Tuesday, April 6, 2010

my bologna has a first name...

It's I-T-A-L-Y! Ha! Just kidding.

Saturday, Gillian and I took a day trip to Bologna, the capital of Italy's Emilia Romagna Region, a little over an hour north of Florence by train. It is known as one of Italy's gastronomic capitals, since it is the home of both Parma ham and Parmaggiano cheese, obviously two of the country's greatest culinary successes.

We got up super early (around 7 AM for me) to catch the cheapest train possible, which was due to leave at 8:35. Of course, when we got there 15 minutes early, the train was already sold out, forcing us to take the more expensive (though faster) train at 9 AM. We arrived around 9:30 and headed, mapless, toward what we hoped was the city center.

After rounding the first corner, we spotted a white tent...the market we were hoping to encounter? Not quite. Possibly even better.

A used book sale!

We both leafed through some random things for a bit. We ended up returning later in the evening to purchase a gag gift for Sam, and Gillian got a guide to Italy's restaurants. It only cost 1 euro, probably because it was published in 2002...no worries, though! We still knew most of the restaurants in the Florence section.
Then we found a set of stairs that led to a park...

Most of the statues were of animals being brutally killed and/or eaten by other animals. Cute.

We then stumbled into an ENORMOUS flea market, full of cute jewelry, old clothes, sunglasses, and enough bongs to make Amsterdam blush.

Typical Italian dog.

At this point, we have no idea where the city center is, so I caved and bought an ENORMOUS and totally overpriced map. It was the bane of our existence for most of the day, but we were able to map a route...barely.

Literally, maybe half of the map is showing in this photo.

We walked toward il Mercato Delle Erbe, which is Bologna's largest, and supposedly one of the best in Europe.

We eventually found it...

And fresh pasta! Bologna is known for its freshly made egg pasta, especially the tortelloni.

Of course, I bought some Parmaggiano-Reggiano cheese.

I personally prefer il Mercato Centrale here in Florence...it is much homier and less...fluorescent than the Bologna market. The Erbe market's stalls were more formal and technological, and I just missed the more agricultural feel of Florence's best market.
Next, we walked toward the city's historical center.
This is a "walk through" instead of a drive through, haha. Cracked me up.

King Neptune fountain, located in Piazza Maggiore, Bologna's biggest and most important square.

At this point, we were feeling a little hungry for lunch, so we walked in the general direction of one of the places that Gillian had oh-so-considerately written down before we had left.

I think you can figure that out, even if you don't speak Italian.

Of course, Italy likes to screw with us, so the place that Gillian had found recommended was either closed or shut down, so we walked into a trattoria that had its menu handwritten outside, which we have always found to be a good sign. We decided together on two dishes and then split them.

Tortelloni con panna e prosciutto

And tagliatelle con ragu bolognese
[Check out Gillian in the background, preparing her camera]

We were both huge fans of the tortelloni. The cream was very light and delicious, and the ham, obviously what the city is famous for, was amazing. I also really liked the tagliatelle, though it was a bit meat-heavy for both of us.
At this point, we decided to sample some of Bologna's other cuisine...namely, gelato! Sorry, no photo, but rest assured that it was delicious-looking, as well. We wandered around another used book shop for a bit, trying to find a cheap cookbook or any other interesting thing that could catch our eye. Then we decided to abandon the map and just...go.

We found this nice piazza, before retiring to a coffee shop to just sit, talk, and observe the very interesting population of the city. Bologna is home to one of the oldest universities in Italy (in all of Europe, maybe? Gillian?) so there were a lot of students, and some very odd tourists. We also saw our fair share of daschaunds and French bulldogs. After our subpar lattes, we returned to the used book fair to purchase the aforementioned items. We walked and walked some more, and decided to get a snack before our train.

We stopped at an osteria that Gillian had, again, written down before called Osteria dell'Orsa. I ordered a sandwich with mushrooms, cream, and brie and a glass of white wine, while gill had a couple of crostini. Neither of us was disappointed when we returned to our train, which departed at 8:18 PM.

All in all, a very relaxing and gastronomically pleasing day, though I will say that I was not blown away. I feel like if we had actually spoken to someone who had lived or studied there and gotten their take, we would have succeeded more at our restaurant-picking. Either way, a nice day with my great roomie...can't go wrong with that!


  1. I think it's the oldest in Europe...I'm pretty sure anyway...
    I love trips with other bloggers. LOVE the pictures of other people taking pictures. hehe.

    and i also love that sign.

  2. Did that mean Pee Here or Do Not Pee Here????No slash through it so it was a Pee Spot? Beautiful tour of Bologna.