And so I'm here again to gush about another city I could easily call home... Bologna! And why? The pastry, of course! And the fact that Bologna is a charming, historical food city situated in the middle of a bountiful food region (Emiglia-Romagna) doesn't hurt. Neither does it hurt that an hour's drive out of town can land you in Florence, Modena, Parma, or an hour's train can get you to Verona, Venice, Milan. And can we talk about the shopping: OMG!!
After leaving Chianti, we headed for the town of La Spezia to check out the Cinque Terre for a day, then met friends in Piemonte for a quick wine tour and drive through more vineyeard covered hills. A drive back to La Spezia and a train journey to Bologna meant we were dead tired and a little cranky once we arrived late in the evening. My first and often best solution to crankiness is food, so we headed to the Mercato delle Erbe to try to find some late night goods. One of the only stalls left open was a cool pizza counter with fun toppings.
The next morning, we saw ourselves back at the same market to see it in all its glory. The footprint of the building doesn't seem so big, but they cram beautiful fresh food vendors together to sell to the locals, students and tourists. Since we were staying in an apartment with a small kitchen, and because our tummies were starting to tire for the marathon eating, we bought some greens and lightly sautéed them for a kind of "detox dinner".
Of course, every new city gives me the chance to taste and discover different pastries, but Bologna seemed to be overflowing with grand pasticcerie and gelato shops. One of our favorite activities was just walking along the maze of porticos and ogling at the creative food displays in the windows. Clothing shops of all price ranges abound here too, and we were able to purchase a couple things to get us ready for the imminent colder weather.
Since Bologna is so close to other great cities, we took the opportunity to take a couple day trips. After an afternoon exploring the unbelievable mosaics of Ravenna to the east, we needed a snack before the train ride back.
Another day trip was to Florence. We had both been before but not for many years. A tour of the Galleria della Uffizi took up a big chunk of the day. After a nice walk along the Arno River, we came across this most adorable bakery, S.Forno Panificio. They are an offshoot of a popular restaurant, Il Santo Bevitore, and they make beautiful rustic breads, pizzas, cakes & cookies. They also have some shelves of artisinal jams, sauces and dry goods.
One of our funnest days away was a lunch spent at Osteria di Rubiarra just outside Modena. This quaint tavern is run by the Pedroni family, who produces the most beautiful balsamic vinegar in the traditional style next door in their acetaia. The patriarch, Signore Italo, is clearly not a fan of phones at the table, so guests are commanded to drop theirs at the door in this locker.
While we were in the area, we drove into Modena proper to stroll along the quiet streets. Found some cute clothing shops and a lovely looking pasticceria too.
Back in Bologna, we made a new discovery. The tigella!! This tightly crumbed, English muffin looking, double skillet bread hails from this area and is meant to be eaten with another Emiglia Romagnan foodstuff, meat n' cheese! And guess what... it is literally THE most perfect snack ever invented in the history of snacks. We stopped in at a place called 051, and they serve their whole grain tigelle warm and their meat sliced super thin, with a little bowl of seasoned ricotta. I used that ricotta as my 'mayo' to slather the inside of the bread before loading with a combo of ham, mortadella & salami. Oh My!!
With only about a day left before our next journey, I tried to squeeze in as much pastry as possible.... a very tall order indeed. Even with all the sweet shops we stepped into, there were many more we missed and just didn't have time for. Must make another trip back. And must find a way to live here one day!
When in Bologna:
Mercato Delle Erbe for alimentari, quick bites, or full meals and drinks
Tasta Gelato on Via San Felice 4/E
Felicity Pasticceria also on San Felice
051 Zerocinquantuno off Piazza Maggiore for that meat board and tigelle!
Impero Bar Pasticceria on Via dell'Indipendenza for pastry and coffee