March 16, 2016 21

The Digestivo + scenes from bologna!

The Digestivo | @withfoodandlove

This post is a bit of a beast and very heavy on the photographs, so I’ve tried to sum up my love for Bologna in the fewest words possible. But if you’re only here for The Digestivo, a fernet based cocktail, feel free to skip down to the bottom to get the recipe. I totally get it.

But first!

Thank you for your gracious and kind and comforting words on my last post. I was shocked at the response I received. Not only because of the support you were sending me, but because I couldn’t believe how much this topic resonates with all of you. Both as readers, and women. You and I, let’s work on this together okay?

Thank you for accepting me through my goods and bads, ups and downs and everything in between.

The Digestivo | @withfoodandlove

The Digestivo | @withfoodandlove

The Digestivo | @withfoodandlove

My mother-in-law is Bolognese. To make a long story short, my father-in-law, a first generation Italian American met her when he was studying medicine in Bologna as a young man. They fell madly in love, moved to the states, and had a family. Like most modern marriages, after many decades together, they fell out of love and my mother-in-law returned back home to her family in Italy.

As a boy my husband spent his summers in Italy, bonding with his nonno, nonna, zio, zia and cousin. Sweating in the hot Italian sun, swimming in the Adriatic sea, and eating homemade tortellini and tagliatelle and ragù. I mean pure torture obviously. Bologna is a big piece of my husband’s heart. Bologna is a big piece of our heart. In our ten years together, we’ve traveled there many times and each trip more special than the last. Bologna feels like home.

Bologna is equal parts dark and vibrant. It’s medieval. It’s unlike any other part of Italy I’ve been to. It’s regarded as Italy’s culinary capital nicknamed, La Grossa, meaning The Fat. Its traditional foods are tortellini en brodo, tagliatelle al ragù, lasagne verde, lambrusco and mortadella. I ate all of these things, obscene amounts of all of these things, all of which were gluten-free.

In Italy when you have celiac disease you’re not an inconvenience, or a problem or a picky eater. They understand that this is a serious condition, and is treated as such. Actually every child is tested for celiac disease by the time they are six. That’s a real thing. And! The gluten-free food in Italy is some of the best I’ve ever had. I feel like you’re probably surprised by this, but also it makes total sense. Right? A lot of restaurants actually have gluten-free crackers, breads, pizza and pasta on hand if they aren’t already on the menu. If you’re traveling to Italy, do a little research before you go and when you’re there don’t be shy, just ask, everyone will know exactly what you’re talking about.

Bologna, Italy | @withfoodandlove

Bologna, Italy | @withfoodandlove

Bologna, Italy | @withfoodandlove

Bologna, Italy | @withfoodandlove

Bologna, Italy | @withfoodandlove

Bologna, Italy | @withfoodandlove

Bologna, Italy | @withfoodandlove

Bologna, Italy | @withfoodandlove

Bologna, Italy | @withfoodandlove

Bologna, Italy | @withfoodandlove

Bologna, Italy | @withfoodandlove

When I’m not at my zia’s house scarfing down her homemade meals, this is where I spend most of my time in Bologna:

Sipping cappuccino at Caffè Vittorio Emanuele.

People watching at Piazza Maggiore + the Neptune statue.

The library.

Stuffing my face with gelato at Grom {gf everything} + Gianni {vegan options}.

Eating all the gluten-free goodness at La Capriata + Rosarose Bistrot + Mariposa Trattoria {a super hidden gem}.

Momus Café for a night cap.

Eataly for when I want an ounce of familiarity.

And, Tamborini for a cheeseboard of my dreams.

As I mentioned I ate a lot, a lot a lot. Subsequently rekindling my addiction with Fernet Branca. Sometimes when I’m really full or my stomach is a little upset I have a few sips of fernet for medicinal purposes and my stomach instantly settles. I’m not kidding. This is not sponsored. It’s just magic, and I need you to know about it.

Fernet is a type of amaro. Amaros are bitter, aromatic spirits made from hundreds of herbs and botanicals used to aid in digestion after a long meal. Fernet can be a difficult spirit to use in a cocktail because of its intensity and acquired taste. However I think the natural pairing of thyme and blackberry here compliment the harshness of fernet well. And the lemon and bubbles add the right amount of brightness.

The Digestivo | @withfoodandlove

The Digestivo | @withfoodandlove

The Digestivo | @withfoodandlove

The Digestivo

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 1 min
Total Time 6 mins
Serves 1 drink

If desired, simple syrup can be used in place of the maple syrup, or eliminated altogether.


  • 1 ounce Fernet Branca
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 4 - 5 blackberries
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • ice
  • 2 - 3 ounces club soda


  1. In a cocktail shaker combine the Fernet Branca, lemon juice, maple syrup, blackberries and thyme leaves. Toss in a handful of ice and shake until the blackberries are pulverized.
  2. Strain the mixture into a rocks glass and top with club soda. This can be served with ice or up as a martini.
  3. Enjoy responsibly!

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21 Responses to "The Digestivo + scenes from bologna!"

  1. Reply

    Michelle @ Hummingbird High

    March 17, 2016 at 12:11 AM

    This is all so, so gorgeous!

  2. Reply


    March 17, 2016 at 8:31 AM

    Long story short…..”I’m in love with all things Italian”, so I was delighted to see this e-mail in my inbox today! Though I don’t have time this morning to read it all in detail I will be returning to it & looking forward to many more to come. FYI, I love the photos in this post! A quick “?” In regard to the Fernet Branca in the cocktail; the only amaro I can purchase where I live is the brand Averna; will it suffice to use in your cocktail recipe? I have friends visiting Venice right now, & I’m going to ask them to look for the Fernet Branca in the hopes that perhaps one of them has room to bring a bottle home!

    • Reply


      April 6, 2016 at 2:27 PM

      Hi Shelley – any fernet will do :)

  3. Reply

    Ana @ The Awesome Green

    March 17, 2016 at 8:35 AM

    I love Italy, and this cocktail looks simply fantastic! I don’t drink alcohol, but maybe I can add just a bit of digestive soothing ginger and have it as a refreshing afternoon digestivo. Your photos are amazing! :)

  4. Reply


    March 17, 2016 at 8:39 AM

    Just gorgeous photos! All of this makes me miss Italy so much, my husband and I were torn between going back there this year or visiting some place else when planning vacation. We decided that another country deserved a visit. :-)

  5. Reply

    Sahar Aman

    March 17, 2016 at 9:52 AM

    I love this post! I’m going to Bologna in October and I’m so excited and have been researching where to eat and what to do, so I’ll definitely be checking these places out. Love your photos and can’t wait to discover Bologna and fall in love with it. (I’ve never been to Italy before and this is the first time I’m going.) xoxo

    • Reply


      April 6, 2016 at 2:29 PM

      Enjoy, Bologna is such special little gem!

  6. Reply

    Tessa | Salted Plains

    March 17, 2016 at 10:10 AM

    How amazing is it that every child is tested for celiacs?! Wow. That is awesome.

    I have never had Fernet Branca but now I must! This is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

  7. Reply


    March 17, 2016 at 10:50 AM

    So so stunning–all of your photos. Keep it up : )

  8. Reply

    aida mollenkamp

    March 17, 2016 at 11:03 AM

    As if I wasn’t already swooning over your Insta feed when you were in Bologna, these photos are just phenomenal. And I don’t love Fernet but I think I would adore it like this!

  9. Reply

    Meg @ Beard and Bonnet

    March 17, 2016 at 1:54 PM

    This cocktail and the images from your trip are so beautiful!!!

  10. Reply


    March 18, 2016 at 7:30 AM

    Gorgeous photos Sherrie! You have me dreaming about Italian sunshine right now. Something about Italy is so dream-like, I’m so happy for you that you have this little home away from home where you can eat your heart out on good food :) It just sounds so good. soul good. xx

  11. Reply

    Ida Scaglione

    March 18, 2016 at 11:36 AM


    I read this with Lennan. We enjoyed it very very much. The food sounds amazing, and I was surprised at the gluten-free abundance. Years ago, Brioschi was used to aid indigestion. I am so happy that you and Chris get to Bologna often.


  12. Reply

    Lisa Bryan | Downshiftology

    March 18, 2016 at 3:46 PM

    Oh, how I love Italy! I’ve been twice…but I always say it’s a place I could easily live. There’s just something magical about the vibe (not to mention of course the food!). As a fellow celiac, I agree 100% that you could easily eat your way around the country with absolute ease. And your photos – ahhh, they’re making me want to jump on a plane!! (I’ve been known to do that – ha!). So glad you had a wonderful trip and this digestivo sounds awesome – will have to give it a go! :)

  13. Reply

    Amy | Lemon and Coconut

    March 19, 2016 at 2:12 PM

    I really love your photo’s, all of them, and the one with the building reflected in the puddle is just so gorgeous. Bella! :)

  14. Reply


    March 19, 2016 at 9:12 PM

    i’m immediately transported to bologna as I read about the summers that Chris spent there. and with these beautiful pictures, i know i need to book a trip. it seems so interesting, with that medieval feel, yet bustling. i love the architecture too. and how amazing that it’s not a nuisance to be gf!

    now if you were just here to pour me one of those cocktails. swoon…

    • Reply


      April 6, 2016 at 2:31 PM

      Oh, I should totally make them this summer! ???

  15. Reply


    March 20, 2016 at 9:06 AM

    Oh I soo want to go to Bologna. I am going to save this post so I will know where to go when I do get a chance to visit that beautiful city. Your Digestivo sounds amazing, I have to try it. I’m sharing this post with my brother, I know he will like it, he makes his own bitters.

  16. Reply

    Lily | Kale & Caramel

    March 20, 2016 at 10:50 AM

    LOVE!!! I want to go to Bologna. How dreamy. I want more pics! I want to see everything! I want to drink these digestivos with you in Italia! Ugh. Dreams. This cocktail is brilliant, as usual, and it’s so sweet to learn about this place that is close to your heart. Ps, I absolutely adore lambrusco.

  17. Reply

    Jayme | holly & flora

    March 21, 2016 at 1:01 AM

    Beautiful, beautiful… Steve and I are trying to visit Italy this next year. Bologna is a stop we MUST make. I’m super excited to try making one of these cocktails THIS week. I love Fernet. We – Fernet and I – began a rocky relationship, but we’ve made peace and actually like each other now. I think we can even introduce blackberries into the mix now. I’ll let you know how it goes. ;-) XO and these photos are so transportive and gorgeous. Have a beautiful first week of SPRING!!

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With Food + Love © 2018 | All photos + words belong to Sherrie Castellano -- they cannot be used or distributed without permission.