Bologna makes an ideal city break destination for foodies
The city of Bologna, capital of the Emilia Romagna region in northern Italy, really is a gastronomic delight. Having recently watched Rick Stein’s programme about the city in his “Long Weekends” series, I was reminded what a charming place Bologna is and how it has a food heritage almost without rival.
Bologna is the home of tortellini, tagliatelle and ragù, among many other delicacies. The locals are fiercely proud of their food heritage. It was clear when watching the Rick Stein programme that they can become quite incensed if the name Spaghetti Bolognese is applied to a dish of spaghetti with a meaty “ragù” sauce. Spaghetti is pasta which originates in Naples, and should never be served with the ragù from Bologna. Instead, someone from Bologna would serve spaghetti with a sauce made with tinned tomatoes and tuna! Ragù, apparently, should only be served with tagliatelle or lasagne.
Although it is well known to Italians, the city’s charms are far less well known to visitors from abroad. It is considered second only to Venice in beauty by many Italians and certainly has one of the largest and best preserved historic centres among Italian cities. Yet Venice is heaving with foreign visitors for most of the year, whilst Bologna remains delightfully untouched by tourism.
Its architecture is noted for its picturesque terracotta reds, burnt oranges, and warm yellows, hence it is often called Bologna la rossa (Bologna the red). The extensive town centre, characterised by miles of attractive covered walkways, known as “porticos,” is one of the best-preserved in Europe. Bologna has the oldest university in continental Europe and therefore a large student population and some lively nightlife.
Many of the food shops show off displays of tortellini in their windows and the recipe for authentic tortellini was registered with Bologna’s Chamber of Commerce in 1974. The pasta dough is made with flour and eggs and the filling contains pork loin, raw ham, mortadella di Bologna, Parmesan cheese, eggs and nutmeg. The dish can be found in restaurants all over the city. The Bolognesi often enjoy it for Sunday lunch.
To continue the food theme, it’s more than a little tempting while in Bologna to venture outside the city to either Parma or Modena. The products typical of the Parma, Reggio Emilia and Modena area are known all over the world. It is possible to visit the dairies of the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese makers, the producers of Parma ham or the “acetaie” where the traditional Balsamic vinegars of Modena and Reggio Emilia are matured.