It is that perfect season of the year when you would like to spend all of your time outside, savoring the first sun, the air still fresh, the smile on people’s faces. Let’s say it: the atmosphere is mellow, the vibe is nice and happy. So, shiny happy people, since we are in a Country and a city just full of piazzas, let’s take advantage of it and plan a serious schedule of aperitivi. The list is in the usual “top 5” shape, but the actual destinations are 7 (keep reading), so you can try one for each day of the week and decide which works best for you. Ready? Let’s go.
(Spoiler alert: there’s no address in Piazza Maggiore. The fact that never in my life I had aperitivo in a bar facing Bologna’s main square must say something. That most bars are overpriced and almost exclusively destined to tourists. Or that I’m a snob. Possibly both. Anyway: feel free to propose your own Piazza Maggiore favorite)
Ripasso (Piazza Aldrovandi)
As niche and off the beaten track as the little square that hosts it, it is unpretentiously nested between some market stalls and hosts a heterogeneous, non touristic crowd. Actually crowd isn’t appropriate: Ripasso is often quite relaxed, its recycled tables and vintage chairs never too packed with people (unlike this photo seems to suggest), while being pleasant and cosy all the same. One saturday afternoon two guys where happily sipping white wine while eating fried shrimps from the neighboring fish stall and I asked «What would the owners think of this?». «We are the owners, we do it every saturday, it’s too good. Want some?». So yes, if you have to pick a day, go for saturday.
The bars on Piazza Santo Stefano
If Bologna was a prom, Piazza Santo Stefano would be Prom Queen. Like, for ages in a row (slow learner? I don’t know, I’m getting lost in my own metaphor). Anyway, I’m grouping the three main bars of the piazza because its sight – the weird triangular shape, the cobblestone, the people lounging by the steps – is the main attraction. Which doesn’t mean the bars are aren’t as worth: quite the opposite. The most beautiful is elegant Camera con vista, at the margins of the piazza, with its chic air and a decadent charm. The newest is little Agricola e Vitale, a favorite among upper class locals and the style conscious. Then there’s the evergreen Caffè Sette Chiese: despite being quite full of tourists, it rules with its great central position, proudly occupying quite a big area with its tables full of spritzes and proseccos that seem to whisper “Hey, here’s some Italian cliche that isn’t bad at all”.
Piccolo e Sublime (Piazza Verdi)
Want a student vibe? This is as studentsy as it gets. Right in the heart of the uni, in that Piazza Verdi that hosts Bologna’s Opera Theatre (Teatro Comunale) but looks nothing like a chic destination for opera aficionados, this is a meeting spot for those hanging around Via Zamboni & co, mostly students and young people. Another old glory from the glorious (?) nineties, as well as a great observation spot for studying the contradictions of bologna’s University quarter (including the very noticeable drug commerce that here is also en plain air), let’s say you don’t come here for fanciness or good little tarts, but rather to experience Bologna’s scruffier, rougher ad also younger part.
Bar De Marchi (Piazza San Francesco)
You’ll hardly find this bar on a guidebook. Tiny and not particularly remarkable, it is actually a favorite among locals, especially the fortysomethings that still embrace with their look and their attitude the Pratello vibe. Adjacent Via del Pratello is kind of a state of mind, a celebrated landmark of rebelliousness and suburban pride in the nineties, and is still very popular, very beloved, very messy and very crowded. And so is Piazza San Francesco which De Marchi is facing and embracing in a little orgy of cheap drinks, political awareness, barrio life and intentionally unglamorous vibe.
Cafe de Paris (Piazza Minghetti)
I intentionally ignored this cafe for ages because I always considered it “troppo fighetto*”, but I started going there thanks to a new fancy friend that I actually met through this blog and I love it when they put just a couple of tables outside over the cobblestone. You can sip a cocktail and nip things from your little tagliere while overlooking the whitish and leafy Piazza Minghetti, a charming spot and one or the rare non-medieval areas of the historical center. The atmosphere is intimate and classy. I’m actually just back from it and from a nice conversation over buddhism, polylove and the history of art. Never underestimate the possibility of encounters, even if you’re in a fighetto bar.
*Ignore the Google translate: “fighetto” doesn’t mean “dude” at all. It’s a slang word meaning “too fancy” with a clear derogatory nuance