Food, fun and history await in Bologna, Italy
January 01, 2008 2:01 AM

by Joan Tupponce

When John Boyle travels to Bologna, Italy, on business, he always finds time to wander through the high-end boutiques clustered near the historic city square, Piazza Maggiore. On his last visit, he scored an elegant collection of silk scarves and ties along with a few leather goods.

Boyle is CEO of Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA in Portsmouth. The company moved its U.S. headquarters — international headquarters are in Bologna — to the historic Hampton Roads port two years ago when Massimo acquired the coffee business from Sara Lee. “The company already had a state-of-the-art coffee roasting plant in Suffolk,” explains Boyle. “So, we made a decision to consolidate our New York and Houston offices and move to Portsmouth.”

Many of the approximately 300 employees in the U.S. operations work in the Suffolk roasting facility or the corporate offices and distribution center at 200 Port Centre Parkway in Portsmouth. Massimo markets such well known brands as Chock full o’Nuts, Hills Bros. and Chase & Sanborn. With 10 roasting facilities worldwide, it sells more than 120,000 tons of coffee annually and does business in more than 70 countries.

As part of his job, Boyle travels to Bologna each year. He enjoys visiting the Piazza Maggiore, the center of the city for more than 800 years. It’s a colorful place during the week and on weekends when the square is filled with small flea markets. “What always fascinates me is how old and how much history there is in Bologna,” says Boyle. “The buildings are thousands of years old. The architecture makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time.”

Porticos, medieval towers, baroque villas and world-renowned museums — including the largest collection of Giorgio Morandi paintings in the world — give Bologna a distinctive feel. It is also home to the oldest university in Europe, the University of Bologna.

Thanks to its north central location in Italy, Bologna is surrounded by everything from valleys and waterways to historic trails and mountains. The city, according to Steven Devidi, marketing manager for Massimo Zanetti’s Italian coffee products, is a gastronomic paradise. “It’s famous for its food, from pasta and gnocchi to lasagna and fettuccini,” he says. “You could go there just for the lasagna.”

The city’s economy

Bologna, with a population of approximately 500,000, boasts 95,000 businesses in its area, ranging from agricultural and food to biomedical and fashion.

It is the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region in Italy and the headquarters of Ducati, a high-performance motorcycle manufacturer. Bologna is close to Modena, Italy — birthplace of Ferrari — and only about 25 minutes from Sant’Agata Bolognese, home to Lamborghini.

The city also is the residence of sought-after violin maker Roberto Regazzi.

Where to eat

Because the city is a virtual haven for Italian cuisine, Virginian John Boyle looks for small restaurants where locals congregate. “Dining in Bologna is very comfortable,” he says. “It’s not white tablecloth; it’s very family oriented.” Boyle sometimes frequents his company’s San Domenico Café in Bologna. Two other popular eateries, according to the Grand Hotel Baglioni, offer satisfying experiences.

At Tamburini, visitors will find more than 200 cheeses and fresh dishes in the family-run delicatessen, with about 50 choices, from tortellini to ravioli, in the small restaurant that accompanies it. Meanwhile, you can try certosino, ancient monks’ bread, at Paolo Atti & Sonsi, a fifth-generation restaurant.

Where to stay

John Boyle has two picks — the charming Art Hotel Orologio, just steps from the Piazza Maggiore, and the five-star Grand Hotel Baglioni, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. “The décor is very old and very beautiful,” he says.




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