Bologna: The City of Happy Tummies
Italy is arguably the king of countries when it comes to gastronomy so what Bologna, the supposed food capital of the country, would have to offer the hungry traveler has to surely be the stuff of dreams. Much of what we know of Italian cuisine hails from this region Emilia-Romagna; Parma Ham, Balsamic Vinegar, Parmesan Cheese and of course every student's favorite dish Spaghetti Bolognese. In fact, you won't find Spaghetti Bolognese on the menu here. It is actually know locally as Tagliatelle al Ragu - and yes that means it isn't made with spaghetti. Mind-blowing, eh?
What is really mind-blowing is the quality of food and drink we enjoyed during our eight days in the area. We didn't visit for the food, we came to Bologna to see Bruno Mars in concert, but we weren't going miss the opportunity to put the nose-bag on and snuffle up all the deliciousness on our doorstep.
For the infamous Tagliatelle al Ragu we chose a lively restaurant Osteria dell'Orsa in the student area. It put memories of boring Spag Bol from my student days well into the distance. Never one to turn down the chance of pizza, on another evening we headed to Trattoria Pizzeria Belle Arti to enjoy their great wood fired creations.
You will find gourmet ground zero in the Quadrilatero area in the center of the city. Bologna is well off the typical Italian tourist trail but these few city blocks have some of the most amazing food emporiums in the world so it tends to attract some tourist interest as well as being a favorite with the locals.
We ate several times at the tourist centric but lively and fun Mercado de Mozza. Inside there are a dozen or so vendors offering a variety of local fare all under one roof. I chose an amazing piadine with local ham, cheese and balsamic that was quite literally the tastiest sandwich I have ever had. Another reason we came back was because, while gorging on my sandwich, I saw someone else order Fritto Misto (Fruits de Mar) that I couldn't stop thinking about it. Sure enough it didn't disappoint. Also in Mercado de Mozza is the Baladin Brewing Company, part of the Italian craft beer scene that seems to be growing into something quite significant. In addition to Baladin we did a mini-brew crawl in the Pratello neighborhood starting at Zapap, heading to BrewDog (who feature Italian and British brews) and finishing up at Il Punto.
Bologna has much more to offer than just food and beer, including awesome architecture, miles and miles of porticos that shelter you from rain or heat and the oldest university still operating in Europe. But whether you are there to admire the university, visit the museums or see a show from a diminutive Hawaiin pop star it is extremely likely that you will leave with a very happy tummy.