June 23, 2010

Bolonga- Not Baloney!!! Day 6

The next portion of our trip was based out of Bologna, the capital of Italy's Emilia-Romagna region. This is the region that produce almost all of the foods that come to mind when you think of Italy- Parmigiano-reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar, assorted cured meats and various types of typical Italian pastas (tagliatelle, etc). The main point of this visit was to eat until we couldn't walk. And we did just that.

We arrived by train from Venice around 9am, and couldn't check into our hotel until around 12 (I think?) so we just made our way to the hotel and left our bags in their luggage area. We stayed at the Hotel Nuovo del Porto, and it worked, but don't expect anything terribly fancy. The rooms are very small (unless you opt for one of their apartments, which did have a lot more space), and they have seen better days. However, the staff were friendly, and when one couple in the group had multiple room issues, they were accommodating about moving them twice into rooms that didn't have invading ants:). Also, the left luggage area was not terribly secure (just a corner of their lobby away from the door) but it worked for what we needed. Our experience wasn't bad {at least there was always hot water!}, but I think I'd look around for a different place to stay if we are in the area again. However, at 80Euro per night, the price was right and we slept well, so the hotel did its job.

Once we dropped off our luggage, we headed out to see what Bologna was all about, and near the Duomo we ran into a fun market along Via Altabella that I *think* was the Fiera Di San Luca. They had everything from prepared {and delicious} foods to jewelry, purses and potpourri. There was an interesting food stand with a whole cooked piglet on display (that I didn't try and should have) and so many candy shops that I nearly got diabetes just looking at it!

After the market we ended up on Via Drapperie at a lovely store called Eataly. The coffee was pretty good, they had long hours, and the location was ideal- this was the first of many stops here, and this was the point where, if we were out of things to do we could say "I wonder if X and Y are there", hike to the store, and there they would be. It was fun:

Anyway, Eataly is a combo of a huge bookstore {pretty things to look at, but shockingly it was all in Italian!}, a selection of gourmet foods and beverages and a good spot to get coffee, a glass of wine and a small bite to eat. They even had this deal in the evenings where you could buy a glass of wine and get an 'all you can eat' pizza deal (tiny little pieces, and if you took more than 3-4, you were looked at askance, but it was tasty!). After the requisite shot of espresso, we wandered more- finding a great selection of local meats and cheeses at La Baita Formaggi on Pescherie Vecchia and wandering into the Piazza Maggiore. The local information office is in a building right off the square, so we got a couple of maps and then headed back to the hotel.

After that, we fulfilled my own personal addiction. While in Italy, I must have gelato on a daily basis. in Venice, there was a perfectly respectable place just down the street from our apartment that we stopped at most nights. But it wasn't superb by any means, and I wanted something more. So after drooling over the cured meats, we wandered the back streets near Piazza Maggiore, then headed over towards the two towers {no, Saruman was not involved}. Near the base of Torre Asinelli, we found the first of many answers to my wishes:) Gelateria Gianni is a bright and modern store that held some of the best gelato we found in Italy (in my opinion). You got 2 scoops for 2.50 Euro (in a cone cup- it actually cost more for the plastic!), and the fragola {strawberry} was delicious. But the dark chocolate- divine. Thick and rich, it was like eating cake batter out of the bowl. And I loved it! To the point where I actually don't think I got even one picture of it. But believe me, it tasted delicious.

After indulging in my obsession, we wandered around the towers a bit more, reading some of the translated history that posted on the walls covering the construction. The two towers are basically all that remain of over 180 towers that once broke the skyline of Bologna. Like fancy cars and huge houses today, a tower like this was a status symbol for the rich families of ancient Bologna, plus they offered lookout towers for the families during times of strife. The towers in question remain as interesting tidbits of history, and the city is currently working to make them more stable. Both towers lean {seems to be a theme in Italy}, and some suggest that the ground has shifted, but who knows- maybe the Italians just enjoy drunken towers? Torre Galisenda leans at about 10 degrees, and in the 14th century had to be cut down because the city was afraid it would fall on surrounding buildings. Torre Asinelli is the taller tower, reaching 97.2 meters, and it provides great views of the countryside all around the city. And an amazing workout, if you are so inclined {I was}. After eating gelato, it seemed only fitting that I should climb off the calories.

498 steps and 3 Euro later, I panted my way to the top, and collapsed with joy on the floor enjoyed the amazing views. The trip is well worth it for the views of the city, but make sure you have sure feet, some time and are at least a little bit in shape- the stairs are very narrow and worn in spots, and you have to negotiate the stairs as well as find your way around the other visitors as they head up and down. There are several landings where you can catch your breath or let others pass, but be prepared to be tired!

We went up closer to closing time (6 pm I think?), and the light was nice for some directions, but of course not for others, so I decided I'd go back in the morning later on, and it was really cool then as well!

After the towers, we wandered around for a while. There was a restaurant nearby that was recommended in one of the guide books and it said the place wasn't closed on Sunday. So we planned to meet there at 7:30 and we all wandered. Mr. P and I were starving, so around 7 we stopped at Eataly and took advantage of the glass of wine and pizza combo, which kept me from getting in a bad mood {a woman must eat!}. Wandered back to the restaurant and... it was closed on Sunday. So we headed down the road to a place one couple had found, sat down, and ended up having a lovely meal. Ristorante Cesarina on Via Santo Stefano served good food at reasonable prices (6 primis, 1 glass of wine, a salad and 3 bottles of mineral water all cost about 105 Euro, including the coperto), and the serving sizes were really good. If Mr. P and I hadn't had a snack, I would have wanted a bit more food, but I think splitting a salad between the two of us would have filled in the chinks.

making pizza at Eataly
As you would imagine, after dinner we opted to stop at Gelateria Gianni again for dessert and headed back to the hotel.

A word of warning- we arrived in Bologna on Sunday, and nearly everything, including most restaurants, was closed. Also, this city is not as tourist oriented as some other cities in Italy, so that can make it even harder to find necessities on a Sunday. However, for us it worked out well arriving on a slow day, because we were all tired and didn't really want to do too much shopping, etc.

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