We got in to Bologna on Saturday around 6pm. It turned out that it was really difficult to drive up to the hotel, something I hadn't realized when I booked. Parts of Bologna's center completely block traffic. Since the hotel didn't provide directions, we relied on our GPS. As we followed one street, and had the "we're almost there," conversation, we came upon a huge metal post in the middle of the street. We had to call the hotel with an intercom, and wait about 5 minutes for them to get the post put down.
Of course, it turns out that our hotel was incredible, and well worth any troubles in getting there. The hotel, the Corona d'Oro, is right in the middle of the city. It is a converted mansion. Part of it was built in the 13th century, the rest, built in 1800. You can still see on the side the medieval architecture. The building is beautiful, including a covered coutryard that is used as a sitting area. We were also impressed that you could see one of the few remaining of Bologna's towers from our window.
We quickly found that the hotel provided a real taste of a time gone by in Bologna.
Once we got settled, we found a parking place for the car, then headed toward the center for dinner.
We discovered a beautiful church, San Martino, only a few steps from our hotel. It had a beautiful mosaic above the main entrance.
As we walked, dusk started to set in. The city is really charming at night. The streets are narrow, and perfect for strolling along.
Our dinner was wonderful. Despite a very strange waitress, we were able to eat outside, which was wonderful. Joern, being the non-adventurous food person, had his famous Tortellini alla Panna. I was dying to try Tagliatelli al Ragu, or pasta with Bolognese (meat) sauce. Which turned out to be very light on the sauce, but so flavorful!
On Sunday, Easter, we were up bright and early. We headed down to the breakfast room to find an incredible spread, including some traditional Italian Easter cakes.
At breakfast, we met the nicest mother/daughter pair from Dayton, OH. It is amazing the people you meet when you travel. The daughter is in her senior year of college, spending 10 weeks in Bologna in a program at the university. While mom was visiting, they were all over. It was so pleasant to chat with them over breakfast.
Once we were ready, we headed out. The city is really spectacular. What I especially love about Italy is simply strolling through the streets, and of course, their extra-special cafe culture. It really makes you slow down and appreciate life.
The piazzas are large and beautiful, especially the Piazza Maggiore, including the statue of Neptune and the Duomo.
Something unique to Bologna is the porticoed walkways. Some were very elaborately decorated, while others were simple. I can imagine in the rain or hot sun, the porticoed walkways are a welcome haven.
Another thing I love about Italy are the details you can find wherever you look. Yes, you can find a face in a relief in a building in Germany or an occasional attempt at a relief on the side of a buidling, but nothing compares to Italy. Here is one of the many frescoes on a regular apartment building near the center.
We found ourselves at the Due Torri, the famous towers that are part of the Bologna skyline.
Bologna used to be a city of towers, with about 200 all over the place. The Due Torri, the very tall Asinelli, and the very leaning Garisenda built in the 1100s. The Garisenda was originally taller than the Asinelli, but was reduced in height due to the fact that it leans over 3 meters.
The Torre degli Asinelli is still open to the public. I went up by myself, but had the opportunity to take a picture of Joern before he decided against the ascent himself. Climbing the tower involves climbing about 500 steps, and is 97 meters high. It was well worth the climb though to see the city from high above. Plus, you could easily see the mountains behind the city.
After returning to the hotel for a rest, we headed down the street to a pizzeria.
On Sunday morning, we had another fabulous breakfast, and got to talk with our new friends for only a minute. They were on their way to spend a day in Venice, which is relatively close to Bologna.
After we checked out of our room, we drove by the university, which is the oldest continually operating university in the world. Puts Loyola College to shame!
From the university, we drove to La Sorbetteria Castiglione, which has won awards and was mentioned in the New York Times. Honestly, it was worth it. Not only did they have amazing ice cream, but unusual flavors like, cremino ludovico, with hazelnut and cocoa butter; dolce contagio, with pine nuts and carmelized walnuts. Joern had panna cotta and dolce Michaelangelo, a chocolate with nuts. I opted for pistachio and dolce Emma, a ricotta base and honey caramalized figs. It was so delicious! What a great way to bid adieu to such a charming city.