Things to do in Bologna and Modena

Any food lover should put a trip to Bologna and Modena at the top of their ‘places to visit’ list. I’d heard from fellow foodies (and Rick Stein) that this central area of Italy was a culinary dream, but had no idea of the intensity of the local food traditions. Every shop exhibits homemade tortellini in the windows and proudly hangs mortadella from the ceiling. The historic arched streets are scented with the sweet smell of balsamic vinegar and Parmigiano Reggiano, I was in heaven. In between mealtimes there are plenty of beautiful buildings and art galleries to explore, and both cities have impressive towers to climb, to help work off those extra pasta calories!



We stayed at one of the Adriano Residence apartments, which are located all over the central part of the city. Our modern apartment was stylish and comfortable, ideally located just a short walk from all the sights and shops.


Archiginnasio of Bologna, once the main building of Europe’s oldest university, is a staggeringly beautiful place to see. While wandering round the city we stumbled across the beautiful ‘Little Venice” a part of Bologna where the roads are replaced with water, like in Venice. Also in the centre of town are the magical whispering walls, where you can stand at diagonal walls and hear your friend whisper. To see the city from up high, test your thighs with a climb up the 498 steps of the Asinelli Tower.


Every Bolognese local will recommend a different ‘favourite’ restaurant you should try. I quickly realised there wasn’t one or two restaurants that we HAD to tick off. Instead we chose dependent on their menus, prices and table availability. Scaccomatto was particularly memorable for their wonderfully simple sweet onion and parmesan raviolini. Head to Tamburini for wonderful meats and cheeses, perfect for an early evening aperitivo, and Drogheria della Rosa for an authentic four-course Italian dinner, accompanied with lovely wines.

There are specialist places to visit if you are after specific foods or ingredients: Le Sfogline for handmade pasta, Paolo Att & Figli for sweet treats, Caffe Terzi for coffee and La Sorbetteria Castiglione for ice-cream.



Modena is a quiet town which has become known for it’s long and rich food heritage. Locanda del Feudo is a boutique hotel in the small town of Castelvetro, a short drive from Modena. The property has just six suite rooms, each spacious but cosy and the hotel restaurant is highly recommended.

Osteria Francescana

Many make the pilgrimage to Modena to visit the World’s Best Restaurant, Osteria Francescana. I loved every mouthful of our meal at the restaurant, a truly special experience that was worth the wait. Chef Massimo Bottura reimagines Modenese ingredients and classic dishes to create plates of food that are wildly imaginative and sensational to taste. If you unable to get a table here, do not fear, as Massimo also owns Franceschetta 58 in Modena, a more relaxed restaurant which serves some similar dishes, at much more affordable prices!


Stop by Mon Cafe or Menonoka for a morning coffee and visit Antica Pasticceria San Biagio for speciality pastries like frappe and tortelli fritti. Mercato Albineli is a lovely fresh food market to pick up any seasonal ingredient you could dream of.

The are plenty of charming shops to buy souvenirs from in Modena. I loved the handmade leather tortellini keyrings from La Vacchetta Grassa and there is a lovely range of Italian scents at Avery Perfume Gallery.

There are a few attractions to entertain yourself during the day. The Ghirlandina tower offers colourful views over the town and car lovers will be in heaven at the Museo Enzo Ferrari.

Parmigiano Reggiano

While staying in Modena venture to the outskirts of town to learn about the heritage of the famous Traditional Balsamic Vinegar di Modena and the process of making Parmigiano Reggiano. Museo dell’Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Spilamberto is a historic museum which holds many balsamic vinegar barrels in its attic. For an education in parmesan head to Hombre, an organic farm which makes some of the best cheese in the area, or 4 Madonne Caseificio dell’Emilia for a more comprehensive tour and tasting.

More information on Modena here.

Emilia’s Crafted Pasta

It is no secret that homemade pasta is my absolute favourite thing to eat. So when I was notified about Emilia’s Crafted Pasta opening up in St. Katharine Docks I was keen to get along and try the food asap.

Emilia's Crafted Pasta

This charming neighbourhood eatery is tucked away amongst other food venues, all with a lovely waterside view of the docks. It is extremely convenient for nearby offices, who I imagine are delighted with this new Italian arrival, but is a bit of a trek if you don’t live or work in the vicinity.

I chatted briefly to owner Andrew Macleod and chef Simone Stagnitto about the inspiration behind the pasta bar and it’s offering. Together they hope to bring authentic and delicious homemade pasta to the city, the essence of Italian tradition, handcrafted in London.

Emilia's Crafted PastaEmilia's Crafted Pasta

The menu is short and sweet with a couple of starters and a range of pasta dishes to suit every palate. Parmesan balls were sadly off the menu when I visited so we settled for burrata with toasted ciabatta and extra virgin olive oil. It was, perhaps, the best burrata I have eaten in London, impossibly creamy and light, sprinkled with coarse black pepper and sea salt.

It was tempting to try one of each from the pasta list, but we restrained ourselves to three bowls between two of us. News of Simone’s exquisite pesto had reached me long before I visited Emilia’s so we had to try this simple dish. It was wonderful. We also ordered the bechamel bolognaise and the lamb ravioli. The bolognaise was indulgent and comforting, the perfect winter dish. Slow cooked for four hours the meat had a delicious depth of flavour, and I was pleased to see plenty of meat sauce coating the beautifully cooked pappardelle. The ravioli was filled with subtly-flavoured lamb and parsley, and then cooked in a light sage and butter sauce. I loved the filled pasta but felt the butter sauce could have been cooked for a little longer in order to give a more caramelised taste and crisp up the sage leaves. Emilia’s offer a few wine options, reasonably priced, and easy to drink with pasta.

Emilia's Crafted Pasta

For dessert we opted for lemon and polenta cake and affogato. The cake was our favourite, light and fragrant topped with flaked almonds, yoghurt and honey.

If you are in the area I would definitely recommend popping into Emilia’s for a delicious bowl of pasta. The restaurant also hope to offer pasta masterclasses too so you can learn the Italian secrets to help you make perfect pasta at home.

More information and book a table at Emilia’s Crafted Pasta here.

Il Buco Ristorante, Sorrento

The Amalfi coast is a full of sunshine and vibrant fresh produce, so you would expect to find some exemplary restaurants serving great Italian food and wine. Unfortunately, many of the tourists visiting settle for less-than-authentic bistros which do not give a true taste of the area. I recommend turning off the busy main square, into the pictoresque side street which is home to Il Buco Ristorante, a charming Michelin star restaurant, with delicious food and lovely service. This elegant restaurant is housed within the beautiful wine cellars of an old monastery, and serves traditional fare presented with flair and creativity.

Il Buco, SorrentoIl Buco, Sorrento

If you can, sit at one of the outside tables… we were seated in an atmospheric corner with a glimpse of the ocean in the background. The shadowy alcoves of the ancient building provide a romantic setting for an intimate meal. To whet our appetites the sommelier poured us two glasses of delicious fine Italian sparkling wine.

Il Buco, SorrentoIl Buco, Sorrento

The menu is lengthy and varied, with a range of starters, pastas, meat and fish options. We followed our waiters recommendations and started with Calamari filled with porcini mushrooms, potato, mozzarella and wasabi, and the antipasti plate of Buffalo mozzarella on tomato with ricotta-filled cannoli and a selection of homegrown pickled vegetables. The calamari was incredibly fresh and artistically presented to look like a mushroom, while the rainbow plate of antipasti was a highly flavoured taste of Italy, with different marinaded vegetables and contrasting creamy cheese.

Il Buco, SorrentoIl Buco, Sorrento

The meat and seafood dishes sounded tempting, but we couldn’t resist ordering pasta for our main course. Homemade ravioli filled with rosemary scented lamb and Ischitana sauce was a delicate dish, exquisite little parcels of tender meat in a traditional tomato-based sauce. The Linguini with lemon scented scorpion and zucchini flowers was an instant reminder of the sea, plump pieces of zesty fish entwined in a pile of fresh pasta.

Il Buco, SorrentoIl Buco, Sorrento

The desserts on offer were classic with bold flavours. I opted for the Amalfi lemon dessert which was served with biscuit crumb and a froth of limoncello, and my dining partner chose the chocolate dish. After a big meal the light and creamy lemon posset-type mousse was the perfect palate-cleansing finale. The chocolate pudding was slightly more refined, an offering of contrasting textures of chocolate served with fresh strawberries and pretty edible flowers. Feeling weary after our Italian feast, we finished the meal with strong macchiatos to get us ready for more city exploring.

More information and book a table at Il Buco here.