Editor’s note – My narrative for our Italy journey is already out of sequence as I’m jumping ahead about a week or so into our Bologna adventures….but, I’ll return to the travels and the week in Cinque Terra and Lucca soon. Hang tight…and enjoy.
A few days traveling in Bologna
15 Oct ‘19, a cloudy and raining day in the city of Bologna.
Yesterday afternoon we arrived late in Bologna and decided not to take a taxi from the train station as so many others had decided the same. It appeared to be a 20 minute wait…and being impatient people, we decided to drag our bags the mile to the apartment. Bologna is an easy city to walk. Virtually every major and most minor streets have covered portico walkways aligning both sides of the streets. They’re amazing. Most have vaulted ceilings 25 feet high, are covered with marble walkways and lined with intricately designed columns. The road is on one side and the colorful, windowed shops on the other. It’s a treat to walk up and down the streets window shopping or seeing the old town.
The old town – wow! My first impression was to be overwhelmed by the gargantuan size of the piazzas and cathedrals, palaces and old buildings. Many stand right out of midevil Italy and are still in use today. Sprinkled throughout the old town are old towers. History books suggest there may have been up to 180 towers at their peak in the Middle Ages, time, reconstruction and age have left the town with around twenty of them. The largest and obviously most prominent is the Asinelli Tower standing at 97 m, or 318 feet is incredible. A few feet away is the Garisenda Tower (48 m), notable for it’s very rakish lean, one really wonders how it defies gravity and stays standing. Old pictures show another three towers, about 60 feet tall used to stand another dozen feet away. But, controversially, in the 1920s or so, they were torn down to build a more modern Palazzo, which still stands. Clearly, Bologna in it’s heyday was a town of means and magnitude. They did not skimp on grand construction designs as all the existing old structures are ‘over the top’ either in size, intricate design, or both.
Bologna appears to me to be much like a layered cake. The skeleton of the medieval structures forms its foundation and every generation since has layered its own contemporary designs on top. The old town is constructed of exquisite brick work and old timber, intertwined with filigree iron works. The newer parts of town are of marble, granite and glass. Today, it’s a mish-mash of old and new, all strung together with iron works and overhead bus power lines. The effect is a modern, active and elegant city highlighted by tradition and connections to the past. The streets are crowded with busses, cars, moped, lots of mopeds and even more bicycles. The covered particles burgeon with well dressed city dwellers and a smaller number of colorfully dressed tourist. This is an active, working town with the largest economy in Italy. It features the mega giant business like Ducati and Maserati.
The city’s hues are old dirt and mustard collars with burnt umber. They use the same colors as the Mediterranean villages but they just don’t have the glissioning glare or sheen, it’s all just Drab. However, when the sun pokes it’s head out the old structure bricks pick up a new shinning luster as the cement between the bricks reflects the light. The immaculate marble walkway sparkle when reflecting the sun. But, much like most of Italy, the town seems to be in need of a fresh cleaning and a paint job. I wonder if an entrepreneurial spirit, armed with a high pressure water pump could make a small fortune cleaning off the the eons of smog and grim that clings to all external surfaces. They could also make a sideline business in spraying down all the dog urine covering most of the building corners and gutters.
Yesterday we arrived in our rented apartment right in the heart of the city. Literally, we can walk out of the building’s front door and we’re across the street from the Piazza Maggiori, featuring the Neptune fountain and several of those massive medieval structures. After a quick shower, we walked the city alleys in search of the famed Bolognese cuisine in Italy’s most gastronomic city. We didn’t have far to walk.
Today, we shared a cup of coffee, then walked our separate ways, Ursula to explore the streets and shops, I to chronicle the town with hundreds of photos. We each ended up with about 10 miles a peace as the day ended. But, we met up for lunch and found another one of those hidden gems of a restaurant on a small, off the track, road. After a food-coma nap, we ventured out again into the streets for more mileage, more sites, more pictures and eventually ended up in the University district chowing down on an Italian food buffet. I’m not sure when the diet begins,,,but it needs to be soon. Part of tonight’’s entertainment was sitting in a piazza in the shadows of the two towers drinking beverages and watching a very good band get a citation from the police. It appeared as tho they received a warning for playing in public without a liscence (or so we imagined). After the policeman left, the band hung out for 15 miners and when it appeared the coast was cleared, they started up again with a little Doors melody. Literally, before the song was half way through, the police car arrived with lights on and citations ready. The band looked abashed and contrite as they tried to talk their way out of it. Italian street entertainment at it’s best. Afterward, off to the apartment to escape the rains. It was a good day in Bologna.