Yeah, I’ve gotten a little behind writing here; I guess I was having too much fun with Dan & Laura, et al., to focus on this. We’ve already left Italy and I still have to write about Bologna, Venice, and Rome. Here’s a down payment on all that.
The basic plan for their two-week trip to Italy was to hit the three biggies: Rome, Florence, and Venice. Can’t go wrong there. But after planning for five days in both Florence and Rome, and three in Venice, there were still a couple days to throw in something else. Based on location and cuisine, Bologna won.
The train was everything we love about traveling in Europe: a quick 35-minutes on a high-speed train to travel the 65 miles. Barely enough time to get settled in before arriving in the capital of Emilia-Romagna and the home of what is, by some measures at least, the oldest university in the world. And then it was off to start sampling the food.Emilia-Romagna is something of a breadbasket for Italy and Bologna has a reputation for having some of the best food in the country. I mean, if a city called Bologna doesn’t just scream out great food, what does, right?
Emilia-Romagna is the name of one of Italy’s 20 regions. Where did that name come from, you might wonder. Well. Near the start of the second century BC, Rome built a road from Rimini – the terminus of the Via Flamina, connecting it to Rome – almost straight northwest to Piacenza; the road was named for Marcus Aemilius Lepidus who was Rome’s consul in the year it was completed. Given the area’s vast agricultural capacity it soon became one of the most important areas in the growing empire. And along that road grew a bunch of cities including Bologna, Modena, Reggio Emilia, and Parma. After most of the Western Roman empire had collapsed, Rimini was attached to the Eastern Roman empire, centered at Constantinople. And since the eastern empire was known to the conquering Lombards as Romania, the region became Emilia-Romagna
And what of Bologna itself? Definitely worth a stop for a day or two. The main basilica stands out in memory in part because the facade was never finished. Strange. And the University, founded in 1088, didn’t leave much of an impression, though the presence of so many students certainly gives the city a youthful feel. Mark & I walked around the area where it apparently is and rather than anything resembling a campus it’s just some buildings scattered among other urban buildings. The Museum of Bologna made a big deal out of anything having to do with Bologna. The city’s symbols are the Two Towers, both of them leaning. Naturally we climbed the taller one for great views over Bologna, but the shorter one leans so much you’re not allowed to climb it anymore.
The highlight, though, was the food. Their specialty is mortadella, the precursor of our bologna with the big difference that mortadella incorporates at least 15 percent of small pork fat cubes. Yum. One street right near the main square was chock-full of restaurants and bars serving huge portions of sliced mortadella along with other meats and cheeses. I’m not sure what the real name of the street was, but for us at least it was simply referred to as Meat Street.
That was it, a short stay in Bologna. Food at the top of the list of interesting things. Now off to Venice.