Weekend Escape: Bologna

Fall is the perfect season to visit Bologna as the cooler weather makes it more socially acceptable (and pleasant) to eat countless bowls of steaming hot tortellini with broth. The temperature is also warm enough that you can enjoy walking around the winding streets and up the surrounding hills without having to wear numerous layers. Here is what to eat, see and do in Bologna for a couple of days. 

Day 1

We immediately decided to walk through the town to make our way from the train station to the hotel we were staying at, and soon began marvelling at the wonderful series of portici that are so characteristic of Bologna. We also discovered our favorite pastificio, where we subsequently bought hoards of fresh pasta to take home with us on our departure. After having dropped our bags we walked towards Piazza Maggiore and the adjacent quadrilatero neighbourhood where we began our full gastronomic immersion. 

At 5 pm on a Friday night the tiny streets were bursting with energy, people and food. It was fascinating to walk and observe all the different shops, filled to the brim with everything from parmigiano to fresh vegetables and all the pasta utensils you could ever dream of. After an hour of window shopping we decided to do something about our raging appetites and headed to Tamburini, a historic gastronomia and salsamenteria for a glass of wine and plate of mortadella, one of Bologna’s most celebrated products. 

Most traditional and historic trattorie are outside the centre, where most Bolognesi live, but we decided to go to places that were walking distance to not move our strategically parked car. Our first dinner was at Bologna’s most famous trattoria, Osteria Bottega, where I ate the most delicious plate of tortellini in brodo ever. Both the pasta and its filling were expertly made as well as the broth, which was fat and flavourful, perfect for a chilly night. 

Day 2

Taking advantage of the fact that Saturday was warm and sunny we made our way out of the centre and up the hills with Parco di Villa Ghigi as our final destination. A beautiful public park with lots of benches where to enjoy the great view of Bologna, and an excellent getaway from the bustling city. 

Once back in Bologna we headed to dal Biassanot for a great dish of fresh tagliatelle and ragù bolognese, which is slightly different from the “national” one as it has much less tomato sauce. 

In the afternoon we wandered around the historic centre, stopping to marvel at the beautiful scalinata del Pincio, a staircase leading up to a quiet and well-kept park. Following which we made our way to the Biblioteca Comunale which is one of the oldest universities in the world and home to a breathtaking anatomical theatre, built in 1637 for the purpose of teaching the workings of the human body. 

Behind the famous towers is the authentic and wonderfully rugged former Jewish ghetto, dotted ​with cool bars and restaurants. Camera a Sud has a wonderful selection of natural wines and lots of books to flick through as you enjoy your aperitivo. 

For our final dinner in Bologna we headed to Trattoria Gianni where we shared a plate of local salumi, a highlight being the ciccioli in cured meat version. I was tempted to have tortellini in brodo again but ended up trying the passatelli in brodo, which I had been curious to try for a while, they were wonderful and equally heartwarming as the tortellini. 

Day 3

Our last morning in Bologna was entirely dedicated to climbing 86 floors to the top of the Torre Asinelli  which provided a wonderful view of the city and surrounding hilltops. Seeing as all the steps made us burn tons of calories, we then headed to 051 for a basket of tigelle filled with mortadella and squacquerone cheese, and a traditional piadina. A great way to end the weekend!

Where to eat, sleep & shop 

Art Hotel Novecento – a quaint, modern and central hotel with all the comforts needed for a short stay, with parking close by. 

The wonderful pastificio – the best pasta you could buy in Bologna. We bought everything from tortellini to cappellacci filled with pumpkin, tagliatelle and graminia to take back home with us. 

Tamburini – a traditional bar where one can enjoy an aperitivo accompanied by a dish of local mortadella, close to the centre. 

All’Osteria Bottega – my favorite restaurant in Bologna, where one can enjoy delicious dishes of local cheeses followed by piping hot tortellini in brodo.

Trattoria dal Biassanot – quaint and rustic trattoria close to the popular tourist attraction: finestrella, a small window which overlooks the remains of a Medieval canal system. I recommend ordering a large dish of their steaming tagliatelle al ragu bolognese. 

Camera a Sud – enoteca filled with students serving natural wines, just a few steps away from Bologna’s towers. A great place to immerse oneself in local culture. 

Trattoria Gianni – a rustic, traditionl and family run trattoria which serves excellent antipasti of cold cuts and cheeses from Emilia Romagna as well as traditional primi

051 Tigelle e Vino – perfect for a quick lunch in Bologna’s centre. They offer a vast array of fillings for tigelle and piadine, I recommend trying the traditional prosciutto and squacquerone tigella.