Many people head to Italy for long weekends in Rome and Florence, eager to indulge in all the good things that the Italian larder has to offer but a much smaller group will head to Bologna, another jewel of Northern Italy. Before we headed there (courtesy of Rick Stein’s Long Weekends tipping us off) I hadn’t appreciated the foodie pedigree of this city. But really its nickname, La Grassa, meaning the fat, should have been a dead give away.
So if you are lucky enough to spend some time in the city, here are some recommendations to scratch that gourmet itch….
Mercato di Mezzo (The Middle Market) (Via Drapperie): in the centre of the city and a stone’s throw from Piazza Maggiore is this exemplary modern food market which has repurposed a historic market into a relaxed foodie mecca. Grab a couple of plates from the range of market sellers, find a table and enjoy. We particularly loved the handmade ravioli and pasta specials served by De Gusto which made the most of the autumn’s pumpkin and mushrooms, washed down with an Aperol spritz. The porchetta piadina sandwich served with radicchio and pecorino by one of the central stalls also hit all the right spots. The food is great value is an economical way to try the best of the season. The the market is open throughout the day so it is also ideal when you have missed the traditional restaurant hours.
Mercato delle Erbe (Via Ugo Bassi): a more traditional food market where you may have to restrain yourself from squealing with delight at the beautiful fresh vegetables and delicious hams and cheeses. This jewel of a market is worth the little wander away from the centre. There are also a range of fantastic little pocket friendly restaurants for you to take your fill of.
Mercato del Novale (Piazza Carducci): this is a true neighbourhood food market. A small selection of farmer’s market stalls selling wonderfully fresh, seasonal produce. Every Sunday 8.30am to 1.30pm. Enjoy the stroll through this neighbourhood for a relaxed and authentic start to a Sunday.
Wander the Quadrilatero: the maze of streets that surround Via Draperie, Via Clavature and Via Pescherie Vecchie are a paradise for the food obsessed. The streets are lined with historic delis and food producers, so wander freely and follow your nose. Remember that much of the Quadrilatero closes after lunch but will reopen in the evening so don’t be put off if you are there at the wrong time, it will be worth the wait. In particular, make sure you take in the delis at Salumeri Simoni and Tamburini (a true Italian deli), both branches of Paolo Atti (the oldest bakery in town an a pasta shop extraordinaire) and Roccati.
Indulge in a gourmet coffee at Caffe Terzi (Via Guglielmo Oberdan): often considered a Bologna institution this bastion of caffeine should not be missed. Queue at the bar, choose your single source coffee beans and await an expertly created cafe.
Coffee with the glossy posse at Cafe Zanarini (Piazza Galvani): soak up some piazza sun at the oldest cafe in town.
Gelato at La Sorbetteria Castiglione: creamy handmade gelato that fulfils all your ice cream needs. Enjoy the peaceful walk through the porticoed streets to this much lauded cremeria.
La Proscuitteria Bologna (Via Guglielmo Oberdan): possibly our favourite spot in the City. Grab one of the tiny chairs outside and people watch while you demolish a gargantuan antipasti board and some delicious local wines. So much here to love.
Osteria Broccaindosso: This rustic spot was only a short walk from our gorgeous Air BnB bolthole but the portions would have justified a much greater physical challenge. We chose the osteria’s famous mixed starters, followed by a range of their fresh pastas and we were not disappointed. A light pumpkin and sage souffle was the stand out dish but we really couldn’t fault a thing that was brought to the table. The final selection from the dessert trolley filled our already stuffed stomachs as much as physically possible. This local favourite is very popular so make sure to book on weekends in particular.
La Drogheria della Rosais: a restaurant in an old chemist may not be the obvious choice but this upmarket neighbourhood restaurant serves traditional Italian food in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Near perfect pasta specials were followed by roasted veal and quail and topped off with fantastic value local wine and classic service. It was the perfect end to our trip.
RUDE: the ideal spot for some weekend drinks where you can enjoy a quality cocktail for less than the price of a pint in many a London boozer. Surround yourself with the cool Bolognese and imagine what life would be like if you didn’t catch your flight home.