Leaving Venice behind, we ventured south on the Autostrade towards Bologna, our third waypoint on our foodie road trip. A few drops of rain punctuated our journey south through Emelia-Romagna. Our route took us through the rich farmland and green spaces of the Po Valley. 

Bologna is known by three nicknames: La Grassa, la Dotta, and la Rossa. Each refers to a unique characteristic of the city based on its gastronomy, its economy and its architectural heritage.

Bologna La Grassa

Bologna La Grassa or the Fat One, refers to the excellent cuisine that is found in the region. A Foodie paradise, Bologna is best known for its salumi or cold cuts. In particular, Mortadella, a ham known as Bologna throughout the world. But the local version has little in common with the Baloney sold at the meat counter in groceries stores in North America. It is refined and delicious.

It is also home to some signature pasta dishes including Tortellini Bolognesi, Lasagna Verdi alla Bolognese, Passatelli, Gramigna, Tortellini in brodo, and of course Tagliatelle alla Bolognese more appropriately referred to as Tagliatelle al Ragù.

At the heart of the Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna is also a hub for such delicacies as Parmigiano Reggiano, Aceto Balsamico di Modena and of course the exquisite Prosciutto di Parma. Local shops like the famous Salumeria Simoni Laboratorio (one of three locations in Bolgna) offer an impressive selection of these and other local delicacies. 

Salumeria Simoni Laboratorio is located on Via Pescherie Vecchie, a narrow alley in the Centro Storico of Bologna. A series of high tables provide seating for avid foodies who wish to sample their wares. We chose the Royal platter, a mountain of cold cuts accompanied with local cheeses and a splash of balsamic reduction. Served with a basket of homemade, bread it was simply delicious!

Bologna La Dotta

La Dotta or The Learned One, comes from the presence of its many colleges and universities. There are literally students everywhere throughout the city, which livens up its various neighborhoods with youthful energy.

The Centro Storico centers around Piazza Maggiore, a vast central square dominated by the Basilica dei Notai. It is flanked on the eastern side by the beautiful portici of the Palazzo dei Banchi. While we were there, one of the universities or colleges was hosting an outdoor event with live music and conferences from the main stage and a series of kiosks presenting what appeared to be a book fair. The presence of three universities offering a total of 31 programs has an unmistakable influence on the city.

Bologna La Rossa

As for La Rossa or The Red One, it comes from the red tones of the cities clay tile rooftops which are set ablaze at sunset. The architecture of the city features a network of portici – porticoes or arcades – measuring 62 km long. 

The portici of Bologna are a UNESCO “world heritage site”. Local restaurateurs use these covered outdoor space to add extra tables to their establishment, a sign that is also common in other cities throughout Italy, including Genova.

While in Bologna, the Museum of Architecture was featuring a photo exhibit in the interior courtyard surrounded with porticoes. These were ornately decorated with a variety of medieval frescos

Our accommodations in Bologna

A quick cab ride took us back to our hotel for a good night’s sleep. Again, we selected a Marriott managed AC Hotel. Located in the San Donato neighborhood, well outside the historical centre, it allowed us easy access from the Autostrade.

But, as in Brescia, the surroundings were nothing to write home about. A poorly maintained park borderes on the hotel. Steps away, abandoned buildings stood as a reminder that the city has seen better days. Though there were no obvious threats, we were happy to have parked in the underground garage.

The hotel was clean and well organized. It was a convenient and affordable choice. The next morning, the breakfast buffet (15€) was generous and delicious. Presenting a good selection of baked goods, salumi, fruit and eggs, it was a great start to another splendid day in Italy. By mid-day, we were off to our next destination: Siena.