After our wonderful time in Venice, I didn't have too high of expectations going into Bologna. I had never been there before, and I thought it was going to be more of a stop-over/place to sleep on our way home from Venice. My guide book on Italy had only one page on Bologna, without many major highlights and I had heard that there is not much to do there with the exception of eating. I was pleasantly surprised at all that Bologna had to offer. The food was definitely the highlight of the stop for me, but there were many things that I loved about Bologna.
I was excited to get some great food and I was not disappointed! Bologna is located in the region of Emilia Romagna, which is considered the food capital of Italy. It is the home of fresh egg pasta specialties like lasagne, tortellini, tagliatelle, and cappelletti, just to name a few. Bolognese sauce comes from here and prosciutto di Parma along with Parmigiano Reggiano are made just up the road in Parma. Bologna also has its own charcuterie specialties including mortadella.
Our Bolognese culinary adventure started late Sunday night. After we arrived from Venice, we decided to look around for somewhere for dinner. We walked up a main street near our hotel for a little bit, but decided to return to the small, cozy looking restaurant that was next to our hotel. We walked in and saw old wood paneling on the walls and families eating pizza; it was a very relaxed atmosphere. Little did we know that we were about to have one of the best meals of our life. We started off with a liter of the house red wine, a plate of mixed charcuterie including, proscuitto, salumi, mortadella, and braesola, and bruschetta with tomatoes. It was very simple, but excellent. Next up was the pasta course. Oh, the pasta course. This is usually the high point in any meal in Italy and this was no exception. I had tortellini (probably made by hand) with Bolognese sauce which was everything that a pasta should be. Maybe even better than my tortellini was my mom's tortelloni (big tortellini) with a cream sauce and prosciutto. We were happy after the pasta, but we had already ordered a second course, so then we ate scallopini, prepared 3 different ways. One with mushrooms, one with asparagus, and one with lemon and wine sauce. After this amazing meal so far, how could we say no to dessert? We finished the meal with two different mascarpone mousses, one with berries, and one with chocolate. This meal might not sound like anything fancy or incredible, but that is the thing that I love about Italian cuisine. They make really great food that doesn't have to be fancy to taste good. And boy, does it taste good.
The next day, we woke up ready to experience the city of Bologna. It was a beautiful day, and we set off on foot to explore. The first thing that we noticed about the city is that almost every sidewalk has a covered portico. In the historic center of Bologna, there are over 38 kilometers of porticos!
Another thing to notice in Bologna is the towers. At one point there were close to 200 medieval towers in the city. Today, there are much less, but they still are a highly studied point of the city. Two of the most famous are situated near the center of the city and are called le due torre (the two towers). The taller of the two is open for climbing. After 497 steps (I counted!), we made it to the top to discover a beautiful view of the city below us.
After our climb, we were hungry for lunch, so we headed over to Tambourini, a market that specializes in Bolognese specialties. There we purchased an assortment of salumi, cheese, and bread for a picnic lunch in Piazza Maggiore, facing the half finished facade of the cathedral. It was another great and memorable meal in Bologna.
After our lunch, we headed inside to check out the cathedral before heading home to Siena. Bologna was a great stop as part of our trip home from Venice. I would love to spend more time there, walking along the porticoes, checking out markets, sitting in the piazza, and finding great meals in cozy restaurants. To see more pictures from Bologna, check out my web album here http://picasaweb.google.com/recarlisle/Bologna#.