It has Europe’s oldest university and is one of Italy’s loveliest city breaks, but people come to Bologna for one thing: to eat. Since Medieval times, the food scene here has mesmerised visitors with Italy’s signature pasta dishes: tortellini in broth and tagliatelle in meaty ragù, all smothered in that cheese from nearby Parma. Today, Bolognese restaurants rarely innovate; instead, they prefer to perfect the dishes they’ve been working on for centuries. Make sure you’ve brought elasticated waistbands…
Another innovator, this tiny, seven-table restaurant started by serving food from a different Italian region every month. Having gone through all the regions, it’s now morphed into a modern Bolognese restaurant with inventive, pan-Italian additions – like the carbonara-stuffed tortelloni. A brilliant, imaginative spot.
This characterful trattoria is a short hop from the ochre-arched porticos of the Piazza Santo Stefano. Locals swear by the tagliatelle, and rightly so – the tagliatelle al ragù is a masterclass in Bolognese cuisine. Eat outside to watch the leisurely street life of Vicolo Alemagna, in Bologna’s historic heart.
You came to Bologna for the pasta, but you’ll be back for the peerless pizza from this tiny stall in the Mercato delle Erbe. The toppings are fit for Instagram – think puréed pumpkin, kale, pistachios and entire flowers – and the organic base is equally special, thanks to its 48-hour rising time.
Looking for somewhere to stay? Book into one of the best hotels in Bologna. We’ve compiled the must-visit attractions in the area, including the best museums. And for a post-meal drink, don’t miss the city’s best bars.