Bologna, the Italian city home to the world’s oldest university, is traditionally famous for its food and drink—and it has some stellar specialty cafés.
BY TANYA NANETTI
SENIOR ONLINE CORRESPONDENT
Bologna is home to the oldest university in the world and is the unofficial “capital“ of the porticos (the covered alleys found in the medieval center). The Italian city is best known for its exquisite traditional cuisine, considered among the best in the world. Lasagna, tagliatelle al ragù and tortellini are known all over the world and often accompanied by the delicious red wines from the surrounding hills.
But little Bologna is not only the home of traditional food and drink: Thanks to its vibrant international student community and the many tourists who discover it year after year, the city is beginning to explore new trends, now presenting many establishments offering international food, craft beers and specialty coffees.
Here is a short list of four cafés that are helping to spread the specialty-coffee culture in the city.
The specialty-coffee movement is still struggling to become an established reality in Italy, often closely tied to the traditional way of drinking coffee, in a bitter, over-roasted espresso.
Yet, specialty-coffee shops are often small, established realities, such as the delightful Aroma, which has been welcoming customers to its cozy space for more than two decades.
Among the first cafés on the peninsula to offer more than one type of espresso, Aroma’s menu usually includes a tasty house blend, a bold 100% robusta, and a couple of delicious single-origins. Aroma is also known (globally) for its hand drip coffees, prepared by owner Alessandro Galtieri, a pioneer of Italian specialty coffee, former Italian brewing champion, and third in the world at the 2019 World Brewers Cup.
Aroma is a must-visit place if you want to understand the rise of Italian specialty coffee, but if you are not a fan of black coffee, don’t despair. Alessandro and his lovely wife, Cristina, also offer a menu of decadent coffee delights, serving coffee alongside homemade treats such as zabaglione (a slightly alcoholic local custard) and panna cotta.
Just a few steps away from Aroma is BURO, the specialty-coffee shop launched only a couple of years ago with a very specific purpose: to offer tasty coffees and brunch while creating a space that can also be functional and welcoming for students, remote workers, and digital nomads as well.
For “regular“ customers, BURO is a classic coffee shop: a space that can be visited to have breakfast, to enjoy a coffee in the afternoon break, but also to attend one of the revamped brunches with DJ sets, or one of the many events scheduled each week.
For students and digital people who wish to use the space to study or work, however, BURO offers hourly or day packages with dedicated work spaces in a friendly environment.
There is no better place in town to visit when you need to be really productive, but want to do it in a lovely place (while drinking a good coffee).
If you’ve spent a couple of days strolling along Bologna’s cozy porticoes, you’ve probably already passed by one of Forno Brisa’s locations. “Forno“ means “oven,“ and is the traditional way of saying “bakery“ in Italy.
With its colorful spaces filled with stickers and eye-catching merchandise, with inviting trays of pizza al taglio (the traditional Roman pizza, served by the slice) that sit alongside croissants, pastries and loaves of bread, Forno Brisa hardly goes unnoticed.
But this local bakery, recognized as one of Italy’s best pizza shops, is more than just a bakery. It’s also home to one of the first specialty-coffee roasters based in Bologna, Brisa Coffee Roasters.
Come here to buy a bag of coffee to take home; while you’re there, be sure to grab a piece of pizza: You won’t regret it.
Just outside the historic center, traditionally enclosed within medieval walls, is Melée, the newest specialty-coffee shop in Bologna.
Small and simple, built like a traditional Italian neighborhood café, Melée is simply that: a friendly local operation offering locally roasted beans for espresso drinks and internationally roasted coffees for handcrafted brews.
Melée’s real strength is not just the (still very tasty) coffee, or the small lounge usually filled with friendly customers ready to have a word with any newcomer, or the few desserts offered. The real soul of Melée resides in owners Miriam and Paolo, who in a couple of years have managed to create a place that makes you feel at home from the very first visit. It has the true spirit of an Italian café … happily updated to specialty-coffee standards.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend.