Happy New Year, Luggage and Lifers! I’m back today after a few blissful weeks of relaxation in Maine with my family. I’ve always been a big fan of New Year’s, and not just because it’s also my birthday. I love the feeling that a pure stretch of one year lies before us, ready to be filled with experiences, challenges, and growth.
A new year always brings new adventures, too, and we’ve started our first one by getting to know Bologna, our new home. It’s only been about two weeks that we’ve been there in total, and to be honest, it doesn’t quite feel like home yet. It’s kind of a like a working vacation, and our house feels like an Airbnb, but we’re getting there. Home’s a funny concept when you’re an expat, anyway. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a real home, and sometimes I feel like I have several. It’ll take time to find Bologna’s place on that continuum, wherever she may fit.
The city has been kind so far. Our new apartment is in a great location, right in the city center, smack dab in the middle of the hustle and bustle. I love being able to walk downstairs and have everything I need just an easy stroll away. There are so many places to check out, and so many cool corners to explore.
I’ve started this exploration with some of the markets near our house, so I thought I’d write today about one of the great ones, Mercato di Mezzo.
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Mercato di Mezzo in Bologna
Bologna: la dotta, la grassa, la rossa
Bologna is known in Italian as “la dotta, la grassa, la rossa,” which means “the learned, the fat, the red.”
She is Learned for her grand university, which came to be in 1088, making it the oldest Western university in the world. For reference, one of her best known alums is Dante Alighieri. Yes, that Dante Alighieri, the writer of La Divina Commedia, and the father of modern Italian. Petrarch also studied there, roughly 300 years before Harvard, the oldest university in the US, was established.
Bologna is Fat, for the rich culinary traditions of Emilia Romagna, which include prosciutto di Parma and parmesan cheese, mortadella, lasagne, tortellini, balsamic vinegar, and countless other delights.
Note to self: invest in some stretchy pants.
She’s Red for two reasons. The first is in color, due to the extensive use of brick throughout the city’s architecture. The other is political. Bologna was the capital of the anti-fascist resistance movement during the Second World War. Afterwards, the city became the bastion of Italy’s communist party. Bologna still leans to the left today, thanks to its massive population of students and active political street art scene.
Clearly, this post will be focusing on la grassa.
Mercato di Mezzo: history and location
If you are a regular reader, you’ll know that I love a good Italian market (check out my post on Catania’s famous pescheria and this one on Padua’s 800-year-old treasure, Sotto il Salone). I love the liveliness, the noise, the colors and smells, and of course, the food on offer. I could happily spend time just wandering in a market, tasting and watching and taking it all in.
Il Mercato di Mezzo is Bologna’s oldest covered market. Located just off Piazza Maggiore on Via Clavature, it has been around since Medieval times, and received a huge restoration in 2014 after falling into disrepair and abandonment.
Not a market in the typical sense, the Mercato di Mezzo is now more of a food hall.
The ground floor
The ground floor is the main event. Stalls line the sides of the large space, each one offering different fare. You can find pasta, sweets, bread, cold cut and cheese platters, seafood, and of course glasses of delicious wine and crisp craft beers.
One thing I really like about the Mercato di Mezzo is the communal seating in the middle of the ground floor and upstairs. People seem to grab small dishes from here and there, and then everyone sits together in the middle of the space, enjoying their bites and chatting.
Upstairs and downstairs
If you want a sit-down meal, the Mercato di Mezzo has two choices: Birreria Baladin, which is located downstairs from the main part of the market (below the ground floor) and serves burgers and beer.
The top floor is half occupied by the seating in the photo above, and half occupied by the Italian chain restaurant Rossopomodoro. I’ve never actually eaten there, so I’m afraid I can’t give an opinion on the food.
Shopping at Mercato di Mezzo
You can buy products to take home from the Mercato di Mezzo, but it didn’t really appear that anyone was shopping there. It seems like most people come for something fresh and fast to eat. We explored the market around lunch time, but noticed that it’s open until midnight, so I’d wager it’s a good place for aperitivo as well.
I look forward to checking out Bologna’s other markets and her food culture as I get to know the city better. I also look forward to sampling some of the delicious-looking food on offer at the Mercato di Mezzo!
Click here for more info on the Mercato di Mezzo.
More Bologna posts and guides
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