Friends, Ferrara and Family

The beginning of week 2 in Bologna brings dear friends to visit. My friends from Shirleyfest Vienna, Arno and Petra, bring their two daughters to Bologna and we have a wonderful weekend. They arrive Friday night and after Apertivo at my place we walk to Proscutteria nearby.

Having stopped by there previously on a calm Wednesday night to reserve, I had miscalculated the frenzy of the place on a Friday night. Although they have reserved a beautiful table for us, the decibel level would make catching up with these dear friends impossible. What to do when all reservations are taken on a Friday night by now? Ah ha. Remember Christian from my first night here? A quick phone call and he makes room for us. Great dinner and great catching up after not seeing my friends for over 3 years.

The next day we attempt the San Luca Church climb all together.

The heat and length are too intense for the children so we spin off and get sodas and talk about their lives in Vienna while Petra and Arno soldier on. Afterwards Arno finds us the most local of all places, Trattoria della Santa and we all have a delicious lunch together. Later we go to the beautiful Palazzo Albergati and see the photography exhibit of Oliviero Toscani . Believe me you know his work as he had many famous ad campaigns such as the United Colors of Benetton and photography that made people aware of significant issues such as the death penalty, anorexia, AIDS, and much more.

The permanent collection includes many iconic photographs as well. Photos by Man Ray, Robert Capa and Alfred Stieglitz among others.

Dinner that night is at Da Cesari, an old school local restaurant that was empty at 7:45 and overflowing at 8:15. The full moon beckons us to finish with drinks at the famous Roxy Bar.

A walking city tour the next day ends with the whispering corners of the Enzo Palace where not only could close families communicate during the historic plagues of old, I’ve been told it is of practical use today to communicate during Covid.

A little more eating, shopping and gelato and then my dear friends jet back to Vienna until next year when they will visit me in California.

After they leave, I go to a concert at the Basilica di San Petronio that is made even more beautiful by the acoustics of the church .

Monday I am off to Ferrara on the train to see this city dominated by the Este Castle and stories of ruling dukes, Papal interference and the formerly large Jewish population, originally invited by the dukes for their crafts and then sequestered in the Jewish Ghetto by the Pope. I have booked a walking tour like always and I meet Massimo and two lovely ladies from Kolkata,India.

Massimo ( Max) our guide is a retired doctor and is so entertaining and knowledgeable.

Of course when the tour is finished I head directly to the Michelin restaurant in town, Trattoria Da Noemi for a delicious lunch of local asparagus and the Ferrara specialty of pumpkin filled ravioli.

Tuesday I meet Ela and her mother-in-law Laura for Apertivo at their favorite place. I love mid- day aperol spritzes over lively conversation. Laura is of my generation, but unlike me, she drives a motorcycle.

Lunch today, I try the little place Ragu that has the meat pasta sauce in focaccia. Think slow food sloppy joes!

Later walking thru the main square I see police all around and everyone is pointing at a box that they have made a perimeter around. I think..bomb? I discover that it is a box filled with bees and they had to call the beekeepers to deal with it.

Later I have dinner at the well known Da Nello. I had a reservation, but that didn’t seem to matter. I ended up at an ok table with delicious food, but I was less than thrilled with the brusque wait staff. I would not recommend it even tho you will see it mentioned often. For me, great food is the minimum requirement…but especially as an often solo diner, I want to feel engaged with the restaurant and the people, not just fed. Considering I’ve eaten 35 meals out in Bologna, a dud of one in 35 I can live with. Plus there was this great pasta I had there.

Early Wednesday morning I check out the big park near me, Giardini Margherita. It is really lovely. Surrounded by pretty homes.

Plus I like it because an Italian yoga instructor trying to meet her class in the park, ran up to me, assumed I was Italian, and asked me in Italian how to get somewhere in the park and I was able to tell her in Italian. WooHoo!

Afterwards I go for caffé and a Panino alla Cannella ( morning bun) at Forno Brisa where I met dashing Lorenzo. He has a bandage on his nose and I discovered that he had broken it in a biking accident last month just like I had. What are the chances?

Later I pick up mortadella, cheese and bread for Apertivo as sister MJ arrives this evening. Simoni deli was closed, but now that I know everyone at their restaurant, I was able to convince them to let me buy provisions there for my welcome party for MJ. MJ arrives and we go to my favorite Bolognese pizza place where Christain welcomes MJ to Bologna with his delicious pizzas.

The next day, Ela does a walking tour for MJ and I so that MJ can get the lay of the land.

Before she leaves us, she calls Trattoria de Me for us and snags us a very hard to get lunch reservation. Hot crescentina fritta and MJ’s first dish of Tagliatella Al Ragu and my ravioli in a pea sauce are delicious.

We go next to see the anatomical theatre of the Archiginnasio. In 1637 it was where anatomy lessons were held in the first ever theatre style classroom for such. It is because of it that we use the term theatre in describing operating rooms today.

Drinks at Simoni with Parmesan cheese tasting is followed by dinner at Trattoria Sette Tavoli ( 7 table restaurant— which is what it had).

Not quite done, we stop at the bar Ruggine for some interesting cocktails from bartender Alessandro. On the bar stools next to us, two young students can’t believe we found this place which is a popular student bar.

Next day we climb to the clock tower of city hall for some views and then see the art collection.

The art collection is huge and we had seen enough, but when we turned to leave we were instructed by the docent to continue on and not cut out any of the rooms. Hilarious. We did as she asked. A stop for coffee at the lovely Cafe Zanarini fueled us for some shopping.

Shopping in Italy is great! We both did some damage at Max Mara and other stores. Actually that is true figuratively and literally. We did buy some nice things. Then, at a very fancy store I managed to not see a clear glass 12 inches off the floor side table and I crashed forward into their display. While the display looked like a car had plowed through the wall with metal and broken glass strewn everywhere, I escaped with only one cut and one bruise. The shopkeepers were amazing with bandages, ice packs and bottled water. I was going to see if they would also give me this wonderful pair of shoes I spied, but I thought better of it.

Tonight we stop for drinks at Enoteca Italiana and meet the delightful Giorgia who brings us mortadella( of course) to have with our wine.

Later we eat at Trattoria Valerio.

Next to us is a Berlin travel writer named Soenke who engages us and makes the evening quite fun. Three Italian men are at the next table celebrating a birthday and so we also have fun talking with them before we leave.

On MJ’s last day here, we go to Modena on the train. While sipping coffee in the square we see a wedding is about to take place in the cathedral. Of course we crash it. The mustache man was the highlife of our attendance and of course the bride!

We wedding crashers now go for the famous Modena basaltic vinegar tasting. There is no finer balsamic vinegar than Giuseppe Giusti. At its lovely showroom, Matteo expertly guides us through all the variations and laws pertaining to preserving the integrity of Modena basalmic vinegar.

We move onward to Francescetta 58 which you may recall from my previous post I went to last week. I really want MJ to experience this wonderful place and we are very lucky that the famous Massimo Bottura is here today. He talks to us…. If you count him saying “sera” and us saying it back as talking.

We love our food and also the show taking place a the next table where 4 Italian men are tasting a dozen bottles of wine.

Onward to the Maserati museum where MJ and I pick our our favorite cars before training home to Bologna.

Having had such a big lunch we opt for Simoni for dinner. Once again upon seeing my friendly waiters there, a table magically appears for us ahead of mobs of people waiting. The platter of meats and cheeses plus a bottle of local wine makes for the perfect dinner. Fredrico chats with us about his upcoming exams and we lend encouragement.

No encouragement needed to decide to end the ending at the Roxy Bar. I opt for a Montenegroni where they substitute Amaro Montenegro for Campari. MJ gets the Roxy, a bourbon and lime concoction. The night ends but the memories linger on.

A few days alone and then my friend Nick who I first met on Shirleyfest Berlin will arrive.

I really appreciate my readers and their many comments. It makes it like a conversation. If you want to comment, all you have to do is go back up and click the title of the post and a comment box will appear at the end of the article. You don’t have to sign in to leave a comment. Hope you do!

Until then!

6 thoughts on “Friends, Ferrara and Family

  1. What fantastic experiences you have! Italy is so enchanting and you really maximize your experience. Enjoyed seeing some of the things we saw 8 years ago (the same trip we had our wonderful visit in Rome with you). I so enjoy Shirleyfest. You even outdo Stanley Tucci in Searching for Italy and I love that program. Hope you make it to Verona too.


    1. I see you are able to comment. No one I talked to is seeing that ability. I sent screen shots showing all a reader gets is a “like” button and when they press it a log in screen appears but no comment box. In the past it was easy for people to comment. Please help get it back to that. Thanks!


  2. Thank you for a wonderful 4 days in Bologna. We had the perfect mix of sight seeing, eating, shopping and exploring. The food in Bologna was amazing. No state side mortadella or pasta will ever hold up! I loved how friendly and casual the people were. We met some really fun locals and I know you will continue to do so. Thank you for so much for including me in Shirleyfest Bologna!!


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