please help me make the most of a few hours in Bologna
will be there with my 2 kids 8 and 15 for just a few hours after we get off the plane fm ny and would love to know some great places for a good lunch and market to buy some special things to bring back--ideally not far from the train station as we will be catching one to Florence later that day (saturday). we eat everything and would love to bring back something hard to find in ny. grazie!
Barberinibee thank you so much for your response -- we are now actually getting to spend one night in Bologna! I will get a chance to check our all your wonderful recommendations at leisure now :) I have a room at the Metropolitan which is supposed to be halfway between the piazza Maggiore and train station.
Great! Some other suggestions for dinner or for an alternate lunch spot:
For good pasta, your kids might really enjoy Giampi e Ciccio if either of them are soccer fans (the trattoria is run by former champion footballers and the treat their diners like champions). in via Farini, 31 (tel: 051 268032)
Or you can go to the extremely inexpensive and charming Trattoria Mariposa, quite near your hotel, which provides diners of all ages with pencils, pens and blank cards in hopes they will add to the ongoing accretion of wall art by contributing either poetry or drawings. The stuffed pastas, in butter or broth, can be very good, and everything else is barely passable. via Bertiera 12 (051 225656)
If you don't want pasta for dinner, then La Baita pizzeria near your hotel is fine and friendly. via Galliera 34 (tel: 051-248073) It has excellent desserts as well, but just up the street -- at via Galliera 49 -- Stefino's gelateria gets high marks from a lot of people, and it includes a variety of offerings for people who otherwise can't eat gelato (lactose-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, etc)
Quite close to the train station, on the via dell'Indipendenza, is a small shop called I Famosi Tortellini della Nonna which sells dried tortellini filled with dried mushroom. They are delicious, very lightweight to pack and I rarely see them sold elsewhere, even in Italy. (By the way, if you do buy them, they need to be boiled a full 15/16 minutes, typically served in a plain broth, but I imagine they would also be good with butter and sage.) This shop closes at 1pm, so you should stop here in the morning, not after lunch.
Beyond that, you will need to walk 20 minutes in order to see the famous outdoor food markets -- which you should. Just walk straight down the via dell'Indipendenza until you see the backside of the fountain of Neptune and the piazza Maggiore. Walk into the piazza and, as you are facing the great cathedral (basilica di San Petronio), the streets leading into the food markets will be on your left. If you need a map of Bologna, the tourist office is opposite the cathedral in the piazza.
One shop I think not to miss is Melega (via Claveture 14) where you can buy mostarde -- fruits preserved in mustard syrups. If nothing else, they are quite colorful to look at (but you can also buy jars to take home).
Also in the via Claveture is the chocolate maker, Roccati, in case you would like a treat for the train ride.
There are many other fascinating shops selling pastas, cakes, knives, cheese and meats of all description in these streets.
You will certainly come across the famed shop of Tamburini, which now is something of a tourist zoo. I generally avoid it, except that it serves a kind of strudel-cake called "pinzi", which is filled with a very dark mostarda that is so rich with dark fruits that it is almost like chocolate. Usually, they will sell it by the ounce.
Next door, at the pasta maker of Atti & Figli, they sell (in season) particularly good candied chestnuts, but also nice breads. (Too bad you can't sample their fresh pastas, but they don't keep).
If you want to a sit down lunch in a restaurant, be aware that even if you begin at 12.30, you are unlikely to be leaving the restaurant before 2pm. If you have time for that, I recommend that you book ahead at Da Gianni, which is right in the via Claveture (No. 18, telephone: 051 229434). If you don't book on a Saturday, you won't get in. I especially recommend at least one order of grilled mortadella (it is much too large for your smaller child to finish). If they have pasta stuffed with pumpkin, or lasagne, this is also good. But all their food is enjoyable (and filling!).
If you do not have time to sit down for lunch, you can go to Zanarini's cafe and get good fresh sandwiches and gorgeous tiny pastries to eat on the train. Zanarini is in the piazza Galvani (named after the scientist who invented the process of galvanizing metal, and whose statue faces the cafe). To reach the piazza Galvani, walk back to the cathedral and walk down the street on the LEFT side of the cathedral. You can't miss Zanarini because it is quite large and brightly lit, elegant, and has beautiful food displays in the windows
You can also buy sliced meats and cheeses and fruit from the markets instead of getting sandwiches. Simoni is an especially good place for meat and cheese.
If you plan to get food-to-go from the markets, save your plastic utensils from your plane flight. None of the markets will give you utensils with anything you buy, even foods that obviously require them.
If you need a taxi to get back to the train station, you can find one by walking back to the piazza Maggiore and standing so the cathedral entrance is at your back. Walk up the street along the right side of the piazza, toward the Apple Store, and you will very shortly find a taxi rank.