To be fully honest, I haven't found a favorite spot in Bologna for a cappuccino! That's not a bad thing either...take this advice to mean you can roll up to any bar counter in the town and know you're in for a delicious cappuccino and pastry. Some particularly good places of note are Cafe Pastry Gamberini, Caffe Terzi, and Pappare.
A stroll though town is also lovely in the early hours of the day. People are rushing to work, their heels clicks echoing in the arched, terrazo halls that criss-cross the city. Of all cities to be in while it's raining, Bologna is a good one. These arched halls are a great relief from the rain and summer sun which makes sketching around town doable regardless of the weather! Make sure you track down a local market while you're in town to see the bustle and bartering over produce, aprons, shoes and more!
You can also take a quick stroll to the canals that run through the city, which seem very odd to find in a town that feels like it's just coated in tiny pieces of marble! We stayed in an Airbnb around the corner from the canals and it's a great neighborhood to stay (and also walkable to the train station).
Okay...on to my favorite meals of the day! One spot that has held up between my first visit (2011) and my most recent visit (2019) is Pasta Fresca Naldi. This hole in the wall pasta spot sells freshly made pasta (by three generations of ladies) to take home and cook AND a rotating menu of cooked, sauced and ready to gorge pasta! If you happen to be in town for the lasagna verde...GET IT. My first visit to Bologna included 3 visits to this spot to eat.
They pack up the pasta in these sealed plastic containers so you can take them to-go! Grab some and head to a park for lunch or the bar across the street to enjoy the hot pasta with a glass of white wine in hand. YUM!
You'll find Bologna is a very walkable city, much more so than Rome (and I love Rome). So just wander and discover all the sights! Some of my favorite spots include the University of Bologna Library. This library is gorgeous and also has glass floors in the main hall so you can peek on the ruins underneath! Just remember to be quiet! Bologna is a very popular university town so you'll find students EVERYWHERE! This also means the evenings are pretty lively with younger people grabbing a drink before a late dinner.
Pretty close by are the iconic towers of Bologna. This a great area to grab an afternoon espresso at a nearby caffe and enjoy the people watching in this area. There's also a killer gelato spot nearby at Cremeria la Vecchia Stalla. Truly though, there's no shortage of great gelato around town. Bologna still holds my record of consuming 5 gelato in one day back in 2011.
Piazza Maggiore is another great spot for some people watching. In the summer they sometimes host outdoor film festivals in this area!
If you're really feeling ambitious (or feel the need to get some exercise to counteract all the pasta), consider making the trek through the 666 porticos to the Sanctuary of San Luca up on the hillside. The arched hall (the longest in the world) was built to protect pilgrims from the elements on their journey up the long path up the hill. The view from the top is pretty epic too.
Now...onto the dinner! After you'd had a sufficient amount of spritz from any cafe/bar around town, I have a couple dinner recommendations. My favorite dinner in Bologna (and top 5 of all time) was at Ristorante Da Fabio years ago. Go in knowing that the restaurant is quirky...they bring tables of appetizers for you to pick from... they have delicious meats and pasta...and then an additional table covered in desserts for you to pick from. It's a lot. It can be somewhat pricey. But damn, is it ever worth it! Even crazier was that we didn't finished our digestivo or leave the restaurant until well after midnight!
Another more recent discovery is Mercato delle Erbe. It's a lively grocery shopping spot during the day that has some delicious dinner options as well. We had dinner at Polpette e Crescentine and it was delicious! Meatballs are the specialty and they did not disappoint.
Have a favorite Bologna spot? Leave it in the comments below so we can check it out on our next visit!
Written by Chelsea Ward, the host and founder of Wanderful Retreats