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Siena or Bologna day trip from Florence?

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OK- those of you that have been here awhile know I'm a foodie. I could have planned Bologna as a regular stop on this trip, but I really wanted to see The Last Supper, so Milan got my vote.

However, I have 4 full days/nights in Florence this trip. And I've been to Florence 3 times before. So, I decided that on Monday, when lots is closed in Florence, I'll take a day trip.

I thought about Pisa (because my granddaughter would find hilarious a photo of me holding it up-hahaha), but it didn't look like there was much else to see there. So, Pisa is out. (When I get to take this GD with me- we are planning it- then we'll do Pisa.)

So, I have been to Siena once, but had no time in the city- it was simply to meet our tour guide for Tuscany. Of course, it has great reviews as a day trip and I would like to see it one of these days.

Then there is Bologna. It's only €18 round trip on the bullet train and a 35-minute ride. And I am a foodie. :) If I can catch the early train, I can be in Bologna by 9:35.

I know the express bus to Siena departs/arrives from city center. That is great.

I don't know about the train station in Bologna. It looks like there are 4 stations. Which one should I use? And how far a walk is it to "town"?

Also, I'd like some input on top 5 things to see in each city. I'm leaning toward Bologna right now. I know I will go back to Bologna in the future. I'm thinking this will be a nice intro to the city.

Recommendation for lunch in each city, too. I lean toward beef, pork and vegetarian dishes.

Thanks for any/all input. I really appreciate it!.

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    We loved bologna! The main train station is a short, maybe 10 min walk to the main central square along a nice shopping street. Easy Peasy! What are the options for train stations? I thought it was just called bologna.

    You can see our pics here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/pug_girl/sets/72157634399182853/

    We are big foodies too and loved the food. We thought it was great, but apparently there can be poor good there as well so I would do some research. I can't think of the names of places we ate but will go back to our trip report.

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    The Bologna Tourist office is in Piazza Maggiore (a short walk from train station). They have a website with a good deal of tourist information on tours and activities (e.g., cooking classes):
    http://www.bolognawelcome.com/en/

    From there website:
    “GUIDED TOUR IN BOLOGNA HISTORICAL CENTRE, DAILY, IN ITALIAN AND IN ENGLISH

    Starting from Monday 1st April, a new service of guided tour in the historical city centre is available every day for the tourists.

    Monday to Saturday (from April to October) at 4.45 pm; Monday to Saturday (November and December) at 10.30 am; on Sunday at 10.30 am throughout the year

    Reservation and meeting point at Bologna Welcome (Piazza Maggiore 1/e). Online booking is also possible. The walking tour is led by an Italian and English speaking qualified guide and lasts approx. 2 hours. Here is the itinerary: Piazza Maggiore, San Petronio, Piazza della Mercanzia, quadrilatero area, Santa Maria della Vita to see the Compianto, Archiginnasio and Teatro Anatomico (Anatomical Theatre).

    The above route may be varied in case of closing of some sites.
    Participation fee is € 13,00 per person.”

    We took the tour and I thought it gave a very good overview of the city and enjoyed the information on San Petronio, a fascinating church with a cool sun dial. The highlight of the tour for me was the Compianto sul Cristo Morto by Niccolò dell’Arca in Santa Maria della Vita. These terracotta sculptures are wonderfully expressive and unique for their time (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niccol%C3%B2_dell%27Arca).

    The Sanctuary of Santo Stefano (not on the tour) is very interesting. It is 7 churches in one complex and, in the same vein as San Clemente in Rome, suggests many layers of history.
    Madonna San Lucca is a nice place to visit but a little out of the way for a day tripper. (You would probably need to take a bus there.) We enjoyed hiking up to the church under the very long portico.

    The Dutch masterpieces exhibit (inc Vermeer’s Girl with Pearl Earring) that was recently in New York at the Frick is in Bologna until May. In case you need a change of pace from all that Italian art!

    Of course, just strolling under the porticoes of Bologna and visiting the food markets is a nice way to spend the day, too.

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    You want to go to Bologna Centrale.

    If going to the historic food markets is part of what is included in being a foodie then be aware you do need to get there by noon or 12.30 at the latest. It takes at least 20 minutes of brisk walking from the time you step off the train to get to the food markets.

    You will need to reserve for lunch if you want a quality lunch. Some reliably good places are Da Gianni, Serghei, All'Osteria Bottega, Ciccio e Giampi, Teresina and Caminetto d'Oro (latter two are a tiny bit upscale, but just a tiny bit.) If it is a nice day, you might want to sit outside at Bistrot 18. They serve good pastas.

    Pasta is the star of the Bologna kitchen and it would be a pity to leave Bologna without eating it. Best pasta dishes, in my view, are lasagne al verde, tortelloni stuffed with ricotta in a gorgonzola sauce, or gramigna alla salsiccia (pasta quills with ground sausage and cream) or passatelli in brodo (noodles made of parmesan and eggs served in broth). The famous pastas are tagliatelle con ragu (fresh egg pasta ribbons in meat sauce) and tortellini in brodo (tiny ravioli circles stuffed with proscuitto served in broth) but the other pastas I mentioned are rarely found outside of Bologna and are worth sampling there.

    For an antipasta, if you like pork, you should try the local cured meats, including Bologna's famous mortadella. All'Osteria Bottega specializes in plates of artisinal cured meat but it is pricey. Da Gianni serves a marvelous entree of grilled mortadella with aged balsamic vinegar if you really really like pork. It is one of few main courses of meat worth eating in Bologna. Otherwise, you are much better off sticking to seasonal grilled vegetables for your main course.

    Top 5 sights beyond food depends on what interests you. Unique to Bologna are the terracotta statues in Santa Maria della Vita (closes by noon) and the anatomical theater in the Archigennasio. The art museum in Bologna is wonderful and the interior of the Palazzo Communale is fascinating. There are many small museums in Bologna -- including an outstanding medieval museum and a lovely music museum. Just be aware if you wait until you get to the tourist office to find out information that important sights are starting to close up at noon along with the markets, so it is better to have a plan as to what you want to do until things start reopening again and you will need to be getting back.

    The Bologna train station is a busy place during rush hour. Leave yourself a few extra minutes getting back and getting your bearings. Don't cancel a trip to Bologna if it looks like rain. The porticoes will keep you dry.



    If you are visiting the markets it is good to look at what

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    For a day trip, I would choose Siena. When we were there, we came across some restaurants that would satisfy any foodie. Bologna has a great reputation, but for just one day it is not a food destination; I would want to try several restaurants. My vote goes for Siena, which is a great town to visit.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/sets/72157622914855341/show/with/4201007261/

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    I also suggest Siena for a day trip. Visit the Duomo, wander the narrow pedestrian streets, spend time at the Campo (but don't have lunch here if you are a foodie). Find a nice place for lunch.

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    What makes Bologna a food destination is not its restaurants, and there is little point in going to Bologna to go restaurant hopping. 90 percent of the restaurants offer fairly identical menus of Bolognese dishes, which confirm to strict tradition. In addition, most people cannot eat more than one Bolognese restaurant meal per day, nor can they eat in Bolognese restaurants several days running without ending up hating the sight of food. So unless one is planning a multi-week stay in Bologna, don't try to make the food experience in Bologna about restaurants. (Or anywhere in Italy, really. Italy is not France.)

    The main reason for a foodie to go to Bologna is its historic markets and its concentration of high quality food shops. The market hours are morning and afternoon. Of course one should enjoy a great pasta dish in a restaurant while there. But even if one comes back to Bologna for more than a day trip, the better bet for the foodie is to rent an apartment with a kitchen and haunt the markets.

    Beyond the market, Bologna has many seductive sights and such an untouristed feel, it makes a nice contrast to Florence and Siena (which is indeed an impressive place). It is also perhaps Italy's most youthful city in feeling, with 90,000 Italian students. That in itself can be nice.

    There are no downsides to either daytrip as a daytrip.

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    The station you want is Bologna Centrale. The track configuration is complex, so there are tracks with the same number that are in different parts of the station. They're distinguished by an "E" suffix for "Est" and so forth. It can be a little tricky if you don't know the station, but the Frecciargento (high-speed) trains all leave from the same area, which is not difficult to find.

    We don't live far from Bologna, and go there fairly often, but usually not for sightseeing. I love the city, which has an urban, youthful, vibe, because of the university, but it's a much more bustling and urban, and I would say, edgy, place than Siena. Some people take an instant dislike to the city. There's some great shopping there. We don't go there for the restaurants, but we've eaten very well there.

    One place I've enjoyed is the Osteria Broccaindosso. There you can get a buffet of antipasti, and a similar buffet of sweets, and skip the first and second courses altogether. When I say buffet, it's a bit unusual. They seat everyone at communal tables and bring out plate after plate of food; you take some of if it interests you, and pass it to your neighbor. Don't expect them to do much explaining, and it's definitely rustic.

    There are also some good restaurants near the university, but I don't remember any names. They tend to be a little more into innovation than traditional Emiliana cuisine.

    There's a large food market near the Duomo, where there are also little places to eat. You can read about it here:

    http://www.saveur.com/article/Travels/Great-Markets-in-Italy

    I don't know if I ate in the place he mentions in the article, but it sounds like the same kind of place. You can also buy lots of local products there.

    One of the most interesting things to see in Bologna is the Basilica of Santo Stefano, which is a complex of different very ancient churches, all jumbled together, even built around each other. I don't know how to explain this place, and pictures wouldn't do it justice, but it's definitely worth a visit.

    There are two leaning towers in Bologna, both in the same piazza, which you can't miss if you walk around the center.

    The main Piazza, the Piazza Maggiore, is huge. There is a large statue of Neptune in the center. If you find the right vantage point, his outstretched hand looks like a different appendage.

    Bologna is famous for its "portici", the arcades that cover most of the sidewalks in the center. It makes walking around on a rainy day more pleasant.

    Another famous feature of Bologna is the long arcade (almost 4 km) that leads up a hill to the church of San Luca. You can take a bus to the top and walk down if you don't want to walk up the hill. It's outside the center, so you probably wouldn't have time for it on a day trip.

    Bologna is also a great city for shopping. Most of the major designers have shops there, and there are also some little artisanal shops.

    I also like Siena very much, but it's a very different kind of place, and you've already seen it. I don't know what you've seen and what you haven't.

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    This is a fantastic thread with great recommendations. I don't think you specified when you will be there, but if you are there in high season:

    Pisa is dull as dishwater. You see the tower. That's it.

    Siena in summer is a tourist treadmill. That said, the food might be good.

    Nobody goes to Bologna. Which is why you might enjoy it, especially the food lanes. I would do them at the point in the day (late afternoon?) when you might want to start sampling wines at local aperitivos. Bologna is still really genuinely vivid (thought it might be even better in winter): http://www.flickr.com/photos/douglashoyt/sets/72157632060233870/

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    Thanks so much for the input everyone! Just what I was looking for!

    So, if I arrive on the 9:35am train, I should be to the main square by 10am at the latest. This will give me a couple hours to do the markets before they close.

    What I'll be shopping for is food stuff. Good balsamic, tapanades, sauces, pestos, etc. That's where my head is at. :)

    I love pasta. I rarely eat it at home, but eat it pretty much every day that I'm in Italy! haha I love it simple (cacio e pepe), but also love the tagliatelle with ragu. Yum!

    I am going in April. I'd be in Bologna the day after Easter. Is there anything seasonal I should look for? What veggies will be in season? I plan on having one good meal in Bologna and will probably eat a late light dinner when I get back to Florence. I'm planning on taking the 8:20pm back that evening.

    Sandralist- you say everything closes at noon in the markets and reopens later? When do they reopen?

    I will look at all the suggestions and try to figure out an itinerary based on where everything is and when those places are open.

    I think I must go with Bologna. Siena will have to wait. :)

    Thanks all. Still open to any other thoughts/suggestions!

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    Bologna is a good place for food shopping, just head to the famous food store institutions AF Tamburini, Atti and Eataly (foodie bookstore/foodie bars owned by Atti) all on one street just 2 blocks east of the central Piazza Maggiore.

    Eataly serves the best quality price ratio food you can get in Bologna (high quality at low prices). Make sure you take the escalator up to the top floor to get to their simple restaurant/bookstore. It reminded me of Borders bookstore with a foodie cafe. EATALY is open 7 days a week until midnight!

    I really enjoyed Bologna that I stayed for 4 nights to explore it and then returned for a second visit in 2013. In those two visits I learned that Bologna is only good for the old basic traditional pasta which is OK but there is a serious lack of creativity among the restaurants; they just flopped the food on simple plates without much thought or effort, quality has also suffered with recent tourist invasion. The 'fancier' places like Camminetto d'Oro' tried to do it better but IMO their food is nothing outstanding or amazing except maybe at the i Portici restaurant inside the i Portici Hotel on Via Indipendenza. It was actually the only place that we had memorable food besides Eataly. You may enjoy dinner there before going back to Florence.

    I just loaded and labeled some pictures of the i Portici dishes onto my collection of pictures in Bologna just to give you a first impression. Many of the pictures were taken in the morning after the big scary earthquake in May 2012 so the city looked emptier than usual. Bologna usually has festivals during weekends so the streets could normally become really crowded with wall to wall people from the surrounding countryside.
    http://m.flickr.com/#/photos/79690840@N05/7306182922/

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    Sarge56,

    If you are going to Bologna the day after Easter it is possible that none of the markets will be open. You need to contact the tourist office or a tour guide and find out. Might be, but might not be. But everything could be shut for the holiday.

    If they are open that day, they will stay open roughly until 1 and then start to re-open around 3.30 and stay open until 7.30pm. So if you are catching a train at 8.20, you can shop when everything re-opens. That would give you time in the morning to see some things that are only open in the morning. I believe the Anatomical Theatre is only open in the morning, and it may not be open the day after Easter. I would expect all museums in Bologna to be closed the day after Easter, and the historic sights as well. The Churches might be open, but many close for the pausa.

    If everything is open the day you go, the best kind of jarred specialty you can buy to take home from Bologna is mostarde, which are fruits preserved in a sweet spicy mustard syrup. They are served like a chutney with meats or cheese. The very best shop for this is Melega, which at on via Claveture 14 (not far from the church of Santa Maria della Vita, so be sure to stick your head in before noon).

    You really need to be careful buying balsamic vinegar in Bologna. The very best stuff comes from Modena and is very, very expensive. You will see a lot of very expensive stuff sold in Bologna that is only expensive and not the quality thing. If you are thinking of dropping serious money on a small bottle, it is worth your time to look up the names of famous producers and go with a list of those names. If you take bvlienci's suggestion of Osteria Broccaindosso for lunch (make sure it is open on Monday), there is an exceptionally delicious balsamic vinegar you can buy in a shop not far from there in a shop called Antica Drogheria Calzolari at Via Giuseppe Petroni, 9. The vinegar is from the Modena hills and bottled by Da Amerigo. (Ask for that.) It is fabulous served over vanilla ice cream.

    If you particularly love tagliatelle al ragu the very best place to eat the classic version of that dish is Caminetto d'Oro. The restaurant I Portici has a Michelin-star and the chef is from Napoli, and his creative food geared towed an international style You can find equally good creative food elsewhere in Europe, and no doubt Florence. I suggest that if you are going to Bologna to eat that you eat the local food. I happen to love the old traditional pasta as much as the locals do but many tourists are surprised the locals don't want to change it to be creative or the restaurants don't stack it up on plates (it gets cold). You may not like it either. But I recommend giving it a try.

    Likewise, I think DAX hit the nail on the head describing EATALY as American bookstore shop like Borders. EATALY is modeling itself on America's chain stores, and they are enjoying success with it globally -- although not surprisingly in Bologna they have been unable to open a generic big box shop as huge as they wanted. In my view, again, it is odd to go all the way to Bologna and spend your time inside an American style shopping experience when you could be outside exlploring the markets that have been in operation since the time of the Roman empire. Again, it all depends on what kind of experience you like as a travel. Places like I Portici and EATALY are experiences that are familiar from elsewhere and many people enjoy finding the familiar when they travel. I know people who boast they have been in every EATALY in the world or Michelin restaurant in Italy. Bologna food is not that.

    Depending on when you are getting back to within reach of a kitchen, there are some handmade dried pastas you can buy that will last until you get home. The best shop for this is Atti & Figli, which is right next to Tamburini (which is now incredibly touristy -- every coach tour to Bologna seems to parade its crowd through).

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    Some more ideas on interesting things to do in both Bologna and Siena (at least, I find them interesting and had to do some research on them for a class).

    Both have interesting "water" histories. Bologna had numerous channels or canals, most underground or gone now, that brought water to the city in the Middle Ages. These water sources fed various mills (mostly textiles)throughout the city. It is fun to view the Moline Canal through a small window on the via Piella, a few blocks off the via Independenza.

    Siena, unlike Florence with the Arno, did not have a ready water source. In the Middle Ages, they resurrected ancient Roman and Etruscan wells on the outskirts of the city. They also began building underground aqueducts, known as bottini, that helped supply fountains throughout the city. The Fontebranda,mentioned by Dante and still visible today, shows how people used these fountains in the Middle Ages, dividing the water into three gravity fed pools, with the first (freshest) going to drinking water for humans, then animal, and then the last, laundry.

    I came across this blog with pictures of fountains that are associated with the various contradas (subdivisions) of Siena. Apparently, Sienese baptize their children once in church and then once at their contrada fountain. I am headed to Siena this spring and hope to search these out:

    http://howardlitchfield.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/fountains-of-siena/

    (Sorry for long URL, but I wanted to give the author some credit.)

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    PS: I wanted to add for those who enjoy creative food and a Michelin-style experience when they travel that Bologna has several high-end restaurants one can seek out. One is the beautiful I Carracci, whose dining room ceiling is covered with frescoes by the Carracci family, Bologna's premiere Renaissance painters. The other is the legendary al Pappagallo (whose dining room walls are covered with photos of the famous people who ate there over the decades). About 10 minutes by taxi beyond the train station, near the fair district, is Leoni, whose chef is Michelin starred and whose restauarant decor is a phantasmagoria of anthropormorphic wooden sculptures.

    One of the reasons these restaurants rarely get mentioned on message boards is their prices, and also because people generally ask for recommendations "where the locals eat." Both I Portici and I Carracci are inside hotels and are serving tourists or business travelers. Leoni is at the trade fair grounds. Pappagallo is near the historic medieval merchants headquarters (sort of like the Chamber of Commerce) of Bologna and is classically a place local businessmen entertain visiting foreign clients.

    But if you choose to go "where the locals go" in Bologna, please understand you are not going to get a Bolognese pasta dish served to you on a square plate twirled up high to resemble a Christmas tree with little molecular balls of yuzu. Your tortellini in brodo won't be topped with truffle foam. A classic Bolognese pasta dish has a minimum of saucing -- usually a tablespoon or two -- so that you can taste the handmade fresh pasta, which is the focus of the dish. It is served in the kind of plate that best keeps the pasta warm (or stops it from cooking further).

    If you are looking to eat classic Bolognese food in Bologna and go to restaurants recommended for precisely that then judging those restaurants by their creativity and presentation would be like Europeans asking for recommendations for barbecue restaurants in Memphis and then being surprised at the lack of creativity in the cooking and the failure to present the food beautifully plated.

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    Sarge56,

    If everything you want to see in Bologna is closed up for Easter Monday, consider this as a day trip out of Florence:

    Take the early morning bus from Florence to Greve in Chianti for the annual collector's market, which is held on Easter Monday:

    http://www.greve-in-chianti.com/antiques_collectors_fair.htm

    You can look at page 19 of this bus schedule for bus times:

    http://www.acvbus.it/orari/365.pdf

    You can eat lunch from the food stalls, but around 2pm, take a taxi to the Castellina in Chianti train station (it's actually in Castellina Scalo) and catch the train to Siena.

    The taxi will cost you a pretty penny, and you will probably need to arrange it with a driver in advance. You can find recommendations for drivers in that area on TripAdvisor or Slow Travel. You should also ask for a quote for being driven all the way to Siena.

    You will arrive in Siena about 4pm, which is when most of the masses of tourist hoards will be winding up their day and leaving. There are trains and buses out of Siena to Florence late into the evening, so if you get one about 8pm, you will have had plenty of time to see the Campo, the cathedral, the views from the walls and enjoy a gelato or a glass of wine. I don't think museums will be open Easter Monday in Siena, but shops should be since Siena is primarily a tourist town, unlike Bologna.

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    Sandralist is correct about the balsamic vinegar. 90% of what's sold as balsamic vinegar is plain wine vinegar mixed with grape must (to give it sweetness and cut the acidity) and caramel coloring (to make it resemble the real thing). For what it is, it's very overpriced, and yet the prices are a fraction of the cost of a real Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP. If it's not called exactly that, it's not the real thing. A very small bottle of the real thing can cost as much as €70, and you won't find it in most food shops, but only in gastronomic specialty shops. It also won't be on the shelves of a shop. I don't a gastronomic shop near where I live that keeps it in a locked cabinet.

    It's also true that the food Emilia Romagna is noted for is the plain traditional cuisine. To ask that it be innovative is to ask too much. However, there are innovative restaurants in Bologna. It's got a long tradition, and its fans don't want it to change.

    I don't really understand what a foodie is. Suddenly everyone is a foodie. When someone asks where you can get the best pizza in Rome, for example, does that mean they're a foodie? It's a concept that seems very strange in Italy. An Italian who's looking for a pizza, but as long as the pizza he's eating is good, and cooked as he likes it, and doesn't cost too much, he couldn't care less whether there's a better one on the other side of town.

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    Thanks so much everyone!

    sandralist- you'll be happy to know that I will be perfectly fine with the pasta in Bologna. As I said, a simple plate of tagliatelle with ragu works for me. (And that is funny about the sauce.. when I eat pasta at a restaurant here, I always ask for the sauce either on the side, or "1/4th the sauce" they normally use! Always been a "light, light sauce" person!

    I see no reason that I can't shop at both little shops and Eataly in Bologna. I love little shops and family-run businesses. I will check out both.

    I know where good balsamic comes from- so thanks for the info on where I can find that in Bologna!

    café- thanks for the restaurant rec in Florence. The best meal I ever ate was in Florence. Alas, that restaurant has closed and I've found nothing to beat it. :(

    If anyone knows of a place in Florence where I can get some perfect pasta purses filled with pear and gorgonzola and served on a bed of arugula with a balsamic-cream sauce... PLEASE reply! haha

    Thanks, again, all. The more info the better. I'm just going to have to see if I can find out what will be open/closed day after Easter. (I can see stuff being closed Th/Fr before Easter, but am flummoxed by closings the day after.)

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    We decided about a month ago to stop for few days in Bologna on this fall trip. Never stopped before. Now we have great ideas about what to do and where to eat.
    Thanks to all for the info on Bologna.

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    The day after Easter is a national holiday in Italy, and it is customary to celebrate it with an excursion into the countryside. Most of Bologna will be empty so there would be little reason for the shops and restaurants to stay open. They will stay open in Siena because even Italians will head there with their kids as part of being out and about for the holiday.

    http://www.explore-italian-culture.com/italian-easter-traditions.html

    There is always a chance the shops will be open. I don't know. But if you want to go to the shops in Bologna, you should check first.

    I wasn't implying you wouldn't be happy with a simple plate of tagliatelle al ragu. I was responding to DAX's disappointment in not getting something more like contemporary restaurant style. I do encourage everyone going to Bologna however to branch out beyond tagliatelle al ragu if at all possible. Tagliatelle al ragu has become a popular dish in many parts of the world while many of the great pasta dishes of Bologna can only be eaten in Bologna.

    In Italy it often possible to ask for a "bis" or a "tris" of pasta -- and what that means is either two different pastas on the same plate or three. It is a great way to sample pasta in that region. Sometimes you will see it on the menu listed that way but other times, if you don't and ask, the restaurant is often delighted you are so interested (sometimes they can't do it but at least you tried!)

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    I should probably explain why I like Eataly. I like being able to enjoy foodie quality food inside a nice book/food store with more space and convenient hours. Their young staff was happy to answer all my questions and they had a more relax attitude to let me bring books to thumb through to our lunch table. It was great to have all the great food and books on the table. The multitasking helped us save time and spend more euros in Eataly. We did have to wait a bit for an available table but we had all the food materials and books to look through.

    My wife did not appreciate how the lady at Atti was rather uptight though we could understand that the store was understaffed with a long line of customers inside and a group of school children waiting outside the door. Being next door to each other, both Atti and Tamburini were jammed with tourists and locals when we were there, we ended up not buying anything from them.

    We found two small local neighborhood stores where the owners could help us more and provide better service. One particular store owner went out of his way to deliver our purchases to our hotel so we could wander without carrying bags. He also chilled a good bottle of prosecco that we wanted to enjoy later that day.

    Another thing that I love was the dumpy traditional bakery on Via Galleria that sells Mostarda Bolognese which is a red pastry/cookie containing sweet mostarda. I was told that it only exists in Bologna. Admittedly I bought too much every single day to the point that everyone got tired of it.

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    Sandra, I just read all your posts on this thread and appreciate your insights. I envy your situation to live near Bologna. I wonder if you had a chance to try some of the small local restaurants in the hills south of Bologna where supposedly good traditional Bolognese food still exists. I would love to hear your take on those places maybe share some names.

    I have to say that I am surprised by your comparison of Bologna to Memphis in the US because I always think that Bologna enjoys a much higher food reputation in Italy. A lecturer in Bologna compared it to Lyon in France which is similarly known for its local regional food but with plenty of creativity, thanks to Paul Bocuse who modernized their tired traditional cooking.

    I confess that occasionally I am guilty of venturing into Michelin star restaurants mainly because my friends & I are foodies. We appreciate the art of preparing food to present more flavors or new flavors using local regional products, not the yuzu or the molecular cooking, mind you.

    Sandra, since you mentioned Leoni, I am curious if you have ever tried his cooking. I heard that Marcello Leoni used to have a restaurant far outside of Bologna with 2 stars, but his new Leoni restaurant inside Bologna has not gain much recognition at all. I wonder why iPortici won the star instead of the venerable Leoni. We actually had a reservation there but we ended up eating in an old inn restaurant that was highly recommended by a local that I met over lunch. The guy wanted us to try a good example of traditional Bolognese cooking which he said no longer existed inside Bologna. He called a couple restaurants himself and managed to get us a table on the same day. We did enjoy our €35 multi course tartufi dinner menu in the little hilltop hamlet. That said I am now curious what we missed out since you suggested Leoni over i Portici.

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    Mostarda Bolognese only exists in Bologna. It is a special treat and it is lovely filling inside pastries.

    The chef at I Portici is Neapolitan. He cooks in the international style, obliterating regional distinction. It is hard to recommend to people going to Bologna who say they want to eat Bolognese food. The meal I had at I Portici was unpleasant, but I don't like that kind of food to begin with, so I'm no judge of it. I wasn't recommending Leoni over I Portici (although I have eaten at Leoni's). I mentioned it as one of many restaurants in Bologna that cater to people interested in Michelin style eating.

    I think people are mistaken if they believe Michelin stars are given to restaurants for the quality of their food. Michelin caters to an audience that wants a certain kind of decor and intellectualized elaboration of food. Increasingly Michelin has rewarded novelty and presentation from chefs over honoring traditional flavors. If Michelin were to give stars to solid restaurants with traditional menus, their basic clientele would complain about being guided to those places. Michelin followers are looking for fashion in restaurant eating (it's not art).

    Good traditional Bolognese food still exists in Bologna. It rarely includes truffles. I have eaten at plenty of restaurants throughout Emilia Romagna, in all directions from Bologna, so I don't know which ones you are referring to. If you are referring to restaurants in the hills south in Bologna that are touted on Chowhound, you have to take what you read on Chowhound about any city in Italy with a grain of salt. The most frequent posters there (by their own admission) have not eaten at other restaurants for years and years and years. They have two or three favorite restaurants they go to, where the staff are friends, and that's it (which doesn't stop them from claiming everyplace is terrible.) They generally prefer upscale, expensive restaurants that have modern twists to the cooking, one suspects because they are Americans and Americans grow up with variety rather than tradition, so they celebrate the new. But I think if you ate Bolognese food in Bologna and didn't care for it, what would be the point of driving out of town to eat more?

    I think people who enjoy Michelin should follow Michelin. It works for them. People more interested in classic cooking while traveling in Italy will do better with the Slow Food guide (Osteria d'Italia).

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    Actually, nobody ever put it better than Marcella Hazan:

    "When my family and I ate out in the Italy of my youth and early decades of my marriage, we would look for any plain trattoria where we could find the kind of cooking that was closest to what my mother and father were putting on the table at home. The person making the meal may have been the owner or his wife or his mother, or someone working in total anonymity. He or she was never referred to as the chef, but as il cuoco or la cuoca, the cook.

    This was the old world of Mediterranean family cooking, a world where satisfying flavors had been arrived at over time and by consensus. That world hasn’t disappeared, but it has receded, making room for a parallel world, one where food is often entertainment, spectacle, news, fashion, science, a world in which surprise — whether it’s on the plate or beyond it — is vital. This is the world of chefs."

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/29/opinion/29hazan.html?_r=0

    As much as I can in Italy, I live in the first world Marcella Hazan describes.

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    I see your point Sandra and I've heard from some people in Bologna how they don't like seeing outsiders taking over the cooking scene in Bologna. It's ironic that chefs from Naples or Tuscany do really well in Bologna. You may have heard that Eataly is the most successful slow food invasion from Torino, they are now doing a joint venture with the city of Bologna to build their biggest Eataly in the world right in Bologna which will open in 2015. I suppose economic greed led the city to embrace these outsiders instead of supporting their own homegrown cuoci (if you don't like the term chefs). How close to Bologna do you live? Within the BO region or beyond?

    Emilia Romagna has always been one of our favorite areas, though my wife favors Modena over Bologna. We do buy l'Osteria d'Italia and the poorly put together local italian guide book for restaurants from Bologna itself. In fact we did one whole trip just following Osteria d'Italia recommendation which was good and cheap as we basically ate in "dumpy" restaurants on local community tables elbow to elbow with Italian speaking tourists, I enjoyed the italian immersion however it's not as much fun for our friends who don't understand Italian. Over time I come to understand that the Michelin guidebooks go beyond taste and tradition into presentation and service. They actually do include the old traditional restaurants that Osteria d'Italia recommends however they don't necessarily give their accolades as they have further criteria.

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    Like I said, sounds like Michelin works for you, and you are right they are focused on presentation (although I often find the service creepy or tense and nowhere near as instincitvely gracious as in a traditional Italian eatery). Your idea of dumpy is probably my idea of human beauty. I am said to hear the news about Eataly in Bologna, if it is true. (By the way, it is "cuoche", but I also mispelled "Osterie d'Italia".) Many sufficiently large cities in Italy have a lot of successful restaurants that serve food from other regions of Italy. Nothing ironic about it. I don't have a problem with it in Bologna. When I want seafood in Bologna I usually go to Sicilian cooks (same in Rome).

    I also like Modena, perhaps a bit more than Bologna, but that is because the market is so wonderful. I seldom eat the most talked about restaurants there, certainly not the ones with Michelin stars.

    But I think this may all be moot for this thread because if Sarge56 finds out all the shops and restaurants will be closed on Easter Monday, she is likely to cook up another plan for that day (and I would advise her that way).

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    "café- thanks for the restaurant rec in Florence. The best meal I ever ate was in Florence. Alas, that restaurant has closed and I've found nothing to beat it. :("

    I think you will not be disappointed with Zibbibo. They have two locations, I have only been to the one by the hospital. You can take bus #14C and it will drop you right by the restaurant.

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