Food of Bologna - The Bolognese Food Guide

The food of Bologna, Italy consists of fresh egg-based pasta such as tagliatelle, tortellini and mortadella often served in a ragú. Bologna is also known for producing fantastic lasagna and sensational gelato. Famous delicacies derive from a rich culinary tradition that has impacted the cuisine of greater Italy. Historians have documented the culinary brilliance of the city since the Middle Ages, with published texts capturing the fascinating creations of inventive chefs dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The surrounding landscape of Emilia Romagna acts as the food basket for all of Italy due to its fabulous climate and mineral-rich, fertile plains producing some of the country’s best farmland.

Since 1088, students have traveled from around the globe to attend the University of Bologna, Europe’s oldest university. The disparate cultures brought with them their style and flavors of cooking. The wealth of the city grew, and brought affluent families from abroad and created wealth for the prosperous families already in the city. Nowadays food lovers from around the world visit Bologna during their tour in Italy to experience firsthand the unique Bolognese flavors.

Most Popular Bolognese Dishes

Bologna’s most popular dishes are specialties consisting of egg-based pasta, rich meat sauce, flavorful meat broth, and cured meat resulting in the famous dishes:

  • Mortadella di Bologna
  • Lasagna
  • Tortellini
  • Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

The city of Bologna has made gelato prevalent throughout Italy. Although gelato was not created in Bologna, the city’s contribution to the iconic Italian dessert helped expand the frozen treat across Italy and export the endless possible flavor profiles of gelato abroad. The different flavors from the city’s most popular dishes are great no matter the meal, however, the traditions of Bolognese cuisine dictate when the majority of restaurants, cafes, and markets offer the dishes on their menus. 

Italian Breakfast: Bologna

Traditional breakfast in Bologna follows the same customs of breakfast across Italy:

  • A shot of espresso with crunchy biscotti for a simple and satisfying combination.
  • For a more intense flavor, an espresso macchiato provides the richness of espresso with a splash of frothy milk. The bitter taste from the espresso pairs well with a semi-sweet bun or hardier sandwich.
  • An airy pastry accompanied by a robust, foaming cappuccino offers the most conventional breakfast in Bologna.

Locals in Bologna typically enjoy a light cornet with their choice of coffee for breakfast, while standing at the bar of their neighborhood café. Traditionally, frothy, milky drinks like cappuccino or latte macchiatos are enjoyed in the morning. The pastry often has a sweet disposition balancing the slight bitterness from the coffee. 

A light Italian lunch consisting of Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano, and olives.
A light Italian lunch consisting of Parma ham, Parmigiano Reggiano, and olives.

 

Italian Lunch: Bologna

Lunch in Bologna features common dishes like:

  • Green lasagna Bolognese
  • Regional Parma ham with Parmigiano Reggiano and pickled vegetables
  • Zucchini stuffed with meatballs and fresh pasta in ragù with small sausages, cannellini beans, and rosemary

The rich agricultural traditions of the greater Emilia Romagna region and result in many shops and businesses closing for the pausa pranzo, or lunch break, between 1pm and 3pm. The tradition has changed in Bologna with the city’s “modernization” as younger office workers prefer quicker, less time-consuming meals during their workday instead of the heavier nourishing meals farmers once needed at midday. Fresh food and quality restaurants continue providing delectable, more substantial lunches consisting of first courses with a grain like pasta or rice, and the second course including protein like meat, fish, or poultry, and side dish consisting of vegetables or fruits. In Bologna and across Italy, the majority of school children have a break allowing them to go home for lunch.

Another favorite snack in Bologna is erbazzone, a pie stuffed with sautéed chard or spinach, onions, and garlic topped with an abundance of Parmigiano and a generous amount of pancetta. The Italian flatbread known, as piadina was not invented in Bologna, but the city has adopted the tasty bread from the Romagna province of Emilia-Romagna as a favorite afternoon snack. The flatbread typically gets stuffed with sheep’s or goat’s milk cheeses as well as Italian bacon, fried pork meat, lardo (salumi), or cooked grape must. Other tasty afternoon snacks in Bologna consist of easy and accessible treats like:

  • Brioche
  • Cake
  • Cookies
  • Fruit
  • Gelato
  • Hot chocolate

Italian Dinner: Bologna

Dinner in Bologna features common dishes like:

  • Tortellini in broth
  • Crescentine fritte, fried bread with cured meat and fresh cheese
  • Cotoletta petroniana, a typical breaded veal or chicken dish from Bologna baked in meat broth and served with a slice of ham and topped with Grana cheese shavings
  • Tagliatelle with ragú, traditional egg-based pasta topped with a rich stew of mixed ground beef and cook cooed for several hours with white wine, butter, carrots, celery, and onion

The structure of a full Bolognese meal typically consists of:

  1. Antipasto – In Bologna, the antipasto is commonly an appetizer using different salumi such as mortadella, prosciutto, cheeses like ricotta, Parmigiana, Grana Padano, Raviggiolo, vegetables, or cold seafood items.
  2. Primo - When dining in Bologna, you will typically find green lasagna, tortellini, and gramigna alla salsiccia (short curly pasta with sausage ragú) during this course. 
  3. Secondo – In Bologna, you will find famous dishes like the cotoletta petroniana, specialty meatballs, and bollito misto—vegetables and a variety of meats simmered together inside an anchovy-garlic sauce—during this course.
  4. Contorno – The contorno course in Bologna is typically a platter of tasty seasonal vegetables.
  5. Dolci - A popular Bolognese dessert found during the dolci course is sweet ravioli stuffed with plum jam and dipped in red wine or liquor.
Cherry and vanilla gelato cone.
Cherry and vanilla gelato cone.

 

Italian Dessert: Bologna

Desserts in Bologna typically include:

  • Zuppa Inglese - This famous dessert consists of liquors such as Marsala or Rosolio soaked in sponge cake, topped with custard and sweet cocoa powder.
  • Torta di Riso – A dessert similar to rice pudding.
  • Pan Speziale – A typical Christmas cake with almonds, pine nuts, dark chocolate, and candied fruit.
  • La Pinza Bolognese – A Christmas time pastry stuffed with hard-exterior pastry dough with a mostarda.​
  • Raviole di san Giuseppe – Dessert ravioli made with sweet dough wrapping around jam or mostarda.​
  • Zuccherini Montanari – Fried biscuits made from an ancient recipe and glazed with a mixture of sugar and anise.

Bologna desserts focus on satisfying sweet treats like gelato, cake, and pastries often topped by seasonal, locally sourced fruits. Coffee is taken with dessert to act as a digestive, but Bolognese, and Italians as a whole, generally avoid milk coffees during or after their meals. Aside from the internationally renowned gelato, favorite desserts in Bologna consist of the sweet rice cake made with caramelized sugar, vanilla, almonds, liquor, and lemon peel, as well as mostarda Bolognese, a prune jam mixed with quince often used as a filling or a spread.

Aerial view of Bologna, Italy.
Aerial view of Bologna, Italy.

 

Common Ingredients of Bologna and Bolognese Food

Bologna has some of the most fertile soil in Italy and all of Europe excellent for producing staple ingredients like potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, plums, red cherries, juicy apples, pears, sugar beets, soft peaches, apricots, a variety of mushrooms known for their pleasant smell and aromatic flavors including the elusive white truffle from the Bolognese hills. Bologna is also known to produce a wide array of honeys like acacia, chestnut, and millefiori, cereals, different types of wheat and oats, milk, corn, onions, an abundance of chestnuts, stellar asparagus, and a selection of grapes for both grappa—like the Pignoletto—and wine—such as Lambrusco and the Saslá grape.  

The territory south and west of the city reaches various heights providing a wide range of microclimates along the foothills of the Apennine Mountains. The ingredients from Bologna have helped establish the city and larger region of Emilia Romagna as destinations for the variety and richness of the cuisine. The geographical position of the region has provided the best farmland fed by the waters of the Po River delta where animals can roam on the lush farms, and plentiful fish swim in the rushing rivers.

Bologna grew out of the original Roman settlement along the Via Emilia eventually blending Byzantine traditions with international style and local ingredients focusing heavily on salumi and cheeses. The tradition of long-lasting products derived from the nomadic heritage in the mountains when the population traveled with the animals feeding on the wild fruits and vegetables growing across the foothills and plain.

Home cooks and professional chefs in Bologna purchase ingredients according to the season such as shopping for Vignola cherries in early summer and porcini mushrooms or white truffles in autumn. By utilizing the ingredients in season, chefs both at home and in commercial kitchens produce cuisine with bolder, layered flavors while respecting the land and animals from which the dishes were produced. 

Bolognese Meats

The meats used in Bologna cuisine are pork, chicken, beef, and rabbit. Chicken is popular meat in Bologna province in regards to main courses inspiring such dishes spanning from pan-crisped chicken with rosemary to chicken cacciatore, a plate found throughout Italy influenced by the ingredients of the particular region. The most crucial element of the chicken in Bolognese cooking stems from the egg as opposed to the meat, which is wildly utilized in pasta, breads, and desserts across Emilia Romagna.

Pork is the most common meat in Bologna creating savory sausages or pork chops, pork tenderloin in a marsala sauce or famous Mortadella. Farmers and members of the lower classes have raised pigs around Emilia Romagna from millennia dating back to the Etruscans and the Gauls because farmers could utilize the entire animal from the meat to the fat, the viscera to the bristles. The meat alone is still separated into 11 segments. Bologna is known for raising and processing pork meat resulting in a tasty and fragrant culinary creation as well as being economical.

Sheep in the Bologna province and greater Emilia Romagna region are utilized for their wool; most dishes are derived from their milk more than for their meat. Rearing sheep originated in the Fertile Crescent in 10,000 BC and moved first to the southern regions of Italy before migrating northbound to Lazio, Tuscany, and eventually to Emilia Romagna. Lamb meat is used to intensify the richness of a ragú or act as the main protein after a long stewing process to break down the hardier protein.

Beef in Italy is classified not just by breed but by purpose, as well as according to the different ways specific regions prefer to cut the meat. The province of Bologna and the greater region of Emilia Romagna raise Romagnola cows, which belong to the grey cattle group. The type of cow was initially raised as a draft animal, but since the mechanization of the agricultural industry, the type of cow has primarily been bred for beef. The cow originated on the Eastern European steppe and brought to Italy by the invading Goths in the 4th century AD.

Rabbit is common meat used in Bologna cooking due to the abundance of rabbits in the forested landscape outside of the city. Many hunters caught rabbits in the Mediterranean until farming became a popular method of raising rabbits for consumption. The lean meat left little leftover for preservation and kept farmers or cooks from developing preservation methods such as salting, drying, or using the meat in sausages. The high protein content mixed with the low-fat content of the meat provides sufficient nutritious value. These characteristics have also made it difficult to cook the meat quickly, resulting in slow braising or roasting accompanied by a variety of ingredients for ultimate flavor such as using rabbit meat inside a traditional ragú or rabbit marinated in white wine.   

Traditional Parma ham being aged.
Parma ham aging.

 

The most famous meats of Bologna and the Bologna province are Mortadella and Prosciutto di Parma. The cured meats are both made from pork but have distinct, celebrated flavors stemming from the preparation and aging process.

1)    Mortadella – Mortadella is a blend of finely ground pork, lard, and spices stuffed inside a casing like a sausage. The delicious cured meat has become the queen of Bologna salami, which originated from a type of pork sausage flavored with myrtle and pepper. Real Mortadella contains a blend of lean pork from the shoulder, loin, or back with fattier areas of like the cheek before being flavored with black pepper and other common spices like cinnamon, coriander seeds, caraway seeds, nutmeg, cloves, and star anise. The name “Bologna” originated from Bologna, Italy inspired by the Mortadella delicacy. The dish was a common bartering tool in the 14th century. 

2)    Prosciutto di Parma – Prosciutto is the cured hind legs of pork made by rubbing and massaging an amount of salt over the outside of the meat proportionate to the weight of the meat itself. The particular microclimate of Emilia Romagna helps flavors the curing pork by carrying the aroma of olive trees, pine groves, and chestnuts. The ham atypically ages for up to 12 months. 

Grana Padano Cheese.
Grana Padano Cheese.

 

Bolognese Cheese

The cheese of Bologna consists mainly of Grano Padano PDO, Parmigiano Reggiano PDO, Squacquerone di Romagna PDO, and Fossa di Sogliano PDO, which are all located inside Bologna Province in Emilia Romagna. Cheese in the Emilia Romagna region has become as famous globally as the prominent pork productions like prosciutto and Mortadella. The different cheeses of Bologna province have different flavors, textures, and aromatic characteristics driving from their individual processes down to the diet of the dairy cows in the region. The variety of cheeses in the Bologna province can be made with milk from cows, sheep, or goats.

  1. Grana Padano PDO - Grana Padano is a semi-fat hard cheese made through a natural aging process lasting up to 24 months with a rich flavor growing from the semi-fat content. The first cheese of its kind was produced over a millennium ago north of the Po River. The simple ingredients of milk, salt, rennet, and an additional anti-bacterial enzyme provides great nutritious characteristics for the cheese used as an ingredient in a larger dish or enjoyed on its own.   
  2. Parmigiano Reggiano PDO – Parmigiano Reggiano is a famous cheese made with only milk, salt, and rennet and aged up to 36 months. It is known as the king of Italian cheeses due to its nutritious qualities and an illustrious history dating back to 12th-century Benedictine monks. The wheels of cheese age for a minimum of 12 months with the ingredients resulting in a lower fat content. The flavors depend solely on the aging period making the cheese great when paired with vegetables, fruits, honey, meats, seafood, nuts, and balsamic vinegar.
  3. Squacquerone di Romagna PDO – Squacquerone is a cottage cheese with creamy, delicate characteristics made with whole milk and aged for up to four days. The name derives from the Italian word squagliarsi meaning “to melt.” The sweeter flavor has a light salt content and subtle aroma. It is a common topping on piadina or an accompaniment to cured meats like Mortadella or Prosciutto.
  4. Fossa di Sogliano PDO – Fossa is cheese made with cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, or a combination of the two. The name fossa translates into English as “pit” deriving from the aging process of the cheese which takes place inside a pit carved out of the sandstone rock tuff. The humidity and characteristics of the rock layers add to the flavors of the cheese resulting in a pungent aroma and slightly bitter taste great for coupling with sweet ingredients like honey or grated over pasta. 
Pot of ragú, a hearty Bolognese sauce.
Pot of ragú, a hearty Bolognese sauce.

 

Bolognese Sauce

Bologna is known for the meaty and hearty Bolognese sauce, known locally as ragú. The dish originated in France from sauces using meat broth but leaving out the actual meat with the pasta. By the 18th century documents show the first meat-based sauce served over pasta in Imola, a town near Bologna. In Bologna and around Italy, the sauce is referred to as ragú. There are many variations of the sauce, but traditional raguú alla Bolognese uses sweating, sautéing, and braising techniques with meats like beef, pork, or veal, wine, tomato, and broth. The flavors combine over the course of hours as the sauce simmers with a bit of milk. The most authentic ragú has layers of aromas, a delicate flavor, and a creamy texture. It is traditionally served with wide, flat egg noodles like tagliatelle. 

Vegetable market stand selling asparagus and tomatoes.
Vegetable market stand selling asparagus and tomatoes.

 

Vegetables and Fruits of Bologna

Vegetables in Bologna include asparagus, broad beans, fennel, lettuce, and radishes. The fertile soils and diverse microclimates around the Bologna province and Emilia Romagna region provide ample vegetables year-round changing with the seasons. The different seasonal vegetables provide better flavor and healthier options to every dish changing the ways the ingredients interact with the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Finding vegetables in season has the added benefit of sourcing from local farmers and vendors ensuring freshness and genuine quality.

Fruits in Bologna include apples, pears, and oranges. The natural flavors of fruit have provided delicious sweetness to dishes in Bologna like jams and salads, or a tart balance to richer dishes. Purchasing seasonal fruits provides you with the fullest flavor and the benefit of buying local, a tradition in Italian cooking and Bolognese cuisine. International fruits have made their way into the fertile soil around Emilia Romagna resulting in seasonal flavors from around the globe accompanying the customary regional tastes.

Vegetables grown in winter in Bologna include:

  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Thistles
  • Radicchio
  • Fennel
  • Spinach

Vegetables grown in spring in Bologna include:

  • Radishes
  • Asparagus
  • Broad bean
  • Garlic
  • Chard
  • Chives
  • Bean
  • Shallot
  • celery

Vegetables grown in summer in Bologna include:

  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplants
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Peas

Vegetables grown in autumn in Bologna include:

  • Leek
  • Chard
  • Fennel
  • Spinach
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Chicory
  • Onion
  • Cabbage
Fruits and vegetables market in Bologna, Italy.
Fruits and vegetables market in Bologna, Italy.

 

Fruits grown in winter in Bologna include:

  • Oranges
  • Kiwi
  • Mandarins
  • Chestnuts

Fruits grown in spring in Bologna include:

  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Grapefruits
  • Lemons
  • Tangerines
  • Clementines
  • Apples
  • Pears

Fruits grown in summer in Bologna include:

  • Strawberries
  • Medlar
  • Apricots
  • Watermelon
  • Sour cherries
  • Figs
  • Raspberries
  • Melons
  • Blueberries
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Currant
  • Plums

Fruits grown in autumn in Bologna include:

  • Persimmons
  • Oranges
  • Mandarins
  • Kiwi
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Chestnuts

Bologna’s connection to seasonal fruits and vegetables has resulted in dishes cooked mainly during the holidays such as the Certosino di Bologna Christmas cake or the castagnole, a pastry made during Carnival. These dishes have become synonymous with the seasons and their vibrant celebrations often due to the types of fruits decorating the different pastries. Another popular pastry for Carnival in Bologna is sfrappole, deep fried ribbons of dough resembling “angel wings.” Other seasonal foods in Bologna include:

  • Zuppa Imperiale for Christmas
  • Certosino for Christmas
  • Ciambella quaresimale for Easter 
Vineyard in Levizzano Rangone, Modena, Emilia-Romagna.
Vineyard in Levizzano Rangone, Modena, Emilia-Romagna.

 

Bologna food culture is committed to local ingredients and tradition connecting the dynamic array of flavors in the cuisine of the city and province’s heritage with daily contemporary life. The food culture is reflected in the uniqueness of the region’s soil and its link to the town with locals promoting a deeper association with the agricultural food chain renewing the farm-to-table movement and highlighting the traditional culinary techniques ranging from home-cooked meals to commercial, technical elements.

Generations of farmers have produced quality products in the region since the 12th century developing into the food culture for which the city is known today with dimensions of international influence over time. The student environment and eager sociability of locals created public establishments with cooks eager to create a sense of pleasantness while refining their gastronomy to attract more business. Chefs in Bologna, whether at home or in commercial restaurants continue to create concrete evidence of culinary tradition evolving from refined ancient ingredients and developing skills accompanied by the historic nourishment of the greater Emilia Romagna region growing grapes, fruit, vegetables, and wheat, as well as cultivating livestock, hunting, and fishing.

Historically, the Renaissance and Baroque periods in Bologna were a time of lavish banquets creating lush allegories inspired by colorful culinary compositions. Food permeates every aspect of the city and its culture. The supple texture and stunning flavor of tagliatelle pasta embodies the synthesis balancing the landscape from the chicken coup to the garden, and the fields.

Instead of compromising the traditional gastronomic flavors of Bologna with the growth of tourism like other cities in Italy, such as Florence, Venice, and Rome, Bologna has bolstered its position as the masterful culinary destination by keeping their heritage personal focusing on quality instead of quantity, while paying special attention to their connection to agricultural history and artisanal development. This dedication exemplifies the significant global connection without losing Bologna’s local identity historically and gastronomically. 

Balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

 

Food and dining etiquette in Bologna are strict when at the table consisting of such restrictions like bread is not served with butter, bread itself is not an appetizer to a meal, and bread of any kind does not accompany pasta. Other important rules to follow in Bologna include not adding grated cheese to a fish-based meal in addition to olive oil and vinegar acting as the only type of salad dressing. Food in Bologna is about the pleasure of eating, the joy of collective flavors. Lunch and dinner are social opportunities providing relaxation with friends, family, or coworkers during which you can chat, laugh, share, and escape the responsibilities of the day. Whether at the home of a Bolognese or dining in a restaurant, leaving large amounts of food on the plate is considered an insult. For the best dining experiences in Bologna, and to blend in like a local, follow these simple rules:

  • Never cut your noodles. Using a spoon to help roll the noodles onto your fork is considered old-fashioned but more acceptable than cutting noodles or using a spoon without a fork.
  • Only drink wine or water with your meal. A soda is acceptable if you are having pizza at lunch but otherwise, choose white wine with a seafood course and red wine with a meat course.
  • A full meal on special occasions consists of:
    • Appetizer
    • Pasta
    • Meat/fish with a side dish
    • Salad
    • Cheese
    • Fruit
    • Dessert and coffee
    • Digestive Liquor
  • Salad is served after the main course as a traditional digestive aid.
  • Never drink coffee with milk after the morning.
    • Italians believe in good digestive practices and believe milk hinders, therefore they do not drink cappuccino or café latte after morning.
  • Coffee is accompanied by morning pastry, or with dessert or after a meal, however it is never consumed with a meal.
  • Cappuccinos and lattes are topped with cocoa powder or whipped cream but does not get a dusting of cinnamon.  
Mercato delle Erbe, a popular market built in 1910.
Mercato delle Erbe, a popular market built in 1910.

Bologna’s famous markets are Mercato delle Erbe and Quadrilatero. A few smaller but equally impressive marketplaces offering some of Bologna’s famous cuisine include Paolo Atti & Figli and Tamburini. The culture of the Bologna’s culinary heritage emanates from the traditional markets, which have become embedded in the city’s daily life embodying the ingredients of contemporary and ancient Emilia Romagna as well as the seasonal flavors represented in the celebrated cuisine. The markets reflect Bologna’s nickname as La Grassa or “The Fat One,” by featuring the wonderful flavors and sensational aromas emitted from the merchants, specialty shops, and food purveyors.

  1. Quadrilatero Market is the old medieval marketplace near Piazza Maggiore and established in the 12th century. The narrow alleyways of Via degli Orefici, Via Caprarie, Via Drapperie, and Via Clavature contain the historic cobblestones while also brimming with enticing aromas and bright colorful produce displayed like paintings amid Parmigiana-Reggiano, and tortellini. Wine shops, produce stalls, and specialty food shops offer insight into the layered flavors of Bologna’s gourmet culinary scene while cafes provide tables from which you can watch residents walk past or sample local specialties. Specialty foods include locally produced cheeses, pastries, gelato, pasta, fish stalls, cured meats, and butcheries.
  2. Mercato delle Erbe is a modern indoor market established in 1910, but rebuilt after World War II outside of the Piazza Maggiore. Seasonal produce, artisan cheeses, delectable wines, and fresh meats line the stalls among the lavish aromas emanating from the mouthwatering food court. Vendors take care in making their produce and booths appear spotless to entice more customers. Fishmongers provide access to fresh shellfish, and poultry purveyors offer healthy cuts of lean white meat, eggs, and the whole chicken with herbs and spices.
  3. Mercato Ritrovato is a famous Saturday market focused on ecological sustainability drawing tourists and residents in equal numbers. Vendors offer samples of craft beer, wine, and artisanal cheeses, as well as sweets and pre-cooked meals ready a picnic lunch at the tables around the marketplace. Popular items paying homage to the heritage of Bologna while also using contemporary culinary techniques include fried sardines and vegan pasta, while vendors celebrate the healthy and flavorful seasonal qualities of the farm-to-table movement. 

Bologna street food is different than the dishes served in restaurants because they are prepared and sold by vendors who don’t need a fixed location serving single portions for a quick bite like borlengo, fried dumplings, and tigella. The tradition of street food has ancient origins existing in Greece and Rome, as well as Ancient Egypt and China. The heritage of the cuisine was associated with the lower-class and those with houses unequipped with kitchens.

As of 2007, an estimated 2.5 billion people ate street food at least once a day with Bolognese enjoying the blend of quick and delicious cuisine mixed with healthy, economical choices. Many restaurants in Bologna have begun serving portions of tortellini in a cup combining the trend of street food with traditional flavors beyond the flatbread sandwiches known as piadina and the pastries decorating the window displays of the artisanal bakeries around the marketplaces. 

Unique Restaurant Experiences of Bologna

Bologna has a dining scene unique from all other cities in Italy demanding attention to the spectacular flavors of the province beyond mortadella focusing on the intense tastes and subtle characteristics of gelato, balsamic vinegar, almond cookies, and extravagant meals. The name “The Fat One” manifests in the diverse dining experiences ranging from elegant dinners in candlelit restaurants to rustic-style dining rooms dressed in dark wood ceilings with terracotta floors.

  • Aperitivo in Bologna is the perfect way to sample a variety of traditional Bolognese dishes. Aperitivo is a light afternoon meal before dinner customary across Italy, but Bologna treats aperitivo like a celebration at the end of the day. The different styles of aperitivo reflect the city’s cultural variety from business professionals to young students. The aperitivo is technically the pre-dinner drink shared with loved ones but accompanies a selection of delicious foods such as cheeses, cold cuts, and a range of vegetables or pasta. The variety of aperitivo takes place in antique taverns, classic bakeries, popular delis, as well as at the food court of the historic Mercato delle Erbe.
  • Bologna has Michelin-starred restaurants in the city and around the province providing inspirational flavors through local flavors. Other restaurants provide vintage meals in elegant trattorias, 18th-century café ambiance, as well as one of the few women chefs honored with a Michelin Star.
  • Bologna breaks down the barriers to delicious cuisine for all its citizens to enjoy in restaurants hidden within the shadow of the iconic Two Towers in the historic center or secluded within a secret corner, attracting artists and influential politicians or reflecting the rural charms of the city’s agricultural history. A blend of multi-course dinners and enticing pasta dishes reflect the elegant tradition and chic contemporary style creating a delightful dining experience across Bologna.

 

Traditional ring-shaped pasta tortellini with bolognese.
Traditional ring-shaped pasta tortellini with bolognese.

 

Bologna Food Tours

Zicasso can provide a comprehensive and personalized tour of Bologna providing the best experiences inside Italy’s ultimate food destination whether you are searching for mouthwatering tasting excursions, cooking classes, or a local perspective on the culinary influence of Bologna on greater Italy. Bologna is one of the world’s richest culinary capitals with an inspiring range of dining opportunities ranging from simple trattorias offering bold flavors to vibrant markets highlighting traditional home-cooked cuisine, elegant restaurants serving dishes worth Michelin Stars to small dishes with a glass of wine at an aperitivo.

The gastronomic delights know no bounds as they fill the markets, which emanate with seductive aromas from the bakeries, and burst with vibrant flavors from the selection of salumi inside the delis. Your Zicasso trip considers your preferences in planning the perfect Bologna vacation whether learning how to hand-make tortellini or sampling the traditional flat, wide tagliatelle noodles dressed in rich ragú. Enjoy an introduction to the gastronomic heritage of Bologna through travel specialists immersing you in the historical setting of the medieval city center and the natural beauty of the rugged woodlands, as you experience the fabled culinary capital of Italy like a local with insider recommendations for incredible flavor.