After a one-day interlude in Bologna back in 2005, we have always wanted to return to explore the city in depth. Something about the russet medieval buildings with shaded porticos, laid-back university vibe, and deep sense of time and place had made an impact. We were looking forward to our eight nights here.
I had booked an apartment on via Castiglione, a short walk away from the frenzy of Piazza Maggiore. After an easy series of train rides from Lugano, we met our keyholder (winded from her run across the city, as she had failed to hear there was a bus strike that day).The apartment is comfortable, though the air conditioning in the 85-degree heat was of a more Italian standard than American. Va bene. It's in an old palazzo, where you go through a series of gates and courtyard. Here's my review: http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/vr/review.asp?n=5575
We walked over to Piazza Maggiore, the enormous piazza that is the heart of Bologna, surrounded by Medieval and Renaissance buildings. We found the tourist office, and bought Bologna Welcome cards, which give free admission to many of the city's museums. The cards also entitled us to a freebie city tour, which was leaving in 15 minutes. Certo. Our tour guide gave an overview of the city's history as she sped us around the Piazza, and then through the streets surrounding. This tour is well worth doing for a basic orientation.
One of the highlights was going into the original University building to see the Anatomy classroom; and Larry had a blast in the Basilica of San Petronio with the huge solar calendar. On each sunny day, the solar image would sweep across the church floor and, exactly at noon, cross a long metal rod that was the observatory’s most important and precise part. The noon crossings over the course of a year would reach the line’s extremities – which usually marked the summer and winter solstices, when the Sun is farthest north and south of the Equator. The circuit, among other things, could be used to measure the year’s duration with great precision.
After our tour, we wandered into the small market area, and found a buzzy place to have some wine and a platter of salumi and cheese. We were the oldest people there, and the only ones not speaking Italian. Food and wine for 15 euros, a delicious bargain.
We walked a bit more, then headed down the street from the apartment to La Sorbetina, a gelateria with astonishing flavors. Larry had a rich chocolate with hazelnuts, and I had a fig-ricotta-lemon that was divine. We took our tired feet home.