As we began to file off our Ryan Air flight alongside all of the other passengers the hostess caught my eye. I figured I was about the get the obligatory "thank you", but instead her parting words made my heart jump for joy: "enjoy the food"!
I didn't want to get my hopes up, but from that moment, I know we were in for something special. Why else would an air hostess choose those as her parting words?
Jumping into the taxi our driver was buzzing with the sort of excitement only true foodies exude. He chatted away about food and wine the entire trip into the city. Our foodie vibes must have been extremely obvious, and despite the broken English, he did a great job in making us wish we were staying longer than one night, even though we hadn't arrived at our hotel, let alone wandered the streets of Bologna yet.
The historical centre of Bologna, like many towns in Italy, is largely a Zona Traffico Limitato or ZTL (no-drive zone), so in a taxi with additional driving rights, we were dropped as close as possible to our little hotel and then wandered only a short way down a tiny stone street to the little green door of Albergo Delle Drapperie. Climbing the stairs and into the little lift, we felt like we were home.
The staff are amazingly helpful and the rooms are a gorgeous balance of old world meets our comfortable modern needs. Wooden beams and tiny windows peering out over the terracotta rooftops created a charming space for us to call home for the night, while the air-conditioning, though not super cool (typical of Europe, so not unusual), gave us much needed relief from the thick Italian summer heat during our August visit.
After dropping our bags we made our way directly outside the hotel and found ourselves in the middle of a foodie lovers paradise.
Store after store we stared in awe at the fresh produce with shops generally dedicated to a speciality. Right on and just off Via Drapperie there are bakeries and shops specialising in prosciutto, cheese, seafood, wine, parmesan and balsamic vinegar all the way through to complete osterias.
Looking down via Drapperie
Cheeses, cured meat and balsamic forever!
Parma Prosciutto in abundance. Store after store is filled with produce just like this.
Everything in Bologna is amazing and could ignite a foodie passion in even the most boring of eaters.
The buzz of the city is warm and friendly, like a big hug, but most of all it it most definitely the vibe is food driven. Definitely somewhere I felt at home with!
Along Via Pescherie Vecchia we decided to enjoy aperitivo at La Baita Vecchia Malga. Welcomed with big smiles and swiftly whisked upstairs, overlooking the deli, filled with more cured meats and cheeses than you could possibly imagine.
The view from upstairs inside La Baita with a view over the deli and out onto the street below.
Where the magic happens for all to see and dream about while waiting for their feasts to arrive.
It wasn't long before we were enjoying a glass of Chianti Classico and a giant glass of Aperol Spritz over a huge plate of lardo, green olives and stracciatella di buffala (buffalo stracciatella).
If only all antipasto platters were this amazing
If I could eat that same thing every day, my life would be complete. The lardo melted in your mouth, stracciatella was smooth, rich and creamy, while the olives were beautifully buttery.
If we'd had another night in Bologna we'd have stopped there and nibbled away longer, but realising our error and knowing we had to feast on as much of the food of Bologna as possible, we made a pact and moved on to a restaurant to enjoy a plate of tagliatelle alla bolognese.
Where bolognese began. Slow cooked and delicious.
Savoured with a good glass of Chianti Classico DOC, we were filled to the brim, but damn happy with our evening in this gorgeous old city.
Early the next morning and before leaving for Florence, which is super easy do using the speed trains from Bologna's Centrale Train Station, we wandered through the alleys in awe of the food and produce we saw, store after store.
Stracciatella. Just look at those deliciously creamy curds!
Walls filled with wheels of goodness.
My kind of travel map.
How could you walk away with only one thing?
The colours in the fresh produce are simply stunning.
It was fascinating and most definitely mouth watering. Just get a load of all of that fresh produce!
After getting our appetite working, staring into food stores we soon discovered a little cafe close to our hotel, grabbed a strong Italian coffee and pastries before eventually wandering a short distance to see Bologna's famed Towers of Bologna.
Looks like a croissant, but was not! This little pastry was similar to a brioche in
texture and was perfect with my Italian coffee.
The two main looming towers are a prominent landmark of the city and were constructed in medieval times between the 12th and 13th century. It's believed there were up to 180 towers constructed in Bologna though the reason they were built is unclear. One of the most common briefs is that they were built by wealthy families during the Investiture Controversy between churches and the state. Since then the towers have been used as prisons, shops and residential means.
Regardless of the cloudy history, they are impressive.
I could sit with a coffee staring at them for hours.
Bologna has definitely captured my heart and I plan to see her again for a longer stay next time.
If ever in Italy, be sure to make Bologna one of your important stops. Do yourself a favour and stay longer than I did though. I could imagine myself staying self contained flat or home, cooking the produce I find in between restaurant/osteria visits.
Food tours to Parma and Modena are right at the tip of your fingers here, as Bologna is smack bang in the middle of Italy's food hub. And that is saying something considering you're in Italy; one of the worlds most amazing foodie hubs in itself.
Bologna is a true foodie Mecca, and without doubt one of the best places to experience real Italian food at its best.
Put it on your bucket list and trust me, you will thank me for it later.
Bologna is a hub for Ryanair flights, but also has a major train station allowing you to access the rest of Italy with ease and at quick speeds. See information below for more details.
I cannot recommend this city highly enough.
Any time of the year. We visited for a night in August 2016, and wish it'd been a month!
Click the link to find out more about the airport, including airlines using the airport, car rentals and other important information.
Bologna Centrale - Bologna's train station is manned by helpful staff, who assist you in purchasing tickets for speed trains and the general metropolitan trains from the machines, or can assist you at the ticket booths. You can reach Rome, Milan, Venice and Florence easily and all are within a short trip ranging from only 30 minutes to Florence, through to Rome being the longest speed train trip at only 2 1/2 hours away.
Be aware of the usual "helpers" with your luggage, you'll end up expected to give them cash for their "help" and could end up a little lighter in the luggage department if you don't have your wits about you. Generally the station is very safe, just be aware and look after your own belongings.
Albergo Delle Drapperie for traditional style comfort in the heart of the foodie district. Email them to make a booking and get a great price for your stay.
Although it would be silly not to spend time eating your way around the area close to Piazza Maggiore around Via Drapperie and Via Pescherie Vecchie. We loved La Baita - Vecchia Malga and highly recommend their delicious lardo, olives, stracciatella buffala, chianti and Aperol Spritz. Let's be honest though, you could eat anything and it'd be AMAZING.
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