We visit Bologna at least once, every two months. It is a truly unique place for us. We would love to live in Bologna for a while, and we will, sooner than we think! As “small town” or “country” people, there are very few “real” towns, we mark as “liveable”. Bologna is an exception. I could probably write a small book with all the reasons as to why Bologna is so unique. I will only focus on a few at the time.
Our the most recent visit was during the “I tre giorni della merla”, when we also went to Florence. You can read our Florence story here. It was really cold in Bologna at the time, due to the mist, which settled around the town.
It was lunch time, when we decided to go on “a hunt” for something to eat. We went to a place called “Mercato delle erbe”– a true vegetarian dream. Well, we are not “true” vegetarians as we eat fish, but this time we sought only fruits and vegetables.
Tip: Are you renting an apartment in Bologna and do not want to spend a fortune on food? If your apartment has an equipped kitchen, you must buy some fresh fish or other “frutti di mare” and prepare it yourself! There is always a “lazy” option to just go to a restaurant, which will certainly not disappoint you. How about mixing of the two? Restaurant and your own cooking!
The fresh produce here tastes really good. I read somewhere that vegetables in Italy have soul, and that is probably the closest description I can offer. The colours, variety, freshness, and taste are really “something else”. No wonder so many people in Italy eat so many vegetables – it is a lot easier here.
When we left the market, we stumbled upon a new place. The name was “Le Sfogline”. It was a family run business which makes home-made fresh pasta. The lady who helped us was the owner, and she made you feel at home. There was no trying to push, sell, or anything like that. She genuinely helped us choose the best pasta for us. We spent a considerable amount of time talking about Bologna with her, what to see “away from the beaten path”. When the other ladies in the shop noticed that we speak Italian, they immediately joined in, and shared ideas as to where we can buy traditional (for the time of the year) desserts. Of course, we did just that later, and bought a few “small” pieces. We took a vegetarian pasta recommendation from “Le Sfogline”, and I can honestly tell you, that it was the best pasta we have ever eaten! No exaggeration.
Tip: Try not be shy, talk to locals in the shops! The worst that can happen – they will not understand you. However, if they do, they will share with you many interesting things. Italians are very skilful in understanding the most “broken” Italian! You will also be surprised by how much you could understand with just the basic knowledge of Italian.
We came back to the very centre at piazza Maggiore. We had “our” café very close by, and it was time to warm up with the real hot chocolate (Italian: Ciocolata calda). There was also one other thing, or secret, we needed to check.
Secret: Did you know that the Neptune statue originally had “a potent male symbol”? The catholic cardinal, at the time, ordered the sculptor to reduce it in size. In the end, the sculptor did make it smaller, but he played a trick on the cardinal. Viewed from the right angle, you will see it for yourself.
We needed a vantage point, and there is nothing better for this occasion than the view from the “Chiesa di San Michele in Bosco”. You can get here either by bus or like we did, walk your way up through the park “San Michele in Bosco”. It was a quiet place, and at the time, we were the only two people in the park.
You would have to position yourself by the map on the top of the hill and use the mist to your advantage. When we observed the skyline of Bologna, all tall buildings on the horizon were swamped by the mist. You could not recognize whether they were blocks of flats or towers. All of these looked as if all were the towers! When observed against the map below, you did not need much imagination to “see” how Bologna looked in the past. A really magnificent view.
Bologna’s hills are an area where you will find impressive mansions, quiet streets, and a different kind of life altogether. I will write a separate article about these, because it is a total contrast to the rest of Bologna. For now, I will only share some pictures.