Savoring the Flavor: The Best Self-Guided Bologna Food Tour

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One Day Bologna Food Walking Tour

Get ready to indulge your taste buds in an unforgettable culinary adventure through the streets of Bologna. This itinerary will take you on a self-guided tour of the food capital of Italy, where you’ll discover the city’s best-kept culinary secrets and savor its most mouthwatering dishes.

Whether you’re a foodie looking for new flavors or a traveler eager to explore the local food scene, join us as we discover the best places of Bologna’s culinary landscape, one delicious bite at a time, and experience the flavors that make Bologna a food lover’s paradise.

In this Bologna food guide, we’ll share with you a detailed map and itinerary for a one day Bologna food tour, alongside the perfect DIY lunch menu, tips for visiting Bologna, and lots of information about the food of the Emilia-Romagna region.

Bologna food tour

Best Bologna Food Tour

This is a free self-guided classic Bologna food tour, perfect for small groups to discover all of Bologna’s food secrets as you travel around Italy, one of the best gastronomic countries in the world.

In every café, shop, and hostelry we visited, food tastings were offered gladly by people who love to show off the amazing and delicious array of local foods and produce.

With any Bologna gastronomic tours, private food tour, day trip, or even so-called ‘secret food tours’, you risk being taken to a place because the tour guide gets a commission, not because it’s the best, or indeed, secret!

Every place on our list is there because we have visited ourselves over many visits, enjoyed an authentic experience, and been impressed with the amazing food and hospitality.

We think this is a better way to experience fabulous food and the local perspective, and it’s free! But, if you prefer to book a Bologna food experience with a local guide, these top food tours would be our pick:

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Is this your first time visiting Italy? Get all the information you need in our Italy Travel Guide, including what to pack, the best time of year to go, getting there, and practical tips to help you have the best trip!

Cooking Classes in Bologna

If you feel inspired by all these delicious ingredients and flavors, one of the best things to do in Bologna is take a cooking class. This is a great way to learn about local food and cook and eat Bologna’s traditional dishes. 

Our recommended pasta-making class is a hands-on home cooking experience with a local host, where you’ll learn to cook with traditional recipes in a typical Bologna home.

If that’s fully booked or you fancy learning another Italian cooking skill, check out our other picks:

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Where to Stay in Bologna

For a touch of luxury, book the Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni. The century-old legacy of Bologna’s finest hotel shines through in its opulent interiors adorned with antique furnishings and priceless artworks. Superbly located in the heart of the city, and with a welcoming ambiance, this is the top spot to stay in Bologna.

The beautiful Phi Hotel – Al Cappello Rosso is a mid-range hotel located on the doorstep of Piazza Maggiore. With fabulous bedrooms designed by contemporary artists, over 600 years of history, and restaurant serving delicious Italian food, this is an excellent choice for Bologna

Casa Isolani is a B&B with three charming apartments designed for self-reliant travelers who value a cozy setting over round-the-clock service. Its unbeatable location ensures easy exploration of Bologna on foot, especially after a long day of tasting!

Are you visiting Bologna as part of a longer trip? An Italian road trip is the best way see this gorgeous country, and our guide to road tripping in Italy has all you need, including maps, routes, highlights and tips, to help you plan the perfect trip.

Best Food Tour Bologna Map & Itinerary

  • Piazza Maggiore – Café Gamberini – Mercato Della Erbe – Le Sfogline – Tamburini – Simoni Laboratorio – Osteria del Sole – Enoteca Storica Faccioli – Majani Cioccolato Boutique – Caffe Zanarini – Cremeria Cavour
  • 8 miles / 13km / 18,000 steps
  • Ten food stops along the route
  • Full day tour, we suggest starting by 9am
  • Pack water and wear comfortable shoes
  • Our info is free, you’ll only pay for what you eat or buy

How to use this map – Use your fingers (or computer mouse) to zoom in and out. Click or touch the icons to get more info about a place, and click the arrow in the box at the top left to open the index. To add to your own Google Maps account, click the star next to the title of the map.

Piazza Maggiore

Our starting point for your self-guided tour of Bologna is one of two central squares in Bologna, the other being Piazza Nettuno.

Admire the distinct brick architecture and beautiful facades of the palaces and churches flanking the main square then head for Via Ugo Bassi to the north of the square.

Before you head west towards breakfast and tour Bologna, take a moment to look east to Piazza di Porta Ravegnana and admire the view of the spectacular le Due Torri, the two towers of Torri degli Asinelli and Torre Garisenda dominating the skyline.

These colossal towers are two of only 20 medieval towers remaining in Europe. One looks like it’s going to topple over, the other is not so far behind but, remarkably, you can still climb to the top of the latter!

historic city building in stone with arched windows and a creneliated tower, in front of a grand sqare

Café Pastry Gamberini

Your first stop is for breakfast, our favorite meal of the day! There is a multitude of cafés in which you can enjoy a traditional breakfast of very good coffee and a cornetto, Italy’s version of the French croissant, filled with delicious and sticky apricot jam. 

Café Gamberini was our choice and it didn’t disappoint! You can sit inside or have breakfast al fresco; the coffee is superb and the pastries melt in the mouth.

outside of an Italian cafe with chairs and tables on the pavement

Mercato della Erbe

Your next stop is Mercato della Erbe, or Herb Market, is a popular and large food market in the city center sells fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, pasta, fish, bread and other local delicacies.

Like all local markets in Italy, the produce is seasonal and comes from local factories and the rich and fertile land that surrounds Bologna, and is displayed with pride and passion.

The smells of whatever is in season will hit you as you enter… for us it was strawberries, the juicy fragrance reminding me of hot summer days, picking our own as kids.

There is a fabulous fish restaurant here too. Pick your fish in the market, whatever was caught that morning, and the restaurant will cook it for you whilst you wait.

Le Sfogline

Exit at the back of the Mercato Delle Erbe, look to your right and there is Le Sfogline the most unassuming shop ever! All the famous chefs have cooked here and the owners, Dani and Monica, have made egg pasta all over Europe.

The name comes from the Italian word sfoglia, which is a type of pasta dough, and a sfogline is a person who makes the pasta dough. A sfogline is usually characterized as a middle-aged woman who stretches and rolls the dough with a rolling pin called a mattarello, and stretches and shapes the pasta on a large wooden pastry board called a taglieri.

We bought the traditional Italian food of tortelloni stuffed with ricotta cheese and were given a detailed description of how to cook and serve this wonderful fresh pasta by the lovely Dani, almost like a private food consultation!

Visiting Le Sfogline is a wonderful experience and you can also watch the sisters making the tortelloni, a labor-intensive task, but clearly done with love and passion.

The British chef, Rick Stein visited Le Sfogline and took a cooking class with Dani when he was making the TV show of the book Long Weekends.  Buy your pasta here and follow one of his delicious recipes.

ladies in white coats and red hats making pasta by hand


From here, your Bologna walking food tour will take you southeast, back towards Piazza Maggiore and the Quadrilatero, the old town of Bologna and the heart of the city.

The Quadrilatero is home to en eclectic mix of small shops, adjacent to old-fashioned delis, gelaterias, and architecture from the Middle Ages including the famous Porticoes of Bologna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You have a few choices for lunch: go all in for a multi-course lunch with wine pairings at one of Bologna’s top restaurants; pick one of the many good restaurants serving reasonably priced pasta and platters of local antipasti, meats, and cheeses, or buy your own at one of the many gastronomia or salumerias (delicatessen) and enjoy a picnic in the square.

By far our favorite way to enjoy lunch in the culinary capital of Italy is to utilize the long trestle tables at Osteria del Sole, where you can buy a drink at the bar and strike up a conversation with your fellow diners as you enjoy your picnic lunch.

If you decide on the buy-your-own option, don’t forget to also buy plastic cutlery!

a portico of Bologna painted a striking terracotta colour, with barred windows and marble floor


This salumeria has been on this very spot on Via Caprarie since 1932. Tamburini stocks an amazing array of hams, cheese, and antipasti. You can also buy Culatello, the most expensive ham in the world, here.

In the area around Tamburini, there are many restaurants and salumerias, all selling a huge choice of hams, cheeses, and too many other local goodies to mention.

shopping in a delicatessen with a tiled floor and long glass counters full of ham, cheese and pasta

Simoni Laboratorio

Pop round the corner to this famous delicatessan, with hams swinging from the ceiling and fat cheeses stacked against the wall, it is everything a salumeria should be! 

Try tasting some of the meats and cheeses at Simoni Salumeria before you buy to find out what you like the most.

shop with a deli counter and staff serving, with the white tiled walls behind lined with wheels of parmesan cheese and whole Parma hams

The Perfect Bologna Lunch

You might be feeling a bit overwhelmed by now if you’re buying your lunch from a salumeria, there is so much to choose from. Here’s our perfect (and typical) Bologna lunch menu for two:

  • 4 thin slices of mortadella (flavored if that takes your fancy)
  • 4 slices prosciutto crudo
  • 60 g parmigiano reggiano
  • 60g squacquerone cheese
  • small tub of roasted tomatoes
  • small tub of rosemary-roasted potatoes
  • 2 piadine, the delicious Bologna flat bread perfect for making a sandwich
  • cutlery and wipes
  • bottle of water or wine!

For more inspiration, scroll down to see the top eleven foods to eat in Bologna!

Other Italy Travel Ideas

Osteria del Sole

Osteria del Sole is one of the oldest standing osterias or taverns, alive today. Dating back to 1465, everything in the place is over 500 years old and there is history in every brick.

The osteria is hard to find, situated halfway along via Ranocchi on the right as you come from Piazza Maggiore. There is no signage, just literally a hole in the wall leading to a door …look for the hole in the wall. It’s not obvious, but once you find it you’ll wonder how you didn’t see it!

There is no kitchen here, only a bar. You bring your own food, condiments, cutlery, and wipes (there is no loo or place to wash your hands, which will get greasy eating Italian ham) and settle at a place on one of the long trestle tables to enjoy your meal.

Drinks are available at the bar; bottled beer, and a vast selection of wines including the delicious traditional Italian Prosecco and champagne, all very reasonably priced. The atmosphere is kicking, the chatter loud; this is an amazing experience, go once and you’ll be hooked!

Izzy enjoying a glass of Prosecco and meal of mortadella in a bar

Enoteca Storica Faccioli

Full from lunch and perhaps ready for another glass of wine, head over to Enoteca Storica Faccioli a genuinely local wine bar at the northern end of the Quadrilatero.

The owners, Stefano and Elisa, will guide you through wine tastings of delicious local wines with interest and knowledge.

wine shop with large selection of wines on display

Majani Cioccolato Boutique

A ten minute walk south will clear your head and restore your appetite. What food tasting tour is a good food tour without the sweet note of chocolate?

Majani has been making chocolate in Bologna since 1796. This is a beautiful shop where you can sample the different types of chocolate on offer, including the iconic Fiat chocolate. Not to be missed!

chocolate shop with boxes of sweet treats arranged on shelves

Caffe Zanarini

Reward yourself, it’s time for a coffee break! Caffe Zanarini is the perfect place to sit and relax for a few moments enjoying your surroundings and admiring the stunning desserts, cakes, and delicious Italian biscuits. You really have to try something!

Cremeria Cavour

Cremeria Cavour is our final stop on your walking tour of Bologna. You’ve made it! give yourself a big pat on the back. By now you’ve covered around 8 miles and 18,000 steps and this means you deserve a gelato!

A two minute walk east will bring you to this very pretty cremeria where the gelato is creamy and bursting with flavor; have it in a pot and you get a meringue on top!

Phil eating a gelato cone in a famous gelato shop in Bologna

Eleven Best Foods to Eat in Bologna

Spaghetti Bolognese

One of the traditions of Bologna is for spaghetti Bolognese to be made with tuna and a fresh tomato bolognese sauce. If you want the rich flavors of ragu alla Bolognese with a meat sauce, it will be served with tagliatelle, flat thin strips of pasta. Try either dish and taste Bologna in every delicious mouthful!

fork of spaghetti pasta covered in Bolognese sauce


This silky smooth ham is made with ground pork meat. Bologna’s mortadella is famous for the fineness of the ground meat, which gives its wonderful, fine texture.

Sometimes flavored with pistachio or pepper and studded with fat, make sure you buy this fresh and sliced thinly. This is such a local food and the sandwich filling of choice in Bologna.

Mortadella arranged in a wooden chopping board with a red and white checked napkin

Prosciutto Crudo

Prosciutto crudo, prosciutto di Parma or Parma ham comes from pigs fattened by whey left over from the making of Parmesan cheese; the techniques to produce the best prosciutto crudo have been passed down and perfected from generation to generation.

Make sure you buy products marketed as DOP. This is short for Protected Designation of Origin; as the name suggests, this certification ensures that products are locally produced to exacting recipes and standards.

large whol hams haning above a counter with price labels attached

Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

This is the superior Parmesan cheese and one of the most famous Italian cheeses, made using techniques that have barely changed in centuries.

This cheese is so versatile and can be used in many dishes – try it when cooking pasta or risotto, sprinkled over your salads, or eat as a nibble with a glass of dry white wine.

If you want to see this famous cheese being made, we recommend this popular Parmigiano Reggiano cheese factory and Parma ham tour from Bologna. You’ll get to see the delicious cheese and ham being made and then enjoy a tasting at the end of the tour.

whole Parmesan cheese wheels arranged on shelving with a white metal ladder to access

Tortellini & Tortelloni

Tortellini always has a meat-based filling, whereas tortelloni are filled with ricotta and parsley or spinach. Tortellini is traditionally cooked in and served with a broth, whereas tortelloni is cooked in water or stir-fried, traditionally with butter and sage, and served dry.

Both are served topped with grated or shaved Parmesan. When we bought our tortelloni from Le Sfogline, we cooked it and served it with a browned sage butter. This simple meal was some of the best pasta we have ever eaten.

Tortelloni pasta from La Sfogline in Bologna

Balsamico di Modena

Authentic DOP Balsamic di Modena can be 25 years in the making. Rich, thick, and smooth, this vinegar goes with virtually anything Italian! Like a fine wine, it is complex with layers of flavor and comes to life on your palate.

Take a food tour in Modena (just 50 minutes away from Bologna by car) and try the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena with some chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano or fresh ripe strawberries; it blends perfectly and tastes incredible.

bottle of balsamic vinegar of Modena on display on a silver tray

Culatello di Parma

Culatello is the most expensive ham in the world, currently selling for over €110 per kilo! It is only produced in a very specific place near the Po River, close to Parma. The mists that roll off the river Po provide the perfect environment to produce this king of cured meats.

hams displayed on a wooden board


The hills in the Emilia Romagna region are home to the most prized ingredient, the truffle. Black truffles are sought from March to November. The more expensive white truffle can only be found during October and November when the annual truffle festival is held.

a white bowl filled with pasta covered in white truffle shavings

Squacquerone Cheese

Not well known on the world stage, Squacquerone cheese is great for making a sandwich with Parma ham and your piadine bread, this cheese tastes like cream cheese, yogurt, and sour cream mixed together and it’s delicious!

piadine bread filled with cheese, ham and green leaves


Gelato is perhaps not a specific food of Bologna, however, there is an important connection. Bologna actually has a Gelato University (really!) and the region manufactures the best gelato-making machines in the world.

Try gelato from a shop with big sunken steel pots with lids on display; this maintains a consistent temperature for each batch and you know the vendor is serious about the quality of his gelato.

Although gelato means ice cream, the Italian version’s texture is denser, smoother, and richer than ice cream. Gelato also uses milk, cream, and sugar, but gelato uses less cream and more milk than ice cream and typically contains no egg yolks or eggs.

blackboard in a gelato shop advertising flavours in different coloured chalks

Lambrusco Wine

A sparkling red wine from the Emilia-Romagna region, Lambrusco comes in dry, semi-sweet, and sweet varieties, each with its own unique character and flavor. Lambrusco is a perfect wine to pair with food and works well with both rich and light dishes.

This excellent culinary day trip from Bologna lets you try the tastiest gourmet foods of Emilia, including a balsamic vinegar tasting, a Lambrusco wine tasting and you’ll even see a Ferrari at the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena!


This gastronomic walking tour of Bologna has really been all about the delicious local cuisine, learning about where it comes from, how it’s produced, and where to eat and buy it.

Known as la Rossa la Grassa e la Dotta, meaning the red, the fat, and the learned, Bologna has much more to see than food!

Red references the terracotta red rooftops of the historic center; fat refers to the delicious food and produce found in Bologna and the wider Emilia-Romagna region; and learned refers to Bologna University, founded in 1088, which is one of the most ancient and prestigious universities in the world.

So, as you walk around Bologna on your quest for the perfect pasta or the creamiest cheese, remember to look up and around, and admire the architecture of this historic medieval city. There are so many things to do in Bologna other than eat!

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