When people travel to Italy, most flock to the well-known cities of Venice, Rome and Florence. But when I was looking for an authentic cuisine experience where I could spend most of my time just eating (which is kind of everywhere in Italy?), Bologna became my city of choice.
Unlike Venice, Rome, and Florence, Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, which makes it (arguably) the food center of Italia. The Emilia-Romagna region is a haven for famous Italian specialties like Proscuitto De Parma and Parmgiano cheese. Here are the 5 things that you need to try while in Bologna.
- Bolognese is usually slowly cooked to make a complex, tomatoey, meat sauce. It’s traditionally eaten with Tagliatelle (a flat and long pasta), because it wraps all the tasty ragu around it to make the perfect bite.
- Fat Cat Tip: It’s hard to say which place has the best Bolognese in Bologna. Every restaurant and family has their own special recipe, so you can’t really go wrong. Though, my personal favorite plate of Tagliatelle alla bolognese was at a small place called Caminetto D’Oro.
- This type of pasta is very typical of the region. Legend has it that it’s shaped after the navel of a beautiful woman. Its popularity makes its way into dishes around the city.
- Fat Cat Tip: Visit Paolo Atti & Figli for some fresh pasta, including Tortellini, and feast your eyes on the other local specialities. It’s usually stuffed with cheese or meat and served in a warm, tasty meat broth. Need I say more?
3. Prosciutto di Parma
- Produced in the Emilia-Romagna region, Prosciutto di Parma is one of the best cured meats in Bologna. The best way to enjoy it is alongside a few other amazing cuts of cured meats, like Mortadella. They’re both high quality meats, so make sure to go to Salumeria Simoni in the city center for a taste and a glass of red wine.
4. Parmigiano Reggiano
- I went on an amazing food tour with Italian Days, which I would highly recommend doing while in Bologna because I learned so much about the importance of using the best quality cheese when cooking, specifically the use of Parmigiano Reggiano. It makes all the difference in the final outcome of a dish.
- Fat Cat Tip: Alessandro, our very passionate tour guide, taught us how to tell if you are buying real Parmigiano. First-grade Parmigiano should have “Parmgiano Reggiano” written on the side of the wheel. If it has dotted scores going horizontally on the wheel, then it is second-grade. Both are fantastic to try, but there is a notable difference between the two.
5. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
- Nicknamed “Black Gold,” the balsamic vinegar of Modena is worth savoring and stocking up on. I visited a family-owned farmhouse that produces the finest balsamic vinegar in Modena. The liquid is aged for a minimum of 12 years in barrels, similar to the barrels used in the wine-making process.
- Fat Cat Tip: I have a bottle that I’ve been slowly picking away at in my fridge. It’s good on top of gelato, fresh ricotta, or sampling by itself. (I could eat it by the spoonful!)
Quality is of the utmost importance when it comes to the food of Bologna. The people take great pride in their heritage and recipes of tradition. After getting to know a few locals and spending some time in the city, I left a part of my heart there, and understandably so.
The city’s warm ambiance comes from the sun reflecting off of the orange buildings that helps create the most welcoming atmosphere – perfect for walking around and falling in love with.