Bologna may be known as 'La Grassa' (the Fat One), but you won't need a fat wallet to stay here. This friendly and elegant city is the home of fresh pasta and acclaimed mortadella and is close to the finest producers of Parmigiano cheese, balsamic vinegar, and Parma ham, so it would be a shame to miss out on any of its delights just because you think you can't afford them.
One of the best options for those with car rental is the Quality Hotel Michelino Bologna Fiera
. Situated at Via Michelino, it offers great rates and really comfortable, modern rooms. B&B Arcoveggio is another excellent budget option, offering superb hospitality from friendly staff who offer great recommendations on what to see and where to eat in Bologna. You could also try the Fiera Hotel for great rates, spacious rooms, and excellent service.
If you have any interest in food, you'll love the old market that crisscrosses the streets and alleys behind Piazza Maggiore. La Baita Formaggi
at Via Pescherie Vecchie is the most famous cheese shop here, and it also serves lunch. Sample the unique black Parmigiano and succulent fresh ricotta and indulge in a proper meal of affettati (cold cuts), frittata di verdura, smoked ham, and tasty salami. Or you could head to Cesare Marretti's funky bistro on Via Senzanome. Marretti is one of Italy's hottest young chefs in Italy, specialising in light, creative cuisine that centres on fresh, seasonal produce. Despite his reputation, he offers a cheap three-course set menu at lunch. This is the ideal place to revive with a zing salad or grilled fish after too much heavy pasta!
Bologna has a wealth of museums and attractions, but the admission fees can pile up alarmingly if you're not sensible. If you're going to explore Bologna, you really should get a Bologna Welcome Card from the local tourist office
. The card covers entry to the city's museums and facilities; features a tourist map with itineraries and places of interest; and provides free WiFi in the city, two tickets for the BLQ shuttle bus or one 24-hour pass for public transport, and discounts and special offers for clubs, shops, restaurants, health clubs, and leisure activities.
Dine Out for Less
Bologna is one of Italy's most important university cities, and with more than 80,000 students living here, it offers a great range of dining options for the cash-strapped. Buy a drink and you can even get away with paying nothing for dinner, as bars compete with each other to offer extra tasty options in their complimentary buffet for the evening aperitivo. Caffe Zamboni
, under the twin leaning towers in the town centre, offers an enormous range of dishes. Order an Aperol Spritz, and although vegetarians will drool over the grilled aubergines and zucchini, most people make straight for the massive chunks of mortadella. If you'd prefer something a little more elegant, try Biagi
, an osteria on Via Savenella that is ideal for a budget-friendly romantic gourmet dinner. The menu features classic casalinga dishes, as well as surprises such as galantina di cappone (stuffed chicken) and warm panzanella salad of beans and plump tomatoes. Biagi also offers a superb selection of local wines, including a remarkably good red lambrusco.