Spending our time with Marco was amazing. He KNOWS Bologna and Italy and was so interesting, even beyond the foods he presented. He was prepared to spend the time with us, with water, napkins, utensils and plates. We started in the local Market with an amazing cheese tasting and accompanying wine. I had no idea there was more to parmesan than just "parmesan." To see the cheeses as they come in huge wheels and the information about how they are made was really interesting. I ended up buying a small wedge of truffle infused cheese to bring home. There is absolutely NO PRESSURE to purchase anything, but honestly pretty much all I brought home was food!
We then tried a homemade tortellini in broth that honestly was nirvana. I don't think I've ever tasted anything so good. Marco mentioned that the young woman in this shop is there hours before opening creating her cookies and pasta. I did come back later to get some of the biscotti she had and I was glad I did!
We were then introduced to some premade dishes - kind of like "take out" here, but homemade and delicious. Marco told us about the differences between Bolagnese Lasagne and the kind we are familiar with here in the states. Frankly, I LOVED the Bologna version. There were several other offerings from this particular shop, including polpette (I think thats what it was called) and incredible pickled small onions and other veggies. These were nothing like you'd taste here. I loved the little onions! What was great too, was that Marco had so much information about the food and how it changed when Italian people came to America. Truly fascinating.
After a stop at a meat shop where he got some slices of a variety of meats to eat later, we crossed the street to a pasta shop where we could see just how quickly these experienced women could turn out tortellini. Marco then presented a plate of unmade tortellini, showed us how they are formed and I tried my hand at it. I think they turned out pretty well. As much as I love Italy, I though for sure I could just get a job making them so I could stay. I found out I definitely have potential, but need a bit more training! (lol)
We then strolled through the heart of Bologna, stopping at a Balsalmic Vinegar shop (we weren't able to do a tasting at that time, but were assured we could come back in and just remind the shopkeeper we were with Marco to be able to taste later - which we did. (Oh my gosh - Giuseppe Giusti has been around since the 1600's and their basalmic was so good, I was speechless!).
After walking through the Piazza Nettuno (Marco had some fun things to show us there) and through some streets crowded with small restaurants and food shops, we stopped in at an historic "hostel" where you could buy wine and sit at the tables with your own food. At that point, Marco brought out these amazing crackers and laid out the cheese and meats he obtained earlier. What a great experience! The meats were delicious as was the accompanying wine. As a matter of fact, we enjoyed the wine so much Marco led us to a shop where we could buy a bottle to open later. I also bought some chocolates to try that Marco suggested. He wasn't wrong about how good they'd be.
We finished our tour at an amazing gelato shop. This man knows where the good stuff is in Bologna, for sure! We learned about what makes a good gelato, that there is actually a school to learn how, and that you can make gelato from just about anything. This smooth and creamy delight did not disappoint.
Throughout our entire time together, Marco was so enjoyable, knew the people with whom he interacted, shared so much knowledge and insight, and had ready answers to our many questions. I enjoyed our time with Marco so very much and would HIGHLY RECOMMEND him to anyone wanting to have a "taste" of Bologna.