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Bologna Europe Italy Travel Travel Guide

Bologna Travel Guide

It’s almost pointless recommending somewhere specific in Italy as a destination, because pretty much the entirety of Italy is a must visit. Honestly, is there anywhere you don’t want to go in this country steeped in history, art, stunning coastlines, hilly vistas and moreover – ridiculously good food and wine?

The latter brings me to Bologna, where I recently visited for four days over a long weekend for the sole purpose of eating. Bologna is the regional capital of Emilia-Romagna, an area closely situated to the north east of holiday favourite Tuscany, yet remains very much under the radar compared to the likes of Rome and Florence. The city has three nicknames: La Dotta, meaning ‘the learned one’, since Bologna is home of the oldest university in Europe; La Rossa, ‘the red one’, after the sea of red tiled roofs it houses; and La Grassa, ‘the fat one’, due to its reputation for a rich culinary history often singled out as making Bologna the best place to eat in Italy.


Europe Food From Travels Ibiza

La Paloma

Whilst we’ve established that Ibiza is not all about clubbing and the San Antonio ‘lads on tour’ scene, you may not know that it’s not even just about the beaches. Ibiza is full of rolling fields and stunning vistas that overlook the hilly countryside, and La Paloma is an excellent example of a quiet hillside set restaurant in the tiny inland village of San Lorenzo that takes in the beauty of this side of the island. The restaurant is set in the middle of citrus orchards and run by an Italian family who swear by home cooking fresh ingredients just the way they like them, and we were lucky enough to eat there amongst the fairy light strewn trees one evening.

Starting off with a round of strong and refreshing dark rum mojitos, we settled down in the candlelit courtyard area outside at dusk. The courtyard is all mismatched chairs and wooden tables, with pretty cut flowers in vases sat amongst vintage crockery. The menu isn’t large at La Paloma, which can be a bit of a blessing if you ask me – too much to choose from can become overwhelming, and the ethos behind this small menu is it allows the chef to deliver higher quality through smaller quantity. The Italian family that own and run La Paloma ship many of the ingredients they use direct from their home country, including capers from Sicily, antipasti from Tuscany and of course their aged parmesan. They do also try to use local products as much as possible too however, even getting their mozzarella made by an Italian who lives on the island, and everything is organic where it can be. Homemade focaccia is made at their own bakery and the restaurant grows their own vegetables – it is clear that quality and sustainability is of the utmost importance at La Paloma.

As may be expected given La Paloma’s roots, there is a distinct Italian vein that runs through the food on offer among the starters as well as the mains.  As favoured by our group, we ordered starters to share: bruschetta (€6), aubergine parmigiana (€12) and goats cheese salad (€16). It turned out there was a bit of a translation problem as the goats cheese was definitely blue cheese, which made it off limits for me, blue cheese being one of the few foods I can’t stomach. It went down well with everyone else however, the pear and hazelnuts adding an interesting layer to the dish, so I’m told. The bruschetta was lovely and the aubergine parmigiana was particularly good, and something I’d definitely order should I visit again.

For main I had their famous fillet of steak with balsamic and thyme sauce, served with roasted potatoes and vegetables (€31) which made me the envy of the table. The fillet was huge and perfectly cooked to rare, though due to the sheer size of the steak I would have preferred more potatoes to have been served with it to balance the dish out more. Okay yes, it seems wrong to complain that a fillet steak is too big! The rack of lamb marinated in soy, ginger and honey served with sweet potato and mint sauce also went down well in our group, and the seafood pasta was cleaned up equally quickly. It’s worth nothing that there are always vegetarian dishes on offer on the weekly changing menu, and vegans are also catered for. To round off the meal, I had an exemplary chocolate fondant with Madagascan vanilla ice cream (€9) which finished off the evening perfectly.

The al fresco setting with fairy lights strung through the trees is a real pull of La Paloma, and the unique location in the hills is a refreshing change from the beach clubs that Ibiza is so well known for. Unlike many other restaurants on the island, La Paloma is also open through the winter months, when their intimate indoor dining spaces are lit by cosy fires. The balance of locally sourced ingredients and those direct from Italy of which the quality cannot be beaten on Ibiza itself forms an excellent and carefully designed menu, whilst the decor is as welcoming as you could want – it kind of feels like you’re sitting in a friend or neighbour’s garden, it feels that homely. The thought that has gone into the La Paloma experience is clear, and the result is a beautiful, relaxed setting with lovely food.

Calle Can Pou, 4, 07812 Sant Llorenc de Balafia, Ibiza

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Europe Food From Travels Ibiza

La Bodega Talamanca

Much like it’s impossible to cook the correct amount of pasta, has anyone ever ordered the right amount of tapas? I mean, of course the ‘right’ amount of tapas is ‘all of it’, but I do try not to over-order because wasting food is A Bad Thing.

I first read about La Bodega Talamanca well over a year ago, on Twitter somewhere I think, and have been wanting to visit this little boho restaurant since then. Ibiza is full of glamorous beach bars and gorgeous fine dining restaurants, but I do favour somewhere a bit more chilled and laid back, which is certainly what La Bodega Talamanca is. The powder blue gates and turquoise walls lead to mismatched chairs, moroccan lanterns and cushions strewn with colourful woven blankets, giving off a distinctly bohemian vibe. As if it couldn’t get more idyllic, the sea is just across the path, and my experience of Talamanca beach was that it’s very quiet and lazy, not the Ibiza I knew on my first visit five years ago. You can get peace in Ibiza, you’ve just got to pick the right place.

Settling in immediately by ordering half a litre of perfect ice cold Spanish sangria (€12.50) I sat down to choose my tapas from the extensive menu, a part of me wishing I was dining with someone so I could order more, but mostly utterly content that this evening was just between me, my book, the view, a lot of sangria and even more tapas. How to choose what to order? Manchego – done, obviously (€7). Chorizo – I’m in Spain, so of course (€6). Got to be a bit of tortilla patatas (€3.50) in there, too (aka ‘Spanish omelette’ – God we know how to class things up don’t we?) The truly painful part was choosing between pan con tomate (€2.50) and pan con aioli (€2.50), because the way the Spanish turn tomatoes on a bit of crusty bread into an art is truly something to behold, but also, aioli until I die. The kind (and probably bored of my dithering) waitress sorted me out by insisting she’d bring me a pot of aioli to go with the pan con tomate instead of me ordering both. After asking how many dishes she would recommend, I reluctantly abandoned about three dishes I had planned but threw in the meatballs for good measure. How often am I in Spain, anyway?

Firstly I need to talk about the manchego. The manchego was of such good quality, and – plot twist – served with walnuts, which was a combination I’d never had before but will absolutely continue to do so. Teamed with the chorizo and pan con tomate the manchego pretty much made my life that evening, it was that good. The tortilla was expertly cooked, not at all dry and falling apart just so. The meatballs I wouldn’t bother with next time – there was nothing at all wrong with them but I gave up prawns for them, you know? An error on my part. The pot of aioli I was served was so big I could barely make a dent in it alongside my other twenty eight dishes – and how I tried. So thick and garlicky – it’s the first thing I want when I land in Spain. This was the perfect first stop in Ibiza and I would absolutely return to La Bodega. The views are wonderful, the restaurant is chilled enough you can stay for hours without bother, the sangria is perfect and the tapas excellent. It’s also great value for Ibiza, where meals can easily add up to €100 a head in other fancier places by the sea. It’s worth noting the restaurant also have an outpost in Ibiza Town which I’d like to try next time – perfect pit stop after exploring those cobbled streets in the sunshine, wouldn’t you say?


La Bodega Talamanca, C/ Ses Figueres S18 Talamanca, 07800 Ibiza, +34971192740
La Bodega Ibiza, C/ Bisbe Torres Mayans 2, 07800 Ibiza +34672494847

Open every day from 6pm until late.

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Europe Florence Food From Travels Italy


This should really be titled ‘The Day I Ate Like A King’. After eating one of the best lunches of my life in Florence, I ended up eating a beautiful meal at Konnubio on my way back to my bed and breakfast seven hours later, and that day will forever be known to me as the day I ate like a king.

Konnubio was a recommendation from a friend of mine who has also stated it was the best meal of her trip to Florence. It was almost an after thought, spoilt as you are for choice in such a city, and I decided that only if it was on my way home would I stop there for dinner. Luckily for me and my laziness, it was. As the manager organised a table for one in the busy restaurant, I was handed a complimentary glass of prosecco, and as anyone who knows me will know, this is a sure fire way to my heart. Even before looking at the menu properly, I was sold.

I settled on beef, having tired myself of so many pasta dishes over my time in Italy (it’s a tough life). Specifically, I ordered peppered beef muscle (€16) with an accompaniment of the Tuscan beans, cooked in sage, garlic, olive oil and tomato, (€5) after the waiter convinced me that these two dishes complimented each other very well and not to be boring and order fries. He brought me a beautiful glass of red wine (€6) whilst I waited for my meal and then a little after that, that Wednesday in September became The Day I Ate Like A King.

The beef muscle tender and melting in a Chianti sauce, the simple Italian flavours from the Tuscan beans and sage adding a whole other level of taste sensation, the red wine washing it all down – this was superb food from Konnubio. As is so often the story with me, my only regret is that I didn’t have enough room to explore the dessert menu, and instead had to practically roll myself home. In Florence you are truly spoilt for choice on good food and I have scribbles of untouched recommendations prime for my next visit, but I would find it difficult to not revisit Konnubio in favour of somewhere new. Arrivederci, as they say.

Via dei Conti, 8r, Firenze, Italy
+39 055 238 1189

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Europe Florence Food From Travels Italy

All’Antico Vinaio

Turns out Tuscans are quite into their sandwiches. English paninis are quite different though – an Italian panino (singular) won’t go anywhere near a toaster. Italians also don’t do paninis by halves. They are absolutely huge and you will have no chance of being hungry two hours after one of these for lunch. They also happen to cost around €5 a pop.

All’Antico Vinaio held TripAdvisor’s top spot for best restaurant in Florence during my time there, so I figured I had to give it a go. With the following five places also being taken by other panino shops, there is clearly strong competition and a lot of hype around the simple sandwich in Florence.

But these sandwiches are anything but simple. With a queue on each side of the street snaking away from All’Antico Vinaio’s two outposts in Via dei Neri, the Palazzo Vecchio tower overlooking the crowds, it’s instantly clear that a lot of people have been checking TripAdvisor for tips.

And this time, TripAdvisor gets it right. These sandwiches are definitely worth hunting down and queuing up for. The staff are full of that classic Italian energy; joking and flirting with customers as one of them chops up the last of what is their clearly very popular roast beef and throws it onto a tray with a hunk of bread for people to sample. Hands fight their way in and it’s gone within seconds (my hand was one of them and it really was very good). They bark at you for your order and it’s impossible not to feel the pressure, after all the queue is huge and full of customers with hungry eyes, and you want everything in the glass cabinet shoved into one sandwich. Thankfully All’Antico Vinaio have made things a little easier by listing their most popular paninis for struggling customers to choose from.

I went off book and chose a random selection of whatever looked good (it all looked good). I chose salami piccante, roasted peppers, aubergine, tomatoes, basil and what turned out to be the stand out for me – stracchino, a very soft and creamy cheese, smeared over the bread as a base to all the other ingredients, finally stuffed with rocket and drizzled with balsamic glaze. One of All’Antico Vinaio’s outposts is purely take away, the one opposite offers the opportunity to sit inside and eat. Although most opt to sit on the pavements of Via dei Neri, eating in concentration in a spot of Tuscan sun, there are advantages to opting for indoors. Namely that you can buy a glass of wine as an accompaniment for a mere €2, and pour it yourself from a selection of about four bottles on the counter.

Sadly I had a train to catch, so I ate my panino walking back through the centre of Florence in time to collect my luggage from my B&B for my journey to Milan, happily unaware of the dried balsamic on my chin for at least forty five minutes. It’s messy one but all the best sandwiches are.

Via dei Neri, 74/R, Firenze, Italy
+39 055 238 2723

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Europe Florence Food From Travels Italy

Il Santino

Writing this at my desk with a shitty salad on the cards for lunch is essentially torture, for a mere week ago I ate one of the best lunches I have ever eaten. Also, I was in Florence, which is infinitely preferable to sitting at a cubicle in a skyscraper in East London.

A wine bar that essentially specialises in Tuscan tapas, Il Santino sits just past sister restaurant Il Santo Bevitore, which is much bigger but have heard just as good tales about. I was the first one in Il Santino (technically I was five minutes early, keen as I was) yet within ten minutes all four of the small tables inside the wine bar were taken. This is clearly a hot destination for locals as well as for tourists in the know, for the two couples sat next to me were Australian.

The menu is in Italian, though the friendly owner happily offered to explain it to me in English. After a brief run down of the range of crostones (or crostini) and tartars they had on offer, as well as an enticing gesture toward the cheese and meat display, I ordered the pecorino, pancetta and honey crostini and asked him to pull together a selection of meats and cheeses on a platter as well. Holy mother of God. That crostini  is one of the most delicious things I’ve tasted in Europe, let alone Italy. And it cost…six euros. Six. Less than five pounds for one of the best things I’ve tasted on the continent…or perhaps the world, actually, the more I think about it. Fresh, thickly sliced, lightly toasted bread with melted pecorino cheese and fine slices of pancetta, drizzled in light honey. I honestly cannot believe I’ve gone my whole life without adding honey to meat and cheese, because it was a revelation. It was one of those meals that I can still taste now, and suspect I will always be able to, like the ricotta and spinach ravioli in sage butter at my friend’s Tuscan wedding, or Dishoom’s lamb raan bun.

The meat and cheese selection (€11) was expertly picked and assembled for me, the meat slice fresh from large hunks of pig leg mere metres away and paired with a beautiful chutney I forgot to ask the name of (still kicking myself about it now). The wine (€6 a glass) was of course, fantastic, because Italy, and the service wonderful.

Il Santino is the perfect hideaway from the harsh Tuscan high summer sun, be it for lunch by yourself with only a book and several glasses of crisp Pinot Grigio for company, or with a friend or partner crowded closely around a small table, whiling away the hours. It is some kind of heaven, and I implore you to go and have one of the best lunches of your life there, too.

 Via di Santo Spirito, 60, Firenze FI, Italy
+39 055 230 2820

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