The focus of our trip to Bologna was to… eat! Italy's culinary capital is famously known for its hand-rolled fresh pasta and meat ragout - internationally known as “Bolognese sauce”.
There is nothing worse than a depressingly mediocre meal in Italy. Osteria Broccaindosso stood out after a significant amount of restaurant research. I read online that if you are a tourist you must make a reservation far in advance, not ideal as we only had two open evenings to eat there. I thought I would try giving a call myself to see what would happen. After a lengthy hold, the guy on the phone said they had no availability for either night we were in town. What a let down!
We had been reading that you should have your hotel call certain restaurants, so as we were checking out of our hotel in Venice that morning, we thought, let's give it a try. Bingo! The hotel concierge got us in for 7 pm that evening. Keep these tips in mind and scout your restaurants in advance.
We easily settled into our airbnb and took advantage of our close walk into the city centre. We took in the sights of the medieval Towers of Bologna, which were built in the 12th century. You can walk up the stairs of the Asinelli Tower to see a great view of the city. Next, we stopped in at Zoo Café to grab a snack and observe the locals.
We set off to Osteria Broccaindosso. Our expectations were set high, so naturally we were a bit nervous. Tucked away on a side street, the osteria filled up quickly. There was a mix of young and old Italian speaking people and a couple of tourists. The atmosphere was lively yet cozy. We ordered the house appetizer which changes on a regular basis and two pastas to share as a main.
We highly recommend getting the house appetizer because it is made of market-fresh plates including: fresh focaccia bread, salami, pecorino cheese with honey, eggplant with a pomodoro sauce, pork sausages, flan, and a small salad. Next, our homemade pastas came, tortellini with a rich butter sage sauce and a taglieatelle with delicate meat ragout sauce. It was the best pasta we’ve ever had! Ari licked his plate when no one was looking.
If you're in the mood, there are tons of bars close by to go out for after dinner drinks.
The next day we started off our morning with coffee near the famous Maggiore Square, the heart of the city featuring Bologna’s famous historical landmarks
The smells of gourmet food hall Mercato Di Mezzo were calling out to us. The hall is filled with vendors selling a variety of Bolognese cuisine. Historically, it was the first indoor market of the city, but after being deserted for many years it re-opened in 2014. We sat on the outdoor patio and ate a mountain of fresh hand-rolled pasta!
If it’s a sunny day, we recommend grabbing food for a picnic in Giardini Margherita park. Giardini Margherita park is a quiet park with plenty of grass and trees to lay in and relax. Perhaps the best kept secret of the park, however, is Serre dei Giardini Margherita, a public art and co-working space created from former greenhouses. We sat and enjoyed the garden décor, drank coffee, and had a few glasses of wine from their cafe called Vetro. It’s laptop friendly and has large picnic tables that double as workspace stations. Vetro offers dishes with ingredients purchased locally or taken directly from their garden.
We were feeling inspired and full of energy so decided to check out the University quarter in Bologna. One of the things we noticed on the first day was how many young people there were around. The University of Bologna is the oldest in Europe and was founded in 1088. The ever vibrant and youthful street in the neighbourhood, Via Augusto Righi, is known for its delicious and cheap aperativo bars. It’s a common starting point for a night out and perfect for the budget! We bar hopped, filling up on aperativo after aperativo. Meats, cheese, olives, bread, pasta... We were so full we were happy to skip dinner!
Bologna is a historic city, full of energy and bursting with great food. Make sure you do your restaurant research and bookings well in advance!