that to the beggars and homeless that were with their dogs, most seemed happy to have food for their furry companions.
Museums and galleries weren’t a priority for us while in Bologna however we did venture into an old church, the Basilica di Santo Stefano which is known locally as the Sette Chiese or Seven Churches. Supposedly established in the 5th century over the top of a pagan site of worship, the church has been added to over the centuries. Even Hubby enjoyed walking through Benedictine cloister, Pilato’s courtyard and the chapels of varying ages. To one side is a small museum of paintings and sculptures, entry is free although a donation is welcome and it is well worth seeing. For the most part, we wandered through the city via the porticoes which make it easy to get around regardless of the weather. Medieval timber porticoes can still be found in the historical centre, the majority are made of stone, brick and concrete. In addition to tracking down the timber porticoes we searched for the hidden canals of Bologna of which there is roughly 60km, mostly covered over. Two canals can be found near the edge of the historical centre where the Reno river enters the city, and the Moline canal we discovered by accident down a side street.
Bologna is an incredibly fascinating city and well worth including on an Italian itinerary, being there in November made it the perfect time to indulge in some of the more hearty dishes on the menu. Being the capital of the Emilia Romagna region, it is also centrally located making it easy to get to other food lover destinations such Modena and Parma. We did not venture to either of these cities, instead choosing to take it easy in Bologna and recover which was a wise decision.