When you come to Italy, you have to eat. It’s not optional. And in Bologna, a place which is often affectionately nicknamed as “the fat city”, you should definitely consider packing your stretchy trousers. In countries like Italy, sometimes the best way to learn about culture, tradition, and history, is through its food. It is all so beautifully intertwined. Cuisine and the culture around eating represents a complex people and history which is fascinating to discover.
I decided to visit Bologna having heard about the thriving food scene here and authentic atmosphere. This city is famed around the world for its food. The unrivalled cheeses, wines, and cured meats, are just the beginning. Being the birthplace of ragu alla Bolognese and tortellini are the city’s biggest claims to fame, and nowhere in the world can do them better.
With only limited time in the beautiful capital of Emilia Romagna, I had to prioritise the best experiences in the city. The thing that seemed almost compulsory? Learning about, and enjoying, the rich array of foods. I decided to go on a half-day food tour with Secret Food Tours Bologna to try and navigate the city’s culinary offerings.
This was my first food tour in Europe, having done a few in Asia in the past, and I was not disappointed. Having a guide helps to find hidden spots I would’ve definitely just walked past and it is refreshing to be able to ask questions about what you are seeing and eating. Now, I don’t want to tell you everything we did during our fun day together, but to give you a taste of what can be enjoyed on a Secret Food Tour. Because, of course, I want to save the best for you to experience for yourself!
We met with our guide for the day, the charming and knowledgeable Marco, in central Bologna before heading to the smaller city streets in pursuit of the good stuff. Our tour commenced in the morning so we started with a traditional Bologna breakfast. The caffeine help keep me pushing through the food coma which was to come later (thank you, espresso, the unsung hero of my life).
Our next stop was a local deli where meats, pastas, and cheeses filled display cabinets, and deliciously dark bottles of wine lined the walls. The floor of the deli was full of locals bustling forward to make their morning purchases. We grabbed a plate with a selection of Bologna’s best and sat outside the deli eating and watching the hustle unfold inside.
One of my favourite stops on the journey was the cheese shop. This dimly lit shop was a treasure trove of slowly ageing parmigiano reggiano. Colossal wheels of the region’s finest cheese filled the shelves from floor to ceiling. This could be what heaven looks like. Whilst sampling the cheese, we learned how it was made and how the flavour and texture changes during the ageing process. It was an interesting stop which was exactly what I had been craving when I signed up to the tour.
Eventually, we had to stretch our stomachs because it was time for the main course. Tucked in the back of a family run restaurant, we dined on Bologna’s traditional pasta dishes and talked over a glass of local red wine. I think I have fallen even further in love with tortellini, especially when served in the traditional cream and yolk sauce. Pure perfection!
The afternoon was spent wandering the colourful streets of Bologna, making several stops along the way. Hidden shops with seemingly never-ending cellars, traditional taverns for a drink and dessert, and of course, we indulged in some delicious, fruity gelato. However, the most special moment from the afternoon was sampling aged balsamic vinegars from the region. Ageing from between twelve to twenty-five years, it was intriguing to see how the consistency and flavour changed during the process. It cemented how perfectly artistry and patience can combine to create tastes.
Eventually, it came time to say good-bye to Marco and the group, and it was saddening that the day was over. It was a fantastic day learning about the history of Bologna and sampling the foods which make it such a special place. If you come to this unique part of Italy, you should try a Secret Food Tour to discover hidden eateries, traditions, and history which you may not otherwise uncover.
I was delighted to be a guest on Secret Food Tour’s Bologna half-day Food Tour, however, as always these opinions and experiences are my own. Only the honest truth for you guys!