Our last post was titled “Happy Spring, Everyone!”
I spoke too soon.
Just moments after uploading that post, Luke and I headed out to explore the hills of Bologna, and it was the PERFECT spring day. There’s no day in all the days that have ever been that could be better suited for a blog post titled “Happy Spring”. In fact, when we checked in at our first destination on FourSquare, one of the comments read “If you are there it means only one thing: springtime has come!”
Due to our lack of Internet during the week, we weren’t all out prepared for our first weekend in Bologna. But we had a guide book in hand. Actually it was on my PC since it was the E-book version. It was titled “101 cose da fare a Bologna almeno una volta nella vita” (“101 things to do in Bologna at least once in your life”), and as you might have guessed, it was written in Italian. I couldn’t understand much of what the book was instructing us to do, but I knew that #81 sounded intriguing. It included words like avventurarsi, parco, monte, splendidi panorami, punto panoramico, bella passeggiata, una splendida vista, and picnic.
Before we headed out (now in possession of Luke’s Internet key), we ran the text of #81 through Google Translate and e-mailed ourselves both the Italian and English versions. We couldn’t rely solely on the English version because Google Translate also translated the street names into English, and we needed those in their original form in order to navigate!
My suspicions were right! #81 was titled “Venturing about the hills between villas and caves”, and it took us on a tour of the fabulous green hills that surround Bologna. We did the tour via car, but if you are adventurous and have strong legs, it could also be done by bike.
We made it to three of the specific destinations recommended:
1. Parco di Villa Ghigi
2. Villa Aldini and Rotonda della Madonna del Monte
3. Via di Casaglia Parco
Luke and I agreed that spot #3 was our favorite. You walk up a series of steps on the north facing side of the park. You don’t know what’s in store for you until you come over the crest of the hill and the spectacular view of the city comes into sight. Via di Casaglia won the spot for our favorite because we think it had the most panoramic view of the city. It also gave you a glimpse of San Luca (#89 on the list, which we are planning for another day). We liked the people there too. There was a big group of friends having a picnic with grills, drinks, and a rowdy game of soccer. There were kids playing with sticks pretending to have a sword fight. And there were couples sprinkled around the park on blankets, each seeming enamored with one another, giving each other kisses often.
Next time we venture into the hills, we want to try Trattoria il Nonno, which is close to Via di Casaglia. It was closed when we drove by this past Saturday. Il Nonno, aka Grandpa’s, is mentioned in 101 cose as well as in the comment section of a blog post about food in Bologna. We also want to find the cave near the Church of San Michele, which according to 101 cose, is a “world of underground streams, limestone tunnels and waterfalls”. Luke was very determined to find this underground world on Saturday. We did everything but jump over the church fence, but unfortunately, we saw no cave, no streams, no waterfalls. So it’s back on the list for next time!
On Sunday, we had a very cross-functional day. In getting some everyday errands done (getting gas, buying groceries, finding the Bank of America-affiliated ATM), we also got in a lot of exercise and some more sight seeing. We also got our first taste of what it’s like to shop on a Sunday in Italy. It’s true! Many stores are closed on Sundays. The ones that are open bear big signs that read “Domenica aperto” (“Open Sunday”) and they are generally only open in the morning. And, because the cashiers at the gas stations were closed, we couldn’t pay with a credit card and had to pay in contanti (in cash). 20 Euro got us about 2.5 gallons.
For lunch we stumbled into Tamburini, which I had read about as being a good place to buy sausage, cheese, handmade tortellini, and foodie souvenir items like little bottles of olive oil. Inside we saw people grabbing trays and piling onto a line for a self-serve buffet. We hesitated for a moment and then followed suit. We exited the line with two bread rolls and two bowls of handmade tortellini in ragù sauce. I asked the cashier “Dove possiamo sedere?” (“Where can we sit?”). To my surprise, he understood me and pointed around the corner. The tortellini was delicious. If this is Italian fast food, I’m not complaining!
On Sunday, we also wandered into the Visitor Center in Piazza Maggiore. We grabbed a ton of tourist pamphlets, including one titled “Trekking col treno” (“Trekking by train”). We still need to translate it, but it appears to contain 56 outdoor excursions and 8 major parks in the area surrounding Bologna.
Yes! It looks like there are more hills in our future!