The Heart of Bologna: Osteria Del Sole

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The simple sign of wine that has distinguished Osteria Del Sole from all the other shops.  This sign has been up since 1465. 

Along the narrow, cobblestone alleys in the Mercato di Mezzo, among all the bustle of locals and tourists alike, the Osteria Del Sole has only a small vino sign to distinguish it from the rest of the market. Upon first glance, the small, quaint shop seems to be a typical Italian pub, swimming in tradition and large Italian men looking to grab a drink before dinner. The comfortable atmosphere the osteria achieves gives the restaurant its character, and distinguished this establishment from the others in its realm. Old photographs and decorations line the narrow pub, giving it a homey yet ancient feel. The musky smell of long aged liquor and wine is in constant clash with the fresh market air outside. The dim lightning and close walls make you feel like you have stepped back in time.

Cristabel Berselli, the daughter of the current owner of the famous osteria, explains that the windows, stairs and walls are all the original structures that were built in the 1400’s. The outdoor patio and basement below have also remained the same since the opening of the establishment. The long wooden tables and chairs that crowd the small osteria are the preserved original furnishings from 1465. All of these features make Osteria Del Sole feel like home.

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A close up of one of the old wooden liquor boxes Osteria Del Sole has hung on the wall.

The building itself is considered a place of historical interest since its construction on September 29, 1465, so it receives safeguards and funding to keep it in its current condition. It was opened to a wealthy Italian duke that subrented the property to counts and other prominent, wealthy figures in the time period. To rent the building, it cost about 130 lira in 1465. That is about $28 US dollars today. Only very wealthy individuals could afford to rent out this space. This led to the osteria having several owners over the centuries, each one carefully preserving the old culture.

“My great-grandmother bought the shop because her brother was a famous cyclist. When he came to Italy, he said he would buy the shop if he won the race with the prize. He won the race” Cristabel says. Her great-grandmother acquired the shop in the 1940’s and the shop has been in the family ever since. “My grandfather wanted to sell it to someone, but he couldn’t make it. When he passed away, he gave us the place” Cristabel says, and her family has kept it going ever since. “I hope that we keep

Osteria Del Sole has a reputation for its old roots, seeing as it is one of the oldest shops in Italy, it draws people from all over. “We have all kinds of people”, Cristabel excitedly exclaims as she expresses her joy about working at the osteria, her long dark hair flowing with her animated hand gestures. She emphasizes the relationships she has made with all the various types of people that come in and out of the intimate club.

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Chiara Spolaore, co-owner of the shop and her daughter, Cristabel Berselli.

“The poor or the lawyer, the doctor, the president, yeah there are a lot of types, famous or not. I think they like the atmosphere because it is familiar so you feel like ‘yeah i am home and my problems are outside.’” Osterias in Italy are prevalent and are known for their informal and relaxed nature. They serve more to those looking to create relationships with others. Osteria Del Sole fosters a traditional Italian habit of conversing with others and building these relationships through dialogue, listening to others stories, and reflecting with each other which is what Cristabel claims is special about this osteria.

Tradition in Italy runs as deep as the food does. The main staple of the Osteria del Sole has always been wine but the 500 year old establishment was known, at one point in time, for frittatas. These egg based, omelet type food would contain ingredients that varied from salami and ham to peppers and onions. Cold cuts, cheese, small pieces of fish, and boiled eggs were also served to provide snacks for the consumers in the osteria. White and red wine, along with other liquors such as whiskey and beer, can all be found in this informal Italian restaurant. However, the Osteria Del Sole sticks to the tradition of only serving alcohol.  Cristabel says, “you have to bring with you your own food.” She laughs as she describes customers who will come in with big pans filled with food.

This warm, nurturing osteria has a rich story to tell and carries traditional Italian culture with them. They encourage a sense of community and the creation of relationships with others. Essential pieces of Italy are maintained in this old homey shop that contribute to atmosphere of Bologna.

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