Nov 7, 2010

Bologna: Meat, tortellini and flavor of Middle Ages

In search of a real Italian town not swarmed by crowds of tourists and still has an urban flair? Where Italians still sport their latest sunglasses and Louis Vitton bags while taking their offspring to school? Where you can enjoy food and wine and chic hotels? Well, you need not go far than Bologna in Emilia Romagna.  Bursting with art hotels catering to visitors of fairs and exhibitions that are the trademark of the city’s business, Bologna is a great place for a weekend getaway on its own. Since it is conveniently located between Florence and Venice, it can be an easy stop over on your way to either…it is also 70 km from Ravenna a UNESCO world heritage site of early Christian monuments. If you want to beat the crowds in Florence but still want a visit of Siena or San Gimignano, this  is also a viable option.

In Bologna's Piazza Maggiore, for the memory of those who lost their lives fighting fascism. 
Indulge in gorgonzola, tortellini and other yummy stuff in Via Drapperie's stores in Bologna.

Even if you do none of that, Bologna will make sure you eat and drink well. There are many opportunities to indulge in San Genovese wine and enjoy the birth place of tagliatelle or tortellini, modeled after the belly button of Venus…. But it is especially great if you are a meat lover, especially pork. I loved the Osteria de Poeti at Via de Poeti with its cellar and traditional cuisine.

Not particularly Bolognese but definitly one of the best Budino Amarettos I've eaten.

Piazza Maggiore at night with the Giambologna statute.

As discussed in Robert Putnam’s “making democracy work”, this is one of the most civic regions in Italy with strong governance. Being ruled by “reds” since the end of the war with the best institutional performance in the country, the town is clean cut. Piazza Maggiore, the heart of the city with arcades and windows is the main square. It makes you feel like you are still in the Middle Ages while at the same time being surrounded with 80.000 students at the 900 years old University of Bologna, the oldest university in the western world. The students give the town a certain vividness which manifests itself on Friday nights around cafes and bars of Via Zamboni while the elderly sip their wine at Via Clavature.

Arcades of Bologna.

Cafe Terzi in  Via Oberdan in Bologna.

The city has many symbols one of which is located next to Fontana Nettuno  in Piazza Maggiore: The Giambologna statute. Another is the Due Torri, two leaning towers. In the middle ages, there were more than 200 towers in the city but the city always has been represented by these two towers: Asinelli and Garisenda….another typical site in Bologna is the endless arcades which are 40 km long with a minimum height of 2,66 metres to allow a man on horseback to pass underneath. Walking beneath them especially under heavy September rain is a joy. Alternatively you can seek refuge in a corner bar and sip your prosecco. 

Cappucino at Cafe Terzi with chocolate on top.

If all you have drunk and eaten is not enough to give you guilt, lose yourself in the charcuteries of Via Drapperie: Tamburini, Gilberto or Simoni, all next to each other, although I am told Simoni is the better one. Indulge in packages of tortellini, gorgonzola, mortadella, salami and parmigiano. If you do not feel guilty enough, before you leave town, you must visit Cafe Terzi in Via Oberdan for the best cappuccino in town. It is worth being elbowed by fellow customers...