Half an hour north of Florence, Italy, Bologna is a small but dense city built with arched colonnades, hidden canals and ancient towers. Home to the world’s oldest university founded in 1088, the Biblioteca Salaborsa and Archiginnasio, a carved wooden anatomical theater, is just one block from the city center, Piazza Maggiore. Though there is a rich history and culture, Bologna is noted for its culinary expertise.
Best known for spaghetti bolognese, the meat-based sauce was first recorded in 1891 by Pellegrino Artusi. An authentic recipe was registered by the Italian Academy of Cuisine at the Bologna Chamber of Commerce in 1982. Cooking schools throughout the city teach aspiring chefs and travelers alike the techniques to master. From pastries to pastas, spend a day in Bologna absorbing kitchen methods, tips, products and traditions.
Top Image: Vanni Lazzari, CC BY-SA 4.0
Molly Harris is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.
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1. Coffee at Caffé Terzi
To keep up with the cooks in this town, Caffé Terzi is where to start the day. One block north of Piazza Maggiore on Via Guglielmo Oberdan, the shop is one of the best in the city. Travel the world and back again with a cup of single origin– be it Indian, Ethiopian or Cuban– coffee. Using only raw ingredients from nonindustrial producers, the three person barista team makes skilled brewing a part of the morning routine. Try an espresso and stand at the bar. If liquid energy isn't enough to get you going, sink your teeth into an order of brioche.
Photo by Vanni Lazzari, CC BY-SA 4.0
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2. Cooking Class at Bologna Cucina
People come to Bologna Cucina to learn how to make pasta, but the real lesson is perfecting the Bolognese sauce. Pasta-making is actually very simple, but ragù alla bolognese requires technique as well as a hidden ingredient or two. I'll give you a head start– the best-kept secret: nutmeg. Enjoy a glass of wine and the product of your labor before taking your newly acquired knowledge home.
Photo by Unsplash, CC0
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3. Shop for Cooking Tools at Kasanova
After the lesson, most want to at least look at pasta machines. Head back to Via Ugo Bassi to find Kasanova cooking supply store on the left. Walk in and look for the owner to get tested advice on which tools to buy. With expert help, look for a mid-range pasta machine that will roll out the essentials and last a lifetime. Coffee buffs can also pick up a Bialetti moka express, a pioneer of coffee maker design dating to 1933. To find something unique, visit the Mercato Antiquario Città in front of St. Stephen's Basilican which takes place over the second weekend of every month. Vendors sell everything from wooden mixing bowls to Limoges china for a bargain.
Photo by Donovan Govan, CC BY-SA 3.0
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4. Market Street
Wander away from Piazza Maggiore and down Via Pescherie Vecchie for a trip through the past. Housed in what was a medieval market, the alleyway is crowded with sights and smells that are worth wading through the bustle. A feast for the eyes, take in the shops with sweets stacked tall on shelves, wheels of parmesan leaning against the door and hams strung along the ceiling. The price tag on handmade pasta filling store displays will give you a new appreciation for the lessons learned at Bologna Cucina.
Andrzej Otrebski, CC BY-SA 4.0
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5. Drinks at Osteria del Sole
A locals' haunt, this osteria has been in operation since 1465. Vicolo Ranocchi may be a quiet side-street in the city center, but arrive early. Tables go quickly, and are not given up easily. Following tradition, bring a dish, pull up a chair and share with other patrons. Warm up with grappa or choose a glass from the extensive wine list.
Photo courtesy of Osteria del Sole's Facebook