Drive to deliciousness with a road trip to Bologna

If you love Italian food and want to go to a destination where its traditions really shine through – and that also has plenty of regional specialities – I thoroughly recommend Bologna. This charming city is a veritable heaven for foodies, having been the birthplace of some of Italy’s best-loved dishes.

Should you like the sound of a break that’s entirely gastronomic in its focus, then a road trip around several destinations makes sense. If, however, you fancy staying sticking to Bologna, then you’ll find there’s loads to do besides tickle your taste buds.

Whichever you choose, hiring a car is usually a good idea, since it makes it much easier to head off on adventures whenever you please (and, of course, is pretty essential if you fancy the road trip option!). You can hire a car through companies like Auto Europe and drive from airports such as Milan Malpensa to Bologna – a route that takes around two and a half hours.

Now, though, let’s take a look at the cuisine you really shouldn’t miss while you’re in Bologna. While you can get all the great Italian classics here, I’m going to focus on the region’s specialities.

Tortellini

I absolutely love tortellini, and it’s originally from the Emilia region (which is home to Bologna). The city itself is one of the places first recorded to use the recipe, which is now a popular dish across the world.

As any keen fan of Italian cooking will know, tortellini is a kind of stuffed pasta. Roughly ring shaped, it is typically stuffed with meat or cheese and often served in a beef or chicken broth – delicious! If you’re vegetarian, get your teeth stuck into tortelloni, which is a smaller version stuffed with vegetables.

Mortadella

Italy is famous for its cold meats, and mortadella comes from Bologna, making it a must-try during your trip. This large Italian sausage can be easily recognised by the cubes of pork fat found throughout it. It is a ground or heat-cured pork sausage which can be flavoured a number of different ways, though of course you will get the most authentic versions in Bologna itself!

Ragu alla bolognese

Ragu alla bolognese is another dish that hails from Bologna, and is one of the most famous and classic Italian foods across the world. It is probably better known to most of us as the meat and tomato sauce used in spaghetti bolognese and lasagne.

Rich and delicious, it’s typically cooked slowly and includes either chunks of beef or minced beef, as well as carrot, celery, wine, stock and tomatoes. The recipe is so important to Italian and Bolognese culinary heritage that it was registered with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce by the Italian Academy of Cooking in 1982.

Raviole Bolognesi

I have something of a sweet tooth, so I couldn’t finish without giving you at least one example of a sweet dish – though admittedly this one’s more a tasty snack than a formal dessert. Raviole Bolognesi are traditional cookies that are quite simple to look at, but extremely good to eat.

These buttery biscuits are filled with jam, though traditionally plum jam and mustard was used – pretty sure the mustard doesn’t feature in modern recipes, though! The jam-filled biscuits are cooked until they’re golden, then dusted with icing sugar. Be warned, they’re very morish!