Emiko Davies' guide to Bologna
Just 40 minutes on the train from Florence, Bologna makes for an appealing day trip even just for a casual outing or a meal. These are my top six favourite spots.
By Emiko Davies
Just 40 minutes on the train from Florence makes Bologna an appealing trip even just for a casual outing or a meal for me. I can’t go past good tortellini, so a visit to pick up a beautifully wrapped package of these plump, tiny, artisan made gems to take home is a must and Le Sfogline is the place to go if you want to know anything about tortellini. I also love picking up good ingredients — regional specialties that I can’t find so easily in Tuscany — and Cenerini is one of the most beautiful little shops just for that. Once I’ve filled up my basket, a glass of wine from the Bolognese hills at Favalli, the natural bar opposite, or a gelato from next door’s Cremeria Vecchia Stalla or some other particularly wonderful Bolognese thing like tigelle (small, round flat breads) and a glass of wine at the historic and unique Osteria del Sole is just the thing to get my Bologna fix until the next visit.
A visit to Bologna would not be complete without tortellini, and therefore it would not be complete without a stop at Le Sfogline, a tiny pasta shop run by sisters Monica and Daniela. Their mother opened up the shop 23 years ago when she was 64 years old, right opposite the Mercato delle Erbe. Aside from the most traditional meat-filled tortellini, which comes gift wrapped in the prettiest paper and ribbon, here they also have delightful, larger tortelloni, filled with lemon-spiked ricotta, to be cooked and eaten with melted butter, parmesan and a dusting of cinnamon.
Via Belvedere 7
Tigelle are small, round, flat focaccia-like breads, stuffed with just one or two fillings and eaten warm. They make the perfect aperitivo or snack. Zerocinquanto make tigelle in-house, they're slow risen and it's quite difficult to resist not trying every single filling. The anchovies and squacquerone (a soft cheese) are a must, but also try roast culatello with eggplant pate or pesto montanara, a pesto of pork fat, garlic and rosemary with the addition of shaved parmesan. It goes without saying these absolutely must be washed down with a glass of wine.
Via Pescherie Vecchie 3/e
The tiny pasta shop, Le Sfogline (top) and Tigelle, flat focaccia-like breads made in-house at Zerocinquantino.
A living relic of the historic Quadrilatero neighbourhood of Bologna, this old school osteria has been here since 1465 and what they do best is serve tiny glasses of wine. If you want to nibble on something, it's BYOF – bring your own food. I'd go for thick grissini grossi from the stunning offerings at Paolo Atti down the road, which go perfectly with sliced mortadella or salame rosa (Bologna's historic cooked ham, in mortadella's shadow but no less delicious). You can also order a mix of cured meats or cheese from Bottega Ranocchi, opposite the osteria, and they'll bring it directly in to your table.
Vicolo dei Ranocchi 1/D
This could possibly be the prettiest fruit and vegetable shop you'll ever see, with its Liberty wallpaper decorated with artichokes and its perfectly curated baskets of heirloom produce – renette apples from Imola, barattiere melons from Bari and pumpkins of all shapes and colours. When you've had your fill of mortadella, prosciutto and tortellini, this bottega also has you covered with their salads and minestrone made in house and ready for taking home, along with juices, jams and pickles. Via Santo Stefano 12/A
Osteria del Sole (top) and the perfectly curated baskets of heirloom produce at Cenerini dal 1926.
A natural wine bar featuring handpicked, small, artisan producers, between the twin towers and scenic Piazza delle Sette Chiese. You can pull up a chair under the arches for a glass or a bottle of wine, to have with some prosciutto and cheese (or lasagne!), or you can simply pop in to buy wine to take away with you, perhaps the Pignoletto by Balli Vini from the Bologna Hills.
Via Santo Stefano 5/A
Run by Monica, Andrea and their children, this natural gelatiera has had so much success and popularity that they have opened three shops in the city centre and once you savour their creamy gelati you will understand why. Pure Bronte pistachios. Hazelnuts from Piemonte. Flavours like burnt caramel with amaretti, fior di bufala (buffalo milk gelato) and crema di Sant'Andrea: cookie gelato with flakes of dark chocolate and orange ripple.
Via Santo Stefano 14/A
Words and photography by Emiko Davies.