What to Eat in Bologna: The Best Local Dishes, Restaurants & Food Shops

While I was visiting Bologna, Italy, last fall, I enjoyed some of the best food of my life; from the fresh pasta to the cured meats, it was all magnificent. I’d even go as far as to say Bologna has the best food in Italy and possibly Europe (the world?!). So I wanted to write a Bologna food guide on what to eat in Bologna featuring the best local dishes, as well as my recommendations for the best restaurants, trattorias, and bars Bologna has to offer.

What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide
Fresh pasta at a local pasta shop.

A little background – Bologna is the capital of Emilia-Romagna, a region known as the “breadbasket” of Italy. Emilia-Romagna is where Prosciutto di Parma, mortadella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano all originated, so it’s not surprising Bologna has food so good it will make you sob.

What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide
Drogheria della Rosa, My favorite restaurant in Bologna

What to eat in Bologna: A Guide

Tagliatelle al Ragù alla Bolognese

What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide

Tagliatelle noodles smothered in a rich, meaty Bolognese sauce. Bologna’s most famous pasta dish.

Fun fact – Spaghetti Bolognese doesn’t exist in Italy! Locals say that Bolognese sauce doesn’t go with spaghetti noodles as it would “slip off the noodle”. It’s better to serve bologna sauce with tagliatelle, which is a thicker, more robust noodle.

Tortellini en brodo 

What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide

Stuffed tortellini served in chicken broth. Usually served as a first course. I had this fantastic bowl of tortellini en brodo at Drogheria della Rosa, a charming restaurant housed in a former pharmacy. Definitely order at least two courses, and possibly dessert.

Tortelloni

What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide

Tortelloni – Tortelloni are basically oversized tortellini. These fresh-made tortelloni (which we purchased from a pasta shop in our neighborhood) were stuffed with ricotta and black truffles. Another great place to try tortelloni (and other fresh pasta) is Pasta Fresca Naldi, where you can get gourmet pasta to go.

Lasagne Bolognese

You can’t leave Bologna without trying Lasagne Bolognese. One great place to try it is Bologna has many pasta shops with excellent fresh pasta made in-house. I highly recommend the lasagne from Trattoria Valerio, a cozy, family-run trattoria with homemade pasta and affordable wines.

Cured meats (antipasti)

Bologna is famous for its cured meats (antipasti), such as mortadella, prosciutto, and salame rossa. I recommend Salumeria Simoni -a salumeria with incredible fresh-cut meats and cheeses. Ask the butcher for a selection of meats and cheeses, and definitely taste the mortadella and testa in cassetta (head cheese).

Parmigiano-Reggiano

Parmesan, the ‘King of Cheeses’, is originally from nearby Parma. You’ll see it grated on top of virtually every pasta dish in Bologna.

Balsamic vinegar from Modena

his is not the thin, bitter balsamic vinegar you’ve had back home. Balsamic vinegar from Modena (a neighboring city in Emilia-Romagna) is thick, syrupy, and ambrosial.

Where to enjoy aperitivo in Bologna:

Aperitivo, the Northern Italian version of a pre-meal drink, happens between 7-9 p.m. Here are the best places to enjoy it:

What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide
Having aperitivo on Via Pescherie Vecchie

Via Pescherie Vecchie – Via Pescherie Vecchie is a narrow alley lined with lively bars and restaurants. Head there to enjoy aperitivo, the Northern Italian version of a pre-meal drink, between 7-9 p.m.

What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide
Feasting on antipasti at Osteria del Sole

Osteria del Solea charming, hole-in-the-wall bar that dates back to the 14th century. The best part is you can bring your own food, as long as you buy drinks at the bar. We brought cured meats and cheeses to enjoy with our vino, making for an inexpensive and tasty dinner. I recommend trying the Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine native to Emiglia-Romagna.

P.S. Head to nearby Salumeria Simoni, a cured meat and cheese shop, to pick up some delectable cured meats.

Where to take a cooking class in Bologna

What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide

One great way to learn more about Italian food is by taking a cooking class. I loved my pasta-making class with Le Cesarine, a cooking school that specializes in Italian home cooking across Italy.

Under the tutelage of a Bolognian nonna, I learned how to make tortelloni. It took a ton of work (and arm muscle) but turned out amazing (due to my instructor, not me). Book your own cooking class at Le Cesarine here.

What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide

Another way to learn about Bolognese food is by taking a food tour with a local guide. I’ve heard great things about the Taste Bologna Food Tour.

Fun Things to Do in Bologna

Bologna doesn’t have a ton of famous sites (or tourists, thankfully), so you’re free to spend your time strolling the historic, un-crowded city. Here are a few ideas on things to do.

Walk the portici – Bologna is famous for its beautiful portici, or covered walkways. You’ll find them all over the city.

What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide

Visit Piazza Maggiore – Bologna’s main square and heart of the city. It’s especially stunning at night.

What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide

Climb Le Due Torri – Le Due Torri are Bologna’s two famous towers that date back to the 11th century. You can climb one of the towers, the Asinelli Tower, to enjoy beautiful views of the city. Instructions on how to climb it here.

Take pictures of everything. Bologna is a stunningly photogenic city; the whole city is awash in colors like terracotta, red, and ballet slipper pink. So definitely spend a few afternoons wandering the streets with your camera in tow.

What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide
What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide
What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide

Where to stay in Bologna

What to eat in Bologna: the ultimate foodie guide

I highly recommend staying at an Airbnb in Bologna. The Airbnbs in Bologna are very affordable; our luxurious, two-bedroom Airbnb located on one of Bologna’s main streets cost only $56 a night. Plus, if you have your own apartment, you can cook! On more than one occasion we bought fresh pasta, and made it at home. You can book our Airbnb here.

If you’ve never used Airbnb, you can use this coupon code to get $40 off your first stay.

Bologna also has a wide range of highly-rated hotels such as I Portici. See current hotel rates in Bologna here.

Have you ever been to Bologna?

P.S. How to Eat Cheaply Abroad and Carnevale in Venice: My Favorite Experiences.

Important info:

How to get to Bologna: The easiest way to get to Bologna is via train; it’s only an hour and a half from Florence, and an hour and forty five minutes from Venice. Bologna also has an international airport, but it may be easier to fly into Venice or Florence and take a train to Bologna.
Make sure to purchase travel insurance before your trip to Italy. I’ve used World Nomads for years and highly recommend it.

A big thanks to Le Cesarine for the cooking class, which they provided in exchange for a review. All opinions are (as always) my own.

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

6 thoughts on “What to Eat in Bologna: The Best Local Dishes, Restaurants & Food Shops”

  1. Oh – I am so hungry now that I feel like buying a ticket to Italy.
    Or maybe I’ll just order a pizza ;)

  2. I have wanted to visit Italy for years now, and even if I live quite close never got the chance. The place I would kill to see is Bologna and Parma – which happen to be in quite close proximity, so hey! I wanted to go to see places ever since I read a book of John Grisham about some american football player who gets kicked out of his team and moves to Parma.
    Btw. I KNEW there had to be something wrong with spaghetti Bolognese! You know how if you make penne it always sticks with the sauce and this stupid bolognese sauce never wanted to miraculously stick to spaghetti? TV fooled us! Thanks for the tip, I’ll use tagliatelle now.
    Your photographs are amazing and all the pastas and other treats look yummy.
    Dorota
    http://www.fetchcandle.wordpress.com

  3. All the food looks/sounds amazing! I didn’t know Bologna was particularly famous for food so have never been drawn to visiting, opting for more obvious places in Italy like Rome, Venice etc. But this post has changed my mind, Bologna is now on my wishlist!!!!

    Jenny | Local Leo

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