Episode #034: Lifting the lid on Bologna’s food culture

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Listen to “Bologna – produce, pasta and Parmigiano Reggiano in the heart of Italy” on Spreaker.




If Italy has a food capital (and yes we know this is controversial!) then surely it must be Bologna.  Here you will find some of the country’s most recognized and best-loved produce and dishes and a commitment to food excellence. If you have even a passing interest in learning more about Italian cuisine then Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna region must be on your itinerary.

bologna food experience
Show notes
Can you name three of the most important products in Italian cuisine that are found in Bologna and the Emilia-Romagna region? In this episode you’ll learn what they are and about their origins. Our guest Lori Sorrentino is a travel and food blogger with a passion for this region and its culinary heritage. She shares with us stories, dishes, wine and produce that are the fabric of the cuisine in this wonderful part of Italy.

Exploring the city of Bologna and the region of Emilia-Romagna is not just about food. But it mostly is. We talk about food a lot  in this episode. After all, the city is not known as La Grassa (the fat one) for nothing! Here you will find a wine bar where patrons have brought their own market produce to eat for over 500 years. You can taste a vinegar aged for up to 40 years so the flavor is intense and the texture syrupy. In Bologna people buy freshly made tortellini pasta made by expert cooks who make hundreds of the little parcels each hour. And it also the area that is home to the king of cheeses – parmigiano reggiano.

So come with and explore Bologna, Modena, Parma and the towns of Emilia-Romagna in search of food stories among the medieval towers, porticos and cobbled streets.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  1. Why Bologna is known as the food capital of Italy
  2. About the “holy trinity” of Italian food and where you go to try them
  3. Recommended food tours of the area
  4. How the tortellini got its name
  5. All about a famous centuries-old enoteca that has reputedly hosted Da Vinci
  6. Some famous dishes to try in the region
  7. Cities and towns you can visit to try the produce and dishes

About our guest – Lori Sorrentino

lori sorrentino

Lori Sorrentino is an award-winning photographer and freelance travel writer, who loves slow food and travel.

She started the travel blog Travlinmad in 2015 with a mission to Eat Local, Travel Slow, about slow traveling and spending more time in one place for a more immersive experience.

In 2020, Lori launched a new site specifically about food travel to Italy, called Italy Foodies.

She’s a former tourism marketing professional originally from New Jersey in the northeast US, and when she’s not slow traveling Italy, she’s at home in Naples, Florida writing about the Gulf Coast or at the beach.

You can find Lori and her blogs on these social media channels:

Places mentioned in the show

  • Bologna, Modena, Parma – famous cities of the Emilia Romagna region
  • Quadrilatero –  the oldest market in Bologna
  • Osteria del Sole –  500 year old wine bar in Bologna
  • Savigno and Vignola – interesting small towns in Emilia Romagna
  • Trattoria Amerigo 1934 – famous restaurant featuring many truffle dishes in Savigno

Food and wine mentioned in the show

  • Parmigiano Reggiano – world famous cheese typical of the Emilia Romagna region
  • Balsamic – vinegar made from freshly pressed grape juice
  • Prosciutto – dry cured ham typical of the region
  • Regional wines – Lambrusco and Pignoletto
  • Regional dishes – tortellini in brodo, tortellino, ragù bolognese, mortadella
  • Food toursEmilia Storytellers, Taste Bologna, Italian Days

Resources from Untold Italy

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Prefer to read along as you listen? Below is a full transcript of our episode conversation. Unfortunately it does not pick up our lovely Australian and American accents however!

Intro (00:05):
Ciao and benvenuti to Untold Italy. I’m Josie and I’m Katy and we’re here to help you plan your trip to Italy. Between us, we have many years of travel experience and we want to help you uncover your own as yet untold stories and adventures in Italy. Each episode you’ll hear practical advice, tips, and ideas to help you plan your own trips to the magical land of history, stunning landscapes, and a whole lot of pasta. We’ll have interviews from experts and focus on local destinations and frequently asked questions about travel in Italy. Thanks for listening and make sure to subscribe to our show. Now let’s get started on your regular dose of Bella Italia.

[00:00:59.780] – Katy
Ciao a tutti, I’m Katy and welcome to the show Italy travel planners. Do you love Italian food? Of course you do. Maybe it’s one of the main reasons you want to travel to Italy in the first place. Well, we have a treat for you this episode. As we discuss often on the show, Italian food is regional and driven by the seasons and the produce that is available locally.


[00:01:23.570] – Katy
And there is one city and region that is known all over Italy for being home of some of the most delicious and iconic Italian ingredients. Some even say it is the capital of food in Italy. And yes, we are talking about Bologna, the capital of the Emilia, Romania region. Our guest today is Lori Sorrentino, a travel and food blogger who has spent many, many hours and days putting herself through the very difficult task of trying all the foodie things in Bologna and Emilia-Romagna. Haha


[00:01:56.810] – Katy
So I’m excited to talk with her about the exciting food culture of this area and some of its other attractions, although I have to admit, it’s probably going to be mostly about food. So without further ado, let’s welcome her onto the show. Benvenuti, welcome to Untold Italy podcast Lori. It’s so exciting to have you on the show today to talk about Italy’s food capital Bologna with you.


[00:02:21.620] – Lori Sorrentino
Thank you so much for having me,


[00:02:24.550] – Katy
Lori. Before we get started talking about Bologna and all things food and wine, I know our listeners would love to learn a little bit about your background and what your connection is with Italy and Bologna.


[00:02:35.570] – Lori Sorrentino
My relatives came from Italy. My grandfather was born outside of Naples, and my husband’s family is from Italy. And so we started our travels in Italy, going to south southern Italy and Naples and Sorrento and that area. We have not yet been to to Sicily. It’s definitely on our list, on our growing list. But I’ve got a background actually in tourism marketing. So that’s what I did for many, many years before I started our travel blog. And it sort of started as a photography blog that I used to run when I worked in the tourism industry.


[00:03:18.110] – Lori Sorrentino
And then I just got to a point where I wanted to start promoting the places that I wanted to go to rather than the place that we actually lived at the time in Virginia. And so we I started just learning and writing, and that was 2015. So five years later, you know, I’m still excited to be writing.


[00:03:44.810] – Lori Sorrentino
And the more you write, the more our blog has sort of honed itself and really sort of focused itself on where we live in Florida and the majority of our travel anymore, which seems to be always going back to Italy.


[00:04:02.210] – Katy
Oh, yes, it’s it’s one of those places that just keeps drawing you back. And so for our listeners, Lori writes a lot about food in Italy, and that’s why I wanted to have her on the show. And she’s really also passionate about the slow food movement. Do you want to mention a little bit about that, Lori? Because I think it’s an important part of Italian culture that’s worth mentioning.


[00:04:25.870] – Lori Sorrentino
Absolutely. Well, the slow food movement started in the northern Italy province in the region of Piedmont, and I believe it was in the eighties, late eighties. And it was started by local restaurant owners and local growers who were threatened because they wanted to start allowing fast food restaurants to come into the area. And they really wanted to make sure that their story was being told; that people were learning about food. Especially when it when it comes to food in Italy, food is created slowly with love over time.


[00:05:10.670] – Lori Sorrentino
And so it sort of snowballed into what became known as the slow food movement. And it’s still going strong. And it sort of morphed into slow travel, which, you know, when I first started travel writing and I was writing these stories and the whole idea of slow travel was sort of new at the time. And and then I realized that it was always how we had traveled. We were not necessarily the you know, the whirlwind see an entire country in 10 days type of traveler, which that has its place.


[00:05:52.190] – Lori Sorrentino
But even if you don’t have that much time, slow travel is such a great way to go I think because it allows you to stay put in a particular place and really experience the culture and the traditions. And get to know the people, get to know the growers and the producers and the artisans. And so that’s really what our blog, Travlinmad, that has has grown into over the years is mostly about slow travel. And about staying put for a while and trying to really get to know an area, whether you have a week or a month or just a few days.So that’s basically what we’re what we’re all about.


[00:06:41.260] – Katy
Well there’s no better place really to discover slowly Italian food than around Bologna and in the region of Emilia-Romagna. And that’s really why I wanted to talk to you about this area today, because it is known as really the food capital of Italy. And can you tell us a little bit about why that is? Because it’s it’s one of those places that if you’re a foodie, you really have to go to.


[00:07:06.310] – Lori Sorrentino
Definitely.I think it really centers around the agriculture of the region. Bologna and Emilia-Romagna are largely a meat culture. But in a lot of the traditional foods that Italy is known for, the pastas and rices and stuff up north and the northern areas that sort of border the Venezia and the northern Italy regions. But it’s a really unique food culture and wine culture as well, and that’s another thing that a lot of people may not realize, the unique wines that they produce, which are largely not not well known around the world and for good reason.


[00:07:56.820] – Lori Sorrentino
But it’s it’s just an interesting food and wine culture. And I think a lot of it does goes back to the agriculture. The whole the Po River Delta, and the topography and the geography of the area really dictates what’s grown, what crops do well. And and you see it resulting in the food and the and the dishes that end up on the table.


[00:08:24.660] – Katy
Yes. And they are so delicious.


[00:08:29.460] – Lori Sorrentino
The food is just so amazing there – it’s unique to among food in Italy.


[00:08:37.230] – Katy
And they have the holy trinity of food, don’t they?


[00:08:40.780] – Lori Sorrentino
They do.


[00:08:43.630] – Katy
So can you tell us a little bit about those? Because you know these are my favorite things to do. And we had, as I mentioned to Lori before, we had a trip planned to this area. And it was my mission to try all of these… many times.


[00:08:57.030] – Lori Sorrentino
I know it’s it’s amazing. There’s a lot of food that Italy is known for and everyone, of course, knows it for its red wine and its pasta and it’s breads and all that. But three of the foods that Italy is so well known for, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, which they refer to as the king of cheese and balsamic vinegar, which is it’s almost a travesty to call it vinegar, but it’s just amazing what goes into the making and the producing of traditional balsamico vinegar and prosciutto.


[00:09:33.150] – Lori Sorrentino
So those three main foods are all produced in the Emilia-Romagna region and they just they pair so well together. You can make an entire meal from just those three things. But it’s just amazing how much those three foods influence the food in Emilia, Romania and all throughout Italy. So so the king of cheese, the parmigiano reggiano, that’s that real hard cheese that they make in these giant wheels and it ages over time. I think that’s a that’s an important theme in all three of those foods and producing the Parmigiano Reggiano and producing traditional balsamic vinegar and in producing the prosciutto hams that age up to 12 years and sometimes longer.


[00:10:29.190] – Katy
I think the aging process is really interesting. It just intensifies the flavor of all of those foods. And I actually tried a 20 year old and a 40 year old balsamic when I was in Bologna last year. And the intensity of flavor of the 40 year old one was quite astounding.


[00:10:53.380] – Lori Sorrentino
It’s really is. It’s amazing if you’ve had Balsamic vinegar, the stuff that you buy at the supermarket. That’s not aged at all. And you throw it on your salad and it’s really bitey or even bitter and it tastes like vinegar. It’s almost hard to comprehend how incredibly flavorful and and smooth it becomes by aging and cooking that the grape juice. I think it is aged up to 12 years. And the traditional DOP balsamic vinegar is aged up to twenty five years. And it’s amazing to not only taste the flavor, but start learning the stories behind it too.


[00:11:41.400] – Lori Sorrentino
That’s what’s really interesting to me and to so many travelers, because it’s that tradition and the romance. And you hear about the traditional vinegar barrels, they call them batterias. They are the series of barrels that are used to make the twenty five, the twelve and twenty five year old, balsamic vinegars. they’re actually used or they used to be used in dowries between marriages.


[00:12:15.480] – Lori Sorrentino
So it’s really amazing when you think that when someone first started their batteria, you know, and then twenty five years later what has changed within that family? And it’s just it’s really cool to think about the traditions and the stories that go into all that time that has created these amazing foods. It’s just it’s too much.


[00:12:42.040] – Katy
I know, every place you go to has a story to tell. And I think the respect for the ingredients is very key here as well. So as you just mentioned, the story behind the the barrels, obviously respect for that part of the process is so huge that it’s involved in the wedding ceremony.


[00:13:05.010] – Lori Sorrentino
Isn’t it amazing?


[00:13:07.070] – Katy
It really is.


[00:13:08.160] – Lori Sorrentino
And that’s the culture of Italy. I mean, we tend to live, a lot of us tend to live in these fast food cultures. And it’s very much an Italian trait to to just stay put, to invest yourself and enjoy the time and the process that goes into the making of these foods. I think we talk a lot about how Italian food is cooked with love and what does that really mean when you when you really get down to it? Love is time and commitment and investment and and just enjoying that the the pleasure of twenty five years in the making. So it’s amazing how that all becomes part of the same process.


[00:14:10.200] – Katy
It really is. And so where can you go in this region to to really understand and learn more about this holy trinity of food.


[00:14:19.920] – Lori Sorrentino
Well I think it’s if you just walk around the cities. Walk around Bologna, walk around Modena or Parma or any of the smaller cities in Emilia-Romagna, you can taste them. You can go into a local Enoteca or a consortium that does tastings for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and they’ll pour a little twenty five year old DOP balsamico over those little chunks of parmesan. And so you can taste and it’s interesting that they’ll let you taste the stuff that’s that’s not so good to kind of get a frame of reference. And then you can move up to the 12 year old DOP balsamic, and then you take the twenty five year old. And it’s just amazing what that does to sort of convince you that it’s just an amazing Italian food.


[00:15:22.830] – Lori Sorrentino
So you can sort of find your way in the in the cities and you can go to restaurants. Gosh, the restaurants in Bologna and all of Emilia-Romagna are just world renowned. But then the world renowned restaurant might be a small little trattoria on the corner that you can just pop into. And it’s the most amazing experience that you can have.


[00:15:50.770] – Lori Sorrentino
So it’s very approachable, I think, from that standpoint. But a great way to find out about the foods is to take a food tour. There are so many unique. food tours in Bologna, that will take you out. Some are in the city and some are in Modena, many of them will take you out into the country. And it’s a full day experience where you can they’ll take you to the factory where they actually make the Parmigiano Reggiano and you will see it from start to finish in a couple of hours.


[00:16:30.770] – Lori Sorrentino
And it’s just so interesting to see the the milk come in and how it turns and the way it kind of creates the these gigantic wheels of curdled milk and how it’s all formed into cheese. And so you can see that from the Parmigiano Reggiano standpoint and then you can go to a local family owned balsamico attic. This process is literally takes place in the family attic and, and then finally you might have a big lunch and then they’ll take you to see the making of prosciutto hams.


[00:17:13.820] – Lori Sorrentino
So a food tour is a great way to experience, especially with that holy trinity of those three foods. And a lot of them will involve a wine tasting. And so that’s that’s always a great way to to experience the food of Bologna and Emilia-Romagna.


[00:17:32.260] – Katy
Absolutely. I think everyone who listens to these podcasts regularly knows how obsessed I am with food tours. Were there any particular ones that you’d recommend?


[00:17:42.900] – Lori Sorrentino
Sure. Absolutely. We took our very first food tour was probably one of the best ones we’ve ever taken as well, was called the Italian Days Food Experience. And that was a full day food tour that took you to all three of those places. And then they also took you to have an amazing lunch that you think that you can’t eat another bite and then they keep coming out with plate after plate of amazing food.


[00:18:12.150] – Lori Sorrentino
There’s a food tour called Taste Bologna. He runs several tours in Bologna and also Modena. But he and the owner have a number of excellent tour guides that they do everything from the full trinity of food experience to small, sort of curated walking tours. And we did a walking tour with them in Bologna through the different markets. And that was really interesting. So we spent a full day with them just touring all the different markets and the part of town where in Bologna, that’s known as the Quadrilatero, which is the oldest market section of the city of Bologna, and very medieval looking. And it’s really a great tour.


[00:19:03.080] – Lori Sorrentino
And then last year, for the first time, we did a really unique tour with a company called Emilia Storytellers, and they are based in the Modena area. So and they were more artisan tours. We went and we learned a lot about the local winemaking and what a typical Bolognese and Modenese local would have for breakfast. And we toured markets and ate a lot of really local food. That was really interesting. So those are three great companies that we’ve worked with, and I would really highly recommend any of them for a great food tour.


[00:19:50.660] – Katy
I think it’s really good to go with someone, if you will, especially if it’s your first visit. They know the best places and they’ll show you and tell you the stories behind the food and the city because Bologna and Modena and all the towns in Emilia-Romagna are very interesting apart from the food, Although I have to say when we planned our trip there, as I mentioned before, Lori, it was all around food, actually.


[00:20:12.200] – Lori Sorrentino
It’s always about the food, but it really is. And whether it’s just the traditions of sitting down for breakfast or lunch and the traditions that that the local local resident might have whether it’s the food they’re eating or how they eat it or the number of people that they’re with, or whether it’s traditional to have a big crowd of people or the whole family, there’s just always something really unique about the experience. And but that’s what makes it so interesting. I think, too. It’s so personal.


[00:20:55.880] – Lori Sorrentino
Food is is so personal. Part of the tour when we when we went out with Emilia Storytellers last year, we went to a really interesting agritourismo and a little farm where we went gardening with the owner and and helped her in the garden and harvested the most amazing fruits and vegetables. I just completely had fruit envy by the end of the day. I mean, just the stuff that was on the trees was just so beautiful and plump and fresh and flavorful. It was just amazing.


[00:21:34.230] – Katy
And it really does come down to the produce, doesn’t it? I think at the end of the day that all the love and the care and attention goes into the produce thing, carries through into the way that it’s cooked and prepared.


[00:21:46.920] – Lori Sorrentino
Absolutely. And the the local grains that make the pasta, that make the breads and the more flavor that you get in every base ingredient, the more flavorful your dish will be.


[00:22:02.850] – Katy
I know I feel like I’m drooling at this point. My tummy is actually rumbling. But one of the most famous dishes they have in this area is the tortellini in brodo? And that’s I think that’s a really good example of when you get all those different elements together to create a very flavorful dish. Did you try that many times?


[00:22:25.800] – Lori Sorrentino
Oh, of course. And that’s the most famous pasta that is produced and crafted in Bologna. And it’s really interesting that little tortellini is inspired by a woman’s navel. And I never knew that until this year. But it’s such a neat little story that’s behind it. And there’s all different sizes. Well, there’s a few different sizes of tortellini. The tortellini that is real small that is traditionally served in broth or tortellini and brodo. It’s just a simple, simple dish, but so flavorful and textural in your mouth. And so then the little tortellino that’s a little bit bigger. It is typically served in like a creamy, I don’t want to say Alfredo sauce, because it’s not, but it’s traditionally served in a simple butter and maybe a little sage sauce. But when it coats the tortellini, it creates this glaze almost, it’s just so delicious.


[00:23:43.190] – Lori Sorrentino
And then the the bigger tortellini, they call it tortellacci, is like maybe three or four inches round. And one is really all you need. It’s one of those, it’s like a little pie, the perfect little pie filled with a pork mixture and just really delicious. So yes, tortellino and tortellini is one of the signature dishes that you absolutely have to try when you’re in Bologna and you’ll see it everywhere.


[00:24:15.670] – Katy
You really do. And we also saw some ladies making it and boy, were they fast


[00:24:22.390] – Lori Sorrentino
It’s amazing. I think they can stuff 10 of these little things to my one, because they do this constantly. And it’s really a neat thing to to see because they make them so special. But it’s not a special occasion type of food. It’s an everyday food. And people go to the markets on a daily basis to get fresh tortellini for dinner. So again, it is so unique, whereas I hate to say it, but at least in the US, so much of our pasta is is boxed and it’s quick preparations and all that kind of stuff and tortellini takes time to to make it and to to make it perfect. So actually when it when it goes into the boiling water, it doesn’t come apart and the stuffing doesn’t fall out into the water. And it’s just a perfect little food.


[00:25:26.860] – Katy
It’s a perfect little package. The flavor explosion in your mouth is delicious. And you mentioned in the markets that there’s a lot of restaurants and osterias and enotecas around the markets and we went to a fabulous one and it might have been the same one. I think you mentioned it on your blog. And it’s one of the oldest.


[00:25:50.110] – Lori Sorrentino
Osteria del Sole? Yeah! It’s amazing. Oh, my gosh. Talk about if those walls could talk. It’s one of those places that if you’re if you’re strolling around the Quadrilatero in that part of Bologna, and you should be because probably if you’re a foodie, you’ll be there all the time, because you can stroll up and down the street and just buy some fresh tortellini to take home. But in the meantime, you’ll pick up some bread or some some fresh cold cuts, cold meats, and especially that mortadella, which is a famous bologna, garlicky pressed ham almost.


[00:26:38.110] – Lori Sorrentino
And so, you know, you pick up some cold cuts and you can take them all into the Osteria del Sole. It’s located right off one of the side streets in the Quadrilatero. And it’s been there, I think, since 1495 or something. It’s just amazing to think of the history. And from what I understand, and people seem to talk about the history a lot when you’re there. And you can talk to a lot of locals and they’ll tell you that at least according to tradition and legend, it’s not much has changed since fourteen ninety five. And the people that have been there. I mean, you’re talking Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo ate food, ate their cold cuts and maybe a little wine for lunch. It’s just amazing.


[00:27:28.780] – Katy
Yeah, we went there and we saw a wedding party there. They’d just had the ceremony and they sort of decamped to this restaurant. And it’s not a restaurant, though. It’s an enoteca. And, they all brought the food and they were just enjoying a good old time. It was really quite special, actually, to see that


[00:27:49.830] – Lori Sorrentino
That’s perfect. I would love to have gone to that wedding. That’s my kind of that’s my kind of wedding.


[00:27:56.000] – Katy
Mine too, mine too! We’ll have to do it again. Convince our husbands that that’s a good idea.


[00:28:02.240] – Lori Sorrentino
Yeah, it’s a great place. And I think from from what I understand, from what I remember, you buy beer and wine there and bring everything else. And you can just kind of go and the tables are communal and it’s just a cool little local place that’s been there literally for forever.


[00:28:23.220] – Katy
Yeah. Amazing. Now you mentioned the wine and obviously in Italy in every region, there’s different types of wine and wine always goes with food. Can you tell us a little bit about the wine of that region?


[00:28:36.560] – Lori Sorrentino
Yeah, what’s interesting about the wines of Emilia-Romagna is that they I guess no matter where you go, any region in Italy, it seems like the food sort of complements the wine.


[00:28:52.850] – Lori Sorrentino
In other words, like in southern Italy where my relatives are from and my constitution is geared more to southern Italian cuisine, like red sauces and greens, lots of greens and seafood. But the but the wines are bolder, the wines are tend to be a little heavier and bolder. Whereas in Emilia-Romagna, what I found really interesting about their combination is their wines are very new and they’re very they’re meant to be drunk young. So two of their most famous wines are Lambrusco and Pignoletto which is a white semi sparkling, what they call frizzante kind of wine. And Lambrusco is also semin, what they would call or referr to as frizzante. And Americans in particular, might might sort of roll their eyes when they hear me talk about Lambrusco because Lambrusco is not well regarded here. And having gone on several food tours and learned a lot about the wines in Emilia-Romagna, you realize that it’s really no wonder, because by the time they got to here, whether they imported them right away. By the time Americans would get their hands on a good Lambrusco, it’s aged way too long and they’re really considered sort of cheap wines. I don’t know if you’ve had that same experience?


[00:30:36.210] – Katy
Yes. In fact, it’s one of the ones that you would go to as a college student.


[00:30:42.510] – Lori Sorrentino
Exactly. I was going to say that. But I don’t want to encourage underage drinking.


[00:30:49.370] – Katy
In Australia it’s 18, but I know we don’t want to do that. But it wasn’t ever considered to be a refined beverage, that’s for sure.


[00:31:01.510] – Lori Sorrentino

No, exactly. But that’s the point, really, because the frizzante, the slight fizziness to the ones that are that are produced in Emilia-Romagna, they pair so well with those heavy fatty foods that are produced there, that are that are eaten there. And it’s just a perfect marriage. It’s funny, our friends there, they like to say that we drink our wine here. We don’t age it. So they’re very proud of the fact that they produce some of the Italy’s only wines that are meant to be drunk right away.


[00:31:43.320] – Lori Sorrentino
They’re not meant to be aged over time. And they like it that way. And I must say, it works well with the food. So it’s really good to to try some of those new wines. If you haven’t had a good Lambrusco and especially the pignoletto, it’s really light and refreshing and goes well with so many of their foods.


[00:32:09.640] – Katy
Yes, delicious. I think it’s interesting, though, that the wines aren’t aged, but the food is. I find that fascinating.


[00:32:18.540] – Lori Sorrentino
Yeah, I did too. And like I said, it works really well with the food that’s produced there.


[00:32:25.020] – Lori Sorrentino
And I think, I’ve thought that in different areas around Italy that we’ve been. Whether you’re in northern Italy and the food is a little bit more Germanic in nature, you know, that heavy Germanic type of food. But it didn’t matter where you travel in Italy, the wine seemed to complement the food, and it’s very much that way in Emilia-Romagna.


[00:32:50.510] – Katy
I can’t wait to get back there. Are there any dishes that you wouldn’t eat there? This is a trick question.


[00:33:00.150] – Lori Sorrentino
You know what? Probably not,


[00:33:04.550] – Katy
Because they do have some unique meat there that some people might not enjoy. But, yeah, I mean, I would always try it, but they do have horsemeat.


[00:33:16.290] – Lori Sorrentino
And we’ve tried that, as a matter of fact. We had horsemeat actually in Bologna and in the Cinque Terre and you know, I had to really had to try not to think about the origin of it because, I like horses. I’m not a an equestrian or a horse lover but I do like them. But it was extremely lean. And I must say, I did feel bad for the for the horse meat vendor at the at the market where we bought it, because by law they’re required to stay way off on their own and not near any of the other vendors to ensure that it is indeed horse meat and and not something else that’s up to substituted for it. But yeah, we did try it and it’s very it was tasty. I don’t know that I would have it again, but I did I did think it was tasty and it was very, very lean.


[00:34:22.860] – Katy
And I almost I had it as a carpaccio. It was very dry. So it tasted very lean. And it was almost like a good carpaccio that you would have with the arugula on top, or the rocket salad. And definitely it’s something that is traditional in parts of Italy and, you know, in some cases out of necessity. And it’s been eaten there for centuries and it’s high in iron. So it’s it’s almost a necessity, or was a necessity, years ago for a lot of a lot of a lot of people.


[00:35:04.380] – Katy
That’s right. And I think that another amazing part about Italian cuisine is it has often been driven by necessity. So people made use of everything that they had. And yeah, I don’t think it’s for me. I think I’d struggle mentally with horsemeat, but I think that we do need to understand that historic background to it.


[00:35:31.020] – Lori Sorrentino
Exactly. It’s part of that story and I think as foodies you try what you want, you try what you think you’d like, but it’s worth at least seeing it. Or what’s interesting is, if you don’t want to try it, you can at least walk around the markets and you can look for the for the vendors and see what products they’re selling and whether it’s horsemeat or pork or traditional meats that that we would more readily eat. But it’s not for everyone. And again, I don’t know that I would continue to try it, but I’m glad I did, you know, just to see what what it was all about.


[00:36:15.300] – Katy
Yeah, it’s true. And another dish that I think people should try when they are there is the ragu bolognese which has been adopted all around the world, shall we say, but bears little resemblance to what you can actually try when you’re there. I think it’s worthwhile doing a comparison.


[00:36:34.920] – Lori Sorrentino
Absolutely. And it’s one of the most more traditional foods as well. And what’s interesting about that is it’s a very, very simple dish. But again, it takes time. It’s not like you could just take some some ground ground meat, ground pork and come up with a quick Bolognese in a few minutes. It really needs time to to meld the flavors together. And again, it speaks to the Italians willingness to to sit and wait for something that’s really going to be so good and in such a simple dish. And it’s traditionally served with a little bit of a wider noodle called tagliatelle.


[00:37:16.560] – Lori Sorrentino
So just a small little pile of fresh made tagliatelle and which is an egg pasta. And mixed with that, the bolognese ragu you have sort of Bologna on a plate right in front of you.


[00:37:31.470] – Katy
Yum, I’m so hungry. And it’s breakfast time here.


[00:37:37.540] – Lori Sorrentino
That’s it. I hear it’s delicious for breakfast, too.


[00:37:41.070] – Katy
I reckon that would be. I would eat it for sure. And it’s a good thing that Bologna is a very walkable city because you need to do a little walking to build up that appetite, I reckon.


[00:37:52.390] – Lori Sorrentino
And that’s right. And to work it off, I think if what you’re doing is eating all the time. And you see people that are just walking constantly wherever they go, and they eat gelato and ice cream in the middle of the day, you know, That’s something we would never think about doing but yet it’s part of the cultural experience and they walk everywhere. I was so surprised the first time we went to Italy that I didn’t put on more weight because we were walking everywhere and just constantly on the go. But it’s just part of the experience, I think. And after a while, you really don’t notice that you’re doing it. It’s not like you’re working out or anything, but you really do get a good workout.


[00:38:43.340] – Katy
You do. And I love in that area that they’ve got the portici or the porticos all around the city. So even if it’s cold you can still walk everywhere, it’s very ingenious, actually.


[00:38:54.760] – Lori Sorrentino
It really is. And I think they’ve submitted that to be one of their new UNESCO World Heritage sites. So that is I guess, their submission. And hopefully it will be approved. And I think 2021 will be the year that they know whether that’s the latest UNESCO World Heritage site for Bologna and for Italy.


[00:39:20.150] – Katy
Oh, wonderful. I didn’t know that. It’s a really interesting city because it’s very unique as well compared with some of the other cities because of the red tiles and the red buildings. So I’ve found it very interesting and different and well worth the detour actually.


[00:39:39.920] – Lori Sorrentino
Absolutely. I think that was one of the reasons we first visited Bologna because we wanted to move out of our travels in southern Italy and we wanted to go north. But but at the same time, I hate to say this, but I really didn’t want to go to Venice and I I didn’t want to go to the more visited places. And at that time, we were hearing a lot about the food coming out of Bologna. And and I had no idea at the time that it literally is an hour from Venice and an hour from Florence.


[00:40:12.680] – Lori Sorrentino
It literally sits, for those who may not know this, but geographically it sits directly between Venice and Florence. And it’s an easy train ride to get there and literally just an hour away. So I think that was one of the reasons we decided to first visit Bologna because of the fact that it was not very heavily. touristed. And it’s still not really.


[00:40:42.110] – Katy
It’s very much a university town, isn’t it? So you’ve got students and it’s a very bustling Italian city that you don’t see so many tourists.


[00:40:54.110] – Lori Sorrentino
Right. It is the university town, actually. It’s the the oldest university in the Western Hemisphere, I believe, and in Europe. So it’s been there since the late eleven hundreds or twelve hundreds. So it’s just so much history there. And between that and the porticos, one of the things that struck me when I first on our first trip to Bologna was that how medieval it looked. It was very unique and different from other parts of Italy in terms of the architecture and the landscape. But it was so medieval looking and so well preserved. So it’s almost like, you could stand on any street in the historic central centre of the city and just imagine that it was one hundred years ago or longer that you’re standing in the middle of such history.


[00:41:52.310] – Katy
Yeah, that’s definitely something that always pulls me back to Italy. The combination of the history and the food is what gets me. Now, let’s just have a quick chat about some practical things if people are going there. So you’ve given us some great ideas of tours, which is wonderful. Do you think that if you’re going to be in the area that you need a car?


[00:42:14.060] – Lori Sorrentino
Not in the city of Bologna. Actually, Bologna is a really walkable city. And I wouldn’t recommend a car, as a matter of fact, especially because there are so many ZTLs or restricted zones and so many one way streets. There’s really no need to to have a car in the city. And public transportation is is excellent, actually. I mean, if you need to go from Bologna to the airport or to the train station and you’re a little further out, taxis and buses are readily available and run everywhere, basically.


[00:42:51.970] – Lori Sorrentino
But in terms of staying in the city, I think the best way to get around the city of Bologna and in Modena is to walk or ride bikes, sort of do like the locals do and just hop on two wheels. And that that will pretty much get you anywhere who want to go.


[00:43:10.790] – Lori Sorrentino
But if you want to go from, say, Bologna after a few days in the city and you want to drive to Modena or some of the outlying areas you will need a car. As a matter of fact, last year we spent a little over a week touring the small towns around Bologna in the mountains called the Apennine Mountains. And we had our own car and a good GPS and we had no trouble getting around on our own. And for people who may have either been to Bologna and may want to now see another part of the area around Bologna and down into that northern Tuscany area, I would definitely recommend renting a car. Or, you know, just getting outside of Bologna for a few days because the small towns and the sites there are just breathtaking, just so many unexpected little gems that you find hidden in those hills. So in that case, a car would be would be perfect.


[00:44:17.840] – Katy
What about these little towns? I need to know. I’m always on the lookout for these little towns.


[00:44:22.580] – Lori Sorrentino
Oh, my gosh Katy I was blown away by them. I mean, small little towns that don’t see any tourists and very few people speak English. So Google Translate comes really in handy. And but we rented a car and went around to well, one of the towns, for instance, not far from Bologna is called Sovigno. And there’s a Michelin restaurant there called Trattoria Amerigo 1934. And it’s one of the most delicious restaurants I’ve ever eaten at. And Sovigno is famous for growing truffles in the hills around that area.


[00:45:08.600] – Lori Sorrentino
So they’re known for their local truffle hunters and truffle dogs who will go out and you can actually take a tour. That’s another tour, another fun tour to do. It’s sort of a farm to table food tour. You actually take a little truffle tour and then go to Sovigno and and have dinner at Trattoria Amerigo. Or there’s a number of different trattorias that serve truffles a million ways. So it’s a nice little combination food tour to have.


[00:45:44.030] – Lori Sorrentino
And Vignola outside of Bologna is home to the most magnificent fort. It’s called Rocco di Vignola. And it has small little restaurants and it’s a real walkable little town. Just the most amazing and really unexpected castles. You’ll be driving and driving and driving hill after hill after hill, and all of a sudden, boom, there’s this gorgeous castle that comes out of nowhere. So it’s just a neat extension of exploring the Emilia-Romagna region to get out into the Apennines. So I highly recommend that.


[00:46:28.990] – Katy
It’s going on the list! That list is getting longer.


[00:46:34.600] – Lori Sorrentino
Exactly. It always that’s that’s the downside of traveling. The more you travel, the more the more there is to see.


[00:46:41.350] – Katy
Yeah, it’s true. But I do have, I guess, one last question. And there are places that just do pull you back. So well, we can’t be there right now. Is there one particular place in Italy that you’re dreaming of that you’ll go back to as soon as you get back?


[00:46:58.930] – Lori Sorrentino
Oh, gosh. Two places, actually. Well, we can’t wait to get back to Emilia-Romagna, because there’s just so much exploring outside of the city to do. Outside of Bologna has sort of what our appetite for for all there is to see. And what I’d really like to do is, is go back and hike there. They’re establishing a lot of these walking trails now. And there’s a new path of the gods that you can walk from the old trade routes and the silk trails. The trade routes from Bologna to this little town in Tuscany called Prato.


[00:47:40.870] – Lori Sorrentino
And so, yeah, I’d love to get back and do do that. But I still love the region and outside of Naples and Capri and Sorento, where my grandfather came from. And I’d really like to go back. One of our first trips to Italy and one of the reasons we went to Italy is because I wanted to familiarize myself with the little town outside of Pompeii, as a matter of fact, where my grandfather was from and his parents. And we picked a holy day of all days to go and visit the town. So everything was closed, the courthouse was closed, and the churches, all the churches were open, but the administrative offices were closed. So I couldn’t really do any research or genealogically, anything like that. But that’s an area that I would like to go back to and do a little bit of heritage travel and research, a little bit more of my family tree.


[00:48:46.280] – Katy
Oh it does sound wonderful. Yeah, I think I’ve heard they’ve opened up a road. You can hike the full length of Italy. Now, they’ve made some sort of big route joining up all the different hiking trails. Which sounds like a bit of a challenge that I’d be up for.


[00:49:04.940] – Lori Sorrentino
Absolutely. It may take several years, but I think it’s such a great initiative and I think it’s going to be great for tourism and especially in these uncertain times where you might have to distance yourself, but you still want to travel. So going to the the outdoor areas where you may not encounter as many tourists, it’s a great way to go. And slow travel just lends itself so well to to traveling during these times.


[00:49:35.380] – Katy
I absolutely agree. So thanks so much for sharing all your knowledge and food insights with us today Lori.


[00:49:43.090] – Lori Sorrentino
Thanks so much for having me. It was so much fun. And you’re right, talking about it is sort of the next best thing to to actually being able to go.


[00:49:51.190] – Katy
Yeah, it really is. It’s really helped me with my general state of mind. But before we finish up this episode, how can our listeners stay in touch with you and find out more about you and your work online? Sure.


[00:50:06.190] – Lori Sorrentino
Well, they can visit our travel blog called TravlinMad.com. And so we have a lot of content on Italy on our main travel website. And our new travel site is called Italy Foodies, and it’s all geared toward food travel in Italy. So food tours and wine tours. And foods to try, what local foods you don’t want to miss when you’re there. And the stories and the traditions behind all the different foods, so we love we love talking about local foods and and who’s making it and and why you should try some of the local foods when you’re there. It’s as much of an expression of the Italian culture as pretty much anything I think.


[00:51:00.820] – Katy
I absolutely agree. It really is. And do go check out Lori’s sites because in particular the food one on Italian foods, which I will put a link to in the show, notes, obviously, because it’s really a great resource if you’re interested in Italian food. So, Grazie mille, for joining us on Untold Italy


[00:51:21.150] – Lori Sorrentino
thank you so much, Katy. It was so much fun.


[00:51:24.430] – Katy
Thanks again for joining us and I can’t wait to replan our trip to Bologna. Emilia-Romagna soon. I’m so hungry.


[00:51:31.800] – Lori Sorrentino
I know. Well, very good. I’m getting hungry too. And it’s dinnertime now, so


[00:51:37.640] – Katy
thanks again. Well, I don’t know about you, but my tummy was rumbling the whole way through that chat. I could definitely build a whole itinerary around this region. And actually it was a big part of our planned trip for earlier this year, which we are definitely going to revisit. Lori shared so many great tips of places and companies that you may want to know about during our chat. So, of course, we’ll pop them all onto the website at untolditaly.com/34 for episode thirty four.


[00:52:11.010] – Katy
You’ll also find all the links to Larry’s website, Trevelin Mad and Italy Footies, as well as her social media channels. There you can follow her ongoing adventures in Italian food. Thank you so much for joining us. We are very happy that you enjoy our show. This year has been quite challenging for many of us, but I know for at least Josie and I, that talking about Italy and what we are going to do when we get back there is helping our dreams stay alive.


[00:52:38.560] – Katy
Keep the lovely messages and feedback coming. We really do appreciate them. We have more exciting adventures in Italy planned for you next episode. If you want to know when it goes live, make sure to subscribe to Untold Italy on iTunes or your favorite podcast player. Ciao for now.

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