Specialty Food Shops in the Heart of Bologna

Just off Piazza Maggiore, you’ll find a number of small streets filled with Bologna specialty food shops that are foodie heaven. This is part of the Quadrilatero and these shops are part of the food market tradition in these streets that date back to the medieval period, if not further. Small shops dedicated to top-quality Italian classic ingredients. There are the fruit and vegetable stalls, the butcher, the fishmonger, cheese, bread, chocolate, and many more variations on a foodie theme. These narrow streets are always busy, even more so during the holiday season. And yes, those are eels in the white box on the bottom right. Just one of the many types of seafood you’ll find on offer.

bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie

With New Year’s Eve fast approaching, we went to one of the butchers to get the ingredients for the classic lasagne that G makes. After all, that’s one of the famous dishes that traces some of its origins to this part of Italy. Emilia-Romagna lasagne is made up of ragú bolognese, bechamel, parmigiano, and the pasta sheets, which can be regular or made with spinach for a lasagne verde. Nothing else! There are other versions in the country, but this is the version most common in northern Italy. And that’s all I’ll say on that, before someone from another region complains. 😉 I love to eat Italian food, but talking or writing about it? No, thanks! Too easy to make a mistake and offend someone!

The butcher we go to is the Macelleria Agnoletto & Bignami on Via Pescherie Vecchie. Even if that wasn’t where the family usually goes, I think I would have wanted to go, just for the sign. I noticed it last week and couldn’t resist squeezing in a quick shot, despite having Charlie with me and numerous tourists and locals passing through the narrow street. I find it kind of hilarious and a brilliant design!

macelleria bologna specialty food shops

As well as the fresh meat and poultry available (just take a number to get served), there is also a selection of meats and cheeses, from the obvious parmigiano to bresaola, mortadella, and other charcuterie classics. Plus, wines, olive oils, sauces, and so much more.

bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie

bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie

bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie

These aren’t necessarily the most affordable shops, but you do get a broader selection than in the local grocery stores. There are also shops where you can buy some lovely pasta, as well. We were considering some tortellini, but that might have to wait for later into the new year.

Whether you’re purchasing for a special occasion, taking advantage of having a kitchen in an AirBnB place, or just want to window shop, there are plenty of Bologna specialty food shops to tempt you in the Quadrilatero. Some day, I may even get some decent photos, instead of really quick snaps between all of the shoppers. A new year’s resolution, perhaps. For now, a few more snaps along Via Pescherie Vecchie.

bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie
bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie
bologna specialty food shops Via Pescherie Vecchie

The French Christmas Market … in Italy.

christmas market
Along with the regular markets taking place throughout the week, a new influx of holiday markets has arrived. Some have come and gone, while others hold out through the new year. Some are purely Italian, while others have a more foreign flavor. Once such market is il villaggio di natale francese, the French Christmas Village. This little Christmas market has packed up and said au revoir for the season, but we managed to stop by for a quick visit on its last night in town.

The market took place in the Piazza Minghetti, which is a charming little square surrounded by some beautiful, classical-style buildings. It’s also just a short walk from some of the fanciest shops in town, as well as some of the most beautifully decorated portico ceilings in the city. While the stalls weren’t excessive in number, they were certainly picturesque. They reminded me of some of the wooden Christmas market stalls that were set up frequently in Utrecht for some of the festivities in recent years. All that was missing was a light dusting of snow and some reindeer for a pure holiday display.

christmas market bologna piazza minghetti

The stalls themselves sold a variety of wares, including a spice stall that had me seriously considering buying some pink pepercorns and some of the various curry spice blends they had on offer. Of course, there was also plenty of cheese, hats, fabric pieces, chocolates, macarons, decorations, and other odds and ends. You could also purchase drinks and food to enjoy right there. I do slightly regret not giving in and trying some of the numerous hot dishes, including the cassoulet. Everything smelled divine and my mouth was watering.

The one stall I ended up not being able to resist was the cookie/biscuit stall. Sure, they had the classic madeleines, but they also had macaroons, which are delicious mounds of lightly sweetened shredded coconut on a biscuity base, with drizzles of chocolate. For my fellow Americans, think of a fancier, bigger version of the beloved Girl Scout Samoa/Caramel deLite cookies. They are perfect and I’m so glad I gave in and got some. In fact, I bought four, just enough to allow me one a day through Christmas. They are my morning treat with my coffee, a perfect combination.
christmas market cookie biscuit stall bologna

christmas market cookies samoa coconut girl scouts bologna

We missed the elves, which a friend told me about, but in all, I’m glad we stopped by this little bit of France in Bologna. It was the perfect size; big enough to be appealing rather than overwhelming.

There are a few more Christmas markets in Bologna that I’d like to visit (or revisit, in one case) before the end of the holiday season. Whether I make it or not, at least I’ve seen a couple that are helping me get into the holiday spirit.
Joyeux Noël!

christmas market bologna french

christmas market bologna italy

I found okra in Bologna!

Seriously, y’all, today was not the best of days, but we finally stopped in at a new world supermarket that has opened on Via del Borgo di San Pietro. It’s a new shop and there’s space on the shelves still to fill, but there’s definitely some interesting stuff to be had there. But when I saw the refrigerated vegetable section, small as it may be, I couldn’t help but start dancing and boogy-ing. They had okra! And not just small bags of it. Big boxes of the stuff! After I had my moment of celebration, I was soon throwing handfuls into a bag G had found for me.

Okra Bologna Mondo Nuovo Supermarket via del borgo di san pietro

Growing up, I was not a fan of okra. Too slimy. Or at least, that’s what I’d heard, so I never really even tried it. But as I got older, I became much more food adventurous — for the record, I’ve tried durian and didn’t gag — and soon came to love okra in any form. Even just pan cooked, which is when it can get the texture that puts people off.

I was lucky enough to find one store and a Saturday market stall in Utrecht that sold it, but I wasn’t sure I’d have much luck here. Thus my excited reaction when I saw it today. Best of all, we had already picked up some polenta the other day to make cornbread (it’s close enough), so I figure I’ll add a light touch of cornmeal/polenta and have fried okra tonight. Always a classic! After I talk to my dad to find out how he made it for me last time I was home, though.

The reason I made cornbread this week is because today is Thanksgiving in the US. Gotta have cornbread dressing! However, for various reasons — the main one being that I thought Thanksgiving was next week — we’ll be celebrating tomorrow. But that’s ok, the giblet gravy is simmering away right now and we’ve got enough turkey to feed the whole building. I’ll be having turkey sandwiches for weeks, which is fine, because that’s one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. And until tomorrow, I’ve got some fried okra for dinner tonight to tide me over. Oh, and the stews and gumbo that I’ll be able to make this winter! Happy days!

So to anyone in Bologna looking for okra and some other less common world-food items, check out the Mondo Nuovo Supermarket on Via del Borgo, not too far down from Via Irnerio. Please keep them busy and in business, no matter what you purchase. I don’t want to lose my okra source!

Okra Bologna Mondo Nuovo Supermarket via del borgo di san pietro

Okra Bologna Mondo Nuovo Supermarket via del borgo di san pietro

Where to Buy Books in Bologna: Market Edition

Even in this age of ebooks, any bibliophile expat is going to be on the hunt for places to buy real books. Whether it’s a big-box store or a seasonal book market, that need to find out where to buy books is strong. My Utrecht blog had a couple of posts about places to buy books in Utrecht and those remain some of my most popular posts to this day.

While ebooks make it easier for people to find books in their language of choice when that’s not the local language, physical books are always nice to return to. There’s something comforting about buying a physical book that you can easily flip through, make notes in the margins, and add to your bookshelves, not to mention give a good sniff. In my various moves, the one thing that has made up the bulk of my moving boxes is my book collection.  We currently have a wall of bookshelves and not much free space left. And I left a LOT of books behind with each move. That’s one of the things I always regret once I’m settled.

Of course, if you’re learning the language of your new home, books are a great aid, not just the textbooks. Children’s books are a surprisingly fun way of practicing and as you advance in your linguistic learning, you can move up in the book age brackets. If you’re like me and enjoy art history, you may find yourself adding books in the new language to your library, such as my book on Italian palazzi, written in Dutch. That was more aspirational than actually at my language level, but I figured it was a fun way to learn some of the architectural terms in Dutch. In past visits to Italy, I’ve picked up books and pamphlets in Italian when visiting various museums.

where to buy books Bologna Book Market Fiera del Libro

There are big chain bookstores here in Bologna, including one of the big ones near the two towers, but I also like finding smaller bookstores and market stalls. While out with Charlie the other day, I came across a Bologna book market that made me very happy. After a bit of research online, I discovered that it’s the Fiera del Libro, which is held seasonally twice a year in the Piazza XX Settembre (over by the bus and train stations). Set up under a tent, this 120-square-meter market sells books, prints, posters, comics, and more, both new and used.

The current spring edition started in March and ends May 1, so I need to go back soon with some cash in hand. When I stopped by the other day, I only had keys and dog biscuits filling my pockets. However, during my quick tour through it, I noticed at least one section selling books in English, with an option of one book for €5 or three books for €10.

The Bologna book market returns again in October and runs through late November. Best of all,  it runs daily, from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. I love leisurely working my way through stacks and shelves of books, almost as much as I love reading books. I could easily spend a whole morning working my way through the whole market. I can’t wait!

where to buy books Bologna Book Market Fiera del Libro



Shopping at The Garage Bologna

Shopping at The Garage Bologna doesn’t mean buying a new car or car parts. In fact it’s quite the opposite. Yesterday, we went to The Garage, an urban market held at the Dynamo Velostazione. Dynamo is a pretty awesome place on its own, as you can rent and store bicycles or have them repaired and they also organize bike tours. Coming from the Netherlands, it feels natural and familiar. But really, Dynamo is so much more, as it regularly features music, exhibits, performances, has its own lounge area, bar, and free wifi, all in a setting that seems to combine classical with industrial. With bonus bicycles for decoration, of course.

Dynamo entranceThe Garage Bologna Dynamo urban market

The Garage Bologna Dynamo velostazione urban market The Garage Bologna Dynamo velostazione urban market

From what I’ve seen, it looks like yesterday’s edition of The Garage was a one-year celebration. They held the first edition there a year ago today. Inside the fabulous arches, you’ll find all sorts of items on offer, frequently made by the vendor, although there were also some interesting selections of postcards, books, and vintage clothing.

Of the self-made items, some of the pieces that caught my eye were the jewelry made from colored pencils (and their shavings!)  by IngeniumSoul S&V and the beautiful engraved jewelry from Lab.ab. In fact, I was so taken with Lab.ab’s work that I bought one of her rings. G ended up buying a quirky hat from another vendor. Oh, and I also bought an elephant postcard, because I have a thing for elephants these days. It turns out the elephant print was actually a Marimekko print. I should have known. I also seem to gravitate toward all sorts of Marimekko items.

Labab The Garage Bologna Dynamo urban market

After admiring everything on offer and chatting briefly with one of the Dynamo guys, we decided to enjoy the Sunday sunshine and got a couple of glasses of prosecco from the Velo Cíty Bar and sat outside, admiring some of la scalinata del Pincio (Pincio staircase) and the old walls of the Castelli di Galliera.

The Garage Bologna Dynamo urban market

The Garage Bologna Dynamo urban market prosecco flamingo

The Garage Bologna Dynamo urban market pincio

If you’re going to be visiting in early April and are looking for things to do in Bologna, check out the next edition of The Garage at the same location on Sunday, April 2. I suspect I’ll be back. That colored-pencil jewelry is calling my name.



Finding the Bologna Flower Markets

flower market bologna italy quadrilatero

One of the things I loved about the Netherlands were the flower markets. As well as the big weekly one held every Saturday in Utrecht — in a beautiful setting — there were also always a few stalls set up every day along one of the major canals in the city. The funny thing was that the flower vendors by the canal had big booming voices and sometimes sounded more like the Italian street vendors I’ve seen on TV.  To be honest, a large man yelling in Dutch, even if it is about flowers, can be a bit intimidating! What wasn’t intimidating was the price of the flowers. You could get huge bouquets of tulips for just a few euros and the rest of the flowers and potted trees were equally affordable.

The other week, I was feeling a bit nostalgic for the Netherlands. While out with Charlie for his morning walk, we saw a few stalls/trucks set up at Piazza VIII Agosto. That’s not unusual, as there is a huge market held there every Friday and Saturday with row upon row of matching white tent stalls set up, filling the large square. However, this wasn’t a Friday or Saturday and the few trucks and displays weren’t of the usual clothing and household goods. They were flowers! I’d found a miniature flower market in Bologna!

bologna flower markets piazza viii agosto italy

Despite the smaller selection, there were still a variety of attractive flowers for planting or for simple decoration in a vase. There were even a few small potted trees. The prices didn’t look too bad, though maybe slightly more than in the Netherlands. They even had some tulips, though I didn’t see a price on those as Charlie and I got distracted when we met a lovely big dog and his friendly owner.

bologna flower markets piazza viii agosto italy

Perhaps it was part of the Mercato di Piazza San Francesco, which is where the usual plant and flower market is held on Tuesdays, though it looks like it transferred temporarily to Piazza VIII Agosto last year while some renovations are being done.

Flower Shop

Of course you don’t have to wait for a one-day market to buy flowers. There are plenty of regular flower shops within the city where you can buy flowers, arrangements, and even and laurel wreathes for your graduating student. After all, this is a university town!

If you want something in between your typical florist and the outdoor flower market, there’s always some lovely flower market to be found in one of the achingly picturesque streets in the Quadrilatero in the heart of the old city center. I think this one may be housed in a former goldsmiths guild. Look at all of those arches and vaulting!

flower markets bologna italy quadrilatero

flower markets bologna italy quadrilatero

Now that I know some spots to buy flowers, I really do need to remember to buy some flower vases. I wonder where I can find those?



Head Shops and Dutch Dogs

dutch dog finds hemp shop head shop in bologna italy qui canapa

Here’s Charlie putting the cane (dog) in canapa (hemp). What do you expect from a Dutch dog? While out walking this morning, his nose zoomed in on Qui Canapa, a hemp/grow/seed/head shop in Bologna. This discovery was soon followed up by a long sniff around the nearby pizza restaurant. I’m not kidding!

Charlie probably recognized some of the scents coming from the hemp shop. After all, in Utrecht, we had three “coffee shops” within a 3-5 minute walk from our house, and one of those places was actually a boat, known as the Culture Boat! (The larger white/blue/red boat on the right.)
Iced In

Despite the Dutch reputation, most people don’t smoke weed/pot/hashish. Tourists and university students probably make up a large portion of the customers, with a few other local regulars. You smell it on occasion, but it’s not like everyone’s stopping in to a “coffee shop” or culture boat on a regular basis. Plenty of people don’t bother at all.

Still, I had to laugh when I realized what the shop was that Charlie was sniffing around so intently this morning. Of course the Dutch dog found the head shop in Bologna. In another bit of synchronicity, I received an email today from Philip Lindeman, a Dutch artist I’d written about a few months ago for my Utrecht blog. He did a great mural on the wall outside of one of the head shops in Utrecht. It’s almost like the universe is trying to tell me something …

Seriously, though, the shop isn’t a Dutch “coffee shop”. Per their website, they are a shop, but also an information point as part of their aim is to make people more aware of the uses of hemp, both in therapy and in a wide range of products. Hemp has long been used for a variety of purposes that had nothing to do with getting high. In fact, the shop sells pasta, beer, chocolate, oil, face creams, bags, t-shirt, glasses and more, all based on hemp/canabis. Hemp is an easily renewable resource, so I’m actually interested in going in some time and checking out what they have to offer. I think Charlie wants to go, too.

dutch dog finds hemp shop head shop in bologna italy qui canapa

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