June 29, 2010

Wandering Bologna (Bologna- D7)

The next day of our trip was Monday, and we got a later start - travel is tiring! After grabbing a {lackluster} breakfast at the hotel, we wandered down past the train station and got some rail times for other trips within the region, and then wandered back to the historic center through Parco della Montagnola. There isn't really anything exciting about this park- they have a few poor examples of sculpture and some unkempt lawns, but it was really shady and pleasant, so it seems like a nice place to bring a picnic, if you are inclined. Plus, see if you can find the rather startled lion (poorly made, but highly amusing!).

Wandering back towards more refined {foodie} areas, we ended up at A.F. Tamburini (on the corner of Via Drapperie and Via Caprarie) and spent quite a while drooling. Mr. P would have bought everything if I had let him, but we contented ourselves with a tartufo salami (that would be black truffle). The shop has an extensive selection of premade foods that you can buy and microwave in the shop (or just eat cold) for really reasonable prices, but... we weren't sure how it worked, so we went directly across the street to Eataly {again} and had paninis- they were really affordable and tasty.

After lunch we wandered down Via Santo Stefano to the Santo Stefano church complex. I really enjoyed this little grouping of church, but only because I had a pretty good guidebook. There isn't much information available at the church, so keep this little book close by if you want to know what is going on. Almost everything in the complex dates between the 8th and 12th centuries, and is built on an even older religious site that was originally dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis (built by the Romans).

SS. Vitale e Agricola is the oldest church in Bologna, apparently with bits dating from the 5th century, and it was really basic but kinda cool looking- there were even a few bits of the original floor remaining, but they were under glass to protect them.

The idea of the creators was to simulate the experience of a journey to Jerusalem, without having to take the time or expense of actually going. I don't know about all of that, but it was a very cool complex to wander through, and we were 2 of about 15 people we saw the entire 45min-hour we were in there, so it was peaceful and pleasant.

Heading North, we wandered through the thriving university area of Bologna. The University of Bologna is one of the oldest in the world (founded sometime around 1100), and though the city isn't the cultural hub it once was, the university still draws in multitudes of students and academics from around the world. You can see all sorts of interesting fashion statements in this area (they are very trendy and fashion forward), and it provides an interesting juxtaposition paired with the elegant porticoes. If you need to find an internet cafe during your stay, be assured you can find many around here, charging about .50 for 30 minutes. There are tons of restaurants and shops in the area, and this is the area to head to if you are interested in nightlife {we weren't so moving on}.

There are at least 10 free museums in the university complex, but we ended up taking advantage of only one of their offerings- the gardens. The University Botanical Garden is a pleasant, low-traffic area to read a book and relax (though they didn't seem to want you to have food there). While the grounds are not the manicured plots you'd expect, it is still quite nice for an hour or so.

After some relaxation, we walked back to Via Rizzoli near Piaza Re Enzo, intent on getting to the Santuario della Madonna di San Luca. From a tabacchi in the area we bought 4 bus tickets and then found the stop for bus 20 (right in on Rizzoli). We needed it in the direction that had Meloncello listed as a stop, and we got the right bus, but forgot to count the # of stops... and they didn't always announce... so we got off at the wrong one. Oops! We did manage to hop back on (the service runs really regularly) and made it to the right stop. Since the announcements are sometimes quick or missing, just keep looking ahead- when you see a big portico that goes over the road and off to the left, get off at the stop right before it and walk up to it. There weren't any signs, but we headed uphill, and kept going... and going... and going... About 2 km (the entire portico path to the church is 4km total). And this isn't a little hill- there are some steep climbs!

Interestingly, there are supposed to be 666 arches, and though they number them all the way up, once you get to about 660, they stop. I guess they decided it was a little too weird for them:) The Porticata was most likely built by the city to aid pilgrims in their trek to the church, thus bringing more money to the city of Bologna, but who knows if that is the whole story- it took over 100 years to build, and in 17th century Italy, that is a long time to work on a 'business investment'. Fortunately there are rest stops along the way- from Meloncello there are 15 stops (relating to religious events) that act as a good place to get a breather.

The church at the top is not really all that exceptional except for this:

The views are amazing! Go on a clear day and you can see for miles. It is really quiet at the Santuaria, and you pass some really interesting hillside villas on the way, so if you are up for the climb (think of all the gelato you can eat after this!), then I say go for it. I thought the afternoon was well spent:).

Climbing down was so much nicer- just be sure you don't trip because it is a LONG way to the bottom of the stairs! I had to convince Mr. P not to steal a bike for the ride down- the stairs would have been uncomfortable! After all that work, we hopped back on the bus, this time actually validating our tickets (on the ride there, we couldn't get close to the machine and weren't sure we were supposed to- this time we saw someone else do it. I guess we got 2 free tickets? Oops!).

Back by Piazza Maggiore, we headed back to A.F. Tamburini. Next to their storefront is a little bar with wine barrel tables outside and a couple long, rustic tables inside. We sat down and ordered a meat and cheese plate for 2 plus a couple glasses of wine (I love Lambrusco- yay for fizzy wine!!!). It ended up being HUGE and held us over until a much later (and fairly unremarkable) dinner. The service was great, the wine was tasty and the meat plate was exceptional. We only wished we knew how to ask for another one with different meats!

For dinner we rejoined our travel companions and ate at an unremarkable place that had fairly good food, reasonable prices, and which I can't for the LIFE of me remember the name of. Sorry. Of course, we also had some gelato at Gelateria Gianni (which was right down the road from dinner), and then headed back for another night of crashing into bed.

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