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One Day in…Bologna, Italy

One Day in…Bologna, Italy

One Day in…Bologna, Italy 

Traveler Profile: Katie, UK

Location: Bologna, Italy

Time of Year: Autumn

Travel Goals: Food, photography, history and searching for “La Grassa”   

I love that Bologna’s heart beats in its food and history, a city where the aroma of fresh pasta and the sight of medieval architecture is equally intoxicating. A day here promises an insight into its culinary magic, from traditional Bolognese cuisine to the bustling historic market areas. The city’s charm lies in its food, red-bricked buildings, porticoed walkways, and the oldest university. My guide navigates the essential experiences, offering an insider’s look at how to plan an action-packed day. 

Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy, is a city that marries the richness of its historical heritage with its unparalleled culinary tradition. Known as “La Grassa” (The Fat One) for its lavish food offerings, Bologna invites travelers on a gastronomic journey through its ancient streets, historic markets, and vibrant food scenes. 

Brief History

Image Credit: Shutterstock / DaLiu

Bologna’s history is deeply intertwined with its culinary tradition. The city’s strategic location contributed to its rich culinary heritage, drawing influences from various cultures over the centuries. Bologna is the birthplace of many Italian delicacies, including tagliatelle al ragù, mortadella, and tortellini. These dishes are expressions of Bologna’s history, culture, and the skill of its people. 

A Hearty Breakfast at Caffè Terzi

Image credit: Shutterstock / kuvona

Begin your day at Caffè Terzi, an institution in Bologna known for its exceptional coffee and pastries. This quaint café offers a glimpse into the Italian breakfast culture, serving various rich coffee blends from around the world alongside traditional Italian breakfast items. With its intimate seating, the ambiance provides a perfect start to any day. Savor a freshly brewed espresso or cappuccino paired with a croissant or a slice of torta di riso and immerse yourself in the local lifestyle. 

My Insider’s Tip: Ask for the café’s specialty coffee of the day and pair it with a pasticceria fresca (fresh pastry) for an authentic Bolognese breakfast experience. 

Learn to Cook the Bologna Way

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No visit to Bologna is complete without discovering its culinary arts. Participate in a cooking class at Cucina Bolognese, where you’ll learn to make traditional dishes such as tagliatelle al ragù, tortellini, and other pasta delights. These classes offer hands-on experience guided by local chefs who share secrets passed down through generations. You’ll enjoy the immersion into the heart of Bolognese culture, where food is a language of love and history. Tuck into your creations for a filling lunch.

My Insider’s Tip: Book your class in advance and express interest in learning about a dish you’re curious about. Chefs are often happy to tailor the experience to your culinary desires. 

Discovering Bologna’s History

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Leonid Andronov

Walk off some of those lunchtime calories and head to Piazza Maggiore, the nucleus of Bologna’s historical and social life, surrounded by significant buildings like the Basilica di San Petronio, the Palazzo d’Accursio, the Palazzo del Podestà, and the Biblioteca Salaborsa. Walking through the square, you’ll wander through centuries of history, with each building telling a story of Bologna’s past. The Basilica, one of the largest churches in the world, showcases a mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, with its incomplete facade symbolizing the city’s modesty. 

My Insider’s Tip : Visit the Biblioteca Salaborsa’s glass floor to view the ancient ruins beneath, offering a literal window into Bologna’s multifaceted history. 

The Porticoes of via Dell’Indipendenza

Image Credit: Shutterstock / vvoe

After exploring the city’s history, take a leisurely walk under the porticoes of Via dell’Indipendenza. These covered walkways are architecturally breathtaking and a nod to Bologna’s innovative urban planning. Stretching for many kilometers, they provide shelter from the elements and connect various parts of the city. This walk offers a unique perspective of Bologna, lined with shops, cafes, and historic buildings, allowing for exploration and relaxation. 

My Insider’s Tip: Keep an eye out for the hidden canals of Bologna, reminiscent of Venice, particularly the Canal of the Moline, which can be spotted through small windows in the pavement. 

Shopping in Via Pescherie Vecchie

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Stramp

While you are out and about, you’ll notice that Bologna’s shopping scene is as diverse as its culinary offerings. Via Pescherie Vecchie is the heart of Bologna’s shopping, especially for food enthusiasts. This historic street has traditional shops selling fresh produce, pasta, meats, and cheeses. It’s a vibrant display of Bologna’s gastronomic richness, offering an opportunity to taste and purchase local specialties like mortadella, Parmigiano Reggiano, and the most divine balsamic vinegar. 

My Insider’s Tip: Visit Tamburini, a historic deli, for a selection of local cheeses and cured meats. Ask for a sample to find your favorite before purchasing. 

Dinner at Osteria Dell’Orsa

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Brent Hofacker

For dinner, Osteria dell’Orsa offers a cozy atmosphere and a menu that highlights the region’s produce. Their handmade pasta and selection of local wines provide a perfect ending to your day in Bologna. 

My Insider’s Tip: Don’t hesitate to ask the staff for wine-pairing recommendations. They are known for their knowledge of local wines. They can suggest the perfect match for your chosen dish, enhancing your dining experience. 

When to Travel: The best times to visit Bologna are during the spring (April to June) and fall (September to October) when the weather is pleasant and the city is less crowded. 

How to Get There: Bologna is well-connected by air and rail. The Guglielmo Marconi Airport is just a few kilometers from the city center, with regular flights from major European cities. Bologna Centrale, the central train station, is a hub for high-speed trains, making it easily accessible from other Italian cities. 

The Bottom Line

Image Credit: Shutterstock / DavideAngelini

Bologna should be experienced with all your senses, especially taste. The city offers an immense culinary journey from the first espresso of the day to the last sip of wine at dinner. Its rich history, vibrant marketplaces, and passionate food culture make it a must-visit if you are seeking a truly authentic Italian experience.

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