Bologna, Italy (revisited)

On our last day, we made our way up to Bologna as we had a flight scheduled from Bologna to Greece. As you may see from previous posts, Bologna is a city we’ve visited before and absolutely loved – although it seems that it isn’t usually as popular with American tourists (we also got a good chuckle out of our Italian wedding planner asking “Why are you going to Bologna?” as though no one would ever in their right mind head there willingly). Since we only had a couple hours in the city, we decided to do a couple things we had missed on our previous trip and to generally eat whatever looked good – after all, Bologna is a food capital within Italy (at least in my opinion!).

On the way to our hotel, we marveled at the beautiful red and orange Bolognese architecture – and, found the canals that we had missed on our first visit a couple years ago.

After leaving our hotel, our first order of business was finding lunch. Sadly, the first two places we intended to go (a sandwich shop and a pizzeria) were closed. So, we got lunch at a pasta restaurant we’d hoped to visit on our previous stay (we ultimately had skipped it because we chose to do a food tour instead; after the food tour’s ~10 courses or so, we had no room left at all!). The pasta restaurant specializes in both traditional Bolognese pastas (tagliatelle Bolognese, which is just “ragu” in Bologna; graminga, a white ragu made with pork; and lasagna Bolognese, which has both meat sauce and bechamel as well as spinach pasta) and non-traditional pastas. We tried all of the traditional pastas listed above (some things you just have to get when you’re in town!) and some non-traditional offerings, like tortellini with green beans and pine nuts. To drink, we had Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine typical of Emilia-Romagna. Obviously, this was a ton of food, but what can you do when you’re in Italy’s pasta capital?

From there, we wandered back to our hotel through Bologna’s main square, which has an imposing Cathedral and gorgeous porticoes and shops on all sides. Of course, we also saw Bologna’s famous towers and more of those beautiful orange and red edifices.

We stumbled upon a sight I’d wanted to explore last time – the old university and it’s “anatomical theater”. After reviewing our vaccination cards, we were ushered through ornately decorated hallways to the “theater”.

It’s a beautiful room, with wood paneling on each side and wooden benches lining the walls, a marble platform in the middle where the anatomical exploration would have occurred (it wasn’t explicitly stated, but I believe they used to display / dissect cadavers as part of early medical practice).

After that, we moved towards the library included in our ticket (not something I’d heard about beforehand or that we knew to look for) – we were expecting a modern library with some type of ornate decor, but it actually was an antique library, visible through gates in a conference room being set up for some kind of talk that day!

After that, we did some window shopping, stopping to sample some of the great pastries on offer. Hilariously, we walked for about 15 minutes and were consistently drawn to the beautiful, “old world” design of the bakery below – little did we realize that it was a chain with excellent decor and we purchased multiple of the same item from the same bakery chain. Our goal was to see how the baked goods tasted from different spots, and they totally bamboozled us.

Of course, we also stopped to look at the beautiful meat, cheese and fresh pasta markets.

That evening, despite being absolutely full, we decided to do a tasting menu from a very trendy restaurant in Bologna with a “surprise” menu (i.e., you order the tasting and they bring 6 dishes from their main menu; you can order a wine or cocktail accompaniment for an upcharge, but again, they aren’t common cocktails and are instead designed by the in-house bartender, who comes to the table to determine what you like and are in the mood for / where you are in the menu). He started me off with a “Bologna” cocktail – inspired by Bologna’s nicknames of being the “red, the fat”. The drink had a cute little lemon rind in the shape of a pig (the “fat”) and was red with campari. He thoughtfully designed the drink such that it gets more strong as you drink it (i.e., the top – or first sips – are relatively light and fragrant, and then you start to hit the spirits as you go deeper). My second cocktail was a delicious cocktail with a similar flavor profile as the first, but with a lovely touch of grapefruit.

Overall, it was delicious! We started with an incredible “meatloaf” and then followed that with beef tongue, tortellini in a sauce made from boiled down parmesan rinds and milk, tagliatelle ragu (of course!), veal cooked in wine and with multiple melted cheeses (I can’t remember exactly, but it was the most indulgent and artery-clogging thing you could imagine), and then a dish we traveled to Bologna for specifically: fior di latte.

Ultimately, it was a great way to end our time in Italy! Bologna may be a small city, but it has such an incredible food culture and such a vibrant color that I have a feeling we’ll come back many times.

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