Bologna Inside - Second Edition

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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. Your butcher may not carry eggs. Your favorite greengrocer may not carry radishes, you’ll find them down the street. 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.

Try your neighborhood shops or head to one of the market areas in the heart of the city. The biggest is the covered Mercato delle Erbe (Herb Market), a warehouse with fruit and vegetable stands as well as butcher shops, dairies, bakeries and beauty supplies. Fresh catch of the day is located in a special section in the back.

Mercato delle Erbe

Via Ugo Bassi, 2
Open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 8-12:30 and 16:30-19:30; Thursday and Saturday 8-12:30
The outdoor market area nestled into the side streets off Piazza Maggiore showcases beautiful displays of produce, but prices are somewhat higher. If you’re willing to stand in line, there are two very good fishmongers and 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! There is another large, centrally-located market in Piazza Aldrovandi specializing in fresh produce and some of the more exotic fruits and vegetables.

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).


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


Maybe you just want to buy your groceries and be done with it. There are many supermarket chain stores in and around Bologna, including Carrefour, Conad, COOP and its larger cousin IperCOOP, Esselunga, Supermercati Emiliani and Pam. 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 yourself (wearing a plastic glove) 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 at warp speed.

Most supermarket chains also offer memberships. You can get discounts on speciallymarked items and will receive points for every euro spent, which you can then redeem for a gift. 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 furniture and stereo equipment and have later hours.


If you live in centro, especially in a building without an elevator, you might consider online shopping and home delivery. Esselunga has an excellent and easy-to-navigate web site: There is no minimum purchase, they accept all forms of payment and there is a small fee for the convenience of home delivery. Tipping the delivery man is not necessary nor expected.


A number of discount alimentari have outlets in Bologna. Although the ambiance is usually less appetizing, with cartons in the aisles and general disorder, it is possible to find great bargains and the occasional surprise, especially when it comes to cheeses,

In the produce section, consider one hand “clean” (gloved) and the other one “dirty” (ungloved). The “clean” hand is usually your dominant one, for selecting produce. Your “dirty” hand must remain far from the food until it’s time to weigh your selection. Once you have matched your item with its gaily painted counterpart on the bacterialaden touch-pad above, the machine ejects a gummed label. By this time, other shoppers are waiting and the pressure is on. You must then extract the sticky label from the dispenser and affix it to the bag. If you use the wrong hand, the label adheres to anything but the bag. Sometimes frozen vegetables are the better choice.

Lisa Strickland

cookies and candies from all over Europe. Lower prices don’t always translate into inferior quality. There are often products you might never think of looking for in a discount and they are a good place to stock up on household goods and cleaning products. Look for stores such as In’s, Ecu, D più, Eurodiscount, Lidl and Penny Market.


Many supermarket chains carry organic foods. Look for food marked biologico. For a full selection of organic goods, try one of the city’s sometimes pricy natural food supermarkets, listed in the yellow pages under ALIMENTI DI PRODUZIONE BIOLOGICA or ALIMENTI DIETETICI O MACROBIOTICI. In addition to three markets, Natura Sì also has an organic restaurant at its Via Po location.

Natura Sì

Via Montefiorino, 2/d and 4
Tel. 051.6144011
Viale della Repubblica, 23
Tel. 051.503902
Via Po, 3
Tel. 051.6241205


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 calcare from fixtures and dishes.

Many families rely on bottled water and choosing a brand of mineral water is something many Italians take surprisingly seriously. You will always be asked if you prefer acqua naturale (still water) or frizzante (carbonated). If you don’t feel like toting all those bottles around, look in the yellow pages under ACQUE MINERALI E BEVANDE for companies who offer servizio a domicilio (home delivery). Another option is to get a water filter, available in a ferramenta.