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Many people book their first flight to Italy and only consider Rome, Florence and Venice. But if you love food you cannot miss Bologna, after all its nickname is “The Fat One” who wants to miss out on a town of delicious pork fat?
ALSO READ: 7 Restaurants in Rome You Don’t Want to Miss
Located in Emilia Romagna, Bologna is also home to the oldest university in Italy and all of Europe. It’s just 40 minutes by train from Florence and just as beautiful. And as it’s lesser known by tourists and home to many students, it’s also a very affordable city to visit.
Here are some of the best places to eat in Bologna:
Mercato delle Erbe
Like all of Italy there are so many markets to visit in Bologna, but Mercato delle Erbe is just a bit different. Translated as “the herb market” it has existed for hundreds of years and during the day it is a thriving market where locals shop daily for regional food.
But the market has gone under transformation in recent years to include a food hall with restaurants, bars and deli shops. The market changes in the evening, as locals stop in around six or later for an aperitivo. Think of it as an amazing ancient food court with Italian wine, all for a local price
Mercato delle Erbe
Via Ugo Bassi, 25, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy
Owned by the local Carati family it was once a simple bakery but has been a restaurant since 1980. Caminetto d’Oro has been a theatre district institution and is best enjoyed by groups as it offers the possibility of eating antipasti, pasta and its many desserts family style. You’ll want a taste of everything.
Everything from the bread to the pasta is made in house by family. Popular dishes include tagliatelle al ragu as well as steak from local cattle
Via de Falegnami, 4, 40121 Bologna
Trattoria Anna Maria
Love pasta? You cannot pass up a visit to this homey trattoria. While it’s modestly decorated with amusing signed photos of Italian celebrities like Sophia Loren, locals come here for the food.
Located in the historic neighbourhood in Bologna, this is an old school Italian restaurant featuring rural cuisine that most travellers long for. Anna Maria, doesn’t cook here anymore but she’s always in the restaurant overseeing her legacy and it’s quite possible she’ll stop by your table to ensure everything is to your liking.
Popular dishes include Bologna’s famous tortellini in brodo and tagliatelle al ragu, or as westerners know it, pasta with bolognese sauce. Just don’t call it that in Bologna as they don’t know what you mean.
If you’re only going to eat it once this is the spot as it cooks for 8 hours to meet Anna Maria’s satisfaction. And the pasta is considered one of the best in Bologna.
Trattoria Anna Maria
17 Via delle Belle Arte, Bologna
Bologna is full of restaurants that have been around for generations and Trattoria Leonida is no different. It opened in Bologna in 1938 and has been a favourite of locals for nearly a century.
Located in central Bologna it focuses on traditional Bolognese recipes, it’s no surprise the Leonida is known for its pasta. But the restaurant adds a twist as it’s known for regional game and stewed and boiled meats. So not only is that delicious tagliatelle featuring handmade paste but also local pheasant.
The menu is very large by Italian standards and there are plenty of options, even for those shy of game meats.
Vicolo Alemagna, 2, 40125 Bologna
A Pasta Cooking Class
It’s one thing to eat in amazing restaurants in Bologna, but it’s very another to learn how to cook like the Bolognese and it may be the best souvenir to take home.
Many operators like Taste Bologna offer the opportunity to take cooking classes with a professional. Pasta seems intimidating but in a small class environment you can learn how to mix dough, roll pasta and make your own delicate tortellini. Even if you don’t make pasta again at home you leave with an appreciation of what it takes to make hand rolled pasta.
The best part is when it’s done you enjoy the fruits of your labour with local wine!
Cover photo credits: Ayngelina Brogan