A Local Guide to Bologna: From Breathtaking Pasta to Craft Cocktails | Bologna Holidays
Kevin Raub is an American travel journalist based in Bologna. He is co-author of over 100 Lonely Planet guides.
Bologna is the capital of Italy’s most important food region, Emilia-Romagna, a historic territory whose cuisines have given rise to a long list of world-famous specialties. lasagna, stew, tortellini, mortadella, parmesan and balsamic vinegar come from here.
At Pasta Fresca Naldi, a small shop/café west of the historic center, pastaphiles line up for hand-rolled specialties from owner Valeria and her team of no (grandmothers). Proposals that change every day (from around €7) such as tagliatelle with ragout or prosciutto and lemon; tortellini pasticcio (baked with pork and cream); and gramigna alla salsiccia (curly pasta with sausage) will knock your socks off. With only six stools inside, most people opt for a take-out package.
For a seated experience, Trattoria Bertozzi regularly tops Bologna’s long list of excellent traditional restaurants. It’s almost a mile from the center, far enough to maintain its authentic ethos, with local dishes such as gramigna with cured pork, zucchini, saffron and parmesan shavings.
For five decades, until his death in 2012, Lucio Dalla was Italy’s most revered singer-songwriter. In 2019, his fascinating home inside the 15th century Palazzo Casa Fontana poi Gamberini was opened to the public. Casa di Lucio Dalla (€15 per person) is a wild ride through the eccentric mind of a musical genius, complete with a mind-blowing medley of provocative bric-a-brac, personal artifacts and works by precious arts.
Bolognina (“Little Bologna”) sits behind the main train station and is a hub of working-class life. Bolognina is pretty short on attractions – they include a (free) museum about the mysterious 1980 Ustica plane crash and the 19th-century Church of the Sacred Heart with its huge dome – but it’s got plenty of personality . It’s an up-and-coming multicultural neighborhood with markets, ethnic restaurants and countless accents. Gentrification hasn’t quite proven itself here, but streets such as Via Luigi Serra (home to fantastic, fantastic value, Trattoria di Via Serra; hip bar/café Fermento; artisan bakery Forno Brisa and organic gelateria Stefino) give a sense of Bolognina’s travel direction and reward those who venture out of the center.
No park in Bologna satisfies the cravings for green spaces like Giardini Margherita, a 26-hectare expanse inaugurated in 1879 and inspired by English landscape gardens. The city’s former municipal greenhouses have been transformed into one of Bologna’s coolest spots, home to Vetro (for drinks and vegan bites) and Le Serre (with coworking spaces, exhibitions and cultural events ). Whether it’s happy hour or an hour or two of outdoor work, it’s easy to laze around on an afternoon here.
Via del Pratello is Bologna’s famous nightlife street, but for a little more character with your cocktails, set up a date with Davo, Don, Jack and Ricky at Ruggine on Vicolo Alemagna. Four friends from different corners of northern Italy opened this cocktail bar in a narrow, bright orange alley 450 meters from Piazza Maggiore. You won’t find Campari, Aperol or fancy toppings here, but local artisanal mixology.
To tap into Italy’s excellent craft beer scene, head a little west to Il Punto, which has a range of beers on tap (including a hand pump), with a focus on local beers. handmade birra. Fans of sours and wild ales should try a drink at Ca’ del Brado, a premier craft brewery a few miles south of downtown.
Near the old town, art historian Maria Ketty runs the charming Bologna nel Cuore, a B&B consisting of two double apartments and two one-bedroom apartments, offering bright interiors, high ceilings, baths with colorful tiles and very hearty breakfasts. Double from 125€, bolognanelcuore.it