WHAT \\ Three spectacular Italian meals consumed in the omivores epi center of Italy, set to the back drop of some incredible architecture, art and history. The miles of porticoes alone are worth a visit, they are stunning with varying construction and ornamentation, it is also here under the arches that you will discover some of the best places in the city to eat, drink and shop.
WHERE \\ Bologna is the heart beat of Italian Food, call it the capital of food if you will – hey they don’t give the city it’s nickname of “La Grassa” [meaning “the fat one”] for nothing.
WHO \\ An Englishman, an American, and an Australian walk into Bologna. Three old friends that have traveled extensively very well together, and hope to continue to do so for a very long time. As they finish up one trip, before they go their separate ways the determine where they will meet next.
WHEN \\ May, when the sun is shining, the rains are few and far between and the tourists are still planning their summer vacations.
WHY \\ Bologna is a much talked about Italian food city – so lets hit the town that brought us things like Bolognese + Mortadella + Tortellini. You know it’s got to be delicious.
Bologna’s city center is a maze of narrow cobble stoned streets, they are frequently only one-way, and they are organized in a very random pattern. It is best to leave the car and take to the streets on foot. This way you can leave your road rage behind, and peacefully stroll along the many  miles of porticoes whilst mingling with the locals
11:30AM || Arrive Bologna After cursing and swearing at the maddening GPS instructions and the back-seat drivers, park the car in a secure lot [don’t lose your ticket] and head to your hotel. You won’t be needing your car for the rest of your stay. Check into your hotel, and hit the streets on foot – it’s time to find somewhere to eat.
1:00PM || Lunch – Zerocinquantuno Head into the store to order your selection of antipasto: meats; and tigelle [local bread]; and other small dishes of roasted vegetables, olives etc. Once you have placed your order, step outside and relax at the high-top tables with your vino. It attracts a hip younger crowd, and the service is a little casual, but the food is fantastic. It comes promptly to the table and a great introduction to this ‘food heaven’ of a city. Make sure you try the speciality of the area ‘Mortadella’.
And there is the alternate if you want to sit and be a little more pampered amongst the well dressed office crowd. You can always hit up the little Bistro Rosa Rose. We found the strawberry risotto to be a curious item, we ordered and and were delighted by the peppery flavor combinations.
Time for a wander around the food stalls in the Piazza Maggiore and have a caffiene fix in preparation for an epic evening of dining. Pop into any cafe that looks charming – you really can’t go wrong. Seriously just get lost admiring all the food stalls ranging from fish mongers, to cheese stalls, to fruit and vegetable purveyors.You will find them grouped together by type, and located various areas all close by to one another, just follow your nose and eyes to the feast.
OK maybe a little shopping get’s thrown in there too .. .
The selection of restaurants is vast, and everyone has a favorite to recommend. We didn’t find it hard making reservations, but we were not visiting during peak season. Regardless, make sure that every evening start with cocktails or ‘aperitifs’ before hitting up dinner. Just know that sometimes the snacks that come with the cocktails can be filling, so pace yourself, or come really hungry.
5:00pm || Appertif Hour There are so many choices here to enjoy. The posh white plate option was a nice respite from all the walking, located on pedestrian mall Cafe Zanarini is superb. Our other choice was more rustic and a great place for people watching La Linea is centrally located and an easy stroll to most restaurants.
8:00pm || Dinner – Tortellini & Bologonse With the fancy white table cloths this place is a little more upscale so wear a jacket, the food is worth the price and the service is not stuffy. We had a lot of fun with our server, and it really made for a special evening. We put ourselves in the hands of the staff and they made all the recommendations, sharing their house specialties and traditional dishes, including what we came to sample the Bolognese and Tortellini. It was a magnificent meal, although the dessert was interesting, colorful and interesting.
Want something a little more casual the atmosphere at Trattoria La Montanara is a great choice, also a popular one, so make a reservation or be prepared to wait a little for a table. They are will known for their version of ‘tortellini en brodo’ so we ordered it, and we were not disappointed. Value for money and a genuine family run little restaurant – it’s worth a visit.
11:00PM || Gelato- Mandatory Stop Cremeria Funivia serves up some of the creamiest ice cream in the world. is at Flavors range from classics like crema (the Italian equivalent of vanilla) to inventive alternatives like toasted pine-nut cream, ricotta and lemon, and the decadent Alice confection—mascarpone ice cream with melted chocolate at the bottom of the cone or cup. If the line is too long head over to Venchi equally as delicious, and been around since 1878.
A slow stroll back through town to the hotel.
It’s time to sleep off this food como ready for another feast early in the AM.
Our last day we had enough time to enjoy some breakfast and take in some sites before we had to leave. You really can squeeze in a good ‘taste’ for Bologna in just three meals, but make sure you get to experience a breakfast.
10:30AM || Breakfast of Champions Remember the location of this place, as you will return several times regardless of what time of day it is. Gamberini is the most delightful pastry shop that you will ever experience. They have been in business since 1907, get there early in the AM to try out their speciality pastry that sells out fast. Everything is truly delicious and has you wanting more.
10:30AM || Walking Tour After a sugar filled breakfast fueled by caffeine time to walk some calories off and get in some culture. Jump online before you arrive and arrange yourself a private tour walking tour to truly understand this city. There are so many stories and surprises in Bologna, a guide is perfect for helping you discover more about this fascinating city and it’s contributions to the world.
Oh and make sure your guide takes you to the Basilica Santo Stefano and surrounding area. It is lovely and peaceful part to the city.
It is a lovely city, and great for 2-3 days of exploring. You just need to arrive hungry, and ready to eat. Surprisingly it is filled with tourists that are mainly from other parts of Italy or Europe, there were very few American’s. It’s a safe city so enjoy wandering around and discovering, however a tour guide can really help to point out the hidden gems behind the porticoes.
Additional Resources \\ Here are some links to help you plan your three meal visit to Bologna:
Travel Tips \\ Navigation is not easy due to the oneway streets and a mad maze of city planning [or lack there of]. So ask your hotel for clear directions if you are driving into town. The parking garages that are associated with the hotels are also very strict about making sure you keep your parking ticket . If you lose it you will pay a penalty and it is hefty.