My [Bologna] has a first name...

...it's A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. When people ask me my favorite city in Italy, I initially stutter. That is like asking me to pick my favorite child.  Or having to decide to eat either only peanut butter OR ice cream for the rest of my life.  It's just not right.  But when forced to choose, I choose Bologna.

Why Bologna?  Well Bologna, to me, aside from being an architecturally beautiful city with equally beautiful people, harbors a passionate food culture that embodies all that is Italian cuisine.  First, all of the foods that come to mind when one thinks about Italy (minus pizza) are found in Bologna.  While the region in which Bologna is found, Emilia-Romagna, is filled with gastronomically-impressive cities and towns, Bologna is the epicenter of all that is good and delicious in Italy.  Imagine hand-cut tagliatelle, giants legs of prosciutto, wheels of fragrant parmigiano-reggiano, logs of mortadella the size of a small boat, and tiny bottles of ridiculously thick, aged balsamic vinegar.  And all of these are either made right in Bologna or are arriving from neighboring towns, like Parma and Modena.  Do you really need anymore reason to go?

Second, nowhere else in Italy is food treated with such respect and pride.  This is evident everywhere you walk in the city- from the display windows of food specialty shops displaying mountains of handmade tortellini the size of my thumbnail, to the street markets with unbelievably fresh produce that make me want to rent an apartment, buy one of everything, a bottle of extra virgin olive oil, and flee to the kitchen.  And it is this sense of inspiration that I feel in Bologna that mesmerized me the first time I went and the reason why I decided to return.

Aside from the food, I love Bologna because it is still authentic and not overrun by tourists.  While Firenze is a lovely city rich with history and an impressive cuisine all its own, it is sometimes hard to ignore the crowds of tourists that I pass everyday on my walk to the market.  So Bologna is also the ideal place to escape to for a day if you just want to discover a less-frequented corner of Italy.

Anywho, my day in my favorite city in a nutshell proceeded as follows: I walked around, ate, walked some more, and proceeded to eat even more.  They don't call Bologna "La Grassa" ("the fat one") for nothin'.

I forgot to mention that I also had the best ravioli, tagliatelle al ragu, and gelato ever.    But that's a post for another day.  Let's just say I left Bologna with a belly full of joy and a renewed appreciation for Italy and all that it has to offer.