After some seriously considered research, we're declaring Bologna Italy's culinary capital. It was a crowded field, but on this five-day Big Short Break you'll discover just why the city and surrounding region deserves such an illustrious crown.
Your two-and-a-quarter hour flight to Bologna will leave London early afternoon and arrive in the early evening. After a 20-minute private transfer to your hotel right in the city's historic centre, you will arrive just in time for an evening aperitivo (a deeply civilised Italian evening ritual of cocktails and snacks).
Drop your bags off and head out with our detailed destination Dossier to visit one of our favourite spots for a negroni or two and watch as friends and families enjoy the most important part of their day, the evening passegiata (evening stroll), which is all about seeing and being seen. Our Concierge can book a table at one of the best little trattoria's in town for dinner this evening, so sit back and prepare to be wowed by the incredible Bolognese cuisine.
Bologna has long since been known as 'La Rossa,' the red one - thanks in part to its terracotta rooftops but also its predilection for left-wing politics; 'La Dotta,' the learned one - it is home to the oldest university in Europe, which is still the best and biggest in Italy; and 'La Grassa,' the fat one - thanks to its hyper-Italian obsession with food and impeccable local cuisine.
This morning you will take a deep dive into these three aspects of the city with an expert local guide on a private walking tour of the city centre, which will be tailored to your interests and after lunch you will have the afternoon to explore on your own - we recommend poking round the tiny independent food shops around the main piazza and trying to find the tastiest prosciutto di Parma ham and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese you can.
This morning you will meet your expert guide for a walking tour of Bologna's foodie hotspots.
You tour begins at the medieval market, where locals closely inspect fresh produce and prepared foods before deciding what they are going to concoct for dinner. Most of the businesses have been run by the same families for generations and you will sample their wares, from torta di riso (rice tart) at a traditional bakery, to tortellini and tagliatelle (still handmade by sfogline - women pasta makers) and learn the fascinating history of mortadella sausage. You will also visit the former chocolatiers to the kings of Italy and the best gelateria in the city. After your tour you will be privately transferred to your hotel in the countryside around Bologna.
After a morning exploring the grounds of your hotel, you will be privately transferred to a local cookery school for an afternoon spent learning to make the cuisine of the wider Emilia-Romagna region.
In a small group you will be taken through traditional dishes - ragu alla Bolognese (served with tagliatelle, NOT spaghetti), tortellini in brodo (in broth) and tortellini with butter and sage - step-by-step, learning about the roots and traditions of Emilia-Romagnan cooking, before tucking in to the fruits of your labour for an early supper.
Your flight home leaves this evening, so we recommend spending the day pottering around the grounds of your hotel and enjoying some well-earned time in the spa. This afternoon you will be privately transferred back to the airport in good time for your flight home, which will land in London late evening.