Back from Bologna

Jul 14th, 2010, 12:53 PM
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Back from Bologna

Thanks to all the Fodorites who have posted their adventures about Bologna. I hope this report might be helpful for those who haven't been!

Our flight was scheduled from Boston late Saturday afternoon to Rome then on to Bologna with a mid-morning arrival. But as usual, with Alitalia, nothing goes as scheduled. Al-delay-yah-to-italia had time changes for just about every flight we were on.

At the check in counter, the agent tried to book us on Air France to get us to Bologna earlier. We made a mad dash down to the Air France counter but they were already boarding the flight so that didn’t work. We went running back to Alitalia. We were encouraged (this means the flight was overbooked...) to take another flight later that evening with Air France but the connection time in Paris was only a little more than an hour and the arrival time to Bologna wasn’t that much better.

We did consider taking a train from FCO to Bologna, but Alitalia wouldn’t give any sort of credit or refund for the second part of our flight. We decided we’d work with the flights we had. Suffice it to say an Ambien sure helped the 8 plus hours to Rome pass by.

With some free time on our hands in Rome, we dropped off our luggage at the left luggage storage area in terminal 3. We took the train at FCO to Trastevere Station and wandered
around the Porta Portese flea market that’s held on Sundays. Long story, shorter version, by Sunday evening, we were finally in Bologna. A taxi by to our apartment just outside the historic center on Via Stalingrada was around 16 euros.

There’s not many apartment rental agencies that I could find for Bologna when I started researching this trip to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.,, and were a few agencies that had some apartment rentals available.

When we couldn't find availability in the city center, or much availabilty anywhere, we rented the Mama Luisa apartment for 500 euros for the week. It worked out fine for our stay. There's a small elevator to get up to the 6th floor where the apartment is located. The pictures on the web page are accurate representations of the well-cared for furniture and decor. It's like it was frozen in time, perhaps from the 60’s. 1860's, 1960's-somewhere in that range.

The rooms are large with the exception of a galley kitchen and the long narrow bathroom. The kitchen is serviceable and well-equipped to make breakfast or other meals. A/C units are only in the bedrooms and worked great to keep those rooms cool. There were also metal blinds on the large windows to help block out some of the heat from the intense summer sun.

The hand held shower in a long narrow tub had adequate warm water to shower. The washer worked well but as with most European machines you need to allow about 2 weeks for a cycle to finish. Not to worry about drying, however. With the intense July sun and a little breeze your clothes can be dried on the front or rear balconies of the apartment in no time at all.

The mattresses on the beds were very comfortable and there's plenty of space in the bedrooms to unpack your clothes. The bedrooms were quiet.

There's a bus stop right outside the apartment. For getting to the city center we took bus 39 to the train station, then switched there to 25 to to get to Piazza Maggiore and the Fountain of Neptune at the Rizzoli stop. To get back to the apartment, Bus 38 which will drop you off across the street from the apartment. If you return on the 39, plan on a half day to get back. it’s definitely the long way around when you add in the break the bus driver will take! The busses did stop running to the stops near the apartment around 8 PM so if we were out later we took a cab back to the apartment for around 8-10 euros.

A grocery store, Lidl, was a short walk up the street on the right. There were some incredibly great deals on wine there.

Silvano, who manages the apartment answered questions promptly. His mom met us at the apartment to hand over the keys and explain how things worked. She was a pleasure to deal with, even though we didn't speak much Italian and she didn't speak any English. Silvano told DH his mom was there cleaning for 3 hours before we arrived. I wished I could have packed her up to bring her home in my suitcase!

Next installment is about our tour on Monday that included Italian sports cars, parmesean cheese, and balsamic vinegar!
tcinct is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 01:10 PM
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Interesting...wondering why Bologna is your destination?
rncheryl is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 01:13 PM
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Bologna would be my destination over the Amalfi coast, le Cinque Terre and much of Tuscany -- and while I appreciate the art treasures of Venice, I'd much rather spend my time in Bologna!

Looking forward to the rest of the trip report!
zeppole is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 01:18 PM
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bardo1 is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 02:06 PM
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I can't wait to hear about the cheese and vinegar tours.

But on to the big question...where (and what) did you eat?

That is why I chose Bologna the first time around- for the food. Then the beauty of the city stole my heart and I returned for the food AND the atmosphere.
BlueSwimmer is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 02:54 PM
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W're in Bologna, in 28th, out 30th December, so this will be interesting.
Peter_S_Aus is offline  
Jul 14th, 2010, 03:10 PM
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Hi rncheryl, we chose Bologna because my husband is an Italian sports car enthusiast and Bologna offered easy access to see them. Bologna is an easy place to do day trips from. We had previously visited Positano, Amalfi, Venice, Rome, and Florence. Bologna intrigued us, especially what we had been reading about the food.

Hi there, Zeppole, thank you for your posts-we did bring Fred Plotkin's book as you suggested. We didn't copy pages but brought the whole heavy volume along!

Hi BlueSwimmer, restaurants and meals to follow. We were captivated by Bologna, so much so that we didn't leave for a single day trip except for Monday's tour!
tcinct is offline  
Jul 15th, 2010, 04:26 AM
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Monday-Motorstars Tour #5

We met Francesco Bini from at the train station for our tour at 8:45AM. He drove us around in a new 9 passenger Mercedes van. Joining us on the tour was a young man traveling solo from Australia. While driving around, we watched dvd’s explaining about where we would be visiting.

Our 1st stop was the Lamborghini Excellence Centre in Sant Agata Bolognese for a guided tour. After that tour, I wanted a Lamborghini.

From there we went to Mr. Umberto Panini’s estate (we were told he made his fortune was from trading cards!) to see his private Maserati and motorbike collection near Modena. After that visit, I wanted a Maserati.

Mr Panini’s other hobby is producing parmigiano reggiano cheese at his organic farm. What a production it is. You get a tasting and an opportunity to buy the cheese at the store. They told us this is where the Pope gets his cheese! Lambrusco wine was for sale there, too. I figured that might be the wine you drink when you break off hunks of cheese to eat. It was a tasty experiment to bring back home to try. When they told us how much the cheese was worth, I decided I could live without the Lamborghini and Maserati and would be happy with the cheese!

Next stop was lunch at the Ferrari cafeteria for some great sandwiches and drinks. We visited the Ferrari Gallery. After that, I decided I wanted a Ferrari!

My husband’s anniversary present was the chance to drive a Ferrari 458. There are car rental places located on either side of the Ferarri Gallery that offer the experience. The young man from Australia decided to drive this car, too. He told me he worked as a valet and part of the fun for guys who own expensive cars was to have people make a big fuss about them. He said when he had to drive some outrageous cars he acted all somber when he was handed the keys! And you should of heard him taking off out of the driveway! While he was driving he told me the co-pilot you drive with yelled “polica, polica” to get him to slow down! What a funny guy!

The last stop on the tour was to the Acetaia Villa San Donnino. We toured the attic and heard the story of how balsamic vinegar is made. The generational commitment is extraordinary, the aging is quite an incredible process. We had a tasting of the balsamic vinegar at various ages and even tried some with ice cream. We toured the art filled villa with the owner and saw a clip from the movie 1900 that was filmed at the villa that starred Robert DeNiro. Francesco kindly dropped off at our apartment around 6:30 PM.

The highlight of the trip for my DH was driving the Ferarri. He has a dvd they filmed while he was driving around the streets of Maranello that he can watch again and again. The Motorstars tour with Francesco Bini made for a memorable day!
tcinct is offline  
Jul 15th, 2010, 07:01 AM
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We bought day bus passes each day at 3e pp at the Tabacchi shop around the corner from the apartment. With our Cadogan guides for Bologna &Emilia-Romagna in hand we walked around Piazza Maggiore, the Fountain of Neptune, visited Palazzo Comunale then upstairs to Museo Morandi, and the Communali d’Arte. I really liked Communali d’Arte, especially the lace exhibit and the exquisite lace baby blanket.

Later we walked to Santo Stefano. As we walked to Santo Stefano we made reservations for dinner at Pappagallo. This was one of my favorite restaurants. I wanted to try the lasagne verdi. The waiter told me that extra time was needed to make it. Well, after eating it, I would have waited for an entire Italian washing machine cycle!! The wafer thin lasagne noodles had a part on the top that was lightly toasted. It was beyond delicious! DH ordered tagliatelle alla Bolognese. Wow! If I had any doubts about visiting Bologna, they were banished after this meal. Dinner with wine was just under 100 e.
tcinct is offline  
Jul 15th, 2010, 12:19 PM
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Thank you for posting this. I'm going to be in Bologna for a week in November and have started my restaurant research...can't wait to hear more about the food!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Jul 15th, 2010, 04:29 PM
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tcinct ...I will be w/LCI in Nov 2010 for our visit to Bologna.....I am enjoying all restaurant recommendations and rolling w/laughter reading your trip report escapades...keep it coming. You have raised our anticipated journey to an Olynpic status
silverswan is offline  
Jul 16th, 2010, 05:48 AM
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Peter, LCI, and silverswan you are in for some great adventures!
Thanks for your kind words and encouragement, I'll be back with more.
tcinct is offline  
Jul 16th, 2010, 06:15 AM
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We returned to Piazza Maggiore today to walk around the leaning twin towers and to see the Basilica di San Petronio. There was scaffolding all around the front. Is the facade being shored up? Is it finally being finished? Those questions remain a mystery. We figured we’d walk around to the side or back to find a way to get in. You can appreciate the size of the 5th largest church in Italy doing that. After walking all the way around, there was an entrance we overlooked right in front!

We headed out to visit the Museo Civico Archeologico. Next stop was another favorite museum, the Museo Civico Mediovale e del Rinascimento. We saw the collection of tombs of the doctors of the university with the carvings of the students all around them. You can see who’s paying attention, and who might need a little help...

We stopped at Giampi e Ciccio for an enjoyable lunch with perhaps the owner or manager singing and the service quite good. I can’t find the receipt but I know I had pasta with eggplant, DH had another pasta dish he thought was excellent. The price as best as we can recall was around 20e for the meal and the house white wine.

Thanks to a post by ekscrunchy I stopped in a shoe store and bought a pair of Mephisto’s sandals that were more than 1/2 of the price of home. What a deal! That, and all the museums we had visited so far were uncrowded and admission was free!
tcinct is offline  
Jul 16th, 2010, 07:43 AM
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Tcinct -- I'll be in Bologna for five days in early November, and am glad to hear you found the city so captivating. Based on your report and comments I am already questioning the number of day-trips I've planned. Can't wait to read more! Thanks!
jmct714 is offline  
Jul 16th, 2010, 09:31 AM
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I'm intrigued by your Bologna report. The past few years I've focused on one major Italian city and essentially planted myself there for 10 to 12 days — Rome, Florence, Venice. I'm wondering if Bologna might be a suitable next destination for such an encampment. I've been there twice before, but each time for only a few days.

What day trips did you take? Would recommend?

Yes, the food in Bologna is superb. I remember Pappagallo ("The Parrot") fondly. You must have gone to Tamburini, Bologna's answer to New York's Zabar's, only better. I had lunch there one day. How I envied the people who go there regularly for lunch.
wanderful is offline  
Jul 17th, 2010, 05:31 AM
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jmct714, wanderful-thanks for your kind words. Being in Bologna is great, to enjoy the city or to take day trips. It's a win-win situation. I had planned a few day trips but we only did the Motorstars tour. More to follow, including Tamburini!
tcinct is offline  
Jul 17th, 2010, 05:51 AM
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Another enjoyable day included a visit to the University Museums. Having a nursing background and DH with a biology background we were fascinated by the wax models in the Museo Ostetrico and the Museo di Anatomia Umana Normale.

When we went to go back to our apartment there were a large group of students congregating in front of one of the university buildings by the bus stop. I might have seen a bottle of wine or two being passed around.

One young man was dressed up in a black plastic bag, a cross necklace and a wreath on his head. It was here we had an unplanned renewal of our vows of sorts. The kid wearing the bag came over to DH and me. He tried to explain his priestly costume. Then he said “kiss the man.” If I were only more on my game I would have grabbed him and kissed him on the lips. But I did kiss my husband and there were cheers all around, laughter, and a few notes from The Wedding March being hummed.

The entire scene was filmed by multiple cameras of the students not holding onto the wine bottles. We’re probably on some Italian version of Utube. Ahhh, being around these students brought back memories of the good ole days at the university!

And writing about universities here’s a resource for students that I came across that’s helpful for visitors as well:

Dinner Thursday night was at the highly recommended Trattoria Caminetto d’Oro . A lady and a young man, perhaps her son, with their tour badges dangling down like necklaces came zooming into the restaurant after we were seated. The lady said loudly enough so the restaurant could hear her that she’d been to this restaurant years ago and it was very good. Then she remarked that now there’s white tablecloths on the table and you can bet that means prices go up! After a short discussion and a quick look at the menu they got up and vanished! But I’m so glad we stayed!

We ordered the Adriatic and Emilia menus that are on their web pages. I don’t like fish much but when I tried my husband’s tagliatelline al torchio pomodoro frescoe e ragu ‘di pesci del’adriatico I just about became a convert!

When my tagliatelle al ragu’ tradizionale alla Bolognese was brought to the table it had peas! I despise peas. I grew up being served yucky canned peas. DM told the 6 of us that “There are children starving in Biafra,” and you couldn’t leave the table till your plate was clean. I think once I offered to let the peas be sent to the starving children and didn’t get to see the outdoors for awhile. So I learned to maneuver my peas around my plate so as not to ever have to eat them. I would spit them in my milk but that wouldn’t work here. You can see them through the wine...I would feed them to my dog but the closest dog was about 90 and was taking a nap outside the restaurant.

I really did try one pea to my DH’s surprise. I decided I still don’t like peas. Fish, maybe but not peas! DH was happy to help out and took them off my plate. After that, we enjoyed the meal from start to finish. Price was just under 100 e with 2 glasses of wine.
tcinct is offline  
Jul 17th, 2010, 06:16 AM
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tcinct, wonderful read! Did you really walk all the way up to St. Stefano?? Congrats!

Wanderful, we made Bologna a base and took a wonderful day trip to Ravenna-wanted to go to Ferrara, Parma and Faenza but ran out of time. Also walked down from St. Stefano church (walk up if you are in really good shape!). Ate copious amounts (but still less than the Italians seated near us) at Bertino near Sofitel hotel (across from station BTW). Loved the area around the very old University as well as those places mentioned by tcinct above.

Thanks again tc.
TDudette is offline  
Jul 17th, 2010, 07:57 AM
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I'm not trying to answer for tcinct, but in my view Bologna has perhaps the finest train connections for fascinating, rewarding day trips in all directions than any other city I can think of in Italy.


You are thinking of San Luca

Santo Stefano, a very beautiful Bendectine monastery, is down in the flats with the rest of Bologna
zeppole is offline  
Jul 17th, 2010, 10:10 AM
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Thanks, zeppole, I, and my notes, stand corrected! As mentioned, we walked down the hill and stopped at a shop at the bottom. Our fractured Italian made us unable to understand whether the penitents went UP on their knees at Easter or if the clerk had been drunk on his knees.
TDudette is offline  

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