By: Jacqueline Kirby Zonkowski
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I made an “Italy Bucket List” before we left for our stay in Florence, covering the basics – Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, etc. Yet for some reason Bologna did not cross my mind to make the list.
As we are sitting in our apartment last Friday wondering where we should go for the day, an Instagram message came across from a friend about Bologna. This jogged my memory that I actually had 2 saved emails about Bologna so I proposed it to Mike. After about 5 minutes of research he said “Take me to the Mortadella!” Away we went!
Bologna is about an hour’s drive north of Florence through a bunch of winding mountain roads and tunnels, something very excited for my novice man behind the wheel of a manual Fiat 500. Alas, we made it into the city with a somewhat screeching halt.
Once parked and our space paid for we searched for a sandwich shop. Be careful to check the timing of your arrival as we got there just as most places were closing from their morning shifts. But we found a place close by, Tigelleria Tigellino, and got a variety of sandwiches and a couple of brewskis to start the day.
Tigellino is basically a mini pita bread, yet despite the size can be quite filling. Mike got a plain mortadella, then one with salami and cheese, while I got prosciutto with arugula and cheese – FYI mine was the best!
We ended up buying a pack of the Tigellino and continued to explore until we were ready for dinner. My Italian friend, Rebecca, said to have Tortellini and Ravioli while we were in town so we set off on our next mission for a place open early enough for us to be back on the road but not compromise the authenticity.
Sfoglia Rina, which I had read about on the way, was our winner after a few circles around the city checking menus and finding places open for drinks but no food. Sfoglia Rina only had a limited menu available early evening but they had exactly what we wanted. I got a Tortelloni with Butter & Sage sauce, while Mike got Tortellini with a Parmesan cream sauce. Both of them were out of this world delicious. Halfway through I said “Stop eating! We have to save this so we can enjoy it again another day,” and called the waitress to box the second half of our meals. In case you were wondering, they were just as delicious reheated.
Since we weren’t sure what we had to see aside from eating and Piccolo Venezia, we just walked around exploring. Every step that we took I fell more in love with Bologna. I continuously turned to Mike saying how beautiful it was, or pointing down a tree lined alley, or beautiful shop. Its a spectacular place to just get lost.
Say getting lost isn’t your thing, but shopping is, man are you in luck. The more we walked the more metropolitan the city became to me. I wasn’t expecting Louis Vuitton stores around any corner, but there they were! Galleria Cavour is a 5th Avenue meets Bal Harbour area that is semi indoor with beautiful marble floors and all of the shops of my dreams. I skipped entering for fear of temptation but it was clear that there are some chic, high end locals here.
Bologna has a ton of markets also. You can find anything from a knock off Gucci, to a whole Octopus ready to take home and cook for dinner. Some are open air but the bigger ones are closed in. We went into Mercato Dell Erbe and got some mortadella to take back with us. It was really fun walking through and seeing what all of the booths had to offer.
As you’re walking make sure to pass Piccolo Venezia. It’s a small canal that literally means, Little Venice. It looks identical to some of the smaller canals that you see walking around Venice and was a popular place for a selfie!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention drinking in Bologna. We were driving so we didn’t really imbibe like we normally would but we passed a lot of temptation as we walked around. Towards the city center there are a bunch of small alleys filled with bars that have sidewalk seating. I think you could honestly pick any one of them to stop in for a drink and the prices were really affordable.
Whatever your preference is, don’t forget to try the Lambrusco. A native grape of the Emilia-Romagna region, Lambrusco is a slightly bubbly red wine. They can vary in color but I like mine to have that same bold red -purple hue. They also vary in sweetness and you can find a good bottle for around 10 Euro. We went into a basement cellar of a shop off the grid and the owner suggested us a bottle that was only 9 Euro in a range that only went up to about 19 Euro. We saved ours and brought it back to drink on the Arno at sunset and it was very nice slightly chilled.
Bologna was such a fun place, I was really sad when we left, even asking Mike if we could come back and spend the night before we go home. It’s still on our plan and I’m adding it to my list for future travel itineraries I plan! Don’t overlook this beautiful city!