It always happens around week 3. I now know my way around logistically and can slip down back alleys to avoid the crowds. I know shopkeepers and restauranteurs and baristas. They call out to me when I pass by. Here is Lorenzo at my everyday 8 am coffeehouse Terzi.
I can easily grocery shop, buy stamps, get my hair cut, nails done, go to mass, and arrange for take out if I want it. All this inevitably leads to a growing thought in my mind……maybe I should move here! It happened in Melbourne. It happened in Montréal. It happened in Vienna. It happened in Amsterdam. You get the picture. But nowhere has this been more on my mind than Bologna. It truly is la dolce vita…the sweet life!
My new report starts with last Sunday morning when I get up early to take pictures of the city waking up. Turns out some people are up way before me as there is a marathon race in the city.
The route is right by city hall and the other early risers are couples getting married at city hall. Lots of couples. But unlike in the US where getting married at city hall means the couple and maybe two witnesses, each of the weddings I saw queued up had hordes of celebrants in the queue with them.
I cross over and see that mass is about to start at the Cathedral of Bologna. It’s a beautiful Baroque church constructed on a site where a cathedral has stood since 1028. I take my place and I’m astonished to see the large number of celebrants of the mass.
I have in mind the Michelin restaurant Osteria Bartolini for after mass and I am not disappointed. It is well known for its seafood so I go for the Taglioli al Ragu blanco di pesce….pasta with a mixture of white seafood in the sauce. The restaurant is gorgeous inside and also outside with a large garden to sit in.
Having had a large lunch, dinner is a perfect time to investigate one of Bologna’s four speciality sandwich shops that I’ve yet to try. There is Tigellino,Piadeina, Murtadella and Mortadella Lab. This one, Murtadella, sells a classic mortadella sandwich with burrata and arugula.
Monday I’m invited to tour the Università di Bologna campus by the delightful Vittoria. A gorgeous campus and beautiful views of the city. I mean it’s no Purdue …but it is beautiful.
I want to go to the Teatro Manzoni tonight to hear the Filarmonic. There are two featured performers, one playing the violino and the other the violoncello and it is rare to have this combination in this type of performance. Getting the ticket is hilarious. I go when the box office opens. They have a good seat, but they won’t sell it until one hour before the performance and I need a certain type of mask which I don’t have and they tell me I must go to the pharmacy and buy it. I do and I have dinner at one of my nice local places waiting for the hour before.
I come back 65 minutes before the performance and the ticket is no longer available( how did it sell if they only sell one hour before?) Ok I choose another seat which is fine. And now they are just handing out the required masks to anywho doesn’t have one. Ok. Why did I have to go buy one? I take my seat and there is a man next to me who tells me he has decided to come to Bologna for a month from Liechtenstein where he is a lawyer. Woah that is quite the coincidence I tell him. He says he has never done such a trip before and his only problem is he can’t figure out where to eat. Well maybe I can help I say…I have this thing called a blog with lots of restaurant ideas for Bologna. “How nice”, he says, “but I don’t read blogs.” Ok. I turn slowly away. At intermission there is no drinks, no food, nothing. Just people going outside to smoke. And guess how many stalls there are for the ladies bathroom…one! While everything so far about this night has been odd, the performance is quite good.
Tuesday I decide to get my nails done and I have discovered quite a posh salon near me. I find out they do it quite differently here. Instead of sitting in a chair and putting your feet in a water bath, you are on a recliner and they bring the bath up to you. Happy with my nails, I see if I can schedule a haircut. Yes they can do it shortly. I do my best to describe what I want to AB, that’s the name of my stylist, and I am super happy with how it turns out.
I head out to MAST, a modern art museum on the edge of town. It is a fascinating photography exhibit that explores the interface between photography and technology. It is funded by a nearby tech company and it is sleek and elegant in every way When I got tired of the exhibits, I was offered coffee on the patio. Everything is free here!
Back in the center I remember that Mortadella Lab is back from vacation and I head over to stand in line with the masses. No line! People must have forgotten they reopened. A picture perfect piled high mortadella sandwich.
Since I’m feeling lucky, I see if there is the usual line at Cremeria Santo Stefano. I’m lucky there too! I go for the fragola and limone.
It is a good thing I had these warm up food laps, because my friend Nick has now arrived by train from Verona and good eating is his speciality.
First stop is an aperol spritz and charcuterie at Simoni, where I know everyone who works there.
A tour about town allows Nick to get reacquainted with Bologna, although balloons in the Basilica are quite new.
We have a little rain shower in the afternoon. Come evening we head to Enoteca Al Risanamento in the university section of town. Octopus, sardines, and tuna salad are accompanied by several different local wines. Our waitress Giorgia is coincidentally friends with Giorgia from Enoteca Italiana which I discussed in my last post. Same name,wine bar..how funny.
Thursday we have an outing planned out of town, but first we visit the Pinacoteca, the National Gallery of Bologna. It is located in the former Jesuitical Novitate Convent and the building and the art are stunning.
Now we are on the train to a tiny town called San Giovanni in Persiceto just 20 minutes away. We walk from the train station thru the deserted town and come to our destination Osteria del Mirasole. We sit in the garden and Gary and Ricky help us choose delicious starters of a rare Culatello di Nero Parmigiana and an onion baked with pate inside.
Then comes tortellini alla panna and tagliatelle all ragu. As far as I can understand the cream in this dish is a closely guarded secret of the restaurant and not found anywhere else in the region. They have their own cows apparently.
We finish with a chocolate torte with marscapone cream. Seriously, it was Nick not me who insisted on dessert. Maybe.
All the while we are getting great wine suggestions to go with the food. It is a really lovely afternoon!
Back in Bologna we stop by the seven churches (Basilico Santo Stefano) and stay until we are shooed out at closing time by a sweet elderly gentleman. We get shooed right over to Ruggine bar for cocktails with our favorite bartender Alessandro before ending up at my home away from home pizza place, The Gallery. Once again Christian sends over drinks and we are very good and order a salad and one pizza to split! So to reward us, Christain sends over dessert.
Friday we do lots of walking and visit Villa Spada. The villa is closed but we hike thru the park. It is quite an oasis in the city.
We keep going and soon are at Nonna Rosa, a family run restaurant that has been recommended to me by Ela. We love the tables filled with families and we love the pasta and the veal cutlets. I meet Dino the owner and he brings over wine for the three of us to share. This just seems to happen to me all the time in Bologna. Such a friendly place.
Long walk back before we go out tonight for a multi course ( 11 courses) dinner at Sotto l’Arco. Funny thing— we took the bus there. It was a direct shot from my apartment and cabs are not that easy to find in Bologna. So we arrive via public transportation at this quite upscale restaurant. I’ll show you the pictures of some of the courses and if you have questions you can leave it in the comments. You know you are in trouble when the amuse bouche consists of 7 dishes that represent breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner.
Saturday arrives and we are set to pay homage to Pavarotti. His favorite restaurant (next door to his now museum) is outside of Modena. We train out and when we arrive—- no cabs— oh well- we are getting good at taking city buses to fine restaurants.
A lovely meal ensues and afterwards we meet the owner Cesare. He is actually out working in the gardens without a shirt and the staff brings him out a shirt so he can come in and talk to us.
Saturday night we get by with charcuterie from Enoteca Italian and see the terrific Giorgia again. We still haven’t had Cremeria Cavour gelato so off we go for that ( again no line…this is getting so strange). As we eat our gelato outside, a line forms that goes around the block.
We finish this week off with drinks and snacks at the Roxy Bar, across the street from my apartment.
Do you see why the title of this post is La Dolce Vita?
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