For Here Magazine issue 09, Bologna-based artist Sarah Mazzetti contributed illustrations to Ceil Miller-Bouchet’s essay on retracing the steps of her youth in Rome.
Sarah Mazzetti’s illustrations have an undeniably Italian flair (one that’s attracted a long client list, including IL Magazine and The New Yorker). Mazzetti’s worked all over Europe, but now she splits her time between her hometown of Bologna, and her adopted city of Milan, where she went to art school. And though both places inspire and facilitate her work, it’s Bologna, she claims, that feels most like home.
Here, we join Mazzetti for a day of what she calls dolce far niente (or: “sweet doing nothing”)—from where to take long walks in the park to her favorite laid-back Italian meals.
Sarah Mazzetti’s Perfect Day in Bologna
9 a.m. — No-time-to-waste Italian espresso
I usually grab a quick coffee in one of the bars close to my studio, in the Riva di Reno area. Caffè della Pioggia is a very typical, unpretentious Italian bar. Having an Italian coffee has nothing to do with relaxing and contemplating—we grab an espresso standing at the bar, follow it with a shot of water, and that’s it, we’re ready to go!
9:30 a.m. — Breakfast pastries (if you MUST)
I rarely have breakfast outside, but if I do, I go to Pasticceria Santo Stefano, on Santo Stefano Street, another Italian bar with an amazing selection of pastries. The area is quite bourgeois, but it’s friendly and cozy too.
10 a.m. — A slow start
Then I stroll to Giardini Margherita and chill on the grass with a book, or walk toward Piazza Santo Stefano and sit there, just contemplating and reading. If the weather is good, I always prefer to be outside in a calm, familiar place to enjoy dolce far niente, which translates literally to “sweet doing nothing.”
12 p.m. — Italian lunch for people who like variety
I like to grab a quick lunch in the market at Piazza Aldrovandi, where you can find nice street food like focaccia or pizza (especially on weekends). You’ll find the same concept but bigger and indoors at Mercato delle Erbe, a food market with several small stalls and a variety of food options, from typical Italian to more contemporary cuisine. Lots of vegan dishes as well.
1 p.m. — Shop n’ stroll
Next, I’d walk around in the city center, through Piazza Maggiore to Via Clavature and Piazza Santo Stefano, ending at the Sette Chiese (Seven Churches). One of the main characteristics of Bologna is the portici that covers almost every street in the city center, so that while you walk you’re always protected from the rain or the sun. This makes walking a nice activity most of the year. On weekends there’s a big clothing market in Montagnola with lots of great vintage and a relaxed vibe. Once a month there’s also a beautiful antique market at Piazza Santo Stefano. Though it tends to be quite expensive, you can find truly nice gems there.
3 p.m. — Catch an iconic flick (and snack)
Don’t miss the cinema. Bologna has one of the most important cinetecas in Europe, restoring movies by Charlie Chaplin, Pier Paolo Pasolini, and many others. During the summer there are free open-air projections at Piazza Maggiore every night. The movie selection is amazingly well-curated and the atmosphere is magical. For a quick gelato, Il Gelatauro is the best.
The Palazzo Poggi Museum has an amazing collection of anatomical waxworks.
8 p.m. — Dinner done “right”
My favorite Italian osteria is Biassanot. They do traditional Emilia-Romagna cuisine, everything from tortellini to passatelli to lesso (boiled meat). The atmosphere is nice and relaxed, but everything is done “the right way”—the waiters tend to be older and they know the menu and their manners very well. I love that place. I often order passatelli in brodo (passatelli with broth), a favorite that I only eat at my parents’ house or at a good restaurant. Another place I love is Via Con Me, near Mercato delle Erba. Their cuisine is more modern Italian, traditional dishes reinvented in a contemporary way.
10 p.m. etc. — Literary libations (and substantive cocktails)
I usually stop by Modo, a bookshop and bar on Via Mascarella. It’s the spot where most of the cartoonists and artists in town end up having a drink and a chat. Going there is almost automatic for me, but there are many other nice places too. Ruggine, a lovely bar close to Piazza Santo Stefano, has a vintage feel and their cocktails are very very good. That area is probably my most beloved part of town.
Where to stay:
I’d stay in the Santo Stefano neighborhood. It’s a beautiful spot, not too crowded or noisy (you won’t have people shouting and drinking all night long beneath your window). The biggest park in town, Giardini Margherita, is also very close.
What to read:
The Red Tenda of Bologna, by John Berger.
What not to do:
I would avoid visiting from mid-July through the end of August. Bologna is one of the hottest cities in Italy, and it gets very humid. The end of summer is a little unbearable.
Italians tend to be sensitive about food. For example, if you order a cappuccino after lunch or dinner, the waiter might give you a skeptical look. But, honestly, I think that’s silly. Forget the rules of Italian etiquette, and have what you like when you like!