In Ravenna this week I see the beautiful mosaic tile ceiling that inspired Cole Porter to write the song Night and Day.
I can’t write music, but it does inspire me to go have lunch at a Michelin restaurant in Ravenna. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to where we left off.
Monday, I meet my new friend Ela for coffee at a Turkish cafe called Naama. Afterwards we wander the streets of beautiful Bologna. She shows me some of the hidden towers.
All of a sudden I run smack dab into friends from home, Mike and Lisa, who had come from Florence to Bologna to see me. We all were independently looking for a lunch place and Mondays many things are closed, but we ended up at Bottega Portici-Due Torri. It is near the ancient Two Towers and houses the Portici Academy where you can learn pasta making.
In the restaurant, modern touch screens deliver old world Tagliatelle al Ragu. Ela leaves us after lunch and the three of us wander around the city. I take them up the secret spiral staircase for a great view of the towers.
As we are passing the charcuterie shop Simoni, my friend Klevis calls out to us. “Stop for a drink”, So we do. Later Marco’s son Michaela fills in for his Dad and does a balsamic vinegar tasting for us. We also buy Prosecco at his store called Gilberto because it is aperol spritz time now.
But we need ice. Let me tell you ice is the bane of my existence on these Shirleyfest. I love aperol spritzes and they need ice. But this apartment has no freezer. There is however a famous bar called the Roxy directly across the street from my apartment and without hesitation the lovely waitress there sensing my great need offers me a huge bag of ice for our drinks. Works out fine and held us over until our dinner at Trattoria dal Biassanot near the canal.
It was great to have Mike and Lisa join Shirleyfest!The next day is the flower market day at Piazza San Francesco.
Off I go early morning and I am rewarded with some great flower finds.
After depositing those in my apartment, I want to see the three tiny Michelangelo statues in the Basilica of Saint Dominic’s. The place is empty so I could get quite up close and personal with the little guys.
The other art that was calling my name is the 7 terracotta figures known as the lamentations behind the altar at Santa Maria Della Vita. Done in the 1400s by the artist Niccolò Dell’Arca, they are magnificent and really not to missed if you visit Bologna.
I then had in mind to sample what is suppose to be the best gelato in Bologna at Cremeria Santo Stefano. But the line is long and not moving.
Interesting that the last time I saw a line like this is was at Shirleyfest Boston and people were in line to buy the latest released sneakers.
Pretty much sums it up—Italy: Food. US: Shoes
Dinner tonight is in the courtyard of Bologna’s version of Romeo and Juliet ( basically same story….kids in love, parent are against it, tower scene, they both die). I’m here for the beautiful setting of the restaurant Corte Galluzzi.
I start with prosciutto and melon.
I follow that with Vittelo Tonnato. It has been a favorite of mine since a friend in Florence made it for me many years ago. It’s roasted veal that is chilled and sliced and the topped with a tuna/anchovies sauce. Not for everyone for sure.
I meet a Swiss couple at dinner and we talked for quite a while about American politics and especially our Supreme Court…grrr. We agree to meet for Apertivo the next evening.
Wednesday I hike up to San Michele in Bosco. It’s an old church, but the real reason to spend the energy is the beautiful views of Bologna from the top.
I’ve got to get back tho because I’m invited to cocktail reception at the 5 star Grand Hotel Majestic for an artist who is in town for art week. It’s a beautiful party and the sparking wine is flowing. I get to meet the artist and we talk about her work, which is stunning.
Thursday, I take the 8:06 train to Ravenna an hour away. It is a spur of the moment decision so I don’t have time to hire a guide or sign up for a tour so I download the important information and set up a Google map annotated with the things I want to see. Ravenna is the city of mosaics and is a UNESCO World heritage site. It is literally a glittering jewel box of 5th and 6th century mosaic art. I walk the 15 minutes from the train station and start with a coffee in the town square and then go directly to the Basilica di San Vitale. I have found that an early start in these day trips is the best recipe and then go directly to the most important site and work backwards depending on the time you have. I am not disappointed as there are very few people at my first stop. Later I pass by there and it is mobbed with people. The ceilings, floors and walls of all the sites I visit are so stunning. Take a look.
Now it’s time for lunch. I check and there is one Michelin restaurant in Ravenna called Antica al Gallo 1909. I decide to take my chance and walk the 15 minutes there to see if I can get in. As I study my map, a local gentleman approaches and asks if he can help me. I tell him my destination and he admires my taste in restaurants and says he will walk me there. His name is Herman and we have the most lovely chat along the way.
Now I approach this gorgeous restaurant and am welcomed by the owner Umberto who is happy to seat me in a table right near the garden.
I am so lucky as soon afterwards the restaurant is completely full. Umberto’s great great grandfather started the restaurant and it has survived two world wars and Covid and is still going strong. Upstairs there are sitting rooms for cocktails and smoking!
I with squash blossoms filled with Gorgonzola and surrounded by a red pepper sauce.
Then I go for the Cavaletti al Ragu. Umberto pours a lovely local wine and I am having the best time.
I’m too full for dessert so they bring me a plate of cookies— meringues with toasted almond glaze.
Afterwards Umberto gives me a gift of a little book about his family. It is first in Italian and then English and he says, “this way you will learn Italian words.” So cute!
Now I visit Modena which is only a 20 minute train ride away. I tour around the town with its beautiful cathedral and lively market.
Modena is famous for balsamic vinegar, luxury sports cars and Massimo Bottura, the chef of the Michelin restaurant Osteria Francescan ( frequently thought of as the #1 restaurant in the world). Before I left California I scored a reservation at Massimo Bottura’s second place ( also a Michelin restaurant) for 2 pm on this day.Arriving early I am taken to a garden table by Marco and an amuse bouche of squash stuffed with ricotta and lemon zest as well as a raw zucchini topped with mousse of zucchini arrives.
I have to have the burger starter which Massimo invented. I took Massimo’s MasterClass and this was featured so I’ve been looking forward to trying it. In his home region of Emilia-Romagna, he makes the patty out of Italian beef mixed with gelatin from cotechino (a local pork sausage) and Parmigiano-Reggiano. For condiments, he puts an Italian spin on American standard making a mayo out of Balsamic vinegar from Modena and an herb sauce based on Italian salsa verde.
Next course is an artichoke ravioli with a black garlic sauce which Giacamo, the young intern from Milan recommends.
Still denying dessert, I am presented with not one but two little Italian bites.
Really a fantastic meal!
I wander back and even figure out the self service ticket machine at the station to change my ticket to a slightly earlier train because my friend Arno and his family arrive from Vienna tonight.
My readers will remember that I met Arno in the Naschmarkt in Vienna in Shirleyfest 2017. Here we are that day nearly 5 years ago.
We really hit it off and the next year when he learned I was going to Amsterdam for Shirleyfest 2018 he invited me to join his family in the Dolomites for a week before Shirleyfest. I did and had the best time! Now they are here! I will report on our activities during their weekend visit in the next post. Now, it is time for me to go have apertivo. Cin Cin!