We always love re-reading Fred's descriptions of the various regions because he provides so much more rich information than just their best dishes. Regarding Emilia-Romagna and more specifically, Bologna, I think it best to begin by sharing Fred's loving impressions.
In contrast with Tuscany, whose bucolic scenery belies centuries of conflict and rivalries..where even to this day there are tensions between the citizens of Florence and Siena, the prevailing debate among the cities of Emilia-Romagna tends towards which has the best food! The region is mostly overlooked by tourists, other than the Riviera di Romagna beach stretching along the Adriatic. Like most of the region, the hard-working, productive, open-hearted and fun-loving citizens of Bologna welcome tourists with friendly enthusiasm without catering to tourist tastes in any way. The city offers a civic wholeness that demonstrates life in Italy more purely than the popular tourist destinations.
|Locals out on a fall Saturday afternoon|
|Hanging out in the Piazza Maggiore in front of the Palazzo d'Accursio - Town Hall|
Emilia-Romagna produced Pavarotti and Fellini, but also Mussolini, despite which fact the region has a strong anti-fascist history. While Bologna was the center of the Italian Communist Party - later the Democratic Party of the Left - the post WWII leaders wisely blended the best from socialist thought and the highest ideals of democracy..."to produce a society where every citizen was cared for, but was free to do and say whatever he pleased." The live-and-let-live attitude here would never tolerate totalitarianism. The populace values a high bourgeois standard of living - fine clothes, fine homes, fine food.
We observed this Communist protest in the Piazza Maggiore against moves towards privatization. "The PD wants to sell this city," the banner says. The event included a festive, beer-on-tap conviviality and went far into the evening with live music and dancing! We observed it over the hours as we passed through.
Newton and I caught a train to Bologna from Florence to revisit for a weekend after some years. We stayed in a well-located Airbnb. All of our time was spent walking for miles and eating! Our favorite meal was lunch at Fred's recommended Trattoria Caminetto d'Oro. He says that it would be the best restaurant in many cities, though the standard is higher here. I have not eaten much pasta for fourteen years of a low-carb diet, but I was determined to try the region's famous Tortellini in Brodo (in broth). In Bologna, the small tortellinis are stuffed with turkey, veal, ground pork, mortadella, prosciutto crudo, nutmeg, and Parmigiano-Reggiano (the real thing, no sawdust extenders, as has been reported in the US!). The broth is sublime. They also had a lovely rosé, my current favorite, which was not commonly found on this trip. We had the chance to taste the fine aged Balsamic vinegar on ice cream for dessert!
|The porticoes were later handy on our rainy Sunday|
Bologna is associated with the color red for both the hues of its medieval buildings and porticoes and its Communist tradition!
|Basilica di San Petronio|
|The high-flying nave|
We shopped for my birthday request: bright red boots. I exhausted all possibilities in Florence and found only dark red or flat boots. Alas, I found the pair waiting for me along the Via Ugo Bassi: bright red suede with fuchsia rubber soul and heel. Oh...they were made in Spain!
We wandered to a Saturday market just closing up in a piazza, so joined the droves of locals settling along the portico bars for aperitifs and free hors d'oeuvres.
|The Garisenda Tower|
On our way back we caught this magical light in a corner portico of the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana. Timeless.
|Mercato di Mezzo|
We marched pretty far to reach Fred's recommended gelato: La Sorbetteria. I had the dark chocolate, Newton the milk chocolate.
|The incomparable Tamburini shop|
Our last stop was the food purveyor that Fred considers the finest in Italy: Tamburini. The old family-run shop prides itself on following the ancient traditions of farmers, "closer to the rhythms and dictates of nature...without short-cuts, without additives, and with love." We bought my revered finocchiona - salami made with fennel - and some impeccable cheese.
On the chilly way home we picked up bread, fruit and wine for a cozy dinner of perfect salami and cheese!
We were off in a rental car the next morning back to Tuscany, to the lovely hilltop town of Montalcino.