Bologna, finally and again

We used this title because, while we’ve walked through Bologna at night, we are finally going to see different areas during the day. Prepare yourself for lots of pictures.

One of us slept in so we didn’t leave the house until almost 11 am. It was a bustling morning – dining in the alleyways, shopping, walking the baby, walking the dog(s)…  the make-up of the crowd here consists of plenty of retired couples but age 0 to 40 looks to be the majority. A lot of them are university students.

Today we are doing our pre-planned walking tour around the Piazza Maggiore (Main Square). One our way to the piazza, we realized that they shut down the major roads leading to and around the piazza to motorized traffic. It made getting around the area easier (except for trying to stay out of the sun).

Saturday shoppers and strollers
Saturday strollers and shoppers
Saturday strollers and shoppers

The first place we stopped was Cattedrale di San Pietro (Cathedral of St. Peter).  This was one of those, “We’ve walked by here over and over.  Let’s stop.” moments that resulted in a wonderful stop.  The artistry of the sanctuary was beautiful.  The church was built and consecrated in 1184.

Sanctuary of Cattedrale di San Pietro
Above the altar in Cattedrale di San Pietro
Pipe organ in Cattedrale di San Pietro
Altar in Cattedrale di San Pietro
Wall in the Cattedrale di San Pietro
Entrance to Cattedrale di San Pietro
Altar in Cattedrale di San Pietro
This wall has at least 15 different colors of marble in it
Chapel area in Cattedrale di San Pietro
Chapel in Cattedrale di San Pietro
Altar in chapel in Cattedrale di San Pietro
Chapel in Cattedrale di San Pietro
Chapel in Cattedrale di San Pietro
Lamentation over the dead Christ in terra cotta
Characters in Lamentation over the dead Christ
Characters in Lamentation over the dead Christ
Characters in Lamentation over the dead Christ
Sanctuary of Cattedrale di San Pietro

We went into a chocolate shop, but most things are wrapped up beautifully, so the scent wasn’t like chocolate shops in the US.

While Linda stopped in an optical shop, Dave visited Palazzo d’Accursio.  This building used to be the administrative offices site.  It is now commercial property.  Dave was amazed by the difference between the exterior and interior look and feel.

Palazzo d’Accursio (old town hall), sorry the streets are too close to get a better picture of the architecture
Interior of Palazzo d’Accursio

We continued our walk and stopped at Tower Galluzzi which is one of the remaining defensive towers from the 12th century.

Lots of color at this store
Torre Galluzzi or Galluzzi Tower

We entered the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio which is on Piazza Maggiore.  The buildings originally were a part of the University of Bologna.  Now they house the library.  Dave read that the scholars quickly built the Palazzo so as to impede the expansion of Santa Maria della Vita’s growth.

Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio
Entry light and ceiling in Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio
Ceiling of the portico in the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio
Portico of Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio

The shops and outdoor markets were overflowing with cured meat and cheeses, bread, and pastries (see lunch photo), fish, fruits, and vegetables. We decided to do some ‘take away’ ordering and go home for lunch. We had a bottle of prosecco that our host greeted us with that we hadn’t drunk and we didn’t want to carry it to Florence tomorrow. We bought salami, prosciutto, mortadella, gorgonzola, a loaf of bread, a wild berry tart, pompoloni (which was like a lemon cream filled roll) and with the fruit we bought in Modena yesterday, it was quite a spread. Yum.

Produce stand on Via Drapperie in Bologna
Vibrant lunch area in Bologna
Hams at Simoni salumeri in Bologna
Flowers for sal on the street in Bologna
Flower for sale on the street in Bologna
Produce stand in Bologna
Meringues for sale at Paol Atti e Figli
Our lunch being prepared
Dry pastas at Paola Atti e Figli
Dry pastas at Paola Atti e Figli
Dry pastas at Paola Atti e Figli
Pastries at Paola Atti e Figli
Pastries, customer, and server at Paolo Atti e Figli
Architecture of Bologna
Architecture in Bologna

As we headed home, we encountered the Asinelli Tower and Garisenda Tower.  These are considered the “Two Towers.”  They are likely the most famous of the ancient towers.  As you can see in the picture, the Garisenda Tower has a significant lean to it.

Asenelli Tower
Asinelli Tower and Garisenda Tower, note how Garisenda Tower in leaning (not my photography skills)

At 5 pm we headed back out, starting at the Basilica di San Petronio then going to Santa Maria della Vita. We have seen so many beautiful churches that we didn’t feel the basilica stood out, though there are plenty of pictures.  Maybe we were just expecting more.  Santa Maria is a small church and quite beautiful.  It’s strange how our expectations have changed regarding how nice the churches need to look.

Basilica di San Petronio

Sanctuary of Basilica di San Petronio
Basilica di San Petronio Sanctuary
Fresco behind altar in Basilica di San Petronio
Statuary above altar in Basilica di San Petronio
Chapel in Basilica di San Petronio
Chapel in Basilica di San Petronio
Chapel altar in Basilica di San Petronio
Chapel details in Basilica di San Petronio

Santa Maria della Vita

Santa Maria della Vita
Altar in Santa Maria della Vita
There is a rotunda in the center of the sanctuary in Santa Maria della Vita. One of the statues around the rotunda.
There is a rotunda in the center of the sanctuary in Santa Maria della Vita. One of the statues around the rotunda.
There is a rotunda in the center of the sanctuary in Santa Maria della Vita. One of the statues around the rotunda.
Chapel in Santa Maria della Vita
Chapel in Santa Maria della Vita

We walked down streets we either hadn’t been on or couldn’t remember if we’d been on them, did a bit of shopping (bought a funky pair of reading glasses at the Farmacia). After that, we decided to sit and listen to the jazz ensemble that had Piazza Maggiore packed with people.

Open air market in front of Bascilica San Stephano
Negroni and a Chianti while listening to music

Then Linda found a gelato site that was in the top seven in Bologna and it was close to our apartment. We both had Nocciola (hazelnut) and Caramello Saltato (salted caramel).

Dave let me into the apartment then went back out to listen to more music.

Crowd listening to “jazz” music
Neptune at night

When he got back, we tried some of the walnut liqueur that the host offered – it was strong and nutty

Dave brought up the Cubs game, figuring it was a good way to relax before bed. We had about 14,000 steps today (which is not the record for this trip!).

Day trip to Modena/Nonantola

Each Airbnb just gets better and better – this one near the bustle of the Piazza Maggiore – is a contemporary space with lots of natural light and a circular staircase to the bedroom and bath upstairs. It even has a Nespresso coffee machine and separate milk frother; until now, we had to go out for cappuccino.

Entry and staircase to bedroom
View from kitchen
Kitchen view

We had no plans for the morning, so we lazily relaxed to finish yesterday’s blog and start today’s blog. And consume coffee.

Somehow, we found the rental car in the parking garage with no trouble at all then, surprisingly, didn’t have to pay what we expected to be €22.

Our GPS took us on rural roads past fields of drying sunflowers and early blooming lavender. We enjoyed trying to decipher what the picture road signs meant. Skinny roads, big trucks, Lamborghini, and Maserati plants.

This says, “A place given to daytime shows”. Not too sure what that means, but it is likely a theater.
Disced field and buildings

It took us 45 minutes to get to lunch in Nonantola at La Piazzetta del Gusto. Sitting outside in 82 degrees with a light breeze, it was close to perfect weather.  After ordering wine, our waiter “brought you present” – soup of thickened chicken broth with parsley, peppered bacon, and crouton. The broth tasted much like Italian wedding soup. But that bacon… YUM. This restaurant is famous for their passatello asciutto: pasta made with parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, eggs, and flour. We had one with porcini mushrooms and sausage; one with mascarpone cheese, pistachio, mortadella bologna and lemon peel. YUM.  dessert was one that Linda couldn’t pass up: White chocolate ‘salame’ with apricot, pistachio, prune, and almonds. OH MY.

La Piazzette del Gusto
La Piazzette del Gusto lunch menu
Linda at La Piazzette del Gusto
View from table at La Piazzette del Gusto
Thickened chicken broth with parsley, peppered bacon, and crouton
Dave mascarpone cheese, pistachio, mortadella bologna and lemon peel passatello
Mascarpone cheese, pistachio, mortadella bologna and lemon peel passatello
Linda with porcini mushroom and sausage passatello
Porcini mushroom and sausage passatello
White chocolate salami with dried apricots, dried plumes, pistachios, and almonds

Back in Modena, we stopped at ‘one of the region’s finest food markets’, Mercato Albinell, where we purchased peaches, plums, and pears.

Modena’s Mercato Albinell
Modena’s Mercato Albinell
Flowers in Mercato Albinell
Modena’s Mercato Albinell
Mixed plants at Mercato Albinell

We had time before our tour so stopped in Piazza Grande, the Modena Duomo, Torre Ghirlandina (Duomo’s Bell Tower), and Town Hall.

Modena Duomo
Torre Ghirlandina (Bell Tower of the Modena Duomo)
Modena Town Hall
Chapel in Modena Duomo
Atlar area in Modena Duomo
Altar area in Modena Duomo
This chapel area in the Modena Duomo seems either damaged or under repair

Then we walked to Bloom Naturalmente Gelateria (We had to … our guidebook highly recommended it!). As we walked back to our car, we happened upon a pastry shop (much to our surprise, we didn’t buy anything) and a local grocer’s display of produce.

Pastries anyone?
Maybe, these, instead?
Grocery store produce

Next was the tour at Antica Acetaia Villa Bianca balsamic farm. Quite an experience. The owner’s wife, Irene, greeted us and we soon realized it was just the two of us, so she had our full attention. We tasted white and purple grapes, which are used together and cooked down before being stored in wood barrels for 12-25 years. We met her husband Claudio then Irene took us to the attic of their Renaissance house to do the tastings. As the door was opened, once again, the aroma! There were 200+ barrels of balsamic in various states – we tasted the differences in samples that had been aged 5 years, 7 years, 10 years, 12 years, and 25 years. They only sell the 12-year and 25-year to the public. The flavors started out on the sour side and got progressively sweeter and syrupier. Our one-hour tour turned into two hours, but it was worth it.

Grapes at Antica Acetaia Villa Bianco for the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Grapes for Balsamic Vinegar; small and sweet
Grapes for Balsamic Vinegar
In the grape fields of Antica Acetaia Villa Bianca
Blsamico Vinegor aging in bearrels
Balsamico Vinegar barrels aging
Our guide and the owner’s wife, Irene, with tool used to sample Balsamic Vinegar

We drove the rental car back to the Aeroporto and took a taxi back to Bologna. We dropped our belongings and headed back out – it’s Friday night! We walked some, amazed at the amount of people in the streets and alleyways dining in what was a beautiful evening. Locating a table at Tamburini’s Deli, we decided we needed more than a glass of wine, so Dave had lasagna and Linda had caprese. The cheese on the salad plate was bigger than a baseball and so fresh. The tomatoes are always perfection in Italy and the spring greens, although good, made me wish I was home to pick some fresh basil. It’s strange sometimes to find that the way we prepare these same dishes isn’t necessarily the Italian way. Dave’s lasagna was rather strange – they used green noodles and the slice looks flat and cheeseless. It tasted good though. We’ll have to try lasagna and caprese in another town before we leave and see if they serve it the same way.

Busy restaurant and bar business at 20:10 on Friday night
Outdoor restaurant activity was really high at 2010
Dave ordered lasagna; it didn’t look great, but it tasted very good
Linda had a caprese salad
Another crowded passageway in Bologna

 Home again, we are working on the blog and falling asleep doing it.

Arrivederci Emilia Reggio, buongiorno Bologna e Modena

Packing day and it’s harder each time we do it. We haven’t added anything; why is it so hard to get things in, now?

We left Reggio Emilia at about 11:15 and arrived in Bologna at about noon. We then walked to our Airbnb to drop off our luggage. The apartment won’t be ready until 15:00 (need to do thorough cleaning and sanitizing). We’ll check in at about 19:00.

Old diesel train in Reggio Emilia
Bologna train platforms
Bologna Train Station

As we mentioned yesterday, there will be an 8- hour strike on Friday by the train workers (thanks, again, for that information, Jim). Since we are headed to Modena this afternoon and Friday, we needed alternative transportation. So, we decided to rent a car.  It is expensive, but it will let us do the things we want to do without having to do significant re-scheduling, even if that is possible.

We walked to the apartment.  It was another 15-minute walk from the train station.  Unfortunately, the lady who was to meet us was slightly delayed, but all worked out fine.  We dropped off our two bags and had our host call a taxi for us to take to the airport to get the rental car.  We rented from Sixt and it went very well.  Dave wasn’t sure how driving in Italy was going to be, but he was sure he could manage it.  Then he got in the car and remembered it was a manual transmission.  Fortunately, it’s like getting back on a bike and we took off with no problem at all.

Linda found a pizzeria for us to have lunch near the airport with good recommendations, so we headed there before going to Modena.  The insalata mista (mixed greens salad) and fungi pizza were both delicious.  And, since we were having pizza, Linda had to have a beer.  We shared a Moretti lager.

Insalata Misto (mixed greens salad)
Fungi pizza (someone was a little hungry)

After lunch, we headed to Modena for the Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese tour we scheduled at Bio Hombre before we left.  It was a nice drive through the farm fields between Bologna and Modena.  It was very pretty and an easy drive.  We did a little driving in Modena, but Dave is really paranoid about driving in a pedestrian only area.  After a little city driving, we headed out to the farm where we were going to have our tour.  We know going into it that we wouldn’t see the actual process of making the cheese, because that takes place in the morning, but thought the other information we’d receive would be good.  Oh, not to mention the cheese tasting.

Well, the tour did not disappoint.  Linda was thrilled to get to pet some calves and it was just fun to be on the farm.  This farm, which is an organic producer, uses three varieties of cows to produce its Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  Two are Italian cows, one from the Modena area, and one from Belgium.  The Belgian and the Italian cow produce about 30 liters each in a day and the Modena cow (the all-white one you may be familiar with) produces 10 liters.  Milking is done twice a day, 12 hours apart.  Morning milk is processed to skim it with the skim used for ricotta cheese and butter.  The evening milk is not skimmed.  The next morning the two milkings from the previous day are combined.  And the process begins.  Each 90-pound wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese requires 550 liters of milk.  The wheels are aged a minimum of 12 months, but this farm also has 20-month, and 36-month cheeses.  The 12-month cheese is usually used for grating, like in a restaurant.  The 20-month is generally the only cheese used in cooking for things like risotto.  The 30-month would usually be for something like the dessert we had in Como.  We tasted all three of the cheeses.  Each was good, but the aging clearly increases the flavor content.  When the wheels of cheese are put in the aging warehouse, they already have all the information related to when the wheel was produced and which vat was used to create it.  We then visited the aging room; aroma as we entered was amazing.  You can certainly tell the difference in the aged and new wheels.  There is certainly an increased color to the aged wheels.  They do, however, have wheels that have defects.  If this occurs, they “bleach” the information related to being Parmigiano Reggiano, since it does not meet the standards.  This cheese is what is sold in stores as “hard grating cheese” or little bags of “parmesan cheese”.

One of multiple feed yards at Hombre
Resting cows (those who are between milking schedules)
Can I hear an “aw” all the way in Modena?
Calves waiting their turn to be able to provide milk
Linda makes a new friend
From left to right (30-month, 20-month, 12-month)
One row of the eight rows of wheels in this warehouse
Linda with wheels of cheese
Dave with wheels of cheese
Only places within this region can make Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
Parmigiano Reggiano and organic seals on a wheel (created in February 2021)
New wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese created in July 2022 (note how white it is compared to the previous picture)

In addition to the cheese, there is a car collection, Collections of Umberto Panini Motor Museum. Umberto is the person who started Bio Hombre. His collection includes about 40 cars, primarily Maserati with some Alfa Romero. it was impressive to see some “one off” vehicles.

Mazerrati and Alfa Romeo car museum (some of these cars are one of a kind)
Lamborghini tractor … I bet we can’t afford this Lamborghini, either

We then headed back to Bologna.  This time we used the tollway.  It is fun going 130 kph (about 81 mph).  It was “funny” that at one point the car warned Dave that he had exceeded the 130 kph limit.  He then decided to keep in at 130.  We encountered traffic, but made it back to the apartment in time to check-in at 19:00, just like we told our host.

After a little time relaxing at the apartment, we took a short walk.  The city was certainly alive near us.  Large numbers of people of all ages out walking and enjoying the cooling of the night.  We enjoyed some of the sights we planned to see during the day on Saturday, we stopped for a Moretti Blanca birra for Linda and an Aperol Spritz for Dave.  We sat in Piazza Maggiore and enjoyed the evening air while people watching and taking in the architectural sights. After ordering our drinks, Dave thought about taking the picture below, but worried if he left Linda alone, she’d be snuggling with our waiter Giovanni (a young handsome man) when he returned. Even Dave had to admit, he was stunningly attractive and had a great personality.

Palazzo d’Accursio (former town hall)
Basilica di San Petronio – the color difference is not caused by shadows; the stone above is different
Looks like a couple of days to the full moon

At about 22:00 we noticed a real drop in the number of people out and about.  Ah, yes, tomorrow is a school and workday.  It was time to head home.

San Petronio Bell Tower (Campanile di San Petronio)