“You eat more to Bologna in a year in Venice in two, three in Rome, Turin and Genoa five in twenty” (Ippolito Nievo, Confessions of an Italian, 1867).
Bologna is one of my favorite Italian cities. I visited it three times so far; exploring all its aspects and got the chance to eat, feel and live like a local thanks to the full support and guidance of Bologna Welcome: https://www.bolognawelcome.com/en/
The city was settled by the Etruscans and named Velzna, but was later renamed Felsina. In the 6th century BCE, Felsina was known for its markets and trade.After the Roman’s conquest, it was renamed Bononia and was made a fortress after Rome fell…When the Holy Roman Empire owned the city, it became known as Bologna… Today, Bologna is self-described across the universe by its three nicknames; La Rossa, la Grassa, La Dotta; the red, the fat, the learned…
La Rossa is a reference to the red rooftops throughout the city… And that red color too reminds us about the land of engines: Ducati, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati.
La Grassa symbolizes Italy’s capital of food with its tantalizing local cuisine that goes beyond the meaty bolognese pasta sauce, producing fundamental ingredients famous throughout the world: Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano, Balsamic Vinegar di Modena, Mortadella di Bologna.. Not surprisingly will you discover that the regional economy is based on the food industry !
La Dotta elucidates the city’s intellectual foundations with Europe’s first university to be established in 1088.During the Middle Ages, scholars from all over Europe flocked to Bologna to pursue their intellectual inquiries.
Upon my arrival to Bologna, I was warmly welcomed by “Bologna Welcome’s” lovely Alice Brigniani from the Tourism board and had a planned schedule to visit the most important spots within the shortest amount of time.
My first destination was The Carpigiani Gelato Museum where I had a guided tour exploring three principal themes regarding gelato: the evolution of gelato over time, the history of production technology, and the places and ways it is consumed. The museum’s 1000 square meters are home to 20 original machines, multimedia presentations, 10,000 historical images and documents, precious tools and accessories, and original video interviews.
Adjacent to the museum is Carpigiani Gelato University, the most prestigious Gelato University in the world (www.gelatouniversity.com).I attended a gelato making masterclass that I enjoyed much !
And where I learnt the difference between Italian Gelato and Ice cream:
“Italian gelato contains less fat than ice cream, has less incorporated air, and is served at a higher temperature. Consequently, gelato provides a greater flavor experience because there is less fat that coats the taste buds, more flavor per spoonful (due to a lower quantity of air), and the taste buds are more alive since the temperature is not so cold as to dull their sensitivity. Not to mention fewer calories to burn!”
I then joined the Carpigiani team for lunch at their canteen. The food choices they have were just astonishing! I had Vitello tonnato(sliced veal covered with a creamy, mayonnaise-like sauce flavored with tuna) , melted talleggio (that’s one of my favorite Italian cheeses), shared penne and a salad! Lucky Carpigiani employees is the least I could say!!
Carpigiani is indeed the market leader in the production of machines for gourmet gelato, established in 1946. Hopefully, soon enough I will be exploring and kitchen testing the fabulous world of Gelato in my kitchen !
Back to the city center, I enjoyed walking for hours… Numerous arcades known as porticos make long stretched walks enjoyable.Bologna is famous for its 40 km of porches.The portico of San Luca comprised of 666 porticos is one of the longest in the world.
My next stop was the two towers of Bologna: Garisenda and Asinelli !
During the Middle Ages, around 200 towers were built in Bologna; urban skyline “Manhattan style”… Rich families would show off their status and wealth by building those vertical structures and for defensive purposes to watch over their lands. Today, only 22 remain and the most famous ones are the two towers, both leaning, the symbol of Bologna!
“The Tower was built between 1109 and 1119 by the family bearing the same name and was handed over to the municipality as early as the following century. Measuring 97.20 metres in height, it has an overhang of 2.23 metres and an internal staircase containing 498 steps that was finished in 1684. The base is surrounded by a “rocchetta” (stronghold), which was built in 1488 to accommodate the soldiers standing watch. Today, underneath the arcade, some craft shops have been relocated, reminiscent of the mercantile functions carried out by the medieval “Mercato di Mezzo”.”
I took the 498 steps on steep wooden staircases to reach the top and discover the most astonishing view of the city. I need to confess that taking those steps wasn’t as easy as I thought as there is only one route up and downthe tower and the stairs are so narrow that you have to pave the way to people walking up or down .. If You’re claustrophobic or have a fear of heights avoid thinking much about that adventure.
A local superstition suggests that those who climb the tower to the top will never finish their studies… #notabeliever
Aperitivo time and I find myself walking towards my favorite area in the city center of Bologna and any foodie’s dreamland: the Quadrilatero! “Jewelers, butchers, delicatessens, greengrocer’s, bakeries, shops with traditional cuisine and craft activities and other specialized trades are located in these streets. Most of these shops have preserved the historic architecture and furnishing, thus making them genuine artistic treasures.”The main craft guilds of the city such as goldsmiths, butchers, fishermen, “Salaroli” (workers who salted meat to cure it), the Furriers, Barbers and the Society of Painters, had their headquarters in this area.”
I could have this for dinner every single night ! And if I had to pick a place to have it, It would definitely be: Bologna!! Choosing my cheeses, cold cuts, bottle of wine and sharing it is just heavenly! The array of Italian cheeses is incredible; my favorite picks are Stracciatella di Buffala, Parmigiano Reggiano is a definite must try as it is the pride of the Emilia Romagna region, pecorino, truffle based cheeses, Talleggio and the Italian Mortadella that never meant a thing to me before I visited Bologna! Trying it there is a definite must do! But just remember to be moderate about all those delicacies.
The bread served is Tigelle, cooked in a cast iron mould called tigelliera. Soft and flavourful, perfectly suitable for aperitivo. I usually limit my carbs intake when I find myself in front of a cheese and cold cuts platter !
Balsamic di Modena is another pride of Bologna made from grapes that are boiled down to a dark syrup then aged in wooden containers for years.Expensive bottles are just like wine; they would have fermented for a longer period of time! Try tasting a 25 years old aged balsamic!
And if you’re a Netflix freak and into food, try watching Chef’s table: Massimo Bottura’s episode and you’d understand many things about Bologna.. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any available table at Osteria Francescana .. Reservations must be made months in advance .. Hopefully next time !
Genuine ragù alla bolognese is another must try when in Bologna!
Unlike the bolognese spaghetti we prepare and that’s solely made of minced meat and tomato sauce, this traditional recipe consists of a slowly cooked sauce, with a preparation that requires different techniques… The Ingredients include a characteristic soffrito of onion, celery and carrot, different types of minced or finely chopped beef often alongside small amounts of fatty pork.Tomato concentrate, sometimes even white wine or milk are added before simmering at length to produce a thick sauce…
My pit-stop at Simoni to get cheeses that are properly packed to fly back with me is a must ! One of the best aspects of traveling is bringing home tokens that mark the trip.. My food picks says it all 😉
If you wish to stay in Bologna and live like a local, Antica Residenza D’azeglio https://anticaresidenzadazeglio.it/home-en/ is the right place for you! You’l be greatly welcomed and hosted in a very neat and clean space and get the chance to mingle with foreigners and locals sharing their experiences around the same table.
Another option would be Hotel Touring with it’s spectacular view from the rooftop and the room!
Car lovers, the motor valley is the dream destination! Nestled in the neighboring town of Modena “the Museo Enzo Ferrari opened in 2012, showcasing a handful of classic cars amid a bombastic multimedia spectacle that compares Enzo Ferrari to another local hero, Luciano Pavarotti. At another distance you will find Ferruccio Lamborghini Museo, which moved to a new, larger building in the nearby town of Funo di Argelato, just north of Bologna, in 2013. I wasn’t lucky enough but If you are, you may fall on the nephew of the famous industrialist, Fabio Lamborghini while visiting, telling you family stories about the large collection of Lamborghini cars, tractors, speedboats and even a prototype helicopter…
Bologna has a lot to offer and pleases all taste buds on all levels… My next trip will surely be longer and I’ll download the app “Better Points” launched by Marco Amadori, an urban planner in 2017.The app tracks the green travel (includes walking, cycling and taking public transport).Every green travel is rewarded with points that can be exchanged for free beer or discounted food and cinema tickets! This great initiative called “Bella Mossa” is inspiring !
“In one year, the initiative has recorded almost 4 million kilometers traveled in Bologna alone. This also means corresponding CO2 emission has been contained. Funded by the city of Bologna and the EU, “Bella Mossa” is expected to be started in other cities soon.”
A la prossima Volta Bologna!
Dietitian Nicole Maftoum