Here’s where we wrap up the trip (yay!). My purpose in writing these posts is to have a record for my own later reminiscence and also to help friends and associates with their future travels. My experiences were really in no way unique, and I’m hardly an authority on travel. However, I had a damn good time and want to help other people find the places that contributed to this (and avoid the places that I could have done without). I hope this ends up helping even one person make decisions that lead to incredible experiences in what is (arguably) one of the greatest nations on Earth.
We stayed at a placed called 6 di Casa Marconi on Via Marconi. This location was pretty excellent, as we were a 10-15 minute walk from the train station, very close to the Duomo and the major sights of Bologna. Also, the B&B itself was quite nice with a quiet seventh floor location in a rather nondescript office building. Lots of IKEA furniture, awesome bathroom, nice breakfast, and friendly staff. It was a great place to stay and I’d recommend it to anyone I know.
Bologna is known as THE food city in Italy. Everyone there takes great pride in this, and you will eat as you never knew possible. Our first meal in Bologna was at an adorable restaurant called Da Bertino (via della Lame 55) that was recommended to us by the manager at the B&B. I ordered artichoke risotto (because it was vegetarian), and the waitress drew herself up and said sternly, “You are in Bologna…you eat tagliatelle bolognese…tortellini…risotto is for the north!” Her tone was not condescending or angry, but rather, full of the pride that she and generations of Bolognesi have in the outstanding cuisine of the region. I smiled and ordered a tortellini al panna, and she approved. We ate like kings, topped the whole thing off with zuppa inglese (Italian trifle), and knew we were exactly where we wanted to be. We also had amazing meals at Trattoria Giannia (via Clavature 18), Osteria al 15 (via Mirasole 13), and Trattoria Trebbi (via Solferino, 40). If you find yourself with some time and room in your stomach, try the gelato at Gelateria Castiglione (via Castiglione 44).
After gorging like this, you certainly need places to walk to burn off the extra 4500 calories you ingested, no? A few favorites:
- Piazza Nettuno is kind of in the center of everything, and has a really cool fountain and tons of people. It’s a nice place to sit and watch people, puppet shows, and left-leaning soapbox orators.
- Gastronomic Quarter is THE place to go for foodies (or to buy gifts for foodies back home). Amazing cheeses, meats, breads, pastries, pastas, fruits, etc. Amazing everything! I bought an “etto” (100 g) of cherries and walked from the GQ back to our hotel eating cherries and spitting the pits in the gutters and drains. Good times!
- The walk to Basilica della Madonna di San Luca is long, but worth it! It’s about 6.5-7 miles round-trip, and it gets hot in the summer, but the experience was cool. You file through 666 porticos, weaving your way through Bologna and up to a hill on the outskirts of town.
- Climb the Asinelli Tower to get a lovely vantage point over Bologna.
- Basilica di San Petronio is one of my most favorite churches in all of Italy (and, by extension, the world). It’s just gorgeous, and there was a lot of attention paid to the design. Well worth at least a half hour of exploration!
We also took a side trip to Ravenna, and I’ll say this the only way I can…you MUST go. The mosaic work is phenomenal, and it makes for a great day trip. I’d suggest going on Sunday when everything in Bologna is closed, but any day of the week will work. The whole town can be done in less than 8 hours (less than 6 if you rush), it’s walkable, and the people are nice. It’s a rather short train ride from Bologna to Ravenna, so there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t go!
We stayed at a cute hotel called Hotel Alba very near the Po River. It was certainly not fancy, but it was clean and in a good location. We were within 10 minutes of the Piazza San Carlo, the Egyptian Museum, the Mole Antonellina, and the Piazza Vittoria Veneto (the largest piazza in all of Italy).
Turin is perhaps one of the least Italian cities we visited (you’re an hour from the French border), but they are quite proud of the fact that they were Italy’s first capital. It was a beautiful city with lovely architecture, lots of culture, nice people, and great food, and I’d go back in a heartbeat. A few highlights:
- The Egyptian Museum: The second best collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts aside from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Having been to both, I’ll say that Turin’s is way nicer and better organized. We spent a few hours there and enjoyed every minute of it. There was so much fascinating stuff, and all of it was nicely labeled. The Statue Hall is one of THE coolest things I’ve ever seen in a museum. It seems a bit odd to go to an Egyptian Museum in Italy, but trust me, you absolutely need to visit it.
- Cinema Museum: Another odd way to pass the time on an Italian excursion, but it’s the best museum I’ve ever visited. I like movies, but I wouldn’t call myself a film buff by any means. However, this museum inspired me so deeply by showing me the rich history and artistry of film. The highlight of the museum is the temple hall in the center, where there are “chapels” dedicated to different types of film. They are truly one of the most imaginative things I’ve ever seen. The design is based on cathedral architecture, with a main nave and chapels off to the side, with the logic that film is (and will replace) religion. The chapels dedicated to experimental film and cinema of the absurd were two of the most interesting, but all of them were charming and intriguing. Again, definitely make it here if at all possible. If it came down between this or the Egyptian Museum, I’d pick the Cinema Museum. (But go to both if you can!)
- Piazza San Carlo: Lots of nice cafes (try the caffe bicerin), gelato places, and chocolate shops. Truly elegant.
- Aperitivo: A nice way to spend a few hours before heading to dinner at the fashionably late hour of 8:30 or 9. Get a cocktail (around 7 or 8 euros) and help yourself to a buffet spread of appetizers. Some places take it further, and call it apericena (aperitivo dinner), and you get a ton of food for next to nothing. Great for travelers on a budget, and the food is actually quite good.
- Eataly: Like Whole Foods on steroids. Imagine a place with amazing Italian wines from every region, the finest local produce (mostly organic), farm-fresh cheeses, humanely-raised meats, food products, and fine chocolates. It totally blew me away! If you’re into food, you owe it to yourself to come here. Drop by the artisan gelato stand in the store and enjoy some of the best gelato you’ll ever eat.
So, that about does it! Even though I’ve been home for over a month now, I still really miss it there. I could probably spend the rest of my life there and not see everything there is to see. There is so much beauty, history, and culture in Italy, and I barely scratched the surface.