Amazing Race to Bologna

Trip Start Oct 31, 2012
Trip End Nov 11, 2012

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Flag of Italy  , Emilia-Romagna,
Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sami and I left Monterosso early and caught a train to Bologna to stay with our good friends Justin & Ann (they recently took up residence there for a year sabbatical from work to learn Italian). We had a connecting train in Prato, but what we didn't know was that there were two stops in Prato. We got off the train on the first stop and the train we were meant to catch left the 2nd stop with 10 minutes to spare. We had one choice if we wanted to catch that for it!
The next station was about 10 blocks away so we took off running with our packs through this foreign town, trying to navigate in what was hopefully the right direction. After Sami getting hit by bus (barely), we approached the station out of breath with just enough time to watch our train pull away.
We got tickets for the next train that departed with an hour and a half wait. Luckily, across the street from the station, we found a bar with a nice sunny patio. At this point a drink sounded pretty good :)
We got on our train and were finally on our last leg to Bologna. We arrived and met our friends who were at the station waiting for us. It was great to have friends that we could converse with in English! They showed us around town and then we went to there place to drop our stuff.
Justin & Ann's place was awesome. It was like an underground bunker with their very own well and ancient artifacts set under plexiglass in their floor.
We set out with our friends to explore a bit more walking under these amazing porticos and tried to make sense of towers that were leaning so bad you forgot which angles were perfectly vertical.
Justin took us to his favorite butcher shop where we got some local mortadella. We sat on the steps looking across the an open piazza and enjoyed this local treat and caught up with our friends.
The next stop was a an introduction into apertivo! This is Italy's version of happy hour. The only difference is that when you purchase your 8€ cocktail, it includes access to a full on buffet of tasty bites!
From here we went and looked at a library that was unlike anything we had seen before. The floor of the library was plexiglass which allow access to the view below that revealed an entire collection of ancient ruins that once stood in place of this library hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Just one of the many times on this trip that it became hard to wrap your head around just exactly what you were seeing.
For dinner that night, Justin found this restaurant that was over one hundred years old. You walked down underground into this space that turned into a vast dinning hall filled with large Italian families. The food was authentic and delicious. One of the highlights of this meal was the live entertainment. This was provided by a gentleman who was essentially doing karaoke and playing along with a keyboard. At one point in the evening, he opened the mic up to the diners. I seized this opportunity with the encouragement of Sami, Justin and Ann. I sang one of the only American songs that the DJ knew...Dancing Queen by ABBA.
After dinner we went to a questionable (communist?) bar and drank way too much grappa, it was at this time that Justin and Ann decided that they would take a train down to Rome and join us on our Italian adventure!
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