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  • Day199

    A day out in Bologna

    January 11, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 0 °C

    Taking the old bus from the campsite, we enjoyed being driven in to central Bologna. The bus had blinds passengers could pull down to keep cool, but the majority were broken from overuse. The personal vehicles of non residents are banned inside the ring road so public transport was the perfect way for us to get in.

    As Italy's gastronomic capital and home of the world famous Bolognaise sauce, our main aim of visiting Bologna was to experience the food culture. Visually, the city couldn't be described as 'pretty' but it has some pretty impressive (and imposing) buildings. As soon as we stepped off the bus the people and activity around us started to make an impression. There was unfortunately several homeless people near the bus terminus and many shops had installed metal spikes in their doorways. People were busy and there was a strong sense of it being a 'living city'. Unlike some places that seem as if their buildings and atmosphere are there for show, Bologna was full of substance, real life and functionality. The smell of different foods being cooked wafted through the portico covered streets, the walls of which were plastered with graffiti.

    The indoor market 'Mercato delle Erbe' was the first stop on our tour. It reminded us of a smaller Grainger market in Newcastle. Its central stalls sold fruit and veg that looked so fresh, these were surrounded by open fronted shops selling fresh or cured meat, cheeses and handmade pastas. We indulged in a few bits and bobs, including some tortellini, a pasta reputedly created by a Bolognese innkeeper to try and capture the beauty og Venus's navel!

    We'd used Trip Advisor to seek out a couple of eateries with good reputations. The first looked nice, but a bit too formal and its dual language English / Italian menu made us think it might cater for the tastes of tourists rather than locals, so we decided on the second; Trattoria da Me.

    The break from midday to 3pm allows many Italians to take their time over lunch and although the Trattoria had free tables when we arrived, it soon filled up and had people waiting. The place was immaculately decorated with stylish lace and a gentle green, pink and blue colour scheme. The service was great and although we were offered an English menu, the waiters accepted that we wanted to converse in Italian and spoke clearly, even helpfully offering Vicky a better way of expressing what she wanted to say. Freshly baked bread was cut at the edge of the restaurant and brought to our table warm in a brown paper bag. Will had Tagliatelle al Ragu (you won't find spaghetti bolognaise in Bologna, but this is the dish it is based on). Vicky had Bollito, a traditional regional dish of boiled meat (cheek, tongue and brawn). They were great quality and although we weren't originally planning to have dolce (desert) we were too tempted when we saw them coming out of the kitchen. It was the best Tiramisù Will had ever had and a scrumptious Biancomangiare (Italian panna cotta) for Vicky. We were really happy with our experience and it will remain in our memories as one of the highlights of Italy.

    Hoping to see the Neptune statue, we strolled towards Piazza del Nettuno but found it covered over for restoration. Close by was the gargantuan San Petronio church. Like many Bolognese buildings it was brick built and looked very functional from the outside. We passed the two armed police officers to enter and just stopped and gaped at the scale of the building. Its central space wasn't divided into storeys but reached straight up to an arched ceiling. There were a dozen or so rectangular alcoves running down each side that looked small in comparison, even though each was bigger than our old house. Running at an angle along the main floor was a Meridian line, an astronomical instument designed to measure the passage of the sun with a series of ascending and descending numbers and astrological images.

    By this time we'd digested our lunch sufficiently to visit the 'Due Torri' and climb the one tower that still stood intact. 498 steps later we reached the open air top, around which we could walk for views of the city below.

    We finally made our way back to the bus stop past tailors, art supply shops and grocers. We again appreciated being driven home as we watched the car driver behind talking on his phone. We've seen many Italian drivers with phones held to their ears. This wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for their propensity to gesticulate wildly with their 'free' hand!
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