Bologna - Eat Eat Eat!

Trip Start May 20, 2009
Trip End Jun 04, 2009

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Flag of Italy  , Emilia-Romagna,
Saturday, May 30, 2009

We said "arrivederci" (bye) to Venice with a final vaporetto ride down the Grand Canal to the train station.   Two hours later we arrived to a completely different region of Italy.   Bologna is located in the Emilia-Romagna region.   This is the breadbasket of Italy where much of the produce is grown and is also home to prosciutto ham, parmesan cheese, and basalmic vinegar.  After four days in Venice, Bologna is like cold water poured on  your head.  This is a  very lively and intense Italian city with cars, buses, vespas, and bicycles whizzing past  you down narrow streets.   No more pastel ambience of Lake Como or Venice.  Bologna is all medieval  brown-red brick and gray stone.   The city is also dominated by arcaded covered walkways along the exterior of the buildings, essentially covered sidewalks, just more grand looking.  The city feels young with many students and is also quite diverse with Africans, Asians, and Indians.  Bologna has a proud history of left wing activism and you see many historic markers of past demonstrations.  In fact, there was some sort of demonstration going on in the main square Piazza Maggiore.  The medieval city center feels very old.  Buildings have centuries of soot and some have fašade statues that have been eroded away by the elements.   

The two old towers called Due Torri are unmistakable landmarks.  The shorter, fatter tower is closed off and leaning heavily towards the east.  It has braces and wires preventing total collapse.  Next to the leaning tower is a very skinny, taller tower that you can climb.  You know me, I can't resist the chance to climb an open tower or dome in Europe.  This tower was probably one of the most intimidating I've climbed because the staircase up was wooden and attached to the brick sides of the tower.   So you could see straight down the middle of the staircase if you chose to look down.  The wood stairs were also worn down by time and a little creaky.  Great bird's eye view of Bologna made the sweaty climb worth it and I didn't plunge to my death on the way up or down!  

The big attraction of Bologna is the food stores.   Parts of the old center feature streets and lanes with only food stores with big glass displays showing off their fresh meats, pastas, pastries, cheese,  and other local specialties.  One narrow lane was all fruit and vegetable stands apparently there everyday for the last 800 years.  The displays are so inviting that we decided to assemble a lunch and dinner picnic of morta della (good tasting bologna), rotisserie chicken, tortellini pasta with meat sauce, marinated artichoke salad, shrimp and squid sticks, and fruit and mixed lettuce.  All for the price you might pay at Whole Foods.  Not a lot of English is spoken here by the merchants, so I got to practice my Italian which is decent enough to pick out foods and know how much to pay.  I'm looking forward to trying out more food today this afternoon.

Today it's a daytrip to Ravenna, about 80 minutes to the east to see lots of mosaics from the Dark Ages, around 600 A.D.  The sun is shining once again, so time to sign off for now.
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