Vegan Travel: Bologna, Italy

If you read my post on how to spend 55 hours in Bologna, you know that I promised a vegan travel guide to this Italian city.

Italy is certainly one of the vegan-friendlier countries in Europe, and this isn’t only due to the fact that many traditional Italian dishes are already vegan. The vegan movement in Italy seems to be quite strong, and as Italy is a culinary paradise, all those new Italian vegans try to create great vegan versions of their favorite food.

If you’ve read my vegan travel guides to Milan and Rome you’ll know that I have found some amazing vegan food in Italy. With that said, my expectations were quite high when we booked our trip to Bologna. We all know that when our expectations are too high we can easily get disappointed, and well, that sort of happened to me in Bologna. Not because of the food itself, but many of the vegan spots I had found on HappyCow were closed during the weekend. That’s not to say we didn’t have good vegan food in La Grassa.

Vegan and Organic Breakfast in Bologna, Italy

As we arrived very early we definitely needed some breakfast first. Luckily, there was a vegan and organic bistro not far from our Airbnb. Canape Incontro has various dishes which you order directly from the counter instead of checking a menu. As I was quite hungry, I went for a croissant and a carrot cake while Alfonso had a slice of pizza (for breakfast!). I also had some tea because, as you may know, I love my tea.

Now, croissants are not the same in Italy as in France but once you know not to expect the typical croissant flavor and texture, the Italian version is not bad at all. This was a great start into our time in Bologna!
Via S. Isaia 57d. Open Monday to Saturday 7:30 am to 10 pm. http://www.facebook.com/canape.bio

We really needed to go back to sleep after breakfast because we had woken up in the middle of the night to go to the airport. After we woke up, we walked around the city for a bit which you already know I loved!

Italy’s Best Vegan Restaurant

As the city center is very compact, it wasn’t difficult to find the next vegan restaurant when we were hungry. Botanica Lab was quite busy when we arrived during lunch time. It is a very popular restaurant, and once we were inside we found out why. On the wall, we could see that Botanica Lab had been voted the best vegan restaurant of Italy in a 2017 Italian restaurant guide. Needless to say, this increased my expectations for the food.

I chose the salad because given the price I thought it would be quite filling. It certainly was very interesting! It was more about the presentation than the flavor, however, and I was left feeling a bit disappointed at how few ingredients were actually in the salad. I understand that you want your dishes to look pretty but at the price point I really expected more. As I still had room for dessert, I ordered the raspberry chocolate cheesecake which was fantastic!

I will admit that I probably didn’t choose the best dish. Alfonso had the gnocchi which were fine but not spectacular, but we saw some businessmen who were at Botanica Lab for their lunch break, and the burgers they ordered looked unbelievably good. I would say that if you’re willing to pay a bit more and want to enjoy a really lovely atmosphere, check out Botanica Lab but see what the locals are ordering and get the same. If they come back for those dishes they must be mouthwatering, right?!
Via del Battibecco 4c. Open Monday 12pm to 3pm, Tuesday to Saturday 12pm to 3pm and 7pm to 10pm. https://www.botanicalab.com/

Veganized Italian Dishes

After exploring the city some more and listening to a free concert, we decided to have dinner at a vegan restaurant called Un’Altra Idea. This place is owned by a couple with a young toddler and has a sort of hippie vibe to it. There’s a lot of seating available and all sorts of decorations on the wall, from local artists’ drawings to hand-painted corners that brighten up the interior.

The best thing about Un’Altra Idea is definitely the owners. They are so kind and helpful, and you can tell that they really care about providing vegan options in the city. To go for a more Italian experience, I ordered the risotto while Alfonso chose a pasta dish. I also had a tea and we later got the cutest heart-shaped cookies. The cookies were so yummy that we got more the second time we went and brought them home to share with friends. I wouldn’t say that the meals were outstanding, but the kind service and good prices definitely had us coming back for more on our last day in Bologna.
Via Marsala 29b. Open Tuesday to Friday 9am to 3:30pm and 6 to 11pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am to 11pm. http://www.unaltraideabologna.it/

Quick Vegan Bites

But first, we needed to find breakfast on Saturday. As I mentioned before, some of the vegan and vegetarian places in Bologna are closed on the weekend which makes it a bit more difficult to find vegan food. We did find a spot called Malerba in the university quarter, though. Malerba is a very small place suitable more for takeway even though there are stools to sit down. We didn’t want a heavy breakfast so I only got a muffin and a juice while Alfonso decided to have a Club Sandwich. The muffin was absolutely incredible and definitely much better than I had expected from such a small and understated place. The guy that was working at Malerba was one of the friendliest people I’ve ever seen working on a Saturday morning! Nothing but smiles at Malerba, but sadly we couldn’t come back a second time!
Via Petroni 15b. Open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5pm, Saturday 9:30am to 10:30pm. http://www.malerbanaturalfood.it/

Give Vegetarian Restaurants a Chance

Lunch proved to be a more difficult endeavor with so many of the restaurants being closed. We ended up going to Estravagario, a vegetarian and organic restaurant outside of the Old Town. Unfortunately, they had a brunch menu that day which wasn’t very vegan-friendly. The vegan option included far fewer dishes. However, the flavors were so wonderful that this was certainly one of the places I would recommend most if you go to Bologna.


We got soup, a juice, and some bread with various spreads, but oh my, how delicious it was! It really made me taste the difference between organic and non-organic food. The pictures really don’t do the dishes justice. What looks like a very simple and possibly boring combination of food burst with flavors. The staff didn’t actually speak English but were beyond friendly, and, after all, don’t you agree that a restaurant seems all the more authentic if its staff doesn’t seem to be used to tourists?

We really wished we had found Estravagario sooner because it was our favorite food spot in Bologna.
Via Mascarella 81h. Open Monday and Tuesday 11am to 4pm, Wednesday to Saturday 11am to 4pm, 7pm to 12am. http://www.estravagario.org/wordpress/

Perfect Vegan Takeaway

For dinner, we ventured out of the Old Town again to a place called Missfagiola. Like Malerba, they had limited seating so we opted for takeaway. Now, we may have gone a little overboard here as we ordered a hummus and avocado salad, two panini, a slice of cheesecake, and some cocoa balls. Everything was so unbelievably delicious. The owner is clearly passionate about providing interesting but simple vegan dishes that are quick but still healthy! I imagine that if I lived in Bologna I would go there quite often for a little takeaway snack. Everything from the décor to the food is made with so much love that it would be hard not to fall in love with Missfagiola.
Via San Felice 116b. Open Monday and Tuesday 12 pm to 7:30 pm, Wednesday to Saturday 12 pm to 9 pm. https://www.missfagiola.com/

The Best Vegan Croissant Ever

As I said before, we simply had to go back to Un’Altra Idea for more cookies. We also really wanted to have breakfast there as they seemed to have really tasty options. Now remember I told you that the main dishes there were nothing out of the ordinary? Not so the breakfast, oh my goodness! I had a croissant and hot chocolate which were both out of this world. Luscious, scrumptious, delicious, tasty, yummy. None of these adjectives could accurately describe how this breakfast tasted. This really goes to show that it’s always a good idea to try more than one dish at a restaurant. If we had not come back I would have missed out on one of the best breakfasts of 2018.

An Unexpected Vegan-Friendly Gem

We had some more time to spend walking around Bologna before our time there was coming to an end. Before heading to the airport we wanted to have a quick lunch, but the only thing we could find was a non-vegan, non-vegetarian panini place with vegan options. Rather than starve, we chose to give them a try and had another delightful food experience. Pan8 makes their own vegan ham and other cold cuts out of beans and lentils, and oh my God, the flavors that exploded in my mouth were simply life-changing! I usually try to avoid non-vegan places because I want to support vegan businesses, but when I had my panino at Pan8 I was a bit worried about what else I might be missing out on. Not only were the panini excellent, but the service was also great. Pan8 seems like the perfect place for a vegan to go to with non-vegans. Everyone will be happy, and you will demonstrate that being vegan doesn’t have to mean missing out on anything.
Via Massimo d’Azeglio 8. Open Sunday to Thursday 10:30am to 9:30pm, Friday and Saturday 10:30am to 10:30pm. https://www.facebook.com/panottobo

Tips for Vegan Travelers in Bologna, Italy

To sum things up: The restaurants we expected most from also disappointed us the most, while the non-vegan spots really outdid themselves with regards to the quality of their foods. Maybe this is a lesson I have to take on future trips: Give non-vegan places a try if they have a proven record of providing awesome vegan food. At least that way, they’ll be happy to have made the effort of adding vegan items to their menu.

vegan travel bologna italy pin lemons and luggage

Have you ever been to Bologna as a vegan? Which vegan places did I miss?

36 Comments

    1. Nina | Lemons and Luggage

      Thank you so much for the comment, Marissa! I love that you try to look for places that make it easier for your friend to find food there as well. Not everyone does that!

  1. Vegan (and other dietary restrictions) food can be so hard to come by when traveling (and it sucks not being able to participate in all that great food and new culture!). I actually recently traveled with my vegan friend and discovered this dilemma first-hand! It’s awesome that you were able to find some delicious vegan eats in Italy. It all looks so yummy!

    1. Nina | Lemons and Luggage

      Yes, Italy is much easier than some other countries I’ve been to. I’m glad that there are now many restaurants in different countries that offer veganized versions of traditional dishes. That way, I don’t have to feel like I’m missing out on too much.

  2. Vox

    I like the idea of trying the vegan options at a non-vegan restaurant if you know they serve great food, in general. In the end, no matter what your diet, when you eat out, you want a good meal. So if a restaurant already serves flavorful food, then there’s a really good chance that their vegan food will be tasty. Thanks for sharing quite a comprehensive look at the vegan experience there.

  3. Kat

    That lunch at the best vegan restaurant in Bologna… Oh dear, let’s just take a minute to envy you! haha
    I wish I could go to Italy now as easily as when I was living in Europe. I’ve never been lucky to visit Bologna though… Maybe one day.

  4. Love love love love LOVE that you are writing about traveling as a vegan! I was hesitant to travel to Italy, with so much emphasis on CHEESE and meat, but I feel inspired to consider a trip, after reading your very helpful post. Grazie!

    1. Nina | Lemons and Luggage

      Thank you, Denise! I hope it convinces you to travel to Italy. It’s actually fairly easy to find vegan options there. Feel free to also check my posts on Rome and Milan.

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