Ah, Bologna… the food capital of Italy! Located about 50 miles north of Florence, Bologna is a wonderful alternative to the more crowded and touristy cities of Italy. It doesn’t have the art museums of Florence, the canals of Venice, or the ancient monuments of Rome, but it does have some stunning architecture and food. The city is famous for its cuisine and is known as the culinary capital of Italy. In fact, Italians refer to Bologna by three names: La Dotta, La Rossa, and La Grassa; the educated, the red, and the fat. “Educated” refers to the city’s university which is the oldest university in Europe (since 1088). “Red” refers to the red bricks that most of Bologna’s buildings are made from, and because of its leftist political views. “Fat” refers to Bologna’s culinary history, making it the food capital of Italy, which held up to its name.
We were excited to taste Bologna’s delicious food and explore a new part of the country. We were also excited to meet up with good friends, Sera and Martin. After a lunch filled with glorious truffles and ravioli, we wandered the streets of the city center of Bologna. We took in sights like the Asinelli Tower, Piazza Maggiore, and the Neptune Fountain, as well as indulging in the wine and food from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy.
Reggio Emilia Tour
During our second day in Bologna we went on a private food and wine tour of the region. After our guide arrived early in the morning, we went to a Parmesan cheese factory in the Reggio Emilia region. Here, we watched the daily process of making Parmesan cheese straight from the cows, along with a taste of the final product at the end (aged 15 months). Yum!
Next we went to the home of a traditional balsamic vinegar producer in the area. Traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is made only from the Emilia Romagna region, is aged at least 12 years, and is different from the balsamic vinegar of Modena label that we often see. The two are distinct products in their manufacturing, composition, and price. After a tour of the facilities and an explanation of the process we tasted six different traditional balsamic vinegars. We could definitely tell the difference between the traditional and the other balsamic vinegars. They were thicker, creamier, richer, and much more expensive!
An Afternoon at a Winery
The final stop was our wine tasting at a vineyard in the region. The owner (whose real name we never found out, only that he wanted us to call him Jim because his favorite singer is Jim Morrison) showed us the vineyards. We tasted 8 (or 9?) wines and he did not skimp! He poured the wine so high in the glasses that it became more of a wine party than a tasting. It was fun and we don’t remember leaving the winery!
After a little rest and recovery back at the hotel, we ventured out to a local restaurant in Bologna. This trattoria uses only local products and cooks traditional cuisine from the region such as spaghetti bolognese, tortellini al brodo (tortellini in a broth sauce), and lasagna. Dishes in Bologna are less about olive oil and tomatoes and more about butter and cream sauces. The addition of truffles, chestnuts, mushrooms, and a variety of meats, makes for a perfect cold winter night in December. Simply delicious!
Jon and I definitely could have used another day in Bologna and we would love to go back again. We took advantage of the fantastic food opportunities in the region while being able to enjoy the city itself. The people are so friendly, they seem to enjoy life, and are respectful of things and people around them. The weather is great, and the food is fabulous. It’s one of those cities that we could see ourselves living in or around and it got us thinking yet again… can we please live here?