Italian cuisine is by far some of the best out in the world. Fresh vegetables, homemade pasta, and freshly baked bread are just some of the components that make Italian food so delicious. Yet, some might wonder if there is a specific place in Italy that has the best food. The answer is yes, and it is Bologna, aka the culinary capital of Italy.
Located in the northeastern part of the country, Bologna is one of many towns in the Emilia Romagna region. In 190 B.C., it became a Roman colony until the Empire’s fall. Bologna then fell under various rules, including the papacy, before it was declared free in the 12th century. Later, the city became part of the Papal States in 1506 before being controlled by the French and Austrians. Finally, Bologna joined the newly formed Kingdom of Italy in 1860.
Sometime during this long history, it set itself apart from the rest and became the culinary capital of the country. Bologna’s most popular creations include bologna sausage, bolognese sauce, lasagne, and tortellini in brodo.
The tortellini has an interesting origin story as it is said to have been inspired by the navel of Lucrezia Borgia, the daughter of Pope Alexander VI. She was supposedly staying at a local inn, and the innkeeper became enamored with her beauty. He snuck upstairs to spy on her through the keyhole. However, the room was dark, and the innkeeper only caught a glimpse of Lucrezia’s bellybutton as she undressed. However, this sight was inspirational and thus tortellini was born.
Bologna is also home to mortadella, a sausage seasoned with pepper, pistachio, nutmeg, and berries. In the Middle Ages, the dish was so popular among the rich Bologna established a Mortadella guild in the Quadrilatero market. There is also a yearly fall festival, Mortadella, please, devoted to the food.
Of course, what culinary experience would be complete without dessert. The two most popular are raviole and zuppa inglese. Raviole is a tiny pastry filled with plums and jam. Zuppa inglese is a sponge cake layered with custard and Alchermes liquor.
As the food capital, there are tons of restaurants and cafes to choose from, but a main staple of Bologna is Mercato di Mezzo, The Middle Market. Located in the Quadrilatero neighborhood, the market has been around since medieval times and was always a focal point in the local food industry. One a daily basis, visitors and locals can wander through indoor food stalls and sample a variety of local favorites. The market is also easy to navigate as each street is named for its wares, such as Via delle Pescherie Vecchie, Street of the Old Fishmongers.
Bologna is the place to be if you’re a foodie looking for a lesson in the history of Italian cuisine. Every city in Italy has local dishes to brag about, but those places can’t call themselves the culinary capital of Italy.