This is one of our favourites places in Italy, especially for eating, since the local cuisine is very special.  Here are a few of our preferred places to visit.

Piazza Maggiore and its Market

Well, no visit to Bologna would be complete without seeing Piazza Maggiore. But don’t miss the market and its shops in Via Pescherie Vecchie and via Orefici, or Piazza delle Mercanzia. You’ll find wonderful fruit and vegetables, fish (even though it is far from the sea, fish is very good and fresh), cheeses, cured meats, bread and pastries, and hardware stores selling knives as well as every conceivable device for making pasta and coffee… Not to mention cafés and restaurants, bookshops, wine shops, clothes shops and haberdashers….


This is a serious business in Bologna, and there are dishes here that don’t exist anywhere else. Don’t expect Spaghetti Bolognaise – it just does not exist!. Tagliatelle al ragù is the nearest thing to it, and you have to try Tortellini in Brodo (filled pasta served in a clear broth, the tortellini made in the shape of Venus’ navel).

Ostaria de’ Poeti

Via De’ Poeti, 1/B, for a nice venue, a little touristy, but nice. Traditional Bolognese food, sometimes there is music, in undercroft of something, so a little subterranean.

La Torinese

Place to get hot chocolate with cream, cakes, coffee, just off Piazza Maggiore on the Via Francesco Rizzoli side. The hot chocolate with cream is famous.

Osteria del Sole

This is in the market area, very busy, old (it opened in 1465!) with a mixed crowd, students and their professors, workers and the people they work for, rich and poor, where you can only buy drinks, but you can take your own food. You will see groups walking in with boxes of snacks, including crescente con I ciccioli (a kind of Focaccia with bacon bits), hoping to get a table. If you go this way, there are bakeries just around the corner where you can stock up.

Via del Pratello

This is a street full of osterie, surely a great street for an evening of osteria-hopping. Il Cantinone, at number 56 is one of these osterie, good for food, with a nice atmosphere and people, and very pleasant staff. At number 74 you’ll find the Osteria del Montesino,  a Sardinian-run place, good also for dinner or after dinner, if still a little hungry, with a bottle of local sparkling white Pignoletto and Sardinian bread – pane casarau – with goat’s cheese melted on it….

Enoteca Storica Faccioli

For pre dinner drinks, a tradition in Bologna, try this place. A nice Prosecco or Pignoletto and a plate of prosciutto, salami and cheese to kick off the evening. This osteria, which is a hundred years old, is located near some of the most famous towers of Bologna.

Ristorante Diana

This is a totally traditional Bolognese Restaurant, good for lunch if you have nothing much planned for the afternoon… Start with tortellini in brodo, followed by fritto misto all’italiana or carrello di bollito, with creme caramel for dessert. Il fritto misto comes with deep fried custard! Amazing stuff!

We never made it to the creme caramel, but it is reputed to be nothing like you have ever tasted anywhere else. The Waiters have been there 40 years on average :-) . It is on Via Indipendenza 24.

Ristorante Pizzeria Fraiese

Finally, a little step outside the city walls  is the Ristorante Pizzeria Fraiese: fabulous! Located in Via Emilia Ponente 22, passing Porta San Felice, towards Ospedale Maggiore, about 15-20 minutes walk along Via Aurelio Saffi, which becomes Via Emilia Ponente – or you can take a bus to Ospedale Maggiore. It is a cooperative restaurant, known for its fantastic fish, but also for its excellent wood-oven pizzas. Unique atmosphere, with very friendly staff.


Narni, Umbria we find Polenta with Sausage Sauce and wine from Montepulciano

Well, it was just the thing to drive out the chill of a misty morning and our visit to subterranean Narni – a polenta with a rich sausage based sauce, together with a glass of unusual red wine.

By the way the recipe book is now available in eBook formats for Amazon Kindles and Adobe digital editions – go to

Narni (20) (S)Narni is a typical Umbrian hill town halfway between Rome and Assisi, where in 1979 six members of the local speleological team discovered a small hole in the historical centre, covered by bushes and thick grass, which led to an old church built from 12th or 13th century, with frescos covered by a thin layer of limestone. A door was reopened which lead to the most secret part of the monastic complex, a large room, once occupied by the Holy Inquisition, with a small doorway leading to a prison cell, containing a number of arcane graffiti made by the prisoners, some in a symbolic language, still not completely understood.

A few centuries later, published in the 1950’s, The Chronicles of Narnia, a series of seven fantasy stories written by C.S. Lewis, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, are linked to Narni. Walter Hooper (who, with Roger Lancelyn Green, wrote C. S. Lewis: A Biography) asked the author where he found the name ‘Narnia’, and Lewis showed him Murray’s Small Classical Atlas, containing a map of ancient Italy. Lewis had underscored the name of a little town called Narnia, simply because he liked the sound of it.Narni (24) (S)

Narnia - or ‘Narni’ in modern Italian – is where we find ourselves today, after 2 hours underground following an early start to meet our guide for the subterranean tour. To find out more about Narni underground, go to

As we climbed back to street level, with a light rain falling, chilled to the marrow, were we ready for something warming? Indeed, we were! And what we got at La Bottega del Giullare, Via Garibaldi, 12 certainly worked a miracle: a rich sauce of sausage meat, tomatoes and onions, together with a polenta, with a slightly runny consistency. We have re-interpreted this recipe wonderful dish, and you will find the recipe at

And another discovery arrived with the wine – OBVIUS Rosso di Montepulciano D.O.C. 2012.  The interesting thing with this wine is the lack of any added sulphites. This was made possible by the selection of high quality grapes with perfect skins, quick and delicate transportation to cellar and into vats, CO2 based fermenters developed at the winery (100% based on their own production of gas/energy, being an ‘Off-Grid’ and organic producer) and ageing and bottling in total absence of oxygen. Take a look at the Salcheto web site at We were so impressed we went to the producer at Montepulciano in Tuscany to buy a couple of bottles and visit the winery.

Fagioli all’uccelletto – Beans as Birds

Check out the latest addition to our online cookbook: Fagioli all’uccelletto – Beans as Birds. An archetypical Tuscan dish, Fagioli all’uccelletto are easy to prepare and absolutely tasty – great comfort food!

We prepare it with cannellini beans, a white variety of beans, a bit elongated and not too big. This dish can be served as a vegetarian secondo, accompanied with slices of toasted rustic bread, or as a side dish for boiled meats or sausages.

We can only guess at the origin of the peculiar name of this dish… As the father of the Italian cuisine, Pellegrino Artusi, hypothesized, the name might derive from the fact that in the old days birds were cooked with the same kind of seasoning – sage, garlic and tomatoes.

Find out more about Pellegrino Artusi on Wikipedia.

In the second part of the XIX century, Pellegrino Artusi was the first to assemble in one book – La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well) – recipes from different regions of Italy. Some might sound a bit strange today, as certain ingredients are no longer in common use, but the stories he tells about some of the recipes and his humorous tone are a real scream! Find his book on Amazon…


Where our food comes from

You cannot always believe what is written on the can. Any British shopper browsing Asda’s supermarket shelves for a touch of the Mediterranean culinary lifestyle might have been forgiven for thinking that the labels on the cans of an own-brand tomato puree meant what they said. After all, they read: “Produced in Italy”.

But that was not to be quite the whole story, thanks to the often opaque world of EU consumer law. When police in Angri, southern Italy, raided Asda’s supplier, they found the tomato puree had been imported from China.

Read more….

The Quality of Our Food

We are lucky enough to be able to buy olive directly from the producers, and this article below on the Investigative Reporting Project Italy site shows that in the face of increasing demand for olive oil in China and the US, there is an increasing tendency for unscrupulous producers to provide sub-standard or even faked oil. We have been struck by how cheaply some olive oil is sold here in France, sometimes half the price of what we pay when buying straight from the producers – this article may point to the reasons for this…



Try Our New Recipe: Marina’s Rice Tart!

There are endless variations of this typical Italian tart. We have learned the one we are proposing here from our friend Marina, and we swear:  it is really the best we have ever tasted!Torta di Riso

Prepare it one day in advance, because the tart has to rest for at least 12 hours for the complexity of its taste and texture to fully develop. It is worth the effort and the wait!

And let us know if you like it!

Go to Recipe


Common Misconceptions about Italian Food

Please do not talk to me about “Spaghetti Bolognaise” ! Nothing like that exists, in the Italian cuisine!

The sauce called ragù alla bolognese is a meat-based sauce originating in Bologna, Italy, and is usually served as “tagliatelle al ragù” and to prepare “lasagne alla bolognese”. It can also be served with pappardelle or fettuccine, or rigatoni or penne, and is made with slow cooked onion, celery and carrot, different types of minced or finely chopped beef, pancetta, wine and a small amount of tomato concentrate.

It is therefore somewhat different from the tomato based sauces found outside Italy, and is never served with spaghetti in Bologna or elsewhere in Italy. The sauce is not served with spaghetti for a good reason; the ragù adhers well to flat pasta, better than to spaghetti, so it tastes better!

So next time you think of making spagbog, try something more traditional !