Your travel guide to Bologna
I have recently met a really great guy from Seattle: he listens to great music, has a great taste in wine, and shares my love to travel to other great cities in Italy. As I write this I'm listening to some great music that I got from his computer and reflecting on our trip to Bologna, called the "red city" because of the color of most of the buildings. I was so excited to go because of the ancient aqueducts and the tower. We went with my room mate to spend the day in "La Grassa"- "the Fat"- a loving nick-name for a city known for its great- and rich- food.
Shop at the city market
Early one Saturday morning we took a 1-hour and a half train ride from Florence, our current place of residence, in order to catch the weekly outdoor market that starts from the Parco della Montagnola and continues to spread out beyond it. I love finding well-priced vintage goods ( i.e. used clothing) and just down the hill on the left of the park is a veritable gold-mine for vintage treasures, from hand-made quilts to thirty-year-old Converse high tops, both available in plaid. What makes it so interesting is that this antiques market can serve as a tangible time-line for Italian fashion; it houses some of the best examples in trends from the various decades.
After prying myself away from the vintage treasures (dark brown leather boots with light brown suede patches in the form of lions...grrr...) and finding my friends that had forsaken me for the food. Both of them started their day in Bologna with something that appeared to me to be a hot dog (do people from Seattle eat hot dogs? I thought that was an East-Coast thing?), but that they claimed to be delicious wurst with an unbelievably good bun, and at 3 euros, not a bad way to inaugurate themselves into the eating culture of the city.
Further on, there are well-priced booths set up to sell everything you can imagine, from kitchen ware to socks. They all wind up selling pretty much the same stuff, so after ten minutes we felt comfortable skipping over the rest of it and finding our way to the beautiful and broad main street, via dell'Indipendenza. It is lined with the usual chain stores, like Yamamay or Zara, but also sprinkled with sweet cafés and independent stores. Since shopping is always on the itinerary, a trip to the closest H&M was in store. I want to warn you now, it is massive, four floors full of the latest trends- but only for women. To the disappointment of my great new friend from Seattle there were no good buys for the other half.
Discover splendid churches
Past the stores and the cafès and H&M, we found ourselves in Piazza Maggiore, home of the Fontana di Nettuno, a beautiful bronze sculpture from 1566 by Giambologna (a french-flemmish import of the so-called "Mannerist" era). Past the Fontana is the Basillica di San Petronio, the patron-saint of the city. The entrance is free and is a great oppurtunity to check out gothic architecture and beautiful, large stained-glass windows. Some of the Church is left unfinished, like the facade, but the frescoes and sculptures around the altar are breath-taking.
Another church that we were dying to see was the Basilica di San Domenico, that contains an altar that Michelangelo finished that has three sculptures attributed to Michelangelo, especially the angel with the candle on the right. I was able to get within feet of artistic genius. Go any closer, however, and the gaurds will yell at you- I saw it happen to a couple of other admirers.
Eat a delicious pasta in the university district
After the market and the churches we decided that we needed a break and made our way back to the Piazza Maggiore to sit with the locals. We listened to a busker play John Lennon covers with his flute and watched families take walks together. It was absolutely the perfect day to travel, we could have sat in the piazza for the rest of our time there, but my stomach was starting to growl and we still had not made our way over to the university district. Bologna is a university town with many spots that cater to students, which made finding a great, well-priced place to eat pretty easy. Ragù alla Bolognese is the pasta dish in this town, so we decided "when in Rome..." at a great restaurant and pizzeria in the university district.
At about 8:30, after a full day of shopping, walking, eating and taking in Bologna's red beauty, we decided to head home to Florence. I remember walking down via dell'Independenza with all of the Italians that were out taking a Saturday night walk down the main drag, and having one of those very Italian moments, a very-alive feeling that is like falling in love again with someone you have loved for a while. Italy, with all of its rich and varied traditions, never fails to keep me on my toes.