Food Capital of Italy

How are Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiana Reggiano,
Aceto Balsamico de Moderna and Sangiovese wine related?

Bologna, and the entire Emilia-Romagna region, is known for its abundant food and wine culture. The most superb, rich, spicy and smooth mortadella, delicate sweet and salty prosciutto and the king of cheese – world renowned, gritty, fruity and nutty parmigiano-reggiano are from this part of Italy.

The stuffed pasta known as tortellini is a favorite in Bologna. In particular, a dish called Tortellini en Brodo, where tortellini is served in a delicate meat broth. We tried it and it was extraordinary!

We also learned the difference between tortellini, which are smaller pasta with a meat stuffing and tortelloni, same shape but slightly larger and filled with ricotta and parsley or spinach. Tortellini are cooked in and served with broth while tortelloni are cooked in water, stir-fried in butter and sage and served dry.

Tortellini in Brodo

The meatless bolognese sauce you may know, did not originate in Bologna, but France. Bologna’s hearty and meaty traditional ragú alla Bolognese is a thick sauce made with meat, finely chopped vegetables, ham, wine, beef broth and cream and served with the long, flat and silky tagliatelle pasta. Look for Tagliatelle al Ragù Bolognese on the menu.

The classic wine of the region is another favorite of ours, Sangiovese, a full-bodied red wine that pairs perfectly with the local pasta dishes. Pignoletto is an amazing sparkling white wine that is another must-try. It works well with the delicate flavors in mortadella and other sausages as well as the local cheeses.

The city of Naples may claim to have created lasagna but the dish has become a Bolognese staple as well. The difference is that the Bolognese version uses spinach in the dough and they top the lasagna with grated parmigiano-reggiano.

We found a couple of extraordinary cafes in the city and as coffee lovers we were encouraged to visit Aroma Caffè for breakfast. We sipped on one of the best cappuccinos we have had and accompanied with a warm and delicious buttery croissant. Simplicity at its finest.

Café Pasticceria Gamberini opened in 1907 and their sweet and savory offerings were as rewarding to our taste buds as they were to our eyes. The picture at the top of this writing was taken at Gamberini’s. We stopped late in the afternoon on our final day in Bologna and without a doubt would have returned if we were in the city longer.

Four mini tarts with hot chocolate

In more than one European country we have been introduced to the idea that pigs are seen as a symbol of good luck. In Bologna at New Years, pink marzipan pigs are given to family and friends to bring good luck for the new year.

A pink pig

Basilica di San Petronio

Construction began on the Basilica of San Petronio in 1390 but as you can see from the picture below, the main facade remains unfinished to this day. Original plans for the church show it was intended to be larger than the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. The papal authorities suspended the build deciding the largest church should be located in Rome.

The Basilica also proudly states that the organ, built in 1470, is the oldest functioning organ still in use in the world today.

Basilica of San Petronio

Inside we found another fascinating inlaid meridian line. This one is said to be the longest indoor meridian line in the world at nearly 220 feet long (66.8m). It was designed in 1655 by the astronomer Cassini, who was teaching astronomy at Bologna University.

Sundials were once the traditional way of measuring the highest point of the sun each day (noon) however a meridian line is a far more accurate instrument to determine solar noon. In San Petronio the sunlight enters through a 1-inch hole placed at nearly 90 feet high up the church wall and the ray of sunlight shines precisely on the meridian line, each day on a slightly different spot along the line. The position of the light along the line determines the altitude of the sun at noon, which allowed Cassini to calculate various astronomical events including the equinoxes and solstices.

Meridian Line designed in 1655 by the astronomer Cassini

Cathedral of San Pietro

The Metropolitan Cathedral of St. Peter may not be as famous as the Church of San Petronio but it is the seat of the Archbishop of Bologna and the Duomo of Bologna. Early records show there was a cathedral at this site at least as early as 1028. Although that early one was destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt and consecrated in 1184. It’s only remains are visible within the current steeple. Additions to the church have been made over the centuries and the current façade reflects the artistic style of the early 18th century.

Cathedral of San Pietro

The majestic interior is baroque in style, and a favorite to see. This larger than life, outstanding set of 8 figures is titled “Lament over the Dead Christ”. It was sculpted in terracotta by Alfonso Lombardi in the 16th century.

“Lament over the Dead Christ”

Basilica di Santo Stefano

The Basilica of St. Stefano is part of a fascinating complex of Sette Chiese (Seven Churches). At the end of the 15th century there had actually been 46 chapels and altars on the site. The remaining churches, courtyards, cloisters and passages reflect Roman and Ancient Christian, Byzantine, Lombard, Frank and Ottonian influences.

Saint Stefano over the centuries

The first temple is believed to have been erected on the site over top of a pure, rich spring about 2000 years ago by priests and followers of the Cult of Isis. The spring still exists today hidden beneath one of the buildings.

The most famous and ancient of St. Stefano churches is the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher which was built to replicate the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem where Jesus is thought to be buried. Loved the design in the brick work on the exterior walls.

Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher

Museo Davia Bargellini

99 years ago the Bargellini Museum opened. This smaller museum has 7 exhibition halls filled with, primarily 16th to 18th century furnishings, theater scenes, miniature reproductions of private residences, doll houses, paintings, religious art, portraits from the 15th – 18th century, ceramics, decorative arts, terracotta sculptures, wrought iron, ornamental bronzes, keys, handles, glass and other rare items. The most important old European porcelain manufacturers were well represented and this Meissen piece with its mermaid attendants, first modelled in the 1770’s, drew our eye. (Meissen began in 1710 and is still in operation to this day.)

Museo Davia Bargellini – Meissen porcelain

Lercaro Collection Museum

This museum was named after Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro (1891-1976) who was archbishop of Bologna from 1952 to 1968. He had acquired a small collection before he retired, but after retirement his collection quickly grew. Numerous pieces from artists, collectors or admirers were simply donated to Lercaro. The theme first focused on works with a sacred theme but today it is an eclectic exhibition of contemporary and modern art, 17th and 18th century Flemish tapestries, extraordinary fish and plant fossils, hand drawn postcards and a collection of Cardinal bronze sculptures. One of the first gifts received was this painting by Ilario Rossi.

“Winter Landscape” 1977 by Ilario Rossi (1911-1994)

Bologna offers plenty of shopping with plenty of upscale Italian brand options. We drooled over leather items, custom tailor options and some unique women’s bags. This one-of-a-kind purse may need a special buyer or collector.

A one-of-a-kind purse

Fun fact: At the end of the 18th century the provinces of Bologna, Ferrara, Modena and Reggio Emilio were the first to adopt Italy’s modern tricolor flag of red, white and green.

This lively city has rightfully earned a place as a top destination for food lovers from around the world and the University of Bologna continues to be a major influencer in the education of its citizens and their contemporary and progressive attitudes.

Bye Bologna.

Saluti from these bolognesi,

Ted + Julia

View our Basilica di Santo Stefano photo album here

View our Café Pastry Gamberini photo album here

View our Cathedral of San Pietro photo album here

View our Davia Bargellini Museum photo album here

View our Lercaro collection photo album here

View our Basilica of San Petronio photo album here

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