Guilty in Bologna
I have been feeling a little bit guilty of not updating our blog as often as I would like, just a little. On previous trips, we often stopped to write, in hindsight we feel that it broke up the continuity of our experiences. This time we decided to enjoy every minute and write when we can.
The most tumultuous trip
The truth is that this has been the most tumultuous trip we have ever taken with amazing highs and anxiety inducing lows. We decided to really jam our schedule full thinking that we would pass on a few things as we decided along the way. As life usually does, curve balls are a plenty and we have had to adapt as we move.
A month in
We are a month in now and have been out and moving every day without exception, discovering incredible food, sites and meeting great people. The travel gods have definitely been messing with us starting from the beginning but again the only thing to do is adapt and overcome. A lost bag, a missed flight, crazy rain and flooding, several earthquakes, illness, train strike and concern for Nat’s mother who was hospitalized back home have all added to the mix but have been somewhat offset by our ability to devine out the best of Italy.
City of Bologna
I will pick up where we left off in the delightful city of Bologna. We decided to make the 35-minute trek to our apartment with our somewhat hefty backpacks (the sound of rolling luggage on cobblestone is a big pet peeve of ours) and quickly felt as though we had stepped onto a college campus. In fact, Bologna is home to several schools, including the oldest university, University of Bologna, established in 1088. Also, the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna turns out some of the best musicians Europe has to offer. Mozart was a student of the Accademia, we even saw his actual final exam paper and sheet music at the International museum and library of music. Next to food, music is probably one of the most important elements of Bologna and can be heard everywhere you roam about town.
Bologna Welcome, the tourism office, was our first stop to fill in our two-week itinerary and they were incredibly wonderful in helping us search out some amazing and delicious things to do. In many respects Bologna is the food capital of Italy with several of the most well-known Italian dishes coming from the Emilia-Romagna area including lasagna, tortellini, balsamic vinegar, Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto, culatello and the list goes on. Seemingly bursting with food and produce everywhere you turn, shop windows are filled with amazing displays of food and wine.
Lucky for us our apartment was within a stone’s throw of the Quadrilatero where produce vendors have been selling their goods since Roman times. Piles of fruit from all over Italy and vegetables from local farmers are beautifully arranged in their tight quarters along narrow alleys. The hustle and bustle is fantastic as everyone nudges and squeezes in, afraid that they are missing out on the best clementines or head of radicchio.
Vendors shout out random price drops and announce the freshest goods at their stall causing more surges of usually older more experienced women who are not afraid to throw an elbow or hip. We made our way to Mercato delle Erbe, a less busy market with the same selection or better and only a ten-minute walk away. With slightly less mayhem it allowed us to ask a few more questions and find some tasty treats.
At one shop the women at the counter were very helpful and let us sample a lot of things including a selection of mostarda which is candied fruit, spiked with mustard. There is a beautiful selection of colourful fruit to choose from and they come in varying intensities from mild to sinus clearing. We, of course, chose the hottest apple mostarda that was fantastic with aged Pecorino and is also good paired with grilled meats. Soon our shopping bags were heavy with all sorts of goodies and it was time to head back.
On the way, we noticed a long line up for a tiny pizza shop selling giant slices. A line that big means good eats, so I jumped in and shuffled to the counter. It should be noted that Italians don’t really understand the concept of a proper cue so if you don’t want to get pushed out you have to hold your ground and be assertive.
Finally reaching the counter at Pizzeria due Torri, the slices were disappearing as fast as they could cook the pizzas. You better know what you want or they will look to the next customer. Quickly I singled out a huge slice with rapini and prosciutto cotto. Nat picked a slice with arugula and bresaola. Four euros later we had hot slices in hand and elbowed our way back to the sidewalk.
We stood under the two towers, the taller one is Asinelli and the smaller, the Garisenda. Wasting no time we devoured some amazing pizza. At this point words need not be spoken, Bologna is on and we are in our happy place.