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Bologna: the Gourmet capital of Italy
Bologna: the Gourmet capital of Italy

Culinary vacations in Bologna

We all know that Italy is world-famous for her great food, but did you know that Bologna is THE place to go to experience Gourmet Italy?  Many tourists visiting Italy plan their holidays around Rome, Florence and Venice, but it would be such a mistake to leave out Bologna, especially since it is only 30 minutes from Florence by train.  Bologna,  just to the North of Tuscany, is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy which is the home of several of Italy’s most famous exports – including Prosciutto de Parma (Parma Ham), Parmesan Reggiano (Parmesan Cheese),  Aceto Balsamico (Balsamic vinegar),  Lambrusco (Sparkling Red Wine) and of course, Ferrari, Maserati and Ducati!

Bologna is a charming medieval university town, full of great architecture and history, and home to arguably the best Pasta in Italy!  A great way to see most of the compact centre of the town is to take a walking tour.  Make sure you include the small side streets and passageways centred around Via Pescherie Vecchie and Via Drapperie where the local people shop for their food.  Here you will see amazing displays of hams, salamis, cheeses, fresh produce and fish, as well as literally dozens of different Olive oils, vinegars and truffle products.  Oh, and do not forget the bread – there is nothing quite like a piece of fresh bread and proscuitto to keep you going until the next meal!
One of the best ways to see how all our favourite delicacies are made is to take a Culinary Tour of the Emilia-Romagna region, which includes the towns of Parma, Modena and Langhirano.  This could be a one day tour visiting a Parmesan Cheese factory, a tour of Balsamic vinegar  maker and a Parma Ham producer, or, if you are lucky enough to have more time you can plan a 2 or even 3 day tour to include all the above, plus wineries, markets, truffles, cookery classes and more…  (are you hungry yet?)

Once you have had a few meals in Bologna and sampled the very special pasta made here from plain flour and eggs, you can attend a cookery class and learn how to make this speciality to amaze your friends when you go home… it is not as difficult as you may think! Some regional specialities to look out for on the menu would be Cotolette alla Bolognese, which are crumbed veal cutlets, Friggione, a type of vegetable stew with boiled meat, Fritto Misto alla Bolognese, which is a mix of breaded and fried foods, often including brains and sweetbreads according to the season – it’s best of check what is being included on the day if you dislike offal.  And, of course, the most famous of all:  Tagliatelle al Ragu, better known as Spagetti Bolognese, but bearing no resemblance to the stuff you get at home, and always made with fresh Tagliatelle, never spaghetti!
If you are mad about truffles, do try and organise your visit for late Autumn;  On the first 3 Sundays of November the town of Savigno plays host to the great White Truffle and you can shop for many different varieties and truffle products to take home.   You can even go on a private truffle hunt – an unforgettable experience.

Bologna is a great place to visit for everyone.  It is easy to get to by train or car, and compact enough to get around most of the sights on foot.  The next time I visit I will try to find self-catering accommodation;  there are lots of great little places to eat and if you like to cook for yourself you can find everything you need in the food shops, and save a fortune!
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