SMALL SHOPS AND MARKETS
Many people in Bologna do their shopping at negozi di alimentari (small grocers), outdoor markets and specialty shops. While it can be overwhelming at first, shopping Italian-style and liberating oneself from the one-stop superstore becomes a real pleasure. Don’t be discouraged if shop personnel seem a little reserved at first. The key to shopping in Bologna is to find stores or stands that you like and return again and again. After two or three visits back to the same place you’ll be accepted as a regular customer. The tradeoff is you may not find everything you want in one stop. Establishing and maintaining a good relationship with local vendors should be a part of your game plan. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about food preparation. Many vendors are pleased to tell you how to cook a vegetable you’ve never tried before or offer suggestions for marinating the lamb chops you’re buying for dinner.
The price of an item is usually clearly displayed on individual placards and is calculated either in kilograms or etti. One etto equals 100 grams or a tenth of a kilo. If you’re not familiar with the metric system, ordering may be intimidating, but it won’t be long before you’re able to correctly gauge just how many apples in a kilo, or prosciutto in one etto. Of course you can also order fruit by number, as in cinque mele (five apples).
Try your neighborhood shops or head to one of the market areas in the heart of the city. One such neighbourhood shop is Drogheria 53, in via Pietralata 45/A which sells locally sourced organic fruit, vegetables, pulses, eggs and more. This piccola bottega is run by Rita, whose kindness and commitment to environmental and social sustainability is legendary in the neighbourhood.
If you prefer home delivery, check with your favourite shops and markets since most of them will be happy to do it.
The biggest covered market is the Mercato delle Erbe (www.mercatodelleerbe.eu; Via Ugo Bassi, 2; Open Monday to Saturday 7-19:30).
Here you can find fruit and vegetable stands as well as butcher shops, cheese shops, bakeries etc. The fishmonger is located in a special section in the back.
Mercato delle Erbe has been renovated to include a range of eateries perfect for a quick lunch or a simple and fun aperitivo inside and outside of the food court.
The outdoor market area nestled into the side streets off Piazza Maggiore, also known as Quadrilatero (check the website) showcases displays of produce, beautiful Parmiggiano and Grana Padano cheeses and cold cuts, but prices are somewhat higher. If you’re willing to stand in line, there are three very good fishmongers and a number of produce stands on Via Pescherie and Via Drapperie. The market is also a great place to shop by bicycle – you don’t even have to get off your bici (bike) to make your purchase! The Quadrilatero has, in recent years, become one of the favourite spots for an aperitivo Bologna-style, where you can sip your favourite chilled prosecco and have a plate of prosciutto, salami & formaggio nibbles.
There are many other neighbourhood markets, such as the one in Piazza Aldrovandi, Porta San Mamolo, Via Veneto, Mercato Albani in the Bolognina neighbourhood, to name just a few specializing in fresh produce and other staples. In addition, there are farmers markets which offer organic, locally produced food, usually on Saturdays (e.g. Via del Pratello) or Sundays (e.g. Piazza Carducci, www.fondazioneslowfood.com/mercato-della-terra-di-bologna). Probably the best known is Il Mercato Ritrovato (www.mercatoritrovato.it, Via Azzo Gardino 65) which is hosted by the Cineteca di Bologna.
Every Tuesday morning, you can find a vast selection of outdoor and indoor house plants and cut flowers on Piazza San Francesco – www.bolognawelcome.com/mercato-di-piazza-san-francesco.
Twice a year, special flower markets are organized over a weekend in May and September, one in Piazza Minghetti (Bologna in Fiore) and one in Giardini Margherita (Giardini & Terrazzi). Bologna in Fiore sells mostly plants and some local food delicacies, while the Giardini & Terrazzi also has stands and displays for garden furniture and supplies, various garden and home accessories and even some clothes. Both are very popular, so if you want to avoid the crowds you’re probably better off going early on Friday or late on Sunday.
QUICK GUIDE TO ITALIAN SPECIALTY SHOPS
- Drogheria: candies, spices, wines, spirits, some baking supplies, tea, coffee, cocoa
- Edicola: newspapers and magazines, maps, bus tickets
- Enoteca: wine, liqueurs, snacks, cookies, chocolate
- Erboristeria: bulk herbs, natural foods (including gluten-free), homeopathic medicines
- Farmacia: prescriptions, baby food, diapers, feminine hygiene products, hair care items
- Ferramenta: hardware, bike locks, light bulbs, locksmithing
- Fruttivendolo: fresh fruit and vegetables, sometimes a few canned goods
- Forno: bread, cookies, pastries, pasta, crackers
- Latteria: fresh milk, cheese, yogurt
- Merceria: buttons, children’s pajamas, sewing materials, linens
- Profumeria: beauty products, perfume for men and women, bedroom slippers
- Macelleria: meat, sometimes poultry, sometimes eggs
- Mesticcheria: paint, brushes, do-it-yourself craft and hobby items
- Pescheria: seafood
- Polleria: poultry, fowl. Note: it’s uncommon to cook a whole tacchino (turkey) in Italy, so you should special order your bird in advance. You will undoubtedly end up having a conversation about whether or not you prefer the larger, male tacchino or the more delicate tacchinella. You may find that your bird is too large for your Italian oven. Bring your measurements when purchasing or request it to be deboned.
- Rosticceria: take-out such as roasted chicken, lasagne, grilled vegetables
- Salumeria: cold-cuts, cheeses, tortellini, long-life milk, a limited selection of wine
- Tabaccheria: cigarettes, stamps, greeting cards, film, bus tickets, phone cards, matches
Sundays and Thursday afternoons used to be Bologna’s official periods of riposo (rest). Just a few years ago it was practically impossible to buy anything on a Thursday afternoon, but this has been changing. Store closing is not mandatory and many clothing shops, large shopping centers and department stores remain open. Most of the smaller shops, including those that offer services such as dry cleaning, bike repair and copying will close at lunchtime on Thursday and won’t open again until Friday morning. Hairdressers and barbershops on the other hand take their riposo on Monday, as do many family-run restaurants.
Sunday and even holiday openings are becoming the norm for supermarkets. Many stores stay open after 20:00; the Carrefour on Piazza di Porta Castiglione (next to Giardini Margherita) is open till 02:00, and the one on Via Don Giovanni Sturzo, till midnight.
SUPERMARKETS & SUPERSTORES
Maybe you just want to buy your groceries and be done with it? There are many supermarket chain stores in and around Bologna, including PAM, COOP, Conad, Esselunga, Carrefour, Lidl and their larger cousins such as IperCOOP. You might pay more for vegetables and meat and in exchange, considerably less for pasta and baked goods. On the other hand, you can pick the produce rather than having to order from the fruttivendolo. You will save time, as you will find everything you need under one roof. When you arrive at the check-out, remember there is a small charge for grocery bags and you will be expected to pack them yourself.
Most supermarket chains also offer loyalty program memberships. You can get discounts on specially marked items and will receive points for every euro spent, which you can then redeem for a gift or discount. At the COOP supermarket chain, a member cooperative, you can also open a savings account.
You have to travel outside of the center to find the superstores and mega-supermarkets. These stores carry a vast number of products beyond food, including home supplies and furniture and have later hours.
ONLINE SHOPPING & HOME DELIVERY
If you live in centro, especially in a building without an elevator, you might consider online shopping and home delivery. All supermarket chains offer them and there is usually a small fee for the convenience of the delivery to your doorstop (by the way, tipping the delivery man is neither necessary nor expected).
NATURAL, ORGANIC & SPECIAL DIET FOODS
All supermarket chains carry organic foods (look for food marked ‘biologico’). For a full selection of organic goods, try one of the city’s (sometimes pricey) natural food supermarkets – NaturaSì (www.naturasi.it).
- via de’ Toschi 5/e, Tel. 051.239029
- via Montefiorino 4d, Tel. 051.6144011
- viale della Repubblica 23/2, Tel. 051.503902
- via Po 3, Tel. 051.6241205
Most supermarkets also carry gluten-free, low-sugar, vegan and other special diet food items as do pharmacies (Farmacia Comunale in Piazza Maggiore carries an extensive collection and is open 24/7)
WINE & WATER
Wine can be found in the enoteca, at your local alimentari and the supermarket. Consider buying directly from a wine producer. It’s not unusual to buy wine by the damigiana (demijohn) and bottle it yourself. Ask around to find a good wine producer who sells to the public.
Though tested safe for drinking, the water in Bologna and the province is very hard, leading to problems of calcare (calcium deposits). This white film can be hard on appliances, laundry and fixtures. Tip: use wine vinegar to remove it from fixtures and dishes.
Choosing a brand of bottled mineral water is something many Italians still take surprisingly seriously. You will always be asked if you prefer acqua naturale (still water) or frizzante (carbonated). Fortunately, more eco-friendly and less wasteful options are available, e.g. getting a water filter, available in a ferramenta and filling your own water flasks.
THINGS FROM HOME
After the first few months of delicious tortellini, you may be longing for comfort foods from home. Does the mere mention of peanut butter or marmite make you swoon? Chances are you will able to find these items here. Major supermarket chains are increasingly carrying specialty items such as Mexican taco kits and Asian sauces and noodles.
Asia Mach carries just about everything Asian, including many different varieties of soy sauce, coconut milk and spices galore. You can also find fresh coriander/cilantro, Indian, Latin American and American specialties.
For Russian and Eastern European specialites and pickled foods, try Kalinka. If you still have energy after furniture shopping at IKEA, the food section at the exit has Scandinavian goodies.
via Mascarella 81/a/b/c
via Galliera 63/a
IKEA – Bottega Svedese
via John Lennon 6
Casalecchio di Reno
via Marco Emilio Lepido 8