Why Aren’t You In Bologna?

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

“Why are you in Bologna?” Our new friend Giorgia asked, at our first meeting over coffee, “Why did you choose Bologna over Rome, Florence and others?” Several times over the course of the next few days she would repeat this same question, and enthusiastically relay our path to others that we met. She found it very hard to believe that our Italy travel itinerary did not include the other hugely popular Italian spots.

We explained our journey and the fact that we have been to Rome and Florence before. We confessed that Bologna hadn’t originally been on our map until a good friend had told us that it was certainly worth a stop.

Popular for business meetings and conventions, Bologna has all the infrastructure to host outsiders, but very few actual tourists. After three days in the city, we became completely perplexed as to why this is. It has all the charm you’d expect from an Italian metropolis, and more…


It is perfection. Divine.  Squisito!  The city is recognized as the gastronomic centre of Italy and when some of the most famous people in the city are the culinary artists, you know you’re in for some palatial delights.

This is especially true for cured pork products. Shops are lined with prosciutto, salami and the world famous mortadella. We were formally introduced to the owner of Simoni (a local celebrity!) and were given some of their best samples. They melted away in our mouths.

Salumeria Simoni - Bologna


The selection at Salumeria Simoni



Bologna is a bustling university city full of energy. The people have all the style and chicness of Rome, Milan or Florence, and of course the shops to go along with it.  Cafes, restaurants and piazzas are always occupied with people giving the city it’s electric charge.

The lighting of the Christmas tree filled the streets with people, vendors, and music!

Christmas tree in Bologna's Piazza Maggiore

More food

Oh yes, we ate very well there, especially when it came to pasta (BEST. EVER.) We were also well educated by some in regards to the world famous Bolognese sauce. The North American tradition of eating it with spaghetti is not done here. In fact, it is scoffed at. Bolognese sauce is eaten with tagliatelle. Only. End of story.

And lasagna? With green spinach noodles. Only.

Authentic Tagliatelle and Lasagna

Same goes for your afternoon caffeine fix…cappuccino is simply not done. Only espresso.

They are serious about their food.


Considered one the most picturesque cities in Italy, Bologna is nicknamed “Bologna the Red” for its red and orange roof tops which line the landscape.

Bologna the Red

The city’s landscape also is speckled with bell towers and Bologna is renowned for its bell ringers.

The bells at Cathedral San Petronio

Although, our favorite part was walking through the 40 plus kilometers of porticos. They allow for constant exploration in rain, snow, or excessive shine, and also contain some intricate designs to admire.

Bologna's Porticos at Night

Wait! Even more food

Noticing a pattern here?  Not only did we expand our knowledge of food in Bologna, but our waist lines most definitely widened a bit as well. We indulged in two more specialties – tortellini and tortelloni. Tortellini is generally served in broth as a starter or first meal dish. Tortelloni is of course the bigger version, generally stuffed with a meat or cheese and/or spinach.




Need any more reasons to go to Bologna?

How about this –  Bologna sits in the center of Italy, and is an easy jumping off point to many of the other famous spots. Rome is only 2 hours away by train, Venice is less then that, and Florence is mere minutes. The more popular (and thus more expensive) tourist cities are just a quick trip away.

And when you return from a hecktic day away, you can leisurely gaze upwards as you stroll through the porticos, listen to the melodies of the bell towers, and eat a dish (or five) of the best food on the planet.

So, we have to ask…

Why aren’t you in Bologna?


Many thanks to Giorgia at the Bologna Tourist Office for showing us all the amazing things her city has to offer. Also, big thanks to Hotel Porta San Mamolo for complimentary stay while in Bologna. Please click here for our full hotel review.

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  1. Wow love it! I have always been a massive fan of less touristy destinations. Hundreds of tourists running around getting in pictures is not my thing. For another amazing little know Italian city try Brescia. It’s not far from Venice, Milan and Verona and yet it is amazing quaint and full of atmosphere. I was a big fan and again yes only visited due to a friend living there but then fell in love xx

    1. Cheers George. Next time we are back in Italy we will add Brescia to our list. I love getting recommendations of places that aren’t always on the tourist map.

  2. I’ve been to Italy so many times, but never to Bologna… strangely, it was never even on my list of places to visit in Italy, but your post totally changed that!! It’s on the list now for our next visit to Italy 🙂

  3. I’m in the same boat. LOVE Italy but somehow never made my way to Bologna yet.. Hopefully that’s about to change sooner rather than later. I’m hungry just thinking about it. =) Great post!

  4. I am lucky enough to BE in Bologna. Thank you for this humorous and truthful post. The good lucking fellas at Simoni are Max on the left and Davide on the right. They sell some of the finest salumi in all of Bologna and decidedly THE best Mortadella, still hand crafted…Davide has learned how to craft this Bologna specialty.
    Come to Bologna, you will love it!

    1. Thank you Maribel for your kind comment! And I must say that you are lucky to live there. What a lovely city.

      Yes Max and Davide! Such wonderful people and their Mortadella was the best we have ever tasted. We both were very impressed!

      Agreed, Come to Bologna!!!

  5. I totally agree. I went to Bologna in July and I’m hoping to go back in 2012. It’s a charming city with warm, sophisticated people and amazing food.
    I also recommend a fabulous B&B called Antica Residenza D’Azeglio. The hosts Agostino and Roberto are wonderful. Also, don’t forget to book a cool, pasta-making lesson at A Taste of Italy, expertly taught by Maribel Agullo.

    1. Thanks Ness, and I hope we make it back in 2012 as well. Thanks for the B&B recommendation! We had a pasta-making lesson tentatively planned, but unfortunately we got tied up in another commitment. All the more reason for us to go back 🙂 Safe travels in 2012 🙂

      What part of NY are you from? We’ll be there for 6 weeks starting in mid-January.

  6. Aaaaaaaaaaahhhh Italian food. The further away from tourist meccas the better. YUMMO. Seeing the pictures of pasta and cured meat in the post inspired me to go and cook a tasty chorizo pasta for tea!

    1. Brilliant! The nice thing was that Bologna just didn’t have any tourist feel to it at all. You could pretty much eat anywhere and be guaranteed a great meal.

  7. Note to self: Stop reading food-related blog posts when you haven’t had breakfast/lunch yet! I’ve only been to Bologna once, and it was 30 years ago, but I definitely remember the food there as a standout. The photos of the cured pork products are KILLING me here!

    1. Haha, I should have provided a warning before hand – sorry! I’m not even a big fan of mortadella, but there it was just SO good I couldn’t stop eating it. Pretty sure I could never live there or I would weigh 500 lbs.

  8. Why am I not in Bologna right now??? Good question. Certainly wish I was.

    Looks like you had an amazing not to mention yummy time. 🙂

    Merry Christmas to both of you.

  9. I have been wanting to go to Bologna for a while, but this post seals the deal– I may even make it my home base next time I’m in Italy.

  10. Bologna has always been my list, but has always been bumped sadly at the last minute. I actually think part of the reason for the lack of foreign tourists is simply the name, it just sounds odd to people and of course isn’t “glamorous”, same with Ljubljana. Anyway, I hope it stays that way!

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