Bologna was beautiful. It was bursting with individuality. It was the poor student that worked extra hard to earn her place in the upper circle. It was educated, well-mannered and humane.
EuroCity trains from Firenze to Bologna took 40 minutes. These require online reservation and costs an aching 70 Euros as it was trans-regional. Alternatively one could go by local trains, which were less frequent, much slower but wallet-friendly. There was a third option, one which we accidentally chose. We bought a local train ticket and boarded a EuroCity train. When asked by the ticket inspector to pay the supplements, we helpless shook our heads and explained we didn’t know the difference. I genuinely didn’t know the difference; everything on the ticket machine was in Italian. He inspected our wallets (thank god I have a habit of keeping my notes and coins separate) and sighed he would let us off with 8 Euros supplement each. Don’t do it, not everyone has puppy dog eyes like I do. (Ahem…)
Though Bologna was a mid-size city, it was still best explored on foot. We wandered down the busy main street and were tempted by some extraordinary-looking gelato. Instead of the usual ice cream counters, these gelati were stored in circular tubs, not unlike the ones for soup. Absolutely god-send. Silky soft texture, yet the air saturation was perfected to give the dense consistency.
We sat in the City Hall for a bit to cool in the shades.
Behind Fontana di Nettuno, which I love the jets of water oozing from 8 pairs of nipples, Piazza Maggiore was filled with chairs and a huge projection screen. It was a movie festival set in the open-air with San Petronio in the background; the could-have-been largest basilica was under heavy re-construction work. Not that it mattered since the interior was equally appealing with a miniature display of scientific discoveries. The audacity to cover the floor with marbled astrological signs and complex display of momentum, I felt like the next Dan Brown.
Under the porticos and graffiti-ed walkways, we accidentally turned into what seemed like a community centre. A group of worn down (or junkie) looking locals, mostly in their mid-40s, were queuing up for their free lunch. Since they didn’t seem too disturbed by our presence, we sat around.
Before stopping for late lunch, we saw the oldest university and boy did it look old.
I had a Focaccia con Procuitto, Mozzarella e pomodoro, drenched in olive oil, each bite was heavenly Italian. I couldn’t resist the temptation of ordering a cappuccino after 10:30am, and couldn’t help but notice the upside curl of the server’s lips. Ah well, I was a foreigner afterall.
Two coffees later, we returned to Via Rizzoli and climbed the 498 steps of Torre degli Asinelli, to mock the shorter brother Garisenda. I get to be the taller one for once. La Rossa.
As we walked further from the city centre, we came across this gelateria. The one this afternoon was awesome, this one was the most awesome, with more variety of flavours and an even silkier touch. I had another café while lazing around the parlour, was trying to wash down the food before dinner.
Dinner was well hidden in a side walk, about 15-minute walk from the Torres. Down the stairs from the modest entrance leads to dimly lit atrium, where it was decorated with rows of wines and nostalgic photographs on dark mahogany shelves. One wall was lined with extruding barrels, and the other was plastered with small photographs and sketches. We were served fried meatballs and breads as we studied the menu.
Seriously, there was a lot of food. Every dish was made with so much love, that I savoured every bite with equal amounts of love. I remember the lamb chops being pink and juicy with moderate amount of fat lining, heavily dosed in fresh herbs. I remember the house special pasta with chunks of mince beef was al-dente and wholesome. I remember the pastry box being fluffy and crispy and buttery but don’t remember what was in the box... Conversations flowed with the wine, laughter echoed as the piano was played, times flies when you are having a good time.
It was almost 10pm when we left the restaurant, we made way back to the open-air cinema in Piazza Maggiore. A sea of people sat in the dark as melodic Italian dialogues filled the air. Romance was lingering above the square. I started making up subtitles for the film, and thought it was a very good theme with a convincing plot.
It was well past eleven by the time we got to the train station. We sat there in the nightly breeze for at least a good hour before the regional trains took us to Firenze.