The First Encounter With My Favorite Café In Bologna

Bologna’s beauty & taste.

The city-center of Bologna. The city is often called "The learned, the red and the fat" The red partly comes from the red rooftops in Bologna.
The city-center of Bologna. The city is often called “The learned, the red and the fat” The red partly comes from the red rooftops in Bologna. . PHOTO ALLIE COOPER

My first few hours in Bologna remain a hazy combination of fragmented sentences and frantically scrambling for a five euro coin that, to me, resembled a bloated American quarter. Luckily, there is a café that cuts through the jet lag-induced fog: Bar Impero.

Having traveled since 1 am, I finally arrived at Hotel Holiday twelve hours later, at 1pm. I was tired, frazzled and still somewhat hung over—I left for Bologna early on the morning of my twenty-first birthday, enough said.

I stumbled about the hotel in an attempt to check in, only to be informed that my room would not be ready for another couple of hours. The concierge encouraged me to leave my luggage with him and wander around the town that would be my home for the next several months. While I would be up for this in normal circumstances, in that moment, all I wanted to do was face plant into my twin-sized bed and sleep until our official registration the next morning. But since Italian time moves slower than what my American brain desired, I half-heartedly nodded, implying my acquiescence and wandered out of the lobby.

Italian storefronts are similar to many Italian people; proud in display, everything from purses to pelts are glorified at the center of attention, with each store competing for the love of the countless window shoppers that pass by. These lavish displays are put on by every store on the main street in Bologna. Even the restaurants boast of grand displays, and it’s no wonder Bologna is considered the food capital of Italy.

As I walked up to Bar Impero, cookies, crostini, pies and pastas all competed to win my affection. My eyes then fell suddenly upon a brioche dusted with crystallized sugar and filled with orange marmalade. I was sold. I sat at a single table with my brioche and caffe, delicately dipping the flakey dough into my bite-size coffee mug. Powdered sugar rained down over the table, cream from the caffe sloshed over the edge, and my fingers were sticky with the sugary marmalade. I was in heaven.

A caffe macchiato at Bar Impero
A caffe macchiato at Bar Impero. PHOTO ALLIE COOPER

Over the course of my time in Bologna, Bar Impero became my go-to, where I brought my American friends and family whenever they would visit.  Each time, I was greeted with a new and exciting display case filled with the day’s delicacies. Since my arrival, I have sampled dozens of pastries and half a dozen types of coffee, but nothing compares to that first taste of Bar Impero.

Alexandra Cooper

Allie never says NO to an adventure. She packs more shoes than pants, while she can't travel without her stuffed animal: Monkey. Her favorite country is Italy.

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