If It's Raining in Bologna, Be Sure to Leave Your Umbrella at the Hotel
Le due torri
“La Grassa,” “The Fat One.” Bologna. It’s like calling your wallet fat, it’s only good. This doesn’t mean that you have to eat a lot in Bologna, though you’ll find it hard not to. Many consider Bologna the gastronomic capital of Italy, no small feat in a country that from nearly every corner boasts mind-blowing food. And what are some of Bologna’s finest restaurants? To begin we have Grassilli, just a couple of turns away from the Due Torri (see image to the left), the two tallest medieval towers in Bologna, found at the city’s center (which, by the way, you can climb!). We also have, again just a few paces from the Due Torri, Pappagallo, a restaurant that in years past was ranked as one of the finest restaurants in the world. At the exclusive Hotel Baglioni we find I Carracci, named such because of the frescoes on the dining room’s ceiling, painted by one of the famous Carracci brothers, the Baroque Bolognesi artists. For pizza we have Ciro (not far from Piazza Maggiore) and the hidden gem that is Le Arcate (farther north, off Via Irnerio). Stop by Console & Co. for a high-end pizza experience. On Via dell'Indipendenza we have Ristorante Diana for fine dining. If you have a free afternoon and care to sip on wines and try cheeses, stop by Enoteca Italiana on Via Marsala.
Planning to cook at home? Be sure to stop at the market off the side streets off Piazza Maggiore. Also, if you’re in the mood for fresh pastries and pasta, make your way to Paolo Atti & Figli. Some of the most famous dishes? Tortellini al ragu’ and tortellini in brodo. Try also mortadella—you know, what we call “Baloney” (it pains me to write that!). Maybe you're interested in picking up lunch at a deli and enjoy it in a park? If so, I recommend the stunning Giardini Margherita in south Bologna.
Be sure to drink Sangiovese di Romagna wine, too, while there--perhaps those produced by Umberto Cesari whom I was lucky to meet at his vineyards many moons ago. Finish the evening with some fresh frutti di bosco (mixed berries) over gelato. Where at? Try Cantina Bentivoglio where you can also enjoy live jazz. Enjoy a stroll in the gorgeous, Medieval Piazza Maggiore. There, if you search hard, you'll find a diamond-shaped brick in the piazza's center designating the very center of the entire city. Also, for a laugh . . . position yourself about twenty feet to the back left of the Neptune Fountain. Take a look at Neptune. Report back to me about what you see. :)
More things to do? Don't miss the the Bologna Festival, a music festival with events beginning in March and ending in September. Consider an afternoon at the Morandi Museum downtown to take in the work of one of Bologna's most famous modern artists. Or perhaps stop by any of the four museums that make up the Ancient Art Museum: the Museum of the Middle Ages in Palazzo Ghisilardi, the Municipal Art Collection in Palazzo Communale, the Palazzo Davia Bargellini Museum, and the Madonna del Monte Museum. If you have a passion for art, also explore the Pinacoteca Nazionale, part of the Accademia di Belle Arti near the university. The University of Bologna, by the way, is the oldest university in Europe, founded in 1088.
Bologna is filled to the brim with outstanding churches, including San Petronio at the city's center; San Francesco across from Piazza Malpighi to the west; San Giacomo Maggiore, nestled beside the university on Via Zamboni; and San Domenico off Piazza Cavour, just south of Piazza Maggiore. If you have an extended stay, consider stepping outside the city to the hills to the south to visit San Michele. From there, the views of Bologna are unparalleled.
Last but not least, there's a Bolognese secret, which I’m willing to share, but only if you write: firstname.lastname@example.org. For some more ideas, have a look at Pavia Rosati's "36 Hours in Bologna." And, of course, if it rains leave your umbrella home. For “una vera donna Bolognese non porta mai l’ombrello” (a real Bolognese lady never carries an umbrella). The city’s sidewalks are all covered by porticoes. You’ll be just fine.