The Quadrilatero neighborhood is the heart of Bologna and is at its center. From Piazza Maggiore, walk along the narrow alleys until you come across a sign with “VINO” (wine) written on it. This is the Osteria del Sole.
This sort of tavern is the oldest in Bologna. Its doors opened to the public in 1465; in Bologna’s Public Records Office, there is a document mentioning the Osteria. It’s manuscript outlining the structure of the Osteria del Sole with the neighboring streets and buildings and dates back to 1475, but evidence has been found that the actual date is 1465. This is the only Osteria where if you want to eat, you’ll have to bring your own meal. The hosts will help pair the wine.
The Quadrilatero neighborhood still offers small, local shops which have survived this new age characterized by supermarkets and large stores.Butchers, bakeries, greengrocer’s, delicatessens, shops with traditional cuisine and crafts line these streets. Something peculiarity is that most have preserved their historic architecture and furnishings, thus making them genuine artistic treasures. This area is the commercial heart of the old town centre. In Via Pescherie Vecchie and Via Drapperie, you may walk amongst the small shops and talk with the shop clerks and owners as if you’ve known each other for years. Once inside the Osteria, you’ll notice the walls covered with black and white pictures of customers and personages telling the story of the temple of Bacchus.Long, old wooden tables fill the place. The backrests of the wooden benches and counter tops are made from wine and whisky crates.At the back, there’s a small lounge dedicated to the former rector of the University of Bologna, Fabio Roversi Monaco, separated from the rest by a small wall and a western-style saloon door. Fabio Roversi Monaco, Carisbo Establishment chairman, is the current owner; he bought it for its historical importance and was able to save it from closing. He’s a loyal customer who has enjoyed spending time and playing cards at the Osteria del Sole over the years. Different kinds of customers crowd the Osteria; theatre and cinema goers mixed with students, for example. In the afternoon, you’ll find groups of elderly people playing cards with their friends.
The Osteria serves only drinks, the nectar of the gods, champagne, beer and some spirits. Meals may be bought at one of the local shops and eaten on the tavern’s old wooden tables.
Osteria del Sole is one of the few bars where it is possible to socialize at the counter. You may spend as little as €2.00 to €2.50 for a glass of wine or €2.50 for a bottled beer. Enjoy a good glass of Chianti, Pinot Nero, Lambrusco, Barbera, Sangiovese, Merlot or Cabernet Franco, if you prefer red wines as you chat with one of the locals. If white wines are more to your likings, then choose amongst the Chardonnay, Ribolla, Pinot Bianco or Grigio, Moscato d’Asti, Polly Fumè, Pignoletto (organic), Prosecco or Franciacorta. But the Osteria del Sole also offers a nice choice of Champagne (Brut, Demi Sec, Rosee, Cristal) for special occasions, or full-bodied sweet wines made from raisins (Porto, Madeira, Nocino,) for something a bit sweeter. As an after-dinner drink, there are bitters, whisky, distilled and beers from Europe and Northern Italy (Theresianer, Menabrea, Venezia, Franzskaner). It’s impossible to be thirsty here. You just need an excuse. Maybe a glass of wine or a bottle to share with friends.
The story of the Osteria del Sole is a mix of history and legend. It was purchased by Aldo Canazza who, after winning some money in a bike race, bought it from Mr. Orlandini, the previous owner. Later the Osteria was given to Canazza’s sister, Adele who ran it with her brother Aldo and son Luciano Spolaore. After the deaths of both Luciano and Adele, in 1991 the business passed on to Luciano’s children, Anna Chiara and Nicola Spolaore and their cousin Federico. They have kept the same rules and traditions including the clock which runs 15 minute fast (their father used to think that people would go home earlier this way). So if you want to try local specialties and goodies, just visit one of the many food boutiques and come to the Osteria del Sole for a nice drink and a talk with new or old friends. As you sit on one of the tavern’s benches and enjoy the tasty sandwich you’ve just bought, you’ll have the chance to meet to all kinds of people; a small boy, a group of tourists, an elderly man looking to talk, a beautiful girl, a typical family and lastly a loud crew of youngsters. The Osteria del Sole has the power of taking you to a Bologna of yesteryears. Meeting new people, listening to their stories, having a good laugh together, sipping a good glass of wine in a joyful atmosphere where everyone’s a good friend, even for few hours and even if you’ve never met. For a taste of the “old” Bologna, here’s an opportunity to stop time for few seconds, rest your mind and body, share a few words with others, appreciate the silence and dedicate some time to contemplate, listen and imagine.
images courtesy of Osteria Del Sole