Bologna, Here We Come

We’re still plagued by jet lag, waking up around 5 and 6. Fighting it though, I managed to stay in bed until 7 or so until Glen demanded we go find breakfast. We packed most of things then went walking the streets of Lucca for something to eat. There were plenty of small places open selling pastries but no English breakfast type meal (not a surprise).

We walked around in a circle to eventually settle at the first place we’d looked at but couldn’t stay at initially because we hadn’t yet had an argument about it. Argument had, we returned there and ordered crepes and hot drinks. The waiter was gorgeous. The crepes were tasty. The smoking drove us away.

The shop that sold the jacket I wanted to look at (and had probably already in the back of my mind decided to buy) didn’t open until 10 and it was still before 9. We went walking again, heading south-east towards the green section of the map. We passed people on their way to work, children waiting to be let into the school gates, and walked up to the botanical gardens. Which were closed and didn’t open until 10.

We walked more of the wall instead, cutting through the city at another basilica, and then heading back to the apartment. We checked out just before ten and then went to a patisserie that sold these long or circular loaves of fruit bread called buccellato. The taste reminds me of something from my childhood but I can’t figure out what it is. It’s almost like a burnt taste but not, and it’s not almond. I’ll have to look up the recipe.

We were trying to catch the 10:31 train to Bologna so were relieved to find that the shop with the jacket had opened ten minutes early. I tried the jacket on, a slightly woollen blue jacket made in Italy. It fit and it looked good. With some encouragement or, really, approval, from Glen, I bought it. Nice purchase made, we could leave with plenty of time to get to the train station.

Bologna

After the quiet and beautiful Lucca, rolling into Bologna was quite a shock. It’s a bit city, home to the oldest university in Europe and housing 80,000 students (one-fifth of its population). There’s graffiti everywhere, cars everywhere. It’s noisy and jolting. It’d be an awesome place to study.

We got off the train after two and a half hours of travel and trundled down via dell’Independenza, dodging traffic and slow-moving individuals until we reached Piazza Maggiore, hung a right, and found our accommodation, Albergo Centrale. And it really is central.

Piazza Maggiore is one of the main spots to visit, with a basilica, a fountain, some towers, a piazza or two – basically a lot of obviously old stuff. After dumping our luggage (thankfully we could check in early) and having a bit of rest (it was siesta time, after all), we went exploring, checking out the piazza and then the two towers, both of which are leaning. And one of them leans a lot! You can’t really notice it looking up because of all the buildings around it but it’s definitely not level at the ground.

We stumbled across a fast-food pasta-type place called Sfoglia, packed with young cool people sitting at the window eating plates of freshly made pasta. We couldn’t go past. We took a table and ordered quadrati and torteloni. Mine was made with zucchini, mint and ricotta. Delicious and just what we were looking for for lunch.

After that we wandered more of the city, heading north again through the university area – the stench of urine and pot was strong – to il Parco della Montagnola. The park was dodgy looking and we stopped long enough so I could use the bathroom but soon left because of this feeling of threat running through the place.

Back south to the hotel, we bought an ice-cream, then tried to find the Fontana del Netuno but couldn’t. It wasn’t until I asked at the tourist office that they said it’s just outside but it’s covered up for restoration. Sure enough. There it was. A big block of scaffolding.

More Food

Later in the evening we went in search of dinner, finding a place on TripAdvisor that was highly recommended and nearby but when we got there, it was empty. The emptiness was made only more stark by how parked the next door bar was. We left, wandering further south, noticing that the bars were full and the restaurants were empty, or if they had people in them, they were eating crisps and finger foods while drinking negroni. It seems that at 6:30/7pm we were hellishly early for dinner in Bologna.

We wandered, going from restaurant to restaurant, with Glen, I’m sure, getting more and more frustrated with each of my refusals to eat at a certain place for one reason or another. We stumbled upon (though perhaps stumble isn’t the right word as it was quite large) a piazza in front of basilica – Piazza San Domenico and Basilica di San Domenico – which suited us for a place to have dinner.

We sat at the edge of a restaurant’s al fresco area, on cobbled streets, listening to a guitarist/pan-pipest playing and watching cars, pedestrians and cyclists all talking on their mobile phones while they went about their business. I’m impressed by the cyclist’s skill – as well as their insanity – that they can navigate a bicycle over bumpy roads with such ease with a phone stuck to their ear. I couldn’t do it.

We ate a big meal – again – with two courses each. My main was sesame-crusted salmon, a massive serve that fortunately didn’t come with vegetables. I had a Bologna beer, though couldn’t get through the whole 750ml bottle I’d ordered, not unexpectedly but still unwisely. We ate. We enjoyed the night and the increasing quiet as the Bolognese (the people, not the sauce) disappeared. We wandered home and went to bed.

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