So I’d been living in Italy for a month and a half and hadn’t seen any city bigger than my home town, and stuck in the mountains of Alto Adige we decided our next trip would be to the sunny food capital of Italy- Bologna, in Emilio Romagna.
So on a dismal Friday evening, we set off. Straight off the bat, we arrived at the station half an hour early. It was okay though- after a hot chocolate and a peppermint tea we were set to go again. And in keeping with the tone, the train was late to Bolzano (the capital of Alto Adige/ Sudtirol) and we missed our next one to Bologna. So a journey of 5 hours became 9 1/2 as we had to go from Verona to Padua, and then on to Bologna aboard a night train to Rome. At 4 in the morning, we stumbled through Bologna’s hauntingly empty station,and fell into a cab (whose Cabbie’s fast talking confused me and I accidentally said we were Uni students from Innsbruck and visiting some friends in Bologna. I was tired). Our Airb&b host, Alessandra, stayed up for us and whose stash of tea and maps proved to be a godsend all weekend. If you’re ever in Bologna and looking for a Airb&b, we can’t recommend her enough.
Cut to Saturday morni- okay, we’re friends. Saturday early afternoon, we decided to head out and grab some breakfast- we walked to just outside the old city gates and had a delightfully Italian breakfast of Cappuccinos and Cornetti, as well as a Nutella-filled doughnut for Agatha and a cheese scone-like pastry for me. Hey, it was nearly lunchtime and I saw it and got homesick.
We headed into the City centre, sheltering from the bright February sun under a covered portici that ran from the gate of San Vitale to the famous Due Torri of Bologna, two ancient towers (Asinelli and Garisenda, 97m and 48m, respectively). According to historians, the city used to full of such towers in the 13th Century, for no discernible reason. There is a general consensus of there being about 80-100 such towers though.
We continued down via Francesco Rizzoli until we reached the magnificent Fortana del Nettuno, an incredibly lifelike statue of Neptune, Roman god of the Seas, built around the 16th Century. Maserati, the car manufacturer, based their trident logo off this very statue. Continuing through the Piazza del Nettuno we reached the City’s center- Piazza Maggiore. A huge square surrounded by cafes, government buildings and of course the grandiose Basilica di San Petronio, a huge church (15th largest) with a domineering presence and a curiously unfinished cascade.
After that we went inside the Museo Civico Archaelogico for an Egyptian exhibition (we just had to go in, Ryan being a future archaeologist and me a History nerd) where we saw all sorts of historical wonders from the Egyptian dynasties (see the full blog post here), and after buying some cheesy souvenirs (I wanted a “I love Mummy” pin but wouldn’t shell out €2,50) we head out in search for a map of the city and something to drink.
We kept wandering around the city, after a ginger ale, a Coca Cola and a thorough check of our new Bologna guide. We found ourselves on Via Dell’Independenza walking along until we reached the nationally known “La Piazzola” market on Piazza VIII Agosto, where every Friday and Saturday you can find this huge market with everything you can think of. It was after browsing through the market stands and eating a piadina and a kebab that we decided it was time for gelato, Ryan’s first gelato ever if you must know.
Our lovely host from AirBnB, Alessandra, recommended us Gelateria Gianni, on Via Monte Grappa, so we head on to find the street and satisfy our gelato needs. I can only tell you one thing about Gianni’s, that the queue was totally worth it! It was one of the best gelatos I’ve ever eaten (try the Due Torri, it has Kinder Bueno on it) and I have ate a lot.
While savouring our gelatos we walked back home while marvelling at the performances of Bolognese street artists on Via Dell’Independenza (surprisingly, something very common and awesome here in Bologna, in just one day you may hear drums, cellos, violins and even rock and roll) and to rest our feet and lay down for a while, and also to ask our host for any good dinner recommendations but since she was not home we turned to the classic travellers guide- Google.
And that’s how we found Trattoria Anna Maria. It was described as a MUST to try in Bologna, because of their secret recipe for the ragù sauce and their homemade pasta. So after a description as alluring as that we were sold, and walked towards the restaurant, although not without getting a lost on the streets near the University before we could find it.
We entered the place (which from the outside doesn’t look like much) and were asked about having a reservation- my heart dropped, because we obviously had not thought we needed one and also because I was hungry and wanted something to eat presto, as the Italians would say, but I suppose the waitress saw the look on our faces because she told us it was okay and that we didn’t really need one while guiding us to our table.
The menu was simple and really traditional, we both ordered tortellini al ragù and a couple of glasses of the house wine. While the food arrived we got a chance to appreciate the decoration of the place, the walls are filled with notes from customers (famous ones even) from all parts of the world in every language you could think of, musical instruments, paintings and posters for concerts for all the old stars from the good old days like Glenn Miller.
Cue the BEST pasta we’ve ever had- I mean, we’d of course been told that Bologna was good on food, but even prepared it blew us away. It’s safe to say that was one of the best meals we ever had, trust us and if you’re ever in Bologna go; but maybe order something different than the house wine and definitely ask for Panna Cotta as dessert.
With our bellies full and our energy low after walking all day around Bologna, we headed home to rest for Day 2 in Bologna, not without stopping for cioccolata calda in a cup (literally melted hot chocolate) because if hobbits can have two breakfasts why can’t we have two desserts?
-Agatha & Ryan