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June 18, 2007

bustling Bologna

Monday, June 18th
First a little more about my hotel. Hotel Porta San Mamolo is quite an interesting hotel. I had to pay close attention when shown to my room and later got lost a couple of times finding it. My room was on the second floor after walking through this maze of outdoor and indoor corridors. As I mentioned earlier, I thought there must have been a mistake as I asked for a single room, but this room was huge! There even was a couch in the room!! I was staying for one night but still there were tons of towels (the fluffy type) and soaps and shower caps, etc. The shower was wonderful and the bed was also huge!

I had been to Bologna a couple of times before; once on a day trip and once for an overnight stop. When making my itinerary this year, I thought about 4 days in Bologna but then decided on wanting one smaller place to stay instead of all cities (since my other stops would be Venice and Rome). I know that one night is definitely not “slow travel” but it would have been six hours and 3 train stops to Cortona and so I chose Bologna as my half way point.

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July 18, 2007

the Two Towers in Bologna

Monday, June 18th
Bologna is known for its food, its porticoes and its towers. At one point in history, many have said that there were up to 180 towers in Bologna although more recent studies now suggest that the number is closer to 80 - 100 towers. Click here to see a panoramic picture of Bologna in the 11th century. Less than 20 towers remain today.

The two famous towers in Bologna are the Garisenda Tower and the Asinelli Tower. It is pretty difficult to get both towers from top to bottom in one picture. I took this picture on my walk over to the towers from the main piazza in Bologna

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Both of the towers are leaning towers. The Garisenda Tower is shorter, leans more, and is not available for climbing. It is the tower pictured above on the left. The Asinelli Tower is the taller of the two towers, the tower I climbed, and the tower pictured on the right. I have read that there are 498 steps to the top. I lost count on my way up. It definitely was a challenging tower to climb.

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July 25, 2007

more of beautiful Bologna

For this post, I wanted to share more of Bologna. Leslie, I hope this continues to inspire you!! The following pictures are of the porticoes and the beautiful buildings and colors of Bologna.

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The next three photos were taken inside the Palazzo Communale, one of the buildings in Piazza Maggiore. I learned from Matt L.'s Everything Bologna travel notes that "the Pope had the stairs built with wooden planks at set intervals so that a horse drawn carriage (presumably his) could ride up to the second floor."

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This picture shows some of the colorful buildings you will see in Bologna.

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And finally, here is my amazing "single" room at Hotel San Porta Mamolo in Bologna!! Check out the couch!! AND look at all that space! A great find!!

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July 27, 2007

a few more photos of Bologna

The Basilica di San Petronio is the 5th largest church in the world. As you can see the top half was never finished. This makes it a rather unique church today.

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In this picture, you can see the sculptures by Jacopo della Quercia on the top of the main doorway, the Porta Magna.

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The next three pictures are of the Palazzo Communale, also found in Piazza Maggiore.

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Right next to Piazza Maggiore, is Piazza del Nettuno. This piazza is slightly smaller and opens up into Piazza Maggiore. Here you will find the interesting statue of Neptune.

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The following two pictures were also taken while in Piazza del Nettuno. I took the first picture earlier when all the scaffolding and workmen had the basilica roped off. The second picture is of the Palazzo di Re Enzo (Palace of King Enzo).

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July 28, 2007

food pics from Bologna

One more entry for Bologna and then I will move onto Rome. The food in Bologna is definitely one of the highlights of this wonderful city. Here are a few pictures that I took during my afternoon there:

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March 5, 2008

after Acqui comes Bologna

I always put myself through the same stressful process when planning a trip to Italy. I start out by thinking about the places I want to visit. I look at the train transportation options and connections and realize that my plan does not work. I then rework the order of the places and become more frustrated when the train transportation options continue to not work. I add new places, take out places, and try to rework the order again. At the same time, I check out hotel options and try to find flights that will work. I experience a few sleepless nights until my itinerary finally is set. I feel so much better once I have my basic itinerary in place.

This year, I had two definite locations in mind; Acqui Terme and Camogli (which I guess was not that definite since I am now staying in Santa Margherita Ligure). I thought about heading to either Stresa or Baveno after landing in Milan. I also thought about staying in Lucca and either Bologna or Parma at one point during my trip.

After looking at train schedules, trying to visualize lugging my luggage on and off trains, and remembering to do it slow, I came to my senses and realized that I needed to choose only three locations before heading to Zurich. I decided to start out in Santa Margherita Ligure and then to go to Acqui Terme (the train schedules worked best this way). The problem was trying to decide on my third location.

The logical choice would be the town of Como since it was a train stop on the way to Zurich. I have only been in Como twice, both times very briefly, walking from the boat dock to the train station; once coming from Menaggio and once from Bellagio.

My frustration with trying to plan a stay in Como was finding a good hotel. I also thought about Stresa and Baveno again even though the train routes were a little longer and more complicated. I have never been to the Italian part of Lake Maggiore. Like Sandra, I posted a question on the Slow Travel Italy forum to get input from others. I did not get any overwhelming recommendations for any of these three lake town options, and meanwhile, Bologna continued to tug at my heart.

I kept telling myself that logically I should head north to the lake region. To get a better feel for Como, Stresa, and Baveno, I went to the Italy Trip Report section on Slow Travel and searched each town. I read every trip report mentioning any of the three lake towns. Nothing really jumped out at me.

Bologna continued tugging. I did a search on trip reports on Bologna. Pedalaforte's, Bologna, Piedmont, late Nov. 2007, was the first trip report I read. Once I began to read the food descriptions (including gelato at da Gianni) on page four, my decision was made!! I started to imagine all of the gelato places I could try and thought about maybe even going back to Parma to have some gelato at K2. I not only thought of gelato, but also of all the wonderful restaurants I have wanted to try.

Food was my deciding factor and won out over a relaxing lake vacation.

My plan is to spend six nights in Bologna, staying at Hotel Porta San Mamolo. I spent a wonderful night at this hotel last year, breaking up a long train trip. My only other visit to Bologna was back in 2000, again only an overnight stay breaking up a long train trip. Each time was much too short.

I am excited to finally spend time in Bologna, to get to know this city a little better. I may possibly do a day trip or two while in Bologna. I have never been to Modena, and so that would be my first choice. I also may try to return to Parma or Ferrara, both places I have loved staying in during previous trips.

Because it is late and I am tired, instead of adding photos here, I will link a few of my previous blog posts with photos of Bologna from my trip last year:
*the Two Towers in Bologna
*more of beautiful Bologna
*a few more photos of Bologna

July 7, 2008

long travel day

Saturday, July 5th

Saturday was going to be a long travel day. Jan was driving to the airport to pick up a friend. I asked her while planning my trip if I could catch a ride with her to the airport. This way, I could take the bus to Milano Centrale and then the train to Bologna. My other option was to take the train to Alessandria and then wait 2 hours for a 3 hour train to Bologna. Jan's friend was arriving early in the morning and so we planned on leaving at 7am.

Jan knocked on my door at around 4 in the morning. At first I thought I must have overslept. She said that her friend's plane was delayed and so we could leave at 11am. I was glad for the extra sleep since my head was not a happy camper after the 2 glasses of wine. After a couple of tries, Italian wines just don't seem to agree with me unfortunately.

I finally crawled out of bed around 9 am. I went in search of coffee and then headed back to my room. Jan was out at the internet cafè and came back to the room soon after I returned. We decided to start packing up the car and leave a little early. We ended up leaving around 10 am. We got stuck behind a slow driver until we hit the freeway (I know it is called something else here but you know what I mean). The scenery was beautiful. The freeway drive was not as pretty but it was nice not being on a train for once.

Once we took the airport exit, we looked for a gas station. Filling up the gas tank can be in interesting experience. At our first gas station, the gas would not pump. We found a guy that seemed to work there or nearby to help us. He was very helpful. Because we did not have the appropriate card, we could only use euros. The problem was that the machine did not seem to like Jan's euros. After manh tried, the machine finally took 20 euros. That did not fill up the tank. We then tried to put in more euros with no success. Because Jan needed to fill the tank up, it was going to be a guessing game as far as just how many euros she would need. We finally found out that there was another gas station nearby that took credit cards. The second gas station was a breeze. It was a full service gas station where the guy that worked there pumped the gas and afterwards, Jan paid with her credit card.

The next stop was to return the rental car. This was a very stressful experience for Jan. First we came up to a spot where there were 3 different lanes going 3 different places. I did not see the turn in time and was not very descriptive in the correct lane. We circled again and took the correct turn. Then we saw the sign to turn left, but there was a machine that seemd to be like a parking ticket machine. We saw the car behind us trying to back up. Jan tried to do the same thing. I was so glad at this point that I was not driving and this confirmed for me to never drive to an airport. Jan finally was able to back up into the traffic but we then found out that we were in the correct place. She had to turn around and return, take the ticket and then put the ticket in the next machine. This made no sense at all. Once we parked the car, we went up to this little van with a window. Jan stepped on a big cement block and gave the woman the rental car papers. After a 3 hour journy, we we were on our way to the airport.

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July 10, 2008

daytrip to Modena (part 1)

Sunday, July 6th

My plan for Sunday was to travel to Modena. Why would I take a train the day after a long travel day? For a tower of course. The tower in Modena (Torre della Ghirlandina) is only open on Sundays for climbing.

After a wonderful breakfast at Hotel San Porta San Mamolo (they put on quite a spread with pastries, special cakes, cereal, yogurt, bread, ham, cheese, eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit as well as any type of coffee and I suppose tea you would like), I headed to the train station. The main piazza in Bologna was so peaceful after my 10 minute walk to the centro. The walk the rest of the way to the train station was a bit longer - about 20 minutes.

I saw this cool old porta (part of a wall with an entry way) as I was near the train station. I decided to walk through it. Ewwww, it smelled of urine (the area near the train station is not a great area) and while somehow not paying attention, I tripped on one of the stones and fell on my hands and one of my knees. Ewwww!!! All I could think of was the yucky urine that I was now probably touching! I got out my little bottle of hand sanitizer and squirted it all over my red hands. I then noticed that one of my toes was bleeding. More hand sanitizer on my toe and then a bandaid.

I used one of the automatic machines at the train station to by my regional ticket. I thought I would miss the train, but for once the train running late was good for me and I just made the train after validating my ticket. The train was full. The last stop was Torino for this train. I am not sure if more people than normal were taking the train because of the planned strike for Monday, or if this was normal for a Sunday in July.

After arriving in Modena and checking out my photocopy of a map I got from one of the Cadogan guides, I was on my way. Right away, I was confused since it seemed to me that I should be going one way, but there was a sign pointing a different way. I stopped and asked a very nice older man for directions. He confirmed that I should be going the way I planned to go. Perhaps the sign was for cars?

It didn't take long for me to fall in love with Modena. The colors of the buildings were quite similar to the colors of the buildings in Bologna and the architecture styles were also quite similar, but it was a lot less crowded than Bologna. On my way to the centro, I stopped at a bar to use the bathroom. This was my first "floor" bathroom of my trip (I believe the correct name is Turkish bathroom). The woman at the bar was very nice. I had an espresso before leaving and then continued on my way with the tower as my goal.

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July 11, 2008

daytrip to Modena (part 2)

Sunday, July 6th

Here is the rest of my day in Modena...

As I was leaving the Galleria Estense, I stopped to thank the woman and the two men who checked my ticket when I entered the museum. I thanked them and told them how much I enjoyed my visit. They asked where I was from. I said "Hawaii". The woman could not believe it. She kept saying "Hawaii?!!" in a very animated voice over and over. She could not even imagine what it would be like to live in Hawaii and started asking me all kinds of questions about what it was like to live there, the weather, the food, the beaches, the temperature, etc. etc. She then asked me what I did. I told her that I taught children ages 3 & 4 and that school started again in the end of July. She could not believe that we had school in August. She again said over and over "agosto?!!" She was so animated and just could not believe this.

We then talked about the euro-dollar difference and I said that now is a good time for them to travel to the US. One of the men wanted me to write down the difference between the euro and the dollar and then started calculating the cost if he traveled to the US. Next we started talking about different places to visit in the US.

And finally...the converstation turned to politics. It is so interesting how just about every person I have spoken to here in Italy is so interested in the US politics. At one point, they asked where Obama's mother was from. I told them Kansas. No one knew where Kansas was. I tried to explain and then thought of the movie, The Wizard of Oz. The conversation became quite animated as I tried to explain the movie, talking about the tornado and the house, and then everything in color, and finally Toto and clicking the shoes 3 times. The woman in one of the rooms in the museum who was working there and not so friendly, came over to us and said "SHHHH" very loudly with a grumpy face. She left, and we continued our conversation. They asked me to write down the name of the movie so they could look it up later on the internet. Once I wrote it down, they realized I was talking about "Mago di OZ". At that point none of us could even remember why we were talking about this movie. IWe finally remembered. I don't think they ever figured out where Kansas was located.

An hour had passed and I said that I had to leave to catch a train back to Bologna. I asked to use the bathroom first and had to walk by the crabby lady (there were only 2 other people in the entire museum when she came out to shush us). I smiled at her as I walked by her. She was not so friendly. As I left, I thanked them again for a wonderful time. They apologized for keeping me so long. I told them that it was not a problem for me and that I really enjoyed talking to them.

The walk to the train station was another 15 or 20 minutes. I then had to wait about an hour for the next train. The train station was packed. There was a huge crowd waiting for another train (everyone with luggage) and when I returned to Bologna, I could not believe how crowded it was. At 9pm until the following night at 9pm all trains and buses were going on strike (lo sciopero) and so I guess everyone was trying to travel a day earlier.

I was not able to figure out the bus schedules yet and could not find any Tabaccheria shops so I ended up walking back. My feet were soooo tired when I got back to my hotel 30 minutes later. Because it was Sunday night, many restaurants were closed. The hotel recommended Le Mura, an osteria across the street from my hotel. That sounded wonderful to me since I don't think I could walk much farther.

The restaurant or osteria was ok but not one of my favorites. First it was very smokey inside. No one was actually smoking when I was there but there was no air circulation and either the people that ran the restaurant smoked inside before the restaurant was open or the smoking right at the doorway left the smell. The menu was meat based. The waiter and perhaps the owner was extremely nice. He offered to make me some penne pasta with a tomato and cream sauce. I also ordered some grilled vegetables. The food was good but not anything to rave about but I was too tired to really care.

My day in Modena was wonderful. I definitely would like to return there again someday. Leslie, I thought of you and even re-read your posts about Modena before I left for Italy this year. I expected to like Modena, but I really did not expect to love Modena.

July 13, 2008

a walk up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca

Monday, July 7th

As advertised on the strike website I have been checking, in the train stations Sunday evening, and on the news, both the trains and the buses were on strike (lo sciopero). In addition it was Monday, so many of the stores and most of the museums were closed. I decided that it would be the perfect opportunitiy to walk up to Il Santuario della Madonna di San Luca (Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca).

A couple from Santa Barbara (who just spent a week in Bologna and had to hire a car to drive them to Ravenna since there was a train strike - bummer for them) were sitting in the lobby when I inquired at the desk on information regarding how long it would take to walk up to San Luca. The woman at the desk said it was only about a 10 minute walk to the start of the 666 portico arches to the top. The couple from Santa Barbara said they thought it would be a much longer walk since it took the bus they were on from the hotel 10 minutes to reach the start of the walk to the top. The couple from Santa Barbara was correct. It took me 45 minutes to reach the start of the 666 porticos and then 40 more minutes to reach the top. Of course I stopped often to take photos along the way.

The couple from Santa Barbara was also very helpful providing me information about where to catch a bus near the hotel. Unfortunately because of the strike, taking the bus was out, but it was helpful for me later during my stay in Bologna.

On my walk to the start of the walk up to San Luca, I saw a tiny yellow car. I first thought it was a Smart Car but then realized it was even smaller than a Smart Car. It was an electric car. Just as I was about to take a photo of the car, the woman, who I assume was the owner of the car showed up. I asked her if I could take a photo. She seemed pleased that I was interested in her car. After I took a photo, she showed me where the plug was and explained how she charged the car.

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daytrip to Florence & a wonderful lunch with friends in Empoli

Tuesday, July 8th

My plan for Tuesday was to take the train to Florence, spend some time there walking around, taking photos, and then take another train to Empoli to visit with my friends Francesco and Irene and their family and then after taking the train back to Florence, spend more time in Florence before heading back to Bologna for my dinner at Ristorante Teresina. I had not been to Florence since 2001 and have not seen my friends in Empoli for two years.

After breakfast, I asked the man at the hotel desk where I could find the bus stop for the 32 or 33 bus. He told me that I should take the 29 or 30 bus since it was much faster. I went in search of the stop for either the 29 or 30. I was close to one of the stops when the bus drove by. Because the woman at the bus info place did not mention that either of these buses went to the train station and said something about having to change buses if I took a different bus besides the 32 or 33, I decided to look for one of those bus stops instead.

Once I was on the busy road where the circolare buses traveled, I saw the bus stop. It was actually pretty easy to find. I was mad at myself for listening to the man at the desk because the bus drove by before I reached the bus stop and I would have made that bus if I just went to that bus stop in the beginning. Instead I had to wait 15 more minutes for another bus. My next problem was trying to figure out which stop to get off at on this bus since I was told that it did not stop right at the train station. I took out my map and followed along watching the street names. A couple got on the bus a couple of stops before the train station stop. That was a good sign since I figured they were getting off at the train station. After all my anxiety about not knowing what stop to get off at, it was very obvious when we reached the train station stop.

I joined the big crowd of people crossing the street when the walk light turned green. I went to one of the automatic ticket machine to buy my ticket. All the seats were sold out for the train I wanted and only 1st class tickets were available for the next train (just about all the trains to Florence were Eurostar – expensive trains). I bought my ticket and then waited. Since I was there, I also bought my ticket for Friday to head to Coccaglio.

The train ride was fast (1 hour). Because quite a few people were getting off the train in Florence, the line went back into the car. I ended up standing right in the doorway. At one point the electric door started to close on me. I was stuck in the door and couldn’t figure out how to open it. A very nice man pushed the button to get me out of the stuck door. I squished my way out of the doorway for the rest of the wait.

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a day of churches and a museum in Bologna

Wednesday, July 9th

I originally thought about doing one more daytrip while in Bologna. I wanted to visit Reggio-Emilia but after my two days on the train while in Bologna, I decided to spend my final two full days in Bologna. I was able to sleep in a little and not worry about the buses and getting to the train station to not miss my train.

Wednesday morning, I leisurely hung out in my room for a while watching Everyone Loves Raymond in Italian and then went down to breakfast. This was when another ewwww moment A man in front of me put his hand into the cereal bowl and scooped up 2 or 3 scoops (with the spoon right there in the bowl!!). Yuck! I was not even going to consider the cereal that day or while he was staying there. I don’t know what he was even thinking. He was not in his own house. It is not like there was no spoon in the bowl. Ewwwww!! Despite the ewwww moment, I once again enjoyed my breakfast. On this morning, there was a type of cake with strawberries and panna (whipped cream).

The first thing on my list of things to check out on Wednesday was to visit the Santa Stefano church. I had heard that this was a very beautiful church. As I turned a corner on a street nearby my hotel, I smelled urine and was not paying attention. I thought I stepped in a puddle of urine. I let out a little scream and looked down. What I actually stepped on was a dried leaf that sounded like it was a puddle. A man walking near me asked me if I was ok. I explained what had happened. He asked where I was going and walked with me part way. He was very nice and showed me the best way to arrive to the church on my map (although for once I understood the map).

I stopped in Caffè Zanarini for the bathroom and then a coffee. I went to the cassa (cash register) to see if I had to pay first. There was no one at the cash register. There was a very nice older woman also waiting to pay. I asked her if she knew if we had to pay first. She was such a delightful person. She joked about the fact that we had to pay but there was no one there to take our money. We chatted for a few minutes until the woman working at the cassa arrived. My caffè macchiato was excellent. At this bar, the barista also gave everyone ordering coffee a little glass of acqua frizzante (fizzy water).

I continued my way to the church of Santa Stefano. When I arrived, once again the sun was in the wrong place for good photos. I now have a theory that all churches were built in a certain way so that the sun will be behind the church in the morning. If this is correct, then planned visits to churches would be better in the afternoon if photos of the churches are part of the plan. Even though the sun was in the wrong spot, I enjoyed my visit to this church, which I later found out was a complex of churches (6 or 7 churches). It was almost like being in a museum inside. There were many rooms and courtyards. I explored all of the rooms and areas until the church closed at 12:30. The best part was again that it was all free!! The piazza where this church is located is also quite beautiful.

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my last day in Bologna

Thursday, July 10th

My plan for Thursday was to visit some of the museums in Bologna. The first museum I went to was the Museo Civico Medievale (Medieval Museum). It is located near the Piazza Maggiore. When I arrived, all of the doors were closed. The hours by the door stated that the museum should have been open. I tried opening the doors, thinking that perhaps the doors were closed to keep the AC inside. Neither of the two doors would open. I couldn’t figure out why the doors were locked. I then noticed a little sign saying that on Thursday, the museum would be closed for meetings. What luck!

The second museum I wanted to visit was the Museo Civico Archeologico (Civic Archaeological Museum). I was told that it was right near the Piazza Maggiore, but I couldn’t find it. I went into the tourist info office, to find out where it was located. A very nice woman was working there on Thursday. I told her that I knew that the museum was nearby but I just could not find it. She smiled and gave me the directions. It was located on a little street to the left of the Duomo. When I arrived, the man told me that it was closed because of a meeting. Ugh!! I could not believe I was in Bologna for 6 days and chose the day that obviously all of the museums were closed to visit the museums. The man told me that the Egyptian section of the museum was open even though the rest of the museum was closed. Although it was not as good as the Egyptian Museum in Torino, it was still interesting.

After leaving the museum, I hung out in the Piazza for a while. Creepy man number two started talking to me. I tried to ignore him. He continued to talk to me trying to use both English and Italian. It is times like these that I wish I knew a rare language that I could use so that it looked like I did not understand. I walked across the piazza, trying to get into the church. I was wearing clothing acceptable for church entries, but had my tiny backpack with me, which I sometimes use as a purse. I was stopped at the entry point being told no ziano (backpack). They would not even let a priest in with his backpack. What a ridiculous rule since my little backpack was smaller than many purses ladies were carrying. I have been in this church before so it was not a big deal, but it still was a little irritating.

Instead, I walked up and down a few of the streets where all the fruit and vegetable stands and some of the fish markets were located. As I was walking up one of the streets, creepy man number two reappeared. He started talking to me again. I ignored him and he finally left. I went into Tamburini to get some lunch. I bought a little plate of greek salad and a little plate of pasta salad. The greek salad was very good, but the pasta was mushy and not so good. I sat in the Piazza Maggiore eating the salad. It was a beautiful day.

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July 16, 2008

travel day to Coccaglio

Friday, July 11th

After finishing up some last minute packing, I brought my bags down to the lobby. One of the things I liked about Hotel Porta San Mamolo was the family type atmosphere there. When I walked into the breakfast room each morning, I was greeted kindly, usually by name, and by Friday they even knew what type of coffee I prefered. After finishing up my last wonderful breakfast at the hotel, I thanked everyone working in the breakfast room, and then went back to the lobby to wait for my taxi. I thought about taking the bus to save a few euros but then decided that the taxi would be much less stressful.

By Friday, I knew most of the people working there. One of the guys working that day asked me where I was going next. When I said "Coccaglio", he gave me a blank stare. He, as many Italians, had never heard of this little town. I told him it was located between Bergamo and Brescia. He was so curious about this town that he went on the hotel computer and searched on google maps. While he was on the computer, I went onto my blog on the computer for the guests and showed him the Coccaglio photos I had posted. We talked a little bit about Coccaglio and then the taxi driver (I think it was a driver the hotel used since he was not driving a regular taxi car) arrived. I said goodbye to everyone in the lobby area that worked at the hotel and thanked them all for a wonderful stay. The driver was very nice. The ride to the station was quick and cost 12 euros.

I arrived at the station a little bit early for my 10:16 train because I wanted to buy a ticket for my last journey (Rovato, the town next to Coccaglio, to Milan). I forgot to buy this ticket earlier. The ticket window at the train station in Rovato is closed on Sundays and it would be easier to have the ticket in advance rather than to try to buy the ticket on the train.

When I walked into the train station, the partenza board said that the Eurostar train I was taking was on time. I bought my ticket for my train ride on Sunday at one of the automatic ticket machines and validated my two tickets for the train ride from Bologna to Rovato in the automatic ticket machine instead of the regular little yellow validation box. The tickets were stamped in the middle instead of at the end of each ticket.

As I waited for my train, the dreaded "in ritardo" category had a 5 under it, meaning that the train was now arriving 5 minutes late. I was thrilled that the train was arriving on binario (track) 1 because that meant no stairs, but stressed that the train was now arriving late. I originally had 15 minutes and now only 10 minutes to make the connection in Milan. If I missed the connection, I would have to wait 2 hours for another train to Rovato OR buy a ticket to Brescia and pay 20 more euros.

I tried to find the board that showed the train makeup to figure out where my car would arrive. I couldn't find the train makeup board but did notice that there were little yellow signs with the carrozza (train car) and an arrow pointing to that area of the binario up and down the binario. That was a big help since the Eurostar is a pretty long train and if you are at the wrong end, it is a long run to get to your assigned train car or a difficult walk through each train with your luggage.

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August 25, 2008

climbing the tower in Modena

I went to Modena for the first time this summer. The main purpose of my visit was to climb the tower, the Torre della Ghirlandina. If you don't know already, I love climbing towers. I took the one hour train from Bologna on a Sunday morning (the only day of the week that the tower was open for climbing).

I was surprised at how fast I fell in love with Modena. The colors of the buildings were quite similar to the colors of the buildings in Bologna and the architecture styles were also quite similar, but it seemed more open, more peaceful and a lot less crowded than Bologna. I also have to admit that I was a little bit in "city shock" after leaving tiny Acqui Terme and arriving in bustling Bologna a day earlier. Later after visiting a tourist packed Florence, my opinion of Bologna changed. I guess it is all relative. In the end, I loved all three places and oh would I give anything to be in Modena, Bologna, or Florence right now. Lucky Palma, lucky Sandra, lucky Anne, all who are heading back to Italy and will be in one of these three places very soon.

I took tons of photos and have lots to share of my visit to Modena. I will start with my tower photos since that is what drew me to Modena in the first place.

After leaving the train station and stopping in a bar for an espresso and the toilet, I headed for the centro. My heart skipped a beat as I experienced my first views of the tower. I knew in advance that it was being restored and so I was prepared to see it covered.

This first photo shows what the tower would look like if it was not covered.
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I'm not sure who this guy is and what he did to get a statue but I thought it was a cool photo. **Updated by Leslie: Alessandro Tassoni - a noble and a poet, did good works around 1600 in Modena.
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Finally, the Torre della Ghirlandina
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August 29, 2008

the original bucket & the Palazzo Communale ~ Modena

After climbing the Torre della Ghirlandina, I visited the Palazzo Communale (town hall).

Stairway up to the Palazzo Communale:
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This is where the original bucket is kept:
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September 1, 2008

il Duomo di Modena

The Duomo of Modena is huge! It was impossible to get the entire church in one shot.

There was a mass taking place the first few times I attempted to go inside the Duomo. Each mass was packed. Finally the last mass of the morning ended. There was so much to see. In just 15 minutes, the workers started to close the church for the day. I wish I had more time to spend inside the church. Modena is definitely on my list of places to visit again.

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September 2, 2008

close up shots of the Duomo of Modena

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September 3, 2008

the elektrocar

While in Modena, I saw a sciopero sign at a bus stop attached to one of the poles where the bus schedule was listed. It was a strike notice.

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I was aware that there was going to be a national train strike the following day, but I was not aware that the strike would also include all local buses until I saw this sign. That meant that I had to rethink my plan for Monday (in Bologna).

My original plan was to walk up to San Luca.
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(Photo is linked to the San Luca website where this photo is from.)

After finding out that the buses would also not be running, I thought about changing my plan for the day. It looked like it would be much too far to walk by foot. The person at the front desk at my hotel told me that it was only an extra ten minute walk to the beginning of the 666 arches which lead up to San Luca. This is where the "do not try this at home" warning comes in, especially if you have been walking and walking and walking for the past two weeks. It was definitely NOT a ten minute walk.

As luck would have it, because I took that walk, I saw my first little Italian Elektrocar.

Not far from my hotel, as I started my walk to San Luca, I saw a tiny yellow car parked on the side of this little road next to the ring road. At first, I thought it was a Smart Car (my favorite car). As I walked over to the car to take a photo, I realized it was even smaller than a Smart Car. It turned out to be a very cool yellow electric car.

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Just as I was about to take a photo of the car, the woman, who I assume was the owner of the car, showed up. I asked her if I could take a photo. She seemed pleased that I was interested in her car. After I took a photo, she opened up the tiny latch, which I swear was made out of plastic, to show me the plug. I put an arrow where the latch is located because it is hard to see the latch in this photo. The tipped arrow is where the hinge is. The latch opens from the windshield side outward and obviously bends at the hinge.

As she opened the latch, I wondered if the entire body of the car was also made out of plastic. That is one mystery that I have yet to solve because I was not brave enough to ask her this question. As she pulled out the plug, she explained how she charges her car. I wanted to take a photo of the plug, but again was not brave enough. I didn't want her to think I was a crazy American obsessed with her car.

September 8, 2008

church of San Domenico ~ Modena

One of the first buildings that caught my attention when arriving in Modena was this vibrantly colored building located in Piazzale San Domenico:
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To the right of this building ~ the church of San Domenico:
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I find myself fascinated by so many of the church buildings in Italy. I loved the colors of this church. I would have liked to take a peek inside. Unfortunately the church was closed when I was there.

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September 29, 2008

my hike up to San Luca under the 666 portico arches

I finally organized my photos of my hike under the 666 portico arches to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (Il Santuario della Madonna di San Luca ) in Bologna. After a 45 minute walk to reach the beginning of the 666 portico arches, it took me an additional 40 minutes to reach the top.

The first photo (which I did not take) gives a good idea of the hike to the top.
It's a good thing I did not see this photo before doing the hike.
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(Photo is linked to the San Luca website where I found this photo.)

Because I had to stand on the sidewalk to take the next photo, I had a difficult time getting a good photo of the start of the walk. I decided against standing in the middle of the street and possibly risking getting run over.
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Photo of the first few arches of the walk ~ at this point, I am thinking, this is going to be an easy hike.
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September 30, 2008

inside the Basilica della Madonna di San Luca

First, I would like to share this plaque, which provides more information about this church (if you can read Italian). These informative plaques can be found all over Bologna.
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And now, I would like to give you a glimpse of the inside of this magnificent church.
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October 3, 2008

the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca

Here are my photos of the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (Il Santuario della Madonna di San Luca) in Bologna.

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February 8, 2009

dinner at Osteria al 15

I have been meaning to write about my memorable dinner at Osteria al 15 for quite a while now. This osteria can easly be missed since it is located on a quiet side street. Outside this osteria, you will find the only written menu.
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I was shown to a table in a little room up a few stairs. I think I remember there being five tables in this little area. A group of four American college girls studying in Bologna sat at one table and an Italian couple sat at another table. View of the entrance area from my table:
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After being seated, my waiter, who I am pretty sure was also the owner, started rattling off the menu items rapidly in Italian. Because I am always confused between the tortelloni or tortellini, I stopped him when he mentioned one asking him if it had meat. He asked me if I was a vegetarian. I said yes since I did not see fish or chicken on the menu outside (both of which I do eat). He recommended a few dishes to me that did not include meat.

I hesitantly chose the ricotta all’ aceto balsamico caramellato not knowing what to expect. OMG, it was incredible!!! Delicious ricotta cheese topped with a homemade combination of Modena’s expensive balsamic vinegar, honey, and caramel.
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I was also given a basket of some type of fried bread which I dipped in the balsamic sauce. Heavenly!! (this photo unfortunately came out a little blurry)
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For my primi, I had the tortelloni con burro e salvia, one of my all time favorite dishes.
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When the waiter returned, I asked him about the newspapers on the ceiling. He was very proud of the ceiling and told me a story about how the newspapers ended up on the ceiling. He and a few others (I forget exactly who now) saved all of the old newspapers and put them on the ceiling themselves.
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After telling me about the newspapers and the ceiling, he took me on a tour of the rest of the restaurant showing me some of the older pots and pans on a wall near the back of the restaurant, all of which he found at different outdoor markets.

When I returned to my table, he asked me if I was ready for dessert. Sadly, I had no room. I asked him if the osteria was open for lunch, hoping to stop by again so that I could enjoy another meal at this osteria and try some dessert. He told while pointing to his dark tan, that he was only open for dinner because he goes to the beach during the day,

I highly recommend Osteria al 15. Not only is fabulous food served at this osteria, but it is also a fun place to have dinner. The bonus for me was that Osteria al 15 was only one street away from the hotel where I was staying. I highly recommend this osteria for the food, the atmosphere, and for the kindness shown to the customers. I think about the times I have felt unwelcome as a single diner and have even been turned away because I was a single diner and then think about my wonderful experience at this restaurant. This is how customers should be treated everywhere. It will be tops on my list of places to return to the next time I am in Bologna. Thank you Amy for reminding me of this fabulous little osteria in Bologna.

February 15, 2009

10 things I love about Bologna

I decided to blog for the next few days or so about some of the reasons I love Bologna. I figured this would be a great way to help me come up with ideas to keep on blogging daily through the month of February. Blogging about some of the reasons I love Bologna will also give me a chance to share my love of this wonderful city with everyone.

For today, I leave you with my list...

The 10 things I love about Bologna:

1. The food

2. Torre degli Asinelli (Asinelli Tower)

3. The food markets

4. Gelato

5. The porticoes

6. Il Santuario della Madonna di San Luca (Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca)

7. Piazza Maggiore

8. The beautiful buildings

9. Santo Stefano

10. Museo Ebraico di Bologna (Jewish Museum of Bologna)

There is so much more to Bologna than my list of 10 things and I am sure if I spent a month or so in Bologna, my list would be much longer. There are many more wonderful churches in Bologna. I have only listed a few my favorite churches. I imagine there are many more wonderful museums also to visit in Bologna. I attempted to visit a couple of them during my last day in Bologna but unfortunately found out that there was some sort of official museum meeting taking place that day and all the museums were closed except for the Egyptian section of the Museo Civico Archeologico.

February 16, 2009

part 1 ~ the food in Bologna

The food!! ~ Reason #1 why I love Bologna.

I have eaten wonderful food all over Italy (well in 11 regions of Italy) and I have to say that one of my favorite places to find food that has blown me away with each bite is in Bologna.

To give you a little background about my taste in food, I don’t eat beef and pork (although I have occasionally been tempted to try a tiny piece of good proscuitto). Because I like to have at least a few options on the menu, I am more picky about the restaurants I like to eat at. I often decide against eating at restaurants famous for mainly meat dishes. Put ravioli or tortelloni con burro e salvia (butter and sage) on the menu and I will order it. I also love fresh pomodoro (tomato) sauce and a good pesto sauce (although you won’t find much pesto in Bologna).

I have been to Bologna four times now, although my first visit really doesn't count since it was only a quick two hour peek in 2000 while waiting for a train connection to Verona. I can't even remember what I ate while I was there. My first real visit to Bologna was a one night stay the following year in 2001 to break up the train travel from Rome to Coccaglio. My second visit to Bologna was again a one night stay, this time in 2007 to break up train travel from Coccaglio to Cortona. Last summer, I finally spent more time in Bologna, this time spending six nights. I was so excited to finally have enough time to try more of the amazing restaurants I had read about.

Back in 2001 during my one night stay in Bologna, I ate lunch at Ristorante Montegrappa da Nello (located at Via Montegrappa 2). I ordered the melanzane all parmigiana (eggplant parmesan) and the Fiori di Zucchini (fried zucchini flowers). It was so good that I returned to Ristorante Montegrappa da Nello for dinner. I don’t recall what I ordered for dinner, but I do remember ordering some sort of zuppa inglese or zabaglione dessert which was delicious.

Two years ago during my second visit to Bologna, again a one night stay, I enjoyed a very delicious lunch at Al Sangiovese (Vicolo del Falcone, 2), a wonderful restaurant just down the street from the Hotel Porta San Mamolo where I was staying. I ordered the spinach and ricotta tortelloni with burro and salvia (butter and sage) for lunch. It was so good that I returned there that night and ordered it again for dinner.

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Last year, I had two so so meals the first two nights of my stay. I returned to Ristorante Montegrappa da Nello for my first dinner in Bologna. I think there was a bit of miscommunication when I ordered because instead of being served the fresh pomodoro with penne I thought I ordered, I ended up being served half tortelline with the creme pomodoro sauce and half penne with the fresh pomodoro sauce. The misunderstanding turned out ok though because I ended up being served two types of pasta. The pasta was good, but not outstanding. I also ordered a caprese salad (mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil) which was just ok. I have had much better caprese salads in the past. I now have mixed feelings about this restaurant.

The second evening many restaurants were closed. My hotel recommended Le Mura, an osteria across the street. That sounded wonderful to me since I spent the day in Modena walking all day. La Mura was just ok. It had a smoky smell inside, although no one was actually smoking while I was there. The menu was meat based. The waiter who was perhaps the owner was extremely nice. He offered to make me some penne pasta with a tomato and cream sauce. I also ordered some grilled vegetables. The food was good but not anything to rave about. Then again, the meat dishes may be fantastic.

After two good but not great meals, I was starting to wonder about the food in Bologna. On Monday, I did the long trek to the Sanctuary I did the long trek to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca one day while in Bologna. I had a sandwich in a bar for lunch. If only I had known about Trattoria Meloncello, which is located near the start of the walk to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, I would have definitely eaten there for lunch. Make sure to read this review if you are heading to Bologna. The restaurant is given a 9.5 out of a 10 rating.

For dinner that evening, I decided to give Ristorante Teresina a try. Colleenk from Slow Travel wrote a nice review about this restaurant. Ristorante Teresina is located between the two towers and Piazza Maggiore right off the main street (Via Francesco Rizzoli) at Via Guglielmo Oberdan, 4. I was seated inside at a little table in the corner. There was also outside seating but I prefer eating inside now that there is no smoking inside and everyone smokes outside. This was the view of the tables across from me.

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Two very nice waiters took my order and brought me my food. I ordered melone (without the prosciutto) and then mezzelune ripiene di melanzane e formaggio caprino con pomodoro fresco e basilica. My melone (cantalope) was wonderful.

The mezzeluna pasta filled with eggplant and a type of cheese that I think came from sheep was incredibile! The photo does not do it justice.

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My dinner at Ristorante Teresina was the best meal I had so far during my entire stay in Italy last summer. For once at the end of my meal I had room for dessert, but I declined because I wanted to keep the taste of the mezzeluna pasta in my mouth for as long as possible. After I paid my bill, I told one of the waiters that my meal was so good that I wanted to make a reservation to return the following night.

The next evening, I returned Ristorante Teresina. One of the waiters smiled when I arrived. He said they were waiting for me and showed me to my same table. I ordered the mezzaluna pasta again along with the rabbit roll with rosemary.
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The food was fabulous. I ate much too much with my big lunch earlier in the day and had no room for dessert. When paying the bill, the waiter brought me some grappa. I thanked him but told him that I could not drink it because to me grappa tastes like gasoline (not that I have actually tasted gasoline). He was so nice that he then offered me some limoncella. After drinking my limoncella I thanked both of the waiters once again and headed to Piazza Maggiore.

Stay tuned for part 2 coming up tomorrow on the food in Bologna...

February 17, 2009

part 2 ~ the food in Bologna

Wednesday morning, after eating a very filling breakfast at my hotel, I stopped at the beautiful Caffè Zanarini for an espresso.

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Caffè Zanarini is located at the corner of Piazza Galvani on Via Farini. After paying, I ordered a caffè macchiato, which was excellent. Oh how I wished I had room to try one of the delicious pastries. I was very impressed that the barista gave everyone who ordered some type of coffee drink a little glass of acqua frizzante (fizzy water). I have not had this happen before, or at least that I remember.

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I ate at Caffè Zamboni (Via Zamboni, 6) for lunch. Caffè Zamboni is a fun little bustling caffè. I ordered a stacchino (a type of cheese) and rucola sandwich with a flat type of bread. It was very good and very cheap.

For dinner, I ate at Osteria al 15 (Via Mirasole, 13). I wrote about my wonderful meal at Osteria al 15 and posted some mouth-watering photos last week.

Thursday was my last day in Bologna. I went into Tamburini to get some lunch. Tamburini is a very cool gourmet delicatessen. I love walking through this shop looking at all the food. I bought a little plate of greek salad and a little plate of pasta salad. The greek salad was very good, but the pasta was mushy and not so good.

In the afternoon, I trekked over to Pasticceria Laganà (Via S. Stefano,112), a pastry shop Chiocciola recommended that is very well known in Bologna. I wanted to go there to buy some treats for my friends Katia and Guido. Pasticceria Laganà is located on Via Santa Stefano. Note… it is not located near the Santa Stefano church. It is located at the other end of this very long street. It is also closed in the afternoon, which I found out after my very long walk there. Since Laganà was closed, I stopped at a nearby gelateria (which I will talk about in my gelato post) before heading back to my hotel.

I returned to Pasticceria Laganà again in the evening, this time taking the bus to buy my pastries. Chiocciola was right. This pasticceria was amazing! The woman waiting on me was very kind. She helped me choose a few different types of tiny pastries that would not spoil while taking two trains to Coccaglio the following day. She even wrapped them up with a beautiful ribbon.

Then it was time to buy something for myself. There were so many wonderful choices. I had a very difficult time deciding because I wanted one of everything. I finally decided on a zabaglione pastry and a pastry with strawberries and whipped cream. The zabaglione pastry was very delicious and filling. The strawberry and whip cream pastry was even better. It was my favorite. It reminded me of the strawberry shortcake my mom used to make. I ended up eating both pastries before dinner! I was too busy drooling over all of the pastries thought to think about taking any photos.

I was now down to my last meal in Bologna (besides breakfast at my hotel the following morning). I couldn’t decide where to eat. Of course after eating gelato in the afternoon and then eating the two pastries before dinner, I was not very hungry. My grandmother always scolded me when I would eat dessert before dinner. She was right this time.

I walked around checking out a few restaurants I had listed as recommendations but in the end I headed back to Ristorante Teresina. It was my last night in Bologna and I wanted to make sure I would have a fabulous dinner. I knew that I would not be disappointed with the food there. I also knew I would be treated wonderfully at this restaurant. Here's a photo of the nice waiters at Ristorante Teresina.

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I ordered the tortelloni filled with ricotta cheese and spinach with burro e salvia (butter and sage). It was homemade and so delicious. I was much too full to eat anything else. After dinner, I waddled back to my hotel to pack.

I have barely scratched the surface, trying only a few restaurants in Bologna. I really need to go back and spend at least a month there to fully enjoy the delicious food of Bologna.

While planning my trip to Bologna last summer, I printed out the following two restaurant recommendation resources:

Rar's Everything Bologna (scroll down towards the bottom for the food section)

Slow Travel Emilia-Romagna restaurant reviews

February 18, 2009

torre degli asinelli ~ Bologna

Torre degli Asinelli ~ Reason #2 why I love Bologna.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love climbing towers. Bologna is not only known for its food, but it is also known for its towers. At one point in history, many have said that there were up to 180 towers in Bologna although more recent studies now suggest that the number is closer to 80 to 100 towers. Click here to see a panoramic picture of Bologna in the 11th century. It must have been amazing living in Bologna with all of these towers! I wonder how many could be climbed. I am guessing many of them, although probably not by the public. If you look carefully, you will notice that one of the towers in the photo looks like it is falling over.

Today, less than 20 towers remain in Bologna. The two most famous two towers are the Tower of the Asinelli (Torre degli Asinelli) or Asinelli Tower and the Tower of the Garisenda (Torre degli Garisenda) or Garisenda Tower. Both of these towers are leaning towers. The Garisenda Tower is shorter, leans more, is not available for climbing. The Asinelli Tower is the taller of the two towers and is the tower I climbed two years ago.

I was thrilled when I finally was going to climb this tower. It was one of the towers on my list to climb since 2000 when I first spent a few hours in Bologna. The Asinelli Tower is a very a challenging tower to climb. I believe there are 498 steps to the top although I can't confirm this as I lost count on the way up. I plan to write a post probably in March sometime about all of the towers I have climbed. I will talk more about how this tower compares to others in my future tower post.

If you want to learn more about these towers, Wikipedia has a nice article called "Towers of Bologna" and the New York Times has a Frommer's Review article called "Tower of the Asinelli (Torre degli Asinelli) & Tower of the Garisenda (Torre degli Garisenda)". You may need to subscribe to the New York Times for the second link to work.

After narrowing down my photos of the two towers and my climb to the top, I realized that there were still too many photos to post. I decided a slideshow (album) might work better. Some of the photos are from two years ago and some are from last year.

Torre degli Asinelli

February 19, 2009

the food markets in Bologna

The food markets ~ Reason #3 why I love Bologna.

Non ci sono le parole... (no words necessary)

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February 20, 2009

gelato in Bologna

Gelato ~ Reason #4 why I love Bologna.

My first gelateria experience in Bologna was at Gelateria Gianni (Via Montegrappa 11) two years ago. Gelateria Gianni just happens to be located close to the two towers. I went there as a reward after climbing to the top of the Asinelli Tower. I seem to remember ordering peach and coconut but can’t be sure. I do remember sitting outside the gelateria savoring every lick as I recovered from my tower climb. I returned to Gelateria Gianni last year, ordering mela verde and pesca (green apple and peach). I was surprised by how much I liked the green apple gelato.

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My second gelateria experience in Bologna was at Grom (Via d'Azeglio, 13). Grom is located just outside of Piazza Maggiore and was conveniently on the way to my hotel. I stopped there a couple of times during my stay, ordering nocciola and pistacchio (hazelnut and pistachio) both times. YUMMY!! The pistacchio was sooooo good at Grom! Check out this great link for more photos of Grom in Bologna.

My third gelateria experience in Bologna was at La Sorbetteria (Via Castiglione, 44). If Pasticceria Laganà was not closed when I arrived, I might not have gone to La Sorbetteria. After realizing that Pasticceria Laganà was closed, I took out my food notes and map of Bologna, trying to figure out where to go next. I remembered reading that La Sorbetteria was a very famous gelateria in Bologna and realized that this gelateria was not too far away from Pasticceria Laganà. La Sorbetteria was pretty easy to find. It was located halfway between Pasticceria Laganà and my hotel.

When ordering gelato, I usually order the smallest size cone (which comes with two flavors). Since it was my last day in Bologna, I decided to order the medium size cone at La Sorbetteria (which comes with three flavors). I ordered nocciola, pistacchio, and caffè (hazelnut, pistachio, and coffee). The gelato was wonderful!! I had every intention of taking a photo, but the cone cup my gelato came in had a leak in the bottom. It was a hot daynand the gelato was dripping all over the place. I ended up with gelato all over my hands. It was quite a sticky mess.

I have yet to try gelato at:

Stefino - via Galiera 49.

Gelateria delle Moline - via delle Moline 13.

Il Gelatauro - via San Vitale 82.

This gives me three more reasons why I need return to Bologna!

At this point, I can't really choose a favorite gelateria from the three I have tried. In my opinion, Gelateria Gianni, Grom, and La Sorbetteria all serve award winning gelato.

For more info on Gelato in Bologna check out:

Guide to Gelato in Bologna

Everything Bologna (scroll down towards the bottom for the gelato info)

Bologna Gelaterie (in Italian)

February 22, 2009

the porticoes in Bologna

The porticoes ~ Reason #5 why I love Bologna

From Pomodoro Viaggi:

Bologna is a city of porticoes, holding the world record of 38 km through the historical center. These are most impressive in the 3.5 km portico of S. Luca (the longest in the world) the porticoes of the Certosa, those of Via Mazzini and those of modern Bologna.

The origin of the porticoes is not certain but they were developed mostly during the 1200s. In fact in 1288 the Commune of Bologna made it obligatory for anyone who built buildings in the city to build porticoes as well; moreover the porticoes had to be a minimum height of 2.66 m to allow the transit of people on horseback.

I found two more interesting links on the porticoes of Bologna: Italy, The Porticoes of Bologna and The Unesco World Heritage site on The Porticoes of Bologna.

I walked under the 666 portico arches that lead up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca last summer and posted photos of my walk and these amazing portico arches back in September, 2008. Here's the link to my post: my hike up to San Luca under the 666 portico arches.


Porticoes in Piazza Santo Stefano:
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Porticoes in Piazza Maggiore
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February 24, 2009

the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca ~ Bologna

The Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca ~ Reason #6 why I love Bologna

The Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (Il Santuario della Madonna di San Luca ) is located south-west of the historical center of Bologna on the hill of La Guardia at almost 300 meters in elevation. After my long walk under the 666 portico arches, I finally reached this amazing sanctuary - the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca.

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View from the sanctuary...
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Instead of reposting more of my photos of the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, check out the two posts I did back in September/October 2008...

inside the Basilica della Madonna di San Luca

the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca

February 25, 2009

the heart of Bologna ~ Piazza Maggiore

Piazza Maggiore ~ Reason #7 why I love Bologna.

Piazza Maggiore is the largest piazza in Bologna. This piazza houses both the Basilica di San Petronio (church of San Petronio) and the Palazzo del Commune (city hall), as well as beautiful buildings with cafes, shops, and museums. These buildings were all built between twelve hundred and fourteen hundred.
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The Basilica di San Petronio is one of the biggest churches in the world. It was intended to be bigger than St. Peter's Basilica until the Pope at the time put a stop to it. The top half of the outside of this church was never finished.
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The Palazzo Communale not only houses the town hall offices, it also houses a couple museums, a place where you can get free internet access, a beautiful courtyard, and a cool stairway.
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Doorway leading to the free internet
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Cool stairway inside the Palazzo Communale (see the Everything Bologna link
at the end of this post for info on this stairway)
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Continue reading "the heart of Bologna ~ Piazza Maggiore " »

February 26, 2009

photos of the Basilica di San Petronio in Bologna

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There are very strict guards that stand at the entrance of the church by the bottom of the steps. No backpacks or large purses are allowed inside the church. They are very serious about this rule. I even saw the guards turn away a priest with a backpack! I only had a minute to take the second and third photos before they told me to move on. I was not allowed to take any photos inside the church.

February 27, 2009

the boy and the fountain

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March 2, 2009

beautiful buildings in Bologna

The beautiful buildings ~ Reason #8 why I love Bologna.

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Continue reading "beautiful buildings in Bologna" »

March 5, 2009

the Basilica di Santo Stefano

Santo Stefano ~ Reason #9 why I love Bologna.

Bologna is home to many beautiful churches. The Basilica di Santo Stefano is nicknamed the Sette Chiese (seven churches) because there were originally seven churches in this complex. You can see the comples of seven churches (1200-1600 d.C.) in the bottom right corner of this photo.

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Only four churches remain today. If you enjoy visiting churches, I would definitely recommend a visit to the Basilica di Santo Stefano. In this post, I will share some of my photos of the buildings (inside and out).

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Continue reading "the Basilica di Santo Stefano " »

March 6, 2009

treasures inside the Basilica di Santo Stefano

Yesterday I shared some of my photos of the buildings of the Basilica di Santo Stefano.
Today I would like to share my photos of some of the treasures found inside these beautiful buildings.

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Continue reading "treasures inside the Basilica di Santo Stefano " »

March 12, 2009

my favorite hotel in Bologna

Since mentioning the Hotel Porta San Mamalo a few times, I thought I would share some photos. If you don't mind a 10 minute walk to Piazza Maggiore, this is the place to stay when in Bologna. I am so excited that I will be returning there this summer!!

Entrance to the hotel
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My room during my first stay - I suspect this was a double room.
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My room last year
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View from my window last year
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The garden area where you can sit and hang out.
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TGIF tomorrow!!! Will catch up with everyone this weekend.

March 13, 2009

visiting the Jewish Museum in Bologna

Museo Ebraico di Bologna ~ Reason #10 why I love Bologna.

I have always had a fascination with Italy's Jewish history. During my visit to Bologna last year, I visited the Museo Ebraico di Bologna (the Jewish Museum) on Via Valdonica, 1/5.

When you arrive at this museum, you will find a locked gate and a sign saying to ring the buzzer. The ticket office is inside the building where the temporary exhibitions are displayed.

The day I visited, there was an exhibit of black and white photographs by Robert Capa from 1948-1950 of Israel displayed. I enjoyed spending time looking at these interesting photographs. Searching the web, I found this link with many of the photos which were displayed in the museum when I was there.

After spending time looking at the photographs, I paid 4 euros to visit the permanent exhibit.
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The permanent exhibition is located in the building next door. You are given a set of headphones to use while visiting this part of the museum. Inside the permanent exhibit there are 4 short narrated films along with information on each wall. The films are about the history of the Jewish people, the Jewish religion, the history of the Jewish people in Bologna, and the history of the Jewish people in Emilia Romagna. I enjoyed all four films along with the information on each wall. Although it was a very small museum, I spent quite a bit of time there.

*Edited March 14th - forgot to add this screen shot of the layout of the museum (from the Museo Ebraico di Bologna website)
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If you have any interest in learning about the Jewish people of Bologna and Emilia Romagna, I would highly recommend a visit to this museum. Photographs were not allowed inside the museum.

This is a photograph of a few buildings in the area near the museum.
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This summer, I hope to visit more museums in Bologna. The museums were closed on the day I attempted to visit last year due to some sort of museum employee meeting. If you are planning to visit Bologna, check out this informative website, which contains information on many of the major museums in Bologna.

July 12, 2009

arrival in Bologna

Sunday, July 5th:
After a frustrating train experience in Lucca, my train ride from Firenze to Bologna was very pleasant. I sat across from a very nice girl who was traveling in Italy with her family for the first time.

When I arrived in Bologna, the train station was bustling.  The city of Bologna however seemed almost deserted as the taxi drove me to my hotel.   Hardly any cars on the main streets and most of the sbops were closed.  Taxi drver was nice. The farw cost €8.50.    

As I checked into my hotel, before even being asked for my passport, I was surprised with a very thoughtful gift from Sandra.  Thank you!! :)

After checking in, I unpacked and then went out to hang out in Piazza Maggiore (the main piazza).  I realized that I did not have any lunch. It was a little too early for dinner so I headed over to Grom and ordered my favorite combination there - caffe and pistacchio. Interestingly, without even asking, the woman put the caffe gelato on the bottom (in Firenze, the woman insisted that the caffe had to go on the top).  The gelato was heavenly.

On Sundays, many restaurants are closed, including the restaurant I had hoped to eat at.  Allessandra, one of the verykind women who worked at the front desk at my hotel recommended Zerocinquantuno (051).  This is a new place that opened just three months ago, located right next to the Duomo in Piazza Maggoire.  It is more of a bar but there are also few dinner choices on their menu.

I ordered my favorite tortelloni burro e salvia & a caprese salad. The prices were very reasonable for a place right by the main piazza with great views. 


The bells started to ring while I waited for my food.  An older Italian couple sat at the table next to me. The woman asked me where I was from. They were amazed that I traveled so far and all alone. We had a nice conversation during dinner. My food was just ok. The service was good and the view was wonderful.

I was tired after a long train travel day. I went back to my hotel after dinner and hung out in my hotel, watching TV.  

July 13, 2009

a tour, a protest, and an eye-opening movie

Monday, July 6th:
I am really happy with my hotel in Bologna. You can't beat the great price I managed to get for being so centrally located. I do miss the breakfast though at Hotel Porta San Mamalo and the cofee there as well as the people who work there.  I found the breakfasts to be just ok at Hotel Orologio.  There is a big selection, just not many of the foods I prefer to eat in the morning. The one thing that did stand out however was the blood orange orange juice. Wow!!  Sooo delicious!!

I am always hesitant taking tours as I don't do well in large groups.  The latest thing is giving everyone little iPod like devices while the tour guide speaks into a microphone taht is hooked up to the little iPod like devices.   I saw one huge tour group while I was in Bologna where the tour guide was givibg some facts about a building and much of the huge tour group was still half a block away!  

Sandra told me about a tour of Bologna  offered at the tourist info point.  Cost is only €13 and the groups are usually small.  I decided to take the tour at the beginning of my stay so that I could investigate new places I learned about more in depth later on.  Two other people besides myself signed up for the tour Monday morning. The tour started at 11am and ended at 1 pm.  Simona was our tour guide. I had hoped for Emilia, who Sandra raved about but the tourist info point did not know the schedule of the tour guides and since I could not be sure when or if Emilia was conducting any tours the week I was in Bologna I took my chances Monday morning.  

Although Simona waa very informative, she seemed to be in a rush and did not seem to welcome questions. I also found it odd that she did not ask us where we were from, if this was our first time or even first day in Bologna, etc., especially since there were only three of us.  She even ended the tour ten minutes early and rushed off somewhere.  Despite thr rushed presentation, I am very glad I took this tour.  I learned many new things about Bologna.

After the tour ended, I went to see one of the oldest porticoes the tour guide told us about. I ended up getting lost. I wandered around for a while, finally figuring out where I was.  

By this time I was hungry. I remembered the wonderful piadina like sandwich (more like a wrap but not rolled) that I had last year at Caffe Zamboni.  Caffe Zamboni is located near the two towers heading towards the university area. When I arrived I saw the same thing I ate last year in their see through display along with a few other varieties of panini. I think it was called stracchino e rucola. The tables were all full so I ordered mine porta la via (to go).  

As I sat on a bench by the towers and peacefully ate my sandwich, a group with a big sign, drums, and a guy with a microphone marched by. They were obviously protesting something. As they turned the corner, they stopped. They started protesting more loudly and a crowd gathered. My curiosity got the better of me, so I got up and walked over to the crowd while continuing to eat my sandwich.

As I turned the corner, I saw a group of police standing in a line dressed in riot gear.  I could hear my mother telling me that I should get far away from this protest right away but at the same time, this was far too interesting an event to leave. I made sure that I was standing in a spot where I could easily escape, put my sandwich back in the bag, and grabbed my camera.  I think you eill enjoy the shots I took. I wonder if they will work for one of the upcoming PhotoHunt posts.

After taking a few photos, I moved back towards the towers. The protest lasted about 30 minutes. You coukd really see how the protest was blocking all the traffic when atnding near the towers. Buses were stopped and taxi drvers and cars were all stuck in grid lock. I asked a girl that was also watching if she knew what the protest was about. As she began to tell me what she thought it was about, this guy sitting nearby butted in and started speaking rapidly in Italian telling the girl his opinion of what the protest was about. 

I picked up about 50% of what he was saying. From what I gathered it was about some law that was just passed, also it was about the upcoming G8, and for good measure, he added that Berlusconi was crazy. I told him how sorry I was that Burlusconi was still in and mentioned how lucky we are that Bush is gone and we hav Obama now. He smiled and congratulated me. He then asked where I was from which led to another whole conversation. At one point he asked me if I needed a room as he had rooms for rent. That was my cue to leave.  I later found out when watching the news and reading the paper the following day that a similar protest (same signs) took place in many of the major cities in Italy and from what I understand only the protest in Torino resulted in a few arrests.

That afternoon, I spent one hour searching for a gelateria called funivia, which was recommended by our tour guide.  I thought she said it was in or near Piazza Cavour.  I never found it but I did visit the beautiful church of San Domenico that I also visited last year.   I still had gelato on the brain. I returned to Grom and decided to go out on a limb and try some new flavors, lampone and pesca (raspberry and peach). The raspberry was fabulous.  The peach was good but did not compare with the prach I had in Montelupo one summer.  

Monday evening, I met a different Simona, a friend of Katia's I have met a few times in Ciccaglio and Rovato for dinner.  Simona even joined us for a bike ride once aroind the little island on Lake Iseo.  Simona is living in Bologna for the summer for her work.  She also brought along two friends.  All three have only been in Bologna for about a month.  

We met at Neptune's fountain in Piazza Maggiore and decided to go out for a pizza.  They did not have any pizzeria in mind.  I told them that my tour guide recommended a place nearby. Of course I had no clue exactly where it was located. We finally found it after walking around for about 20 minutes.  The restaurant pizzeria is called Scalinatella.  The owner was very nice. We all had a wonderful time. 

We ordered pizzas and then desserts.  I thought that the food was very good. One Simona's friends is from Naples. He seemed to enjoy his pizza but did say that it was nothing like the pizza in Naples.  The desserts were all Southern Italian desserts. I can't remember the exact name of mine but it was delicious.

After dinner, Simona and her friends headed home.  I walked back to Piazza Maggiore and the movie Food, Inc. was playing.  Both in Bologna and in Lucca, chairs are set up for the duration of the nightly movie events. The only difference is that the movies in Bologna are free.

I arrived about 10 or 15 minutes after the movie started.  The piazza was packed. Not only were all the chairs filled, but people were sitting on the ground, on the stairs of the church, and standing all around.  The movie was ib English with Italian subtitles. 

In my opinion, every person in the US should see this movie and be aware of what has happened and is happening to our food.  I sat there wondering just what all of the Italians were thinking as the movie played.  The piazza was so quiet you could hear a pin dropa throughout the movie.  While watching the movie, I was grateful that for at least the next few weeks, I would most likely be eating fresh, safe food. I am not looking forwasrd to eating in the US again. At least Hawaii finally has a Whole Foods as well as a few other health food stores where the food more likely will come from safer sources.  I can't say the same though for restaurant food.

Please excuse all of the typos. I am back to blogging using my iPod Touch. I can't deal with the hotel computer and it is too difficult to go back and proofread since the scroll bar doesn't appear.

Thanks again for all of your comments. I do intend to go back and answer some of your questions once I have the time and am back on a normal computer.       

July 15, 2009

mosaics in ravenna

Tuesday, July 7th:
Tuesday morning, I decided on a daytrip to Ravenna. I spent a couple of nights in Ravenna many years ago and wanted to go back to see the mosaics once again, this time with my digital camera.  

In the morning, I went to the tabacchieri (spelling?) and bought two tickets for the bus. The hotel told me that I should catch Bua A, which goes directly to the station and stops across the street from Neptune's statue. The bus arrived soon after I arrived.  I am always nervous that I will miss my stop when taking the bus. I asked the driver if he would tell me when we got to the station. It ended up being pretty obvious when we arrived at the station. 

Once inside the train station,  I bought my ticket at one of the automatic ticket machines.  I was early and had time to go find the information office where I was told I could find out about the planned strike on Sat/Sun.  

I validated my ticket for my train ride so that I would not forget and then went into the information office. Fortunately my train vocabulary in Italian is pretty good as the information guy spoke rapid Italian. When I asked him about the train strike scheduled from Saturday night until Sunday night, he told me that the train strike was today (Tuesday)!  Another train strike?? I told him that I had just bought and validated my ticket. He told me not to worry. The strike did not start until 12:30 and would only last for four hours.  I guess that meant I would becstaying in Ravenna until late in the afternoon.

I asked him again about the Sat/Sun train strike. He had no knowledge of it but asked someone else when I told him that I read about it on the Italian train strike site.  He asked the guy working next to him.  The other guy had heard about the strike.  Together, they looked at the computer and found the info on tge strike and then told me that nothing was planned yet and they had no information.

The train ride to Ravenna was about 80 or 90 minutes.  I had an old map with me.  The map along with the signs kept me from getting completely lost. There were signs to the tourist info office, which I headed for first since it is located near the Basilica di San Vitale.  

I asked the woman to circle all the important sites on the map. That along with info from both Sandra's & Judy's recent blog posts about Ravenna guided my day. I basically visited the usual suspects along with an extra Battistero Sandra wrote about, the Domus dei' Tappeti Pietra, and an extra church, which at first I thought was the Basilica di San Apollinare Nuovo. I will add the list of what I visited and in what order later when I return home. 

Sometimes my poor map reading skills work out well. Most of this church was destroyed during World War II. Inside the church were before and after photos.  I took a photo of the photos to share. 

During the middle of my wonderful day of mosaics I stopped for lunch at Ca' de' Ven. I ordered pesto pasta with pecorino cheese, a piadina, and grilled veggies.  

My one screw up was not shopping at the raved shop everyone shops at while in Ravenna. I did peek in this shop (forget the name at the moment) but I was there at the beginning of the day and did not want to carry anything around all day. After visiting the last church, I was already close to the train station and did not want to walk all the way back to the shop again.  I was worn out from a long day of walking and my foot was still bothering me.

The train I wanted to take was scheduled to leave five minutes before the four hour strike was over. I had no idea what the situation would be when I arrived. I waited in line to buy a ticket and asked the woman about the strike and if the next train would leave on time. She told me that there really wasn't a strke.  I left Ravenna about 4:30pm and arrived back ib bologna aroind 6pm. 

I realized that I forgot to find out where to catch the bus. There are tons of bus stops scattered about at the train station.  I went to a couple of stations and asked. No one knew where Bus A stopped. I can't remember how I finally figured out where the stop was located. I had to cross the main street, which can be a little tricky. I was so tired, I really wanted to be back at my hotel. As I waited for the bus, I saw another Bus A stop right in front of the station. I realized the that I could have caught the bus there (although in my Thurs. Bologna blog post, I will tell you what happens when you catch the bus there).

Around 7 or 7:30 pm while in my hotelvroom, I heard something happening in the piazza.  I looked out my window but could omly see a group of police and woman singing (she often set up a little portable sound system and sang in the early evening).   I went out to check it out.  

By the Neptune statue (the one spot I could not see from my window) there was a huge group filling up almost the entire area chanting, singing, waving flags, and a few people were playing drums. Everyone was wearing either blue and red shirts or matching scarves. There were also a few signs and banners.  

It did not look like a political protest to me, especially since there were people of all ages there and the police did not seem very concerned. My guess was that it had something to do with soccer (calcio).  Especially since at one point the smoke like colored fireworks appeared. The first time I saw this in the middle of a crowd was during the World Cup semifinal in a piazza in Torino. The police ignored the fireworks that night also.  

The following day I found out that it was a protest against the current mamager or president of the Bologna soccer team or club.  I took some video to share when I get home.   

For dinner Tuesday night, I tried to get a table at Ristorante Teresina but I arrived too late and they were no available tables. I did not see the waiters that waited on me last year. When I went back to my hotel to ask for recommendations of restaurants which would not require a reservation, I was told that the hotel has heard more mixed reviews of Ristorante Teresina this year.  

I asked if Trattoria da Mela, a place Sandra mentioned, was very far and if I would need a reservation there.  Sara, one of the very nice people working at the hotel  called to make one just in case and then walked out of the hotel with me and showed me where the restaurant was located (just around the corner from the hotel).

I ordered a pizza bufalina (pizza with the delicious bufala mozzarella cheese). For dessert, I walked over to Grom and oredered my favorite caffe & pistacchio combo.  

After dinner, I went to check out the movie playing in the piazza. It was an old western. The seats were all full and it was cold outside.  I decided instead to go back to my comfy hotel room and watch Juno in Italina on TV.

I am really glad I returned to Ravenna to see the mosaics again. They were just as amazing the second time around.    

slug day in Bologna

Wednesday, July 8th:
I slept in Wednesday morning. Once up, I went to check out the food markets. There is a new Eat Italy in the area where the food markets are located in Bologna.  I went inside to have a look around.  Interesting place.  Various foods for sale, part bookstore, and also part caffe with drinks and food to eat.  

After wandering around the food market area, I went back to my hotel and had a long discussion at the hotel desk about gelateria choices. The owner or manager of the hotel was also there and joined in on the discussion.  I was told that the gelateria in Piazza Cavour had the best gelato. I asked if the name of this gelateria was Funivia since that was the gelateria I spent an hour searching for on Monday. I was told that it was called Gelateria Cavour. 

I had to check it out. On the way I stopped in Caffe Zanarini and had a delicious little pastry and a caffe macchiato.  Piazza Cavour was a block away.  I was skeptic that there was a gelateria in this piazza since I could not find any ther on Monday but indeed there not only was was a gelateria but it was called Cremeria Funivia!  I guess it is also referred to as Gelateria Cavour by some who live in Bologna.  

Cremeria Funivia is a large gelateria. The gelato is made right there and the flavors are kept covered similar to Grom rather than displayed. There is a large selection of flavors available.  The caffe flavor has chocolate mixed in with it (migraine trigger for me) so I ordered nocciola and pistacchio. 

In my opinion, the nocciola was outstanding, probably one of the best I have had. Grom however has Cremeria Funivia beat for the pistacchio.  I meant to go back to Cremeria Funivia to try more flavors but ran out of time.

Now that I had dessert, it was time for lunch.  I returned to Eat italy and ordered a pomodoro, mozzarella bufala, and basilico panino.  Outstanding!

After lunch, I went to the Museo Civico Medievale. Free and closing in one hour. It was a fun museum to walk through with some interesting things to see.  I took photos which I will post later. 

I was feeling pretty sluggish. I hung out at my hotel in the late afternoon and took a long nap.

I had dinner at Cesarini, located in the beautiful Piazza Santo Stefano. I ordered spaghetti with clams and a mixed salad. Both the service and the food were very good. Another western movie playing in the piazza. I decided on an early night instead.  

Tomorrow -Reggio Emilia and Parma.

August 1, 2009

"entertainment"~ PhotoHunt

PhotoHunters

This fountain in Piazza della Vittoria in the town of Reggio Emilia, Italy...
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provided two little girls entertainment.
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The two little girls provided me with entertainment.
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The Teatro Municipale Valli (by the fountains) provides the people of Italy as well as visitors to Italy entertainment.
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Another view of the Teatro Municipale Valli
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One more view of the fountains and Piazza della Vitttoria
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For more photos of the fountain, the Teatro Municipale Valli, and Piazza della Vittoria in Reggio Emilia, check out this link.

August 5, 2009

daytrip to Reggio Emilia

My last detailed trip post (besides posts about my return home) was during the Bologna part of my trip.

Continuing on with trip posts while staying in Bologna…

Thursday, July 9th:
After a low key day on Wednesday, Thursday was going to be a daytrip day. My plan was to visit Reggio Emilia in the morning and possibly continue on to Parma (about 15 minutes further by train) in the afternoon. Reggio Emilia is not a very popular tourist stop but it is very famous for its early childhood education. I went to Reggio Emilia without any notes and no set plans. I only brought an old map of the town that I picked up a few years ago at the Informagiovani in Coccaglio where Katia works

I discovered an even closer bus stop for the A bus on Wednesday while walking around Bologna that was located right next to the church in Piazza Maggiore. Thursday morning, I bought two bus tickets at the nearby tabaccheria and then walked to the bus stop by the church. I waited only a few minutes before the bus arrived. I took the bus to the train station, bought a train ticket from one of the automatic ticket machines, and took the 9:30 regional train to Reggio Emilia, arriving at 10:08 (notes I kept/I don't have that good of a memory).

It is a good thing I had an old map with me because the tourist information office is located in the center of the town. I would have never found the centro, which was about a 10 minute walk without a map. Even with a map, I had to ask for directions to find the center twice.

I had no idea what I would find in Reggio Emilia. The area right by the train station seemed like a mini Chinatown. I say this because most of the signs were written in Chinese. As I walked towards the center, the buildings reminded me somewhat of some of the buildings in Modena.

The first piazza I came upon in the centro area of Reggio Emilia was Piazza San Prospero where the Basilica di San Prospero is located. It was market day in Reggio Emilia and Piazza San Prospero was full of stalls selling various items. Because of the piazza being full, it was difficult to take one photo of the entire church.
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After visiting the inside of the church, I continued on to Piazza Prampolini. I loved the view of the roof tops heading towards Piazza Prampolini.
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According to my map, the tourist information office was supposed to be located in Piazza Prampolini next to this interesting church.
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When I walked into the building where I thought the tourist information office was located, I was told that the office moved to a building just outside of the piazza.

There was also a beautiful clock tower in Piazza Prampolini.
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As I walked towards the correct tourist information office, I took this photo looking back towards Piazza Prampolini.
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Continue reading "daytrip to Reggio Emilia" »

August 9, 2009

onward to Parma

Thursday, July 9th:
The train ride from Reggio Emilia to Parma is only 15 minutes. With the train running 10 minutes late, I arrived in Parma at 1:35. I was starving! I considered eating lunch in Reggio Emilia but couldn't pass up having a meal in Parma. The tour guide from Bologna recommended a restaurant in Parma called Sorelle Picchi but I forgot to look up where it was on the map and gave up looking after about 10 minutes. I was concerned that many of the restaurants would be closing soon and I did not want to miss out on a sit down meal in Parma.

I remembered eating at a wonderful restaurant near the Duomo. As I headed up a little street behind the Duomo area where I thought the restaurant was located, I saw this cute little restaurant called Ristorante La Forchetta.
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It turned out to be a fabulous choice! I ordered tortelli di zucca alla parmigiana (little ravioli filled with pumpkin and covered in butter and parmesan cheese). As I took my first bite... WOW!!! Incredible!! The homemade bread was also soooo delicious! It was one of the best meals I had in Italy this summer. The only complaint I had was that I was so stuffed after eating the tortelli and bread that I had no room for any dessert.

After I rolled out of the restaurant, I had a little time to kill before everything opened up again at 3. Perfect time to take some photos. I headed straight for the beautiful Piazza Garibaldi. The Palazzo del Governatore with its very cool astronomical clock is one of my favorite buildings in Parma.
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After taking a few photos in Piazza Garibaldi, I walked back to the Piazza del Duomo.

Continue reading "onward to Parma" »

August 13, 2009

exterior of the Baptistery of Parma

The pink and white marble octagonal shaped Battistero or Baptistery of Parma was designed by Benedetto Antelami, who was director of works from 1196 to 1216. Benedetto Antelami was one of the most important sculptors of the late Romanesque period Italy. The Baptistery was completed in the Gothic style in either 1260, 1270 or 1307 (the information I have read cites different completion dates). Does anyone know the correct date?

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Below are more photos of the exterior of the Baptistery of Parma, including close ups of the sculptures above the three doorways.

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Continue reading "exterior of the Baptistery of Parma" »

August 14, 2009

interior of the Baptistery of Parma

I am blown away every time I visit the interior of the Baptistery in Parma. It is my absolute favorite baptistery in Italy. I find it even more beautiful than the two amazing baptisteries covered with mosaics in Ravenna.

The inside of the Baptistery of Parma contains 16 sides and 16 arches forming alcoves. Sixteen rays come out of the center of the ceiling, corresponding to the 16 arches. The cupola was influenced by Byzantine concepts. The 13th and 14th century frescoes and paintings in the baptistery were perhaps not true frescoes. According to Wikipedia, the paint started coming off of the walls and literally hung on. Due to this, the Baptistery had to be painstakingly consolidated and restored with syringes and spatulas.

Yesterday, I posted photos of the exterior of the Baptistery of Parma. Today, I would like to share both photos and a short video of the interior of the Baptistery of Parma. When taking the video, I spun around twice (obviously a little bit too fast - but you can pause if you get motion sick). If you have not been to Parma yet, the Baptistery of Parma alone is reason enough to visit Parma someday.

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August 25, 2009

side trip to the park and ride

Thursday, July 9th:
(Continued from my last post about my visit to Parma)...

When my train arrived back in Bologna, the skies were dark. I was tired after a long travel day and after a lot of walking and I did not want to get caught in another rainstorm. I was thankful that I had a bus ticket and knew just where to catch the bus (or so I thought) so I did not have to walk the 20 minutes back to the center of town.

As I walked out of the train station, I had this bright idea to catch the bus that stopped right in front of the train station instead of crossing the busy street and walking a few feet to the left to catch the bus that I took on Tuesday that I knew headed back to the center. I figured the same A bus that stopped in front of the train station headed in the opposite direction was probably close to the end of its run and would naturally turn around once it reached the final stop like a loop and head on back to the center. WRONG!!

Panic started to set in. The buildings started to disappear and the scenery no longer looked like part of the city. Where was I headed? Finally after about 10 minutes, the bus pulled into a park and ride type parking lot. Everyone got off the bus and headed towards their cars. The driver also got off the bus! Oh no! Why oh why did I not cross that street and go to the bus stop I went to on Tuesday.

I had no idea where I was other than most likely somewhere in Bologna. I got out of the bus and went up to the bus driver (who was now smoking a cigarette) and asked him if another bus was coming soon or if this bus was going back to the centro. He told me that either the bus or he or both was on a break (can't remember exactly now and I might have also misunderstood) and the bus would not be going anywhere for 10 minutes.

So here I waited wondering both if the bus would indeed be heading back to the train station and if the bus would be departing in 10 minutes (knowing that time in Italy is not always an "exact science").

This was my lovely view...
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A few minutes later a second bus drove up. This bus was empty except for the driver and what appeared to be his girlfriend. My bus driver knew both of them and they all started chatting away. As I waited, I noticed the second bus driver walking over to the toilets. He put a coin in the slot, walked into one of the two doorways, immediately walked back out (my guess was that toilet was disgusting), and then walked into the other doorway. I hoped at that point that I would not be there long enough to need to use one of the toilets myself.

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I was not dressed for the cooler weather and goosebumps (or chicken skin as we say here in Hawaii) started to appear. I went back into the bus and waited. My bus driver followed me into the bus (with his cigarette still lit) and decided to strike up a conversation with me. He wanted to know where I was from, if I was traveling alone, etc. etc. (the usual questions). Even though I knew chatting would pass the time and I am usually always happy to practice my Italian, I was not that happy breathing in the cigarette smoke that was now filling the bus. I didn't have much choice though. I did not want to appear rude as he was my only way back to the center and so I chatted.

Ten minutes finally passed and just as it started to rain the bus driver started up his engine. Yay!! On time!! As we pulled up to the bus stop that I should have gone to, the bus driver (who now seemed to be my buddy) asked me which stop I was getting off at and then proceeded to keep me informed as we traveled up Via dell'Indipendenza towards the centro. I really did know just where my bus stop was but since I made the silly mistake of taking a bus going the wrong way, the bus driver probably thought I had no idea where my stop was.

The bus arrived at my stop 10 minutes after leaving the train station (and 30 more additional minutes after taking a little side trip out to the end of the line). I thanked the driver and said goodbye.

Moral of the story… don’t take a bus unless you know just where it is going. I was very lucky that I was not stranded. I was also lucky that this bus driver turned out to be very kind.

After taking a hot shower, I ventured back out into the cool rainy weather and enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Divinis thanks to Sandra. She told me about this great farro dish that she ate there while in Bologna. I ordered the same farro dish - Insalata di Farro con Melanzane al Forno, Ricotta fresca e Pomodorini la Menta (farro with eggplant, fresh ricotta, tomatoes, and mint). I only wish I discovered this place earlier in the week.

Despite my little side trip to the park and ride, I had a wonderful day visiting Reggio Emilia for the first time, visiting Parma once again, and eating fabulous food! Oh how I wish I was there right now!!

August 31, 2009

fish market in Bologna

One of my favorite things to do in Bologna is to hang out watching the action at the fish market. There are actually a few fish markets close by but the photos below are of the one that seems to be the most popular. I was lucky on Friday (my last full day in Bologna) to be able to hang out and take lots of photos. The people working there seemed proud that I was so interested in their fish.

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September 2, 2009

last full day in Bologna

Friday, July 10th:
I woke up to chilly weather with clouds moving in. After eating breakfast at my hotel, I headed out to enjoy my last day in Bologna (prepared this time with my raincoat).

First stop was a visit to the Museo Civico Archeologico di Bologna.
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Next, I stopped at Caffe Zanarini for a caffe macchiato and hung out in the delightful Piazza Galvani gazing at the Luigi Galvani statue and the frog. During the tour of Bologna that I took earlier in the week, I learned an interesting fact about this statue. Luigi Galvani is not looking at an ordinary book, but a book with a frog, which represents his study of frogs. I remember spending time in this piazza last year and even though I admired the statue and took a few photos, I never noticed the frog!
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Then, I headed over to the food market area
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and hung out at the fish market for a while (see previous post).

I was starting to feel my last day blues, not wanting to leave Bologna so soon. There were so many choices but I was having a difficult time deciding what to do for the rest of the day. My original plan was to climb the Torre degli Asinelli but I was only going to climb it if the skies were clear to enjoy the view since I have climbed this tower before.

I also was beginning to think about lunch. I enjoyed my farro salad so much the night before that I thought about returning to Divinis but was waiting to hear from a friend of Katia’s that I had dinner with earlier in the week. We talked about having lunch together.

While I thought about what to do with my last day, the sun started to peek out from behind the clouds and it started to warm up a bit. Yay!! Sunny weather after all. I went back to my hotel to change and then walked over towards the Torre degli Asinelli.

On the way, I checked out the strange artwork (in my opinion) that was attached to a couple of the towers in Bologna as an outside summer art exhibit.
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(The photo above was taken on Saturday - it came out better than the photo I took on Friday)

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October 30, 2010

"dark"~ PhotoHunt

PhotoHunters


Bologna in the dark...

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Happy Halloween!!

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