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Thinking of going to Bologna - any advice?

Thinking of going to Bologna - any advice?

Jun 1st, 2010, 12:45 PM
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Thinking of going to Bologna - any advice?


My wife and I are thinking of taking a trip to Bologna this summer - most likely it will be in July and we will probably have a week or so. We have been to Italy before (Milan, Rome, Venice, Florence - check out the trip reports on my homepage) and we have enjoyed the scenery, food, wine and so on. I understand that Bologna is a food city and I would love recommendations for restaurants. I would also love to take a tour to check out the process of making parma ham, Parmesan cheese, balsamico vinegar etc. Any recommendations for touring companies? We are also thinking about renting a car for a few days - which areas are worth checking out if we drive out of Bologna? Well, any advice will be appreciated

http://gardkarlsen.com - trip reports and pictures
gard is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 12:59 PM
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Check to be sure there isn't a trade show the week you are in Bologna -- when there is, lodging rates go up and there's few vacancies. If you are renting an apartment, look at PerfectPlaces.com. The offerings for bologna are excellent.

We are going there in September, and I have found H.V. Morton's "A Traveller in Italy" a good guide for locating places to go by car.

There's also a Cadogan guide to Bologna and Emilia-Romagna that is helpful. Don't buy Footprint: Bologna. It's not much good.
charnees is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 01:24 PM
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I spent a long weekend in Bologna last Fall and really enjoyed it. I made my arrangements through Blueone. http://www.bluone.com

I am not PR rep for them, but I cannot recommend them highly enough. I found them on the internet--possibly through this site, but I checked various travel sites for recs so I am not sure. I chose them because they could arrange a cooking class and tours to see a parmigianno factory and the balsamic production. Blueone is run by a couple--Marcello and Raffaella. Rafaella gives the cooking lessons in their home. We went over various options and I chose a menu I liked best. She and Marcello were incredible hosts--extremely warm and welcoming. I was there by myself and felt like I was a part of the family by the time I left. We still keep in touch. At the time, they had an apartment under theirs that I rented as it was more affordable than a hotel. They have since moved so I don't think the apartment is still available, but they would be able to make hotel reservations. I would definitely recommend the parmigianno tour--that was incredible. The balsamic was less interesting, but still worthwhile. The family who runs the balsamic production facility owns an estate that was used as a set in the movie 1900. It has interesting architectural features and art/furnishings so that was fun to see. Besides those activities, I wandered around Bologna to see the sights and also took the train to Ravenna for a day to see the mosaics, which I highly recommend. The only restaurant I have a card for is La Montanara (via a. righi 15) where I ate the first night with Marcello. It was a low key neighborhood place but the food was very good. I ate a lot of great gelato in Bologna. I'll have to try to dig around for some of my notes but I remember getting suggestions off of David Leibovitz's blog--he had a few entries on a trip to Bologna.

Enjoy your trip!
Coll is offline  
Jun 1st, 2010, 02:19 PM
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Have you seen this:

Ravenna is an easy and interesting day trip from Bologna, as is Parma.
Marija is online now  
Jun 1st, 2010, 02:37 PM
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I second the recommendation for a day trip to Ravenna. The mosaics are incredible.
Vttraveler is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 07:52 AM
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We will be in Bologna next month and have booked food tour (parmigiano cheese, parma ham, balsamic vinegar and winery) with www.italiandays.it. Another company I contacted was www.parmagolosa.it/ They both get good reviews - check them out here on TA. Italian Days was actually a bit more expensive, but Alessandro sounds like he is a real hoot and we are traveling with our teens so decided to go for the more "fun" factor.
jgg is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 08:27 AM
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Booking marking this thread as I will be going to Bologna in November and will happily note any recommendations.
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 10:12 PM
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Thanks for all the feedback so far

http://gardkarlsen.com - trip reports and pictures
gard is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2010, 12:06 AM
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Bookmarking for us too.
Peter_S_Aus is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2010, 04:25 AM
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Here, Gard, is a report with much talk about food; Bologna is the last destination:

ekscrunchy is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2010, 11:28 AM
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bookmarking for my November Bologna trip
jmct714 is offline  
Jun 4th, 2010, 09:11 AM
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We rented an apartment in Bologna for a few days before going on to Le Marche a few years ago, and really enjoyed it -- Bologna is a lovely university town to walk around in, with great food. We did a day trip to Parma by train from Bologna and also loved Parma. While we were in Bologna, we did the walk up to San Luca through the long portico-covered walkway and stairs -- it takes about 45 minutes -- wonderful views from the top. On the way back into the city, we had a very good lunch at Trattoria Meloncello (just outside the city walls).
Sea_Marks is offline  
Jun 4th, 2010, 09:16 AM
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I just got the book by Fred Plotkin, "Italy for the Gourmet Traveler" and I think it is well work buying. It's a big book, and covers the whole country, but I am going to tear out the portions on Emilia-Romagna and the other places we are going. The introductory material is well worth reading. He says some things about Italian cuisine that I sort of knew but really never articulated, and he has a few carefully chosen restaurant recs, not just the expensive fancy places but good places that are representative of the area's culture and cuisine.
charnees is offline  
Jun 5th, 2010, 07:13 AM
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I am actually going to be working in Bologna for 6 months beginning late August and have been doing tons of research (the city sounds wonderful). I also came across the italiandays tour and plan on taking it and recommending it to friends who will be visiting (if it is as good as it sounds). I'd look at chowhound for some restaurant suggestions as I know there is some info on that site. Also, NYT had 36 hours in Bologna and CN traveler had a big article. Plotkin's book is supposed to be excellent and I am also thinking of buying that.

kathrynj is offline  
Jun 5th, 2010, 11:46 AM
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bookmarking as well.
Jim_Tardio is offline  
Jun 5th, 2010, 12:00 PM
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Bookmarking for me too.

I'm guilty of bypassing it in the past, but with a week in Ravenna this September I am definitely hoping to get some time in Bologna.
annw is offline  
Jun 5th, 2010, 10:45 PM
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We were there in April..what a pleasant surprise
it was a real italian city with friendly locals and plenty to see
It is off most visitors stops so enjoy a great city not flooded with commercialism

we day tripped to Modena and had a great time
we stayed in parma on our last rip and that is also a special city to visit
lorenzo09 is offline  
Jun 5th, 2010, 11:19 PM
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We were in Bologna last year. We usually rent a car when in Italy, but heard that parking and driving is so difficult in that area, that we took the trains instead. We rode the train from Venice to Verona(I liked it much more than I thought I would) and stayed a few nights, then on to Bologna for several nights. In Bologna we liked the restaurant, Drogheria Della Rosa. We took the train one day from there to Parma. The trains ran frequently were inexpensive and were a nice change of pace. The stations are in town or very near town. We didn't rent a car until we were leaving Bologna to head south. There's a great market in Bologna on Fridays and Saturdays.
packed is offline  
Jun 6th, 2010, 06:36 AM
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gard--This is the Bologna part that was buried in my trip report of Italy, January, 2009. Hope that some of the info here is useful to you.

Our biggest mistake on this trip was Bologna. That is, only planning 2 nights in this wonderful city. It is a place where we need to return -there is so much more to see. It is a thriving, bustling place with a palpable feeling of life. The architecture is unique. Most streets are covered in Porticos, so walking around on a rainy day (although the weather was clear for our visit)would be easy. Lots of red brick and lots of history. The highlight of our stay were the University, the oldest in Europe, and its museums, particularly the old medical school located "off campus" near the Piazza Maggiore, the Piazza with its erotic fountain of Neptune.

We stayed at the Hotel Paradise, located a block off the main drag midway between the train station and the Piazza Maggiore - about a 10 minute walk from each. Some reviews have said the street is a bit scary, but we did not think so at all - the street is old and there is some graffiti and a sex shop but that is all. There are also other shops and several restaurants and 2 wine bars - one that is upscale attached to a specialty food shop. The Paradise is a small hotel and the rooms have differing decors. Our room was on the top floor and rather than windows, had skylights that could be opened if one wished to do so. The skylights also had a remote control shade to keep out the light at night. We preferred the shade opened so we could see the moon and stars from our bed. The Paradise also has several apartments in different nearby buildings for about 10% extra. We saw one bedroom around the corner in a nice building with a courtyard entrance. It was very tempting, but we passed on it. What the Paradise lacks in luxury it makes up for with a group of the most helpful and friendly staff you will ever want, lots of little touches in the rooms such as a plethora of easily reachable outlets, switches controlling everything from bedside, and toilet amenities that included a shaving kit and a travel toothbrush and toothpaste. The breakfast was fine with the usual selection of yogurt, breads and pastries, coffee, cereals etc. The is also free internet with a workstation set up in the lobby. (I neglected to mention in the Venice portion of this report that the Palazzo Guardi also had free internet and a lobby workstation).

Touring around our first day, we had to make the decision of whether or not to do a side trip to Ravenna. We decided against that since there was so much to see and do in Bologna. We will save Ravenna for another trip.

So, about the food. We asked the helpful friendly folk at the hotel for a recommendation and they recommended a nearby place called "Trattoria dal Biassanot." It is not a tourist restaurant and serves typical Bolognese dishes. We arrived at its opening time of 7:30 and it very quickly filled up. Our waiter spoke excellent English, denying me the chance to practice my menu Italian. As we were discussing what we should order, an older fellow, dining alone at the next table asked in perfect English if we are American and how did we find out about this restaurant. Turns out his English was perfect because he was an English Lit Professor at an American University, who after teaching a semester in Rome, decided to retire there and had been living in Rome these past ten years. He frequently visits Bologna and always eats at this restaurant. He congratulated us on the wisdom of our hotel in suggesting this restaurant and said that we must try the green lasagna. We ordered a vegetarian antipasto plate and the green lasagna. Simply stated, it was the best lasagna I have ever eaten. Ever! Light, with perfectly balanced flavors and very tasty green home made pasta. We asked the waiter to suggest a white wine and he suggested the house white that was a Prosecco Frizzante. Lord, was it delicious. We had never tried a Prosecco before and after that, I don't know if I want to drink anything else - it was a dry, fresh wine, fruity with a hint of pear, light, refreshing and with just a hint of very fine bubbles. Not at all like a champagne or Asti Spumonte. Service was excellent and after we were done, the owner chef, who has won awards, came out to ask if we enjoyed our meal - a nice touch. All of the cooking is done by she and her husband and all of the pasta is made in-house. This is a restaurant worth seeking out.

Bologna is a wonderful walking city. Most of the primary sights/sites are not far from the Piazza Maggiore. Getting off the main streets and exploring the small streets bring visual surprises and some really nice shops. We took a different route back towards our hotel from the University area - a section of Bologna well worth a visit not only for its museums but for the ambiance of the place - and found ourselves walking through the maze of streets that had been the Jewish Ghetto with streets having names like Via Inferno. We came upon a custom shoe shop called Max's. Through one window one could see the shoemaker's tools and leathers, and in the display window some beautifully crafted shoes. We would have gone in to look around but since it was Saturday, they were closed. They did open around dusk, and curious about their work, we returned. Two men were measuring a young lady's foot for custom boots. They were pleased to show us their work. If you want a pair of custom shoes and are willing to spend 6-800 Euro, it is the place to go.

But I digress, we earlier discovered in the Piazza Maggiore a building located to the right when entering the Piazza from Via dell' Independenza. It is directly opposite the fountain. Inside is sort of a mall with a library and some shops. Part of the floor is glass so one can see the excavations below. Entering the building, there is a small cafe on the right with pastries, panini and such at very reasonable prices - a good place to know. They serve some fountain drinks - a glass of sparkling water was 30 cents.

Since we would be leaving for Rome the following day, we decided to shop for a picnic to eat on the way in the stores of the market street that runs off of the Piazza Maggiori. As usual in Italy, fruits and veggies were arranged in attractive displays. Dates, dried figs, bread, cheese and a couple of those delicious pears that I have only seen in Italy made for what would be a most tasty picnic the next day.

Dinner was a difficult decision. Do we try a new restaurant, or further explore the menu of the Biassanot where we had such a perfect meal the night before. We opted for the latter. We started once again with the vegetarian antipasto. I opted for the gnocchi while Mi Chica ordered the tortellini di zucca once again - she is a sort of vegetarian, although she will eat fish on occasion. Our meals were accompanied again with that delightful Prosecco wine.

Gnocchi is a dish that I really like but hesitate to order because it is often so poorly done and heavy. The gnocchi, subtly flavored with gorganzola were, like the lasagna the previous night, the very best I have ever had. They were so light it seemed that they could float up onto the fork. For desert, we shared a poached pear in a sweetened wine sauce topped with homemade vanilla ice cream. Outstanding! During dinner, the gentleman that we met the previous night came in. He did not come to eat at that time but said that he was sure we would be back and guessed at the time - he wanted to invite us for lunch when we got to Rome and to show us his favorite lunchtime restaurant. We exchanged phone numbers, he left and we were on our way to making a fine new friend. Again, the owner chef came to our table to ask if we enjoyed our meal and told us that her husband makes the gnocchi.

After one last walk-around and a stroll down the interestingly named Via Malcontenti (it seems that was the place of executions, hence the name or so we were told) we headed back to the hotel to pack and say goodbye to Bologna.
basingstoke2 is offline  
Jun 6th, 2010, 10:33 AM
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I visited Bologna for a week last Summer, and I really liked it. Beautiful historic center, super quiet and non-touristy at all.

The climb up to the Madonna di San Luca Sanctuary was one of the highlights of my trip. It's connected to the historic center through one of Europe's longest porticoes.

We also spent a night in Urbino (train down to Pesaro and then bus to Urbino). It was magical. Quiet, quaint and non-touristy as well. It was as beautiful as Assisi or Siena.

Castellanese is offline  

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