Bologna is not as well known as some of Italy’s other famous cities. But, it is definitely the best place in Italy for food and one of my favorite culinary destinations!
As the capitol of the Emilia Romagna region, Bologna has earned three nicknames throughout history. La Dotta, which means ‘the learned one’ – for Bologna’s university which is the oldest in the world. La Rossa, which means ‘the red one’ – for the terra cotta rooftops throughout the city. And the third nickname, La Grassa, or “The Fat One,” for Bologna’s legendary cuisine.
Bologna Food – A Guide On What and Where To Eat In Bologna!
Bologna has the perfect blend of culture, food, and history. And it’s also not as “touristy” as other destinations, which makes it popular for food travelers looking for something more authentic. If you’re planning a trip to Bologna, here’s a guide on what to eat, where to eat, what to see, and where to stay.
WHAT TO EAT – 13 BOLOGNA FOODS YOU MUST TRY
There is so much delicious food in Bologna it can feel overwhelming. Especially if you’re there for just a short trip. Personally, I always want to taste it all — LOL! This list of Bologna foods below is not “everything” you could taste in the city. But, it’s definitely all the legendary foods from the region you should taste.
Ricotta and Fig Gelato
Bologna has a long history with Italy’s most famous dessert. There are even 3 of the country’s top gelatarias in Bologna! But if I had to pick one flavor for you to try, it would be ricotta and fig, or “ricotta e fichi.”
Tagliatelle al Ragu
When it comes to Bologna food, this one is a must-taste! And you won’t find spaghetti Bolognese in Bologna. For one, you’re in Bologna, so the sauce will simply be called “ragù.” Second, the Bolognese don’t eat spaghetti, they prefer a thicker, egg-based pasta noodle called tagliatelle because it holds the sauce better.
Tortellini in Brodo
This pasta dish is another must-taste when it comes to Bolognese Food. Bologna is known for tortellini and tortelloni, the small and large versions of a pasta dumpling that’s shaped a bit like a hat. Tortellini, is typically stuffed with seasoned ground meat and is most commonly served in a broth as a soup.
Lasagna Bolognese is layered with a meat-based ragu and is typically served with green noodles. You might see it listed simply as “lasagna” on menus in Bologna.
Passatelli is one pasta you typically won’t find back home. This rustic pasta from the Emilia Romagna region is made with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, eggs bread crumbs, and nutmeg. You can find it in a broth or served with a simple sauce.
Mortadella is a lunch meat made of cured pork and spiced with black pepper, and sometimes pistachios! It’s definitely NOT baloney. It’s typically sliced thin and served with other charcuterie or on a piadina.
Piadina is a rustic Italian flatbread made with flour, lard , and salt. Some piadina can be made with olive oil too. You’ll see piadina sandwiches, and torn piadina served with meats on a charcuterie board. When I stayed in Bologna, I even had Piadina with Nutella for breakfast in the morning. But my favorite was with Mortadella and fig – a perfect sweet and salty combination.
The King of cheeses! Parmigiano Reggiano is a regional cheese you’re probably familiar with. It’s a hard cheese that’s usually grated on pasta, but in Bologna you’ll also find served as bite sized crumbles. Sometimes even with a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar on top.
Happy hour in Italy is known as enjoying an aperitivo. And Aperol Spritz is the most common happy hour cocktail. It’s made with Aperol and Prosecco.
This is not your grandmother’s Lambrusco, trust me. Lambrusco served in the United States has given it a bad rap. But this bubbly red wine is a regional specialty, with the vineyards located just north of Bologna in Reggio-Emilia. Proper Lambrusco is an effervescent red with a jammy flavor. Give it a try!
Just a short drive north of Bologna is the town of Modena, known for making balsamic vinegar, or Balsamico di Modena. This balsamic vinegar is the real deal! Balsamico di Modena is aged in wood barrels called a battery and tastes bitter sweet.
A shakerato is an Italian version of iced coffee and is made by shaking a double shot of espresso with ice and a bit of sugar in a martini shaker. The result is an ice cold, slightly sweet coffee, with a bit of foam or crema on top.
WHERE TO EAT IN BOLOGNA
I’ve spent a couple of summers in Bologna and it now feels like home each time I go. And there are so many good restaurants, it seems there’s always a new one to try! Here’s a list of the best restaurants in Bologna.
Osteria dell’Orsa – This casual osteria is pretty popular and will often have a queue forming outside just before they open. Located by the university, Osteria dell’Orsa is known for traditional Bolognese comfort food like tagliatelle al ragu, tortellini in brodo, and inexpensive (but delicious!) local wine sold by the carafe. Address: Via Mentana, 1, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy | osteriadellorsa.com
Trattoria Ana Maria
Also located near the university, but slightly more upscale and family-style, is Trattoria Ana Maria. This trattoria has been around for over 30 years and the walls have interesting stories to tell as it’s covered in photos and cards from friends, celebrities and politicians. Trattoria Ana Maria is known for traditional Bolognese food. I recommend ordering the lasagna verde, and zuppa inglese for dessert. Address: Via delle Belle Arti, 17/A, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy | trattoriannamaria.com
Osteria dei Grifoni
Tucked away on a quiet street in the middle of a neighborhood, this is the type of place where locals go for weeknight meal. It’s quaint, almost cellar-like, and the other diners might strike up a conversation to ask how you found their neighborhood osteria. The menu is simple, rustic. The pasta – amazing. Wine selection is primarily local. Address: Via de’ Griffoni, 5/2a, 40123 Bologna BO, Italy | osteriadeigrifoni.it
Ristorante Osteria La Traviata
Another local favorite that serves fresh, handmade pasta. Can one really ever eat too pasta in Italy? I don’t think so. This restaurant focuses on incorporating seasonal ingredients into the menu, things like porcini mushrooms or white truffles. The ossobuco is amazing and the desserts are a must. Address: Via Urbana, 5, 40123 Bologna BO, Italy | ristorantelatraviatabologna.it
This restaurant was actually recommended by fellow food travelers Tommy and Meg. Al Sangiovese is located on the outskirts of the historic city center. The menu offers a pretty extensive list of traditional Bolognese food. Try the passatelli, a regional pasta made with bread crumbs, eggs, and grated Pargmigiano Reggiano cheese. Order passatelli in brodo (in broth), or with butter and sage. Address: Vicolo del Falcone, 2, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy | alsangiovese.com
La Bottega di Via Montegrappa 13
This is a great place to go for an aperitivo (kind of like Italian happy hour) and fresh cut local meats and cheeses. Or get a simple glass of wine and plate of handmade pasta. The owner, Elisabetta, also offers pasta making classes by reservation. Address: Via Monte Grappa, 13, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy | facebook.com/BottegaMontegrappa
Pizzeria Due Torri
f you’re in the mood for a quick bite and huge slice of pizza, look no further than Pizzeria Due Torri. Even though near a tourist attraction (the main towers), they serve surprisingly amazing pizza with fresh ingredients and really large slices for about a euro for a single slice. Address: Str. Maggiore, 3, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy | pizzeriaduetorribologna.it
BOLOGNA’S HISTORY WITH GELATO
Are you ready for dessert? I can’t talk about Bologna food without mentioning GELATO! The very first commercial gelato machine was made in Bologna in 1927. And, three of the top seven gelataria’s of Italy are located in Bologna. Many Bolognese even consider Bologna the capitol of gelato. But as you’ll discover when visiting Italy, that title is always up for debate.
One thing is for sure, Bologna has some damn good artisanal gelato. The Bologna Welcome center in Piazza Maggiore offers seasonal gelato tours of the city that I’d definitely recommend. In the meantime, here’s a list of Bologna’s best artisanal gelatarias if you want to explore them on your own.
WHERE TO TASTE THE BEST GELATO IN BOLOGNA
La Sorbetteria Castiglione
A short walk just outside the city center (and underneath one of Bologna’s original city gates) is a local favorite – La Sorbetteria Castiglione. If you go on a weekend, expect there to be a wait. This award-winning gelataria is known for flavors like Dolce EMMA (fresh ricotta and caramelized fig). La Sorbetteria Castiglione also has a few diet-friendly flavors too such as gelato made with organic rice milk and low sugar fruit sorbetto. Address: Via Castiglione, 44 d/e, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy | lasorbetteria.it
Located right in the heart of historic downtown Bologna near Piazza Maggiore, this is the oldest continually running gelataria in Bologna. They offer artisanal flavors like honey and rosemary, or lactose-free buffalo milk. The honey and rosemary gelato was definitely one of my favorites, and I confess, I may have had more than one! Address: Piazza Re Enzo, 1/C, Bologna BO, Italy | latorinese1888.com
Cremeria Santo Stefano
One of the best gelataria’s in Bologna, Cremeria Santo Stefano was awarded the coveted “Tre Coni” or “Three Cones” award from the Italian culinary guide, Gambero Rosso. It’s a little bit of a walk, but definitely worth it! My favorite fwas the Cremea Quick walk near the 7 churches.
Tucked away behind Basilica di San Petronio near the luxury mall, Galleria Cavour, is another local favorite — Cremeria Cavour. There always seems to be a line here, but the wait is worth it. Grab a piccolo cone of your favorite flavor and sit in the small park across the street and talk to the locals there. Address: Piazza Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy | cremeriacavour.it
If you plan on making the pilgrimage up the 3.8 kilometers climb to the Sanctuary of San Luca, plan to make a stop at this gelataria which is located right near the start of the famous hill-ascending Portico di San Luca. Known for their vegan line of handmade gelato flavors, my favorite here was their seasonal bright and floral lavender gelato and the Crema Bolognese. Address: Via Saragozza, 65, 40123 Bologna BO, Italy | gelateriaislanda.it
BOLOGNA’S FOOD MARKETS
When visiting Bologna, one of the top food cities in the world, you simply must walk through some of the markets. I have them listed in order here in order from oldest to newest.
The Quadrilatero covers and entire city block (from Via Farini, to Via Castiglione, to Via Rizzoli, to Piazza Maggiore) where in mideval times all the butchers, fisherman bakeries, and produce stands were located. Today, you’ll find most of the action along Via Pescherie Vecchie amid the same historic architecture which makes it feel like a step back in time. Arrive early before the crowds, grab a cornetto at Caffè del Mercato, and take stroll through the market stalls and shops.
Mercato di Mezzo
Right inside the Quadrilatero and accessible from Via Pescherie Vecchie mentioned above, is Bologna’s very first indoor market – Mercato de Mezzo. It includes three floors packed with food stalls, including a brewery! Take a walk through and look at everything before deciding on what to eat. I suggest sharing a few plates with friends to try a variety of different traditional Italian dishes. | BolognaWelcome.com
Mercato Delle Erbe
This indoor market historically only used to sell vegetables, but now offers meats, cheeses, olives and a food court too. When the weather is nice, you’ll also find tables set up outside in the small courtyard behind the market. While you’re here, be sure to also check out the famous pasta shop, Le Sfogline. | mercatodelleerbe.eu
FICO Eataly World
FICO is brand new, modern, and is one of the largest food halls in the world. I’d consider it sort of an Italian food playground or museum, featuring artisinal foods from every region in Italy. Located just a short drive outside of Bologna’s city center and is easily accessible by taxi or by bus. Check out our complete guide to FICO Eataly World to find out more.
PASTA MAKING AND BOLOGNESE COOKING CLASSES
If you feel inspired by all the delicious food in Bologna and want to learn how to make fresh handmade pasta or gelato, here’s where you can take a cooking class during your visit.
Sisters Monica and Daniella are legendary for their homemade pasta and have been getting media attention around the world, including a recent feature in the Netflix series, Ugly Delicious. I had the opportunity to take a pasta making class with Monica one summer and it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in a kitchen. Le Sfogline (which, incidentally, is the name given to those who prepare handmade pasta) offer pasta lessons in summer. Definitely call in advance to book. | lesfogline.it
If there is anything in Italian cooking you want to learn, you can learn how to do it at FICO. From pasta, gelato, chocolate, cheese, and bakery treats, they have on average 25 different classes offered throughout the week. Be sure to check FICO’s educational calendar and book in advance. | eatalyworld.it
La Bottega Di Via Montegrappa
La Bottega offers pasta making classes in the quaintest of shops. It’s also a great place for an apperativo and fresh cut meats and cheeses. Call ahead to book or contact them on their La Bottega Facebook page.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN BOLOGNA (BESIDES FOOD)
Since there’s so much delicious food in Bologna, here are a few ways you can work up an appetite in-between meals. These are our favorite places to visit in the city.
The Two Towers
During Medieval times, Bologna was a city of stone skyscrapers. Over 100 towers made up the skyline! And modern day historians speculate they were built by rich families wanting a higher view than their neighbor.
Only a couple of towers are still standing today. The two most famous of those, Garisenda and Asinelli, are the symbol of Bologna. You can climb up to the top of Asinelli for a great view of the city. And the 498 steps is a great way to burn off all the hearty pasta you’ll be consuming. You can purchase tickets to climb the tower at the Bologna Welcome Center in Piazza Maggiore. | duetorribologna.com
Sanctuary de San Luca
Religious devotees (as well as fitness aficionados) climb the 3.8 km under 666 portico arches — the longest stretch of porticoes in the world — up to Basilica San Luca. Some say the number of arches and the way the path winds up the hill like a snake represents the Madonna overcoming the devil.
Whether you go for religion, fitness, or just as a tourist, it’s a pilgrimage worth the view. Once you arrive at Sanctuary de San Luca, you can climb up to the attic for more panoramic view of historic Bologna. And if walking up is not your thing, take a taxi or ride the San Luca Express train. | sanlucabo.org
Archiginnasio of Bologna
Originally a part of the University of Bologna, the Archignnasio of Bologna is fascinating to walk through. It houses the Archiginnasio Municipal Library and as well as the Anatomical Theatre. The library is stunning and houses antique and rare books, and the theatre was built in 1636 to teach anatomy lectures for the growing field of medicine in the fifteenth century. | archiginnasio.it
Of course, because it’s Italy, there are grand churches with breathtaking architecture to visit. The biggest, Basilica di San Petronio, sits right along Piazza Maggiore and offers guided tours. What I found most fascinating about Basilica di San Petronio is that there is a meridian line that measures the day of the year. And it is one of the largest astronomical instruments in the world. Giovani Cassini installed the meridian line in 1655 while he was teaching astronomy at the university.
There’s also Cattedrale Metropolitana di San Pietro which will occasionally open its bell tower for visitors to climb; and the Basilica of Santo Stefano, also known as the Seven Churches.
WHERE TO STAY – BOLOGNA HOTELS
Hotel Corona D’oro — For a small, luxury, boutique hotel stay in the city center, but on a quiet street, I recommend Hotel Cornoa D’oro. It is located right next to the famous Caffe Terzi, a perfect place for your morning coffee. Address: | hco.it
Grand Hotel Majestic Gia Baglioni — When it comes to location, you really can’t get any closer to the center of town than being on Via dell’Indipendenza . This is a bigger hotel on a main street in the city center and walking distance to just about everything you’d want to see and do. Address: Via dell’Indipendenza, 8, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy | grandhotelmajestic.duetorrihotels.com
Halldis — Live like a local and stay in an apartment in the center of town with Halldis. The best part about and apartment stay is that you can cook up some of your delicious market finds in the kitchen. Hallids has different sized apartments available, from studios to thee and four bedrooms. | Halldis.com
HOW TO GET TO BOLOGNA
Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport – BLQ is an international airport close to the city of Bologna. However, flying from the United States you will likely have a connection in Rome or Milan, in which case you would also have the option to take the train into Bologna from either of those two cities.
Train from Milan – Taking the traain from Milan Airport to Bologna is quite easy and cost effective. There is a small train that shuttles between the airport and Milian Central Station, Malpensa Express. It runs about every half hour and you can purchase your tickets right there at the airport. From Milan Central, FrecciaRossa 1OOO is a high speed train that will take you all the way to Bologna Central. One thing I have to mention about Italy’s train stations, they’ve changed a lot since the first time I visited! They make it very easy for tourists to navigate as most stations now have signage and announcements in both English and Italian. It’s a fun way to travel. | trenitalia.com
TAKING A TAXI
American ride-share companies don’t operate in Bologna (yet). But there is a local taxi app you can download and it is just as easy to use. Download the app called “TaxiClick easy.” We used it to easily order an early morning ride to the AirPort and the experience was seamless.