The first stop on a food tour of Bologna has to be the Quadrilatero. This series of interconnecting lanes off the Piazza Maggiore is lined by tiny stalls and bottegas offering meats, cheese, fish, fruit and vegetables. In operation since medieval times, most stalls maintain their ancient features, including underground caverns that serve as cool rooms. Look closely while you shop and you’re sure to see stallholders vanish below ground level, only to reappear bearing pumpkins, melons or potatoes. The Quadrilatero is a great place to shop for fresh food, but it also makes an excellent venue for a light lunch: almost all the salumerias in these lanes have restaurants inside offering plates of sliced meats and cheese with local wines to wash them down. Hardly any take bookings, but turnover is fast and service is friendly. If you can’t find a table, never fear. The
Mercato di Mezzo ( Via Clavature, 12), between two of the Quadrilatero’s laneways, is another perfect spot for food shopping and snacking. Once the city’s covered marketplace and now the hub for its gastronomical traditions, the site has been transformed into a haven for local food lovers and visitors alike. On the ground floor, communal tables are surrounded by stalls featuring local delights. Prosciutto, tortellini and ragù all get a run, but it’s the local sweets like the comforting torta di riso and fruit-flecked
pinza that surprise. Above, the first floor is a celebration of Italy’s favourite export: pizza. Here, it’s given a local touch, served with beers from Bologna craft brewer, Baladin.