Italian Culture (by which I mean food)

It’s November and snowing, and any illusions I had about Italian weather have been shattered. It’s winter now, and with the gloomy weather, the reality of exams and essays has hit – in Bologna, modules change each semester, so I have exams each semester too. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to resuming the more chilled #erasmuslife after Christmas, and so this blog will focus on the more fun sides of studying abroad in Italy – the travel and the food!

Bologna in the snow - even the locals were surprised by snow in mid-november!
Bologna in the snow – even the locals were surprised it came so early!

Bologna is known as la grassa (the fat) and it’s easy to see why.  Food is of course one of the most famous parts of Italian culture, and Bologna is central to this culture, in fact the city was chosen for the new “Eataly World,” a ‘theme park’ for food! Over the last few months I’ve had more pizza and pasta than I’d care to admit, been to a wine-tasting workshop, eaten the ‘best gelato in the world,’ and attended a chocolate festival.

I was surprised to find out that ‘bolognese’ sauce doesn’t exist here. It’s true there is a tomato and mince sauce native to the city, but bologna’s Ragù is much less rich than the sauce british people know, and it is normally eaten with tagliatelle, not spaghetti. Though I am vegetarian, I was lucky enough to be cooked a meat-free version by a friend who is a local, it was delicious.

The pasta dish Bologna is proudest of however is it’s tortellini, normally served in brodo, in (meat) broth. While I obviously haven’t tasted this either, I have tried many variations of tortellini with a variety of fillings, including ricotta and spinach, mushrooms, and even potato. The place to try this food is the Osteria della Orsa, a traditional restaurant known for quality food at reasonable prices.

Another great food-related tradition here is aperitivo. You pay a small price (€8-10) for any drink, plus unlimited access to a buffet. This is a great way of eating out cheaply for a student on a budget, if you refill your plate enough times!

Tortellini in brodo at Osteria della Orsa
Tortellini in brodo at Osteria della Orsa
Fresh pasta in a shop window
Fresh pasta in a shop window

I’d also like to mention the sightseeing I’ve been doing –  one of my favourite things about being here is the opportunity to travel and discover the country. I’ve been taking advantage of trips organised by Erasmus organisations, as well as Bologna’s extensive train connections to travel around and see some more of Italy. So far I’ve been to various cities around Tuscany, including the beautiful San Gimignano, had a road trip to Verona and Lake Garda, and used the excuse of a friend coming to visit to spend a day in Venice! This is only the start, Florence, Milan, Modena, Pisa and more are also easy trips from Bologna. I unfortunately have to hold off on the travel during exam period, but I can’t wait to get started again!

Venice is beautiful, and a short train journey away!
Venice is beautiful, and a short train journey away
The beautiful Tuscan countryside
The beautiful Tuscan countryside

As always, feel free to email at, and I wish the best of luck to those applying for year abroad places this year!

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