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Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore

23 Jan
Iconic symbols of the city, dating back to the 12th or 13th century, there were once as many as 180 towers.

Iconic symbols of the city, dating back to the 12th or 13th century, there were once as many as 180 towers.

We’re not in Kansas Roma anymore. We stepped off the train in Bologna (pronounced “bow-LONE-ya”) and I thought perhaps we had left Italy entirely. In fact it looked like we had arrived in a newly constructed airport facility, but we were in the new “High Speed Bologna Centrale.”  There was a noticeable freshness to the facility, good signage, wide walkways, no cigarette butts, and plenty of escalators: until we reached the end of the new facility and had to lug our cases up a steep flight of depression-era station steps.
Bologna's high-speed train terminal. Clean, bright, chairs available! We're not in r\Roma any more.

Bologna’s high-speed train terminal. Clean, bright, chairs available! We’re not in Roma any more.

The differences between Bologna and Roma continued to astound us. Beautiful porticoes dating back centuries separate pedestrian traffic from automotive. Clean streets, no overflowing waste bins. People walk in more-or-less straight lines and keep to the right except to pass. Oncoming pedestrians do not block the sidewalks: they make way for you! This is truly not like Roma, where walking down the sidewalk is like a game of chicken and when you swerve to avoid an oncoming body, you may very well step in dog poop. 
Bologna is a lovely city if not one full of E-ticket sites. Sitting in the bread-basket of Italy, it is known for its cuisine and we worked hard at sampling as much of that as possible.
Another notable difference in Bologna: little or no double-parking and no one parks in the pedestrian crosswalks. In Roma there is hardly a pedestrian crosswalk that has not been turned into parking.
We had lovely weather, so rather than spend time indoors, we took a phenomenal urban trek, the Percorso della Madonna di San Luca. This is a walk of about 4 km (2.4 miles), 2.3 km of which is steadily uphill. The walk is entirely covered by the famous porticos of Bologna, and is the longest continuous section of portico-covered walkway in the world. There are 666 arches. In that final 2.3 km, the altitude gain is a respectable 722 feet (220m), a workout indeed! We were impressed by the number of people doing the percorso on a cold but sunny Sunday. Afterwards we of course rewarded ourselves with a fine tagliere and wine, accompanied by a salad for the health of it.
Many run up the 2 km. to the sanctuary. Show-offs.

Many run up the 2 km. to the sanctuary. Show-offs.

Interesting view showing inside and outside of the extraordinary covered walkway.

Interesting view showing inside and outside of the world’s longest covered walkway.

Not only does the path go up over 700 feet in altitude over 2.3 km, there are in excess of 300 stairs. Ugh!

Not only does the path go up over 700 feet in altitude over 2.3 km, there are in excess of 300 stairs. Ugh!

A view from the sanctuary looking toward the mountains of Emilia-Romagna.

A view from the sanctuary looking toward the mountains of Emilia-Romagna.

If I had seen this view before making the trek, I might not have done it. :-)

If I had seen this view before making the trek, I might not have done it. 🙂

The food was great, although we like Ligurian and Sicilian food better overall. But the Bolognese are justifiably proud of the quality of food. We had four meals there and each was a winner. We did not research restaurants ahead of time, but merely wandered into what looked good. One cannot do that everywhere. Of course we – actually Ric – ate mortadella, which is the Bologna delicacy that has been transformed into the unfortunate American “bologna.” And so the Oscar Meyer song is now stuck in my head. (Personally I am not a fan of either the Bolognese delicacy nor the American lunch meat.)
A typical Bolognese "tagliere" or cutting board of assorted salumi.  Mortadella on the left.

A typical Bolognese “tagliere” or cutting board of assorted salumi. Mortadella on the left.

Street performers are everywhere in Italy. Bologna is the first place we have seen bubble blowers. Kids had a great time running after them.

Street performers are everywhere in Italy. Bologna is the first place we have seen bubble blowers. Kids had a great time running after them.

Aperitivi are a huge thing in Bologna, like in Milano. The cafes are crowded even in winter.

Aperitivi are a huge thing in Bologna, like in Milano. The cafes are crowded even in winter.

The only fault we found with Bologna is that it’s a little lacking in charm. The porticoes that are elegant also make for a sameness. (Actually there was a second flaw: people still do not scoop the poop.) We will be back in June on a trek through the area, heading to the hills outside of Bologna for some hiking. We’ll see what she’s like in summer when the trees and flowers are blooming!
N.B. – I have decided to use Italian city names from now on, therefore Roma and Firenze not Rome and Florence. I think it is rather bizarre of any language to change a perfectly pronounceable city name from the original language, an idiosyncrasy driven home to me when my hometown of St. Paul Minnesota was referred to as “Sao Paolo” by an Italian bureaucrat.
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9 Responses to “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore”

  1. Carol Spicer January 29, 2015 at 01:16 #

    Hey Laurel – I love the updates!

    Like

  2. Marcia Kakiuchi January 26, 2015 at 18:45 #

    It is amazing you can go to another city in the same country and it has a totally different ‘set of rules’ evidently (clean, neat…etc). The food pictures look lovely.

    Like

    • gooddayrome January 26, 2015 at 20:21 #

      Sí, Marcia! But Italy is not really one country: it is a collection of regions. Garibaldi famously said upon the unification, when Italy became a country in 1861, “We have created Italy; Now we must create Italians.” The food was great! It’s pretty darn great everywhere in Italy!

      *Laurel L. Barton* *Roma, Italia* http://www.GoodDayRome.com

      On Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 6:45 PM, gooddayrome wrote:

      >

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  3. lizbert1 January 24, 2015 at 21:16 #

    What a great introduction to Bologna! And very useful as I’m planning to go to Bologna next month! Great photos too! So where’s next?

    Like

    • gooddayrome January 25, 2015 at 07:05 #

      Hi Liz. Thanks for the comment. We are off to Montepulciano in February. Off-season, new wines released in January, no crowds (I hope!).

      Like

  4. Will McAllister January 23, 2015 at 17:43 #

    Hi Laurel. Glad you enjoyed Bologna. Yes, you’re right about the charm factor. But what it lacks in the tourist charm of Venice, Rome, Florence, etc., it more than makes up with the “localness” charm we enjoyed during our visit in October. It was also a great rail hub to tour many of the nearby towns. The annual Mortadella Festival was underway during our visit. Like you, mortadella/bologna is not my thing, although it was fascinating to see wheels of mortadella that were two feet in diameter!

    Like

    • gooddayrome January 24, 2015 at 18:24 #

      Hey Will! Now you’ve got Ric excited about the Mortadella Festival. We may have to go in October!

      Like

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  1. Of castles and kings | gooddayrome - January 29, 2016

    […] actually yielded to pedestrians in the crosswalks. Lovely wide sidewalks under substantial porticos reminded us of Bologna, last winter’s city trip. The wide piazzas and generous parks combined with tree-lined […]

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