I’ve got a lot of fond memories of Italy and its food. Waiting to hear my exam results clutching a melting ice cream on the promenade at Lido de Jesolo. Careering precariously round the mountain roads from San Gimignano in the back of a restaurateur’s car to try and catch (and hoping we’d live to make) the last train back to Florence – one more course isn’t always a good idea. And being treated like family by a tomato farmer, joining a feast with workers to celebrate the harvest at the end of a film shoot.
But Bologna holds a special place in my heart – or possibly stomach… Here’s my list of what to eat & drink (and see in between) in the city.
1 Le Stanze. Right in the heart of the student quarter, Le Stanze is a 16th-century church, apparently once the private chapel of the Palazzo Bentivoglio. While we didn’t think too much of the apreativo, the bar staff were friendly, the drinks well made and there aren’t many other places you can enjoy a tipple while admiring a beautiful painted fresco from 17-something.
3 Sorbetteria La Castiglione. Quite possibly the best ice cream shop in the world (or at least Italy). Peruse the hundreds of flavours – the stracciatella is particularly tasty – then take a stroll up to enjoy your cone of choice in the lush gardens of nearby Giardini Regina Margherita where there are hundreds of turtles swimming in the pond. Top tip – get in there quick on Sundays when Italian grannies are buying by the bucket load for family lunch.
4 Promenade the porticos. You can’t miss Bologna’s porticos – 40k+ of covered walkways protecting its residents from the beating sun. Nothing beats an aimless stroll, passing churches and chapels, lively bars and great, huge ominous doorways. Look out for the graffiti and beautiful old signs. And stop along the way for coffee and wine.
5 Simoni Bologna. A stones throw from Piazza Maggiore is Simoni Bologna – the smartest looking of the joints on Via Drapperie serving mouthwatering platters stacked high with regional meats and cheese. Throw in some chilled local wines and you’ve got the perfect spot to watch the world go by. And bag a rich, crumbling hunk of Parmesan to take home.
6 Trattoria Gianni. For rough versions of the classics, try Trattoria Gianni on Via Clavature. Smart waiting staff serve spot on pasta, which you can enjoy surrounded by a mix of Italian families and hungry travellers.