It’s no secret that Italy is revered for its food, but where is the culinary capital located in the country? Enter Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna, a small region in northern Italy. The site of the oldest university in the world, it is also celebrated for its traditional cuisine and ancient architecture. Read on for Hotels Above Par’s guide to this awe-inspiring foodie destination.
Where to Stay:
Art Hotel Commercianti: Set in a former guild hall dating back to the 13th-century, Art Hotel Commercianti offers high-end digs in an old-world property with an annex adjacent to the Gothic Basilica of San Petronio. True to its name, the common spaces to each of the guest rooms are decked out in art, ranging from a posed knight’s armor in the lobby to themed suites based on works from celebrated Italian artists.
Grand Hotel Majestic: Nestled in Bologna’s city center is this hotel housed in an 18th-century palace. The spacious guest rooms house elegant antique furnishings and unique frescoes overlooking the Piazza Maggiore. Despite contemporary luxuries, history is frozen in time at this property, quite literally: on the way downstairs to the exquisite dining rooms, a slab of cobblestone street is preserved, ridged with ancient chariot tracks.
Where to Eat:
Taverna del Postiglione: In Bologna’s historic city center stands this enchanting brick-laden restaurant serving rustic Emilia-Romagna fare. The building itself dates back to the Middle Ages, and perhaps so do some dishes: tortellini in capon broth, and various Bolognese veal cutlets. Dessert options run the gamut from fruity to nutty to sweet, but the local favorite is the flourless chocolate cake topped with a sweet mascarpone cheese and chocolate sauce.
L’Arcimboldo: Many of Bologna’s best restaurants specialize in regional cuisine, and L’Arcimboldo is no exception. Here, the culinary team puts a contemporary spin on plates typical to Emilia-Romagna, through the use of brightly-colored and bold ingredients. Before or after dinner, head to the restaurant’s cellar to peruse whatever art exhibition is on display.
Osteria dell’Orsa: Founded in 1979, this osteria is located near and run by members of the University. As a result, students fill the communal tables at any time of day, adding a youthful air to the space. The dishes are authentic and unpretentious, giving the allure that a woman you wish was your Italian nonna is cooking in the kitchen.
L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele: Though this traditional Italian pizza spot specializes in Neapolitan-style pies, it is frequented by locals and tourists alike. Situated in the former ancient Jewish ghetto of Bologna, this light-filled, family-run pizzeria is great any time of day, if you can snag a table.
Where to Drink:
Bamboo: It may be difficult to envision a cocktail bar that evokes island tiki huts in the middle of an ancient Italian city, but trust us when we say Bamboo is worth the visit. Exotic decorations and tribal statuettes line the walls and bar, while fruity and experimental mixed drinks tantalize taste buds.
Guero: Ask any group of young friends in Bologna if they’ve ever been to Guero and you’ll likely receive a resounding “yes.” All day long, every table seems to be dominated by large gatherings at any point in time. The staff is attentive, the cocktails are strong yet tasty, and the vibes are immaculate.
Le Stanze: This atmospheric bistro in a repurposed 16th-century chapel boasts a lively cocktail bar for aperitivo and drinks late into the evening. Easily the most magnificent bar in Bologna’s city limits, this swanky locale owned by the illustrious Bentivoglio family features fresco-adorned walls and stuccoes. Watch Jesus turn water into wine in a mural behind the bar while sipping your own beverage.
Where to Visit:
Piazza Maggiore: The beating heart of this city dating back to the 12th century is Piazza Maggiore, enriched with significant sites such as Fontana del Nettuno, the Palazzo del Podestà, as well as the Basilica of San Petronio. During aperitivo hour, grab a seat at any one of the bars along the piazza for prime people watching.
Asinelli Tower: Built during the Middle Ages for military purposes, this set of towers in the middle of the city where the ancient Via Emilia enters the city, is one of the most noteworthy symbols of Bologna. Due to the gradual sinking of the land, Torre Garisenda was lowered during the 14th century for fear of collapsing, and is currently closed due to restorations. Anyone willing to journey the steep 498 steps inside of Torre degli Asinelli will be met with panoramic city views.
Finestrella: Translating to “window” in Italian, the Finestrella is exactly what you would expect it to be. This small window on Via Piella, a narrow street lined with restaurants, offers a fleeting glimpse at Bologna’s lost canals constructed in the Middle Ages.
Giardini Margherita: Where one of the first convents in the city existed until the fourteenth century is now home to the most popular park in Bologna, just south of the city center. Since 2014, cultural production centers, redevelopment project centers, coworking spaces, education centers, and a bistro have all opened up along the grounds. Until the eighties, the gardens even hosted a small zoo.
Galleria Cavour: For more than 60 years, this luxury shopping destination tucked away among some of Bologna’s most prestigious buildings has welcomed patrons seeking elegant and luxurious shopping experiences. Discover the Michelin Guide-recommended Emporio Armani Ristorante & Caffè here as well.
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