Bologna was our next stop after Parma and Modena. Bologna is often called La Grassa (the Fat One) because of the city’s tremendous cuisine, and we made sure to eat our fill here. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in what seemed to be a couple’s apartment off Via Guglielmo Marconi. Our room was the Red Room, with red bedding, red rug, red tablecloth, and an iron four-poster bed with red curtains – quite fitting when staying in a city also known as La Rossa (the Red One), so named because of the red roofs and the city’s historical socialist leanings.
We dropped our stuff at the B&B and looked up some things to do on the map the hostess provided, and we were on our way! First up was lunch, so we headed to a place just inside the old town that is famous for its fresh pasta. Pasta Fresca Naldi, however, was closed for the summer, with a sign in the window saying that it would reopen in September. Darn! However, there was another restaurant just up the street on Via Del Pratello, so we sat for lunch. We got a table on the rather empty patio and ordered water. Italian restaurants don’t seem to offer free tap water, possibly because most of the towns have public taps and fountains with cold, fresh, potable water.
I ordered the tortelloni al ragu: six pieces of cheese-filled tortelloni in a green pasta, served with a rich ragu sauce. Ryan got the tagliatelle ai funghi with porcini mushrooms. Both pastas were delicious and filling, so we shared a small mixed salad and ate up the contents of the bread basket, which was filled with little crunchy bread rings.
Italian cities streets often have arcades, which nicely shelter pedestrians from the hot summer sun.
After our leisurely lunch, we walked along the outskirts of the old city to see two old city gates, Porta S Felice and Porta Lame, built in the middle ages.
We returned to the old city and stopped at OGGI (Officina Gelato Gusto Italiano) for some gelato and a rest. Being a fan of pistachio gelato, I asked for a taste, thinking I would order a scoop. Unlike some other gelati and all other pistachio ice creams, it was brownish instead of bright green – like the skin of a pistachio instead of green food colouring. The flavour was fantastic, not like green almonds but of whole, crunchy pistachios with even a hint of pistachio skins. So I definitely had to order a scoop of that, plus another of tiramisu, which the gelato guy sprinkled with cocoa. Ryan got creamy fig and peach; the fig was ok, but the peach was refreshingly divine.
After the gelato, we walked along Via Ugo Bassi to the Piazza Maggiore to see the Neptune fountain (which is unfortunately covered with scaffolding). Many of the old town streets were pedestrian for the weekend, so we enjoyed the freedom of car-free streets.
We saw the two leaning towers, still at such an angle as Tomiko and I had seen back in 2008. The area was full of students, even on the weekend. Bologna is also known as La Dotta (the Learned One), in reference to its university which was founded in 1088 and is the oldest university in continuous operation.
We were hot and tired (summer temperatures were regularly 30-35°C) so we stopped in the shade of an arcade where a gelateria was selling granitas. Ryan and I shared a peach-flavoured one, deliciously refreshing and studded with actual peach pieces. We made a list of all the food we wanted to make at home, including granitas themselves. I was tempted to buy another, so I did! This time I ordered a pomegranate one, with real, fresh pomegranate juice that still has that puckery tannic taste that I love!
Afterwards, we moseyed on back to our B&B, planning on going to Eataly the next day, when (hopefully) more of the shops would be open. We started to follow the Italian schedule: breakfast, walk around, lunch, rest/have a nap, then go out again before dinner.
The next day was refreshingly cool, just 27-29°C, so we were supremely comfortable! We started out by picking at our sugary breakfast of jam, pastries, melba toast, nutella, jam, and cereal. We added our own cheese and decided to get some fruit at the Mercato delle Erbe, which was just around the corner. The market was open but many of the stalls were still closed. Ryan and I got some bread, juicy white peaches, and some luscious cherries. Not wanting to carry our precious cargo around all day, we hastened back to the B&B to drop it off, and then we set out in earnest.
We walked around to the leaning towers, the covered Neptune fountain, and wandered down the narrow streets of the Quadrilatero.
Every shop in the Quadrilatero had beautiful jars of pestos, jams, and sauces stacked next to bottles of wine, coolers of meat and cheese, and pastries.
I bought a mortadella (bologna) panino and shared it with Ryan. We also found Eataly but we were a bit underwhelmed by the small shopping and restaurant areas (as compared to the ones in Torino and New York City). For lunch, we decided to get meals from the cafeteria-like Mercato di Mezzo.
Ryan got a glass of wine and two tasty sandwiches.
I got squash tortelloni in a butter-sage sauce, which was small but utterly scrumptious.
We continued walking and stopped for a rest and three tiny, delicious pastries at a patisserie: a chocolate cream puff, a fruitless cannolo, and an amazing little pistachio cream in a chocolate cup. Can you tell I’m a fan of pistachios?
Ryan and I walked up Via Zamboni and then onto Via Delle Moline, which seemed to be a student area with young people smoking on sidewalk cafes next to heavily graffitied houses. Ryan and I shared another granita. Grantias in Bologna are amazing as they are made with what tastes like real fruit juice and real fruit pieces. By now we were a little tired so we returned to the B&B for a nap.
At around 7 pm we got up again and went out, this time near Osteria dell’Orsa.
The food and service at the restaurant we found were fantastic: Ryan and I shared a plate of prosciutto e melone; bruschetta; and then we shared a deliciously filling spaghetti carbonara and a tortellini with arugula and walnuts.
This was a mouthwatering dinner to end our time in Bologna.
The next day, we were headed to Rome but the only non-sold-out train was the more costly express train, so we sprang for it.
We rocketed through the countryside, passing villages and fields of what I later found out to be quinoa!
The express train was very comfortable, with big seats, A/C, ‘flight attendants,’ a food car, and a top speed of 250 km/hr. With this rocket, it only took us 2 hours to get to hot and sweaty Rome for our final night in Italy.