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Bologna,Verona,Bellagio,Varenna & back for more Bologna

Bologna,Verona,Bellagio,Varenna & back for more Bologna

Aug 28th, 2010, 08:25 AM
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Bologna,Verona,Bellagio,Varenna & back for more Bologna

Started my 6 month Italian adventure 2 weeks ago, arriving in Bologna, esentially to drop bags at the beginning of my time here. Good flights on Air France from DC and even better since I used FF mile for business class and for the 3 bags to come with me. Food was good, great service and a very nice start.. I had bought an iPad right before leaving and have to say, I feel it has already paid for itself since my hotels all had WIFI so I had email access as well as search engines and books that I had downloaded (that was what pushed me over).

I stayed for 2 nights right in the center of Bologna, Hotel Commercianti and liked it. Super location. The first night I had apertivo at Zerocinquentuno right near the hotel, on the same street---very, very affordable prosecco for 3 or 4e along with complimentary apertivo items including grilled vegetables, mortadella, cheeses, tapenade etc. Delightful. The hotel location was perfect, right by Maggiore and easy to walk everywhere (including my apartment which I checked out the next day and loved the street). The staff was pleasant, breakfast fine and room, small but with very large bathroom.

Walked all around Bologna but it was really a ghost town, as I had been forewarned. Most places were closed, it was hot, few people were out and about. BUT, the porticos were still there, especially the magnificent ones on Via Farini and the lovely old architecture and colors were beautiful. Had wanted to try the gelato place near me on Via Castiglione, Sorbetteria, but it was closed (not anymore however.......today I had an an amazing ricotta and fig gelato called Emma that was super).

Had a good lunch at Trattoria de Pietro, maccheroni with saffron, prosciutto, fava beans. The next night I had dinner at Cesarina on Santo Stefano--a very nice grilled branzino, contorno of grilled vegetables, prosecco, luscious fig bavarian dessert for 44e. It's more stiff in terms of tone with the waiters in jackets and bow ties but was good.

Left Bologna by train to Verona and realize that the train travel in Italy is a pleasure and really easy. Also, in Bologna they have an English language information booth (as they have at the train station in Milan).

Verona was a total WOW. I loved it. Total contrast with Bologna in that it was crowded with tourists (but, like Venice, you could find quiet spots where no one was around). Stayed at Hotel Victoria and was happy there since it was so close to the Arena and easy to walk around which is what you want to do in Verona (as well as shopping---lugged along 3 new pair of shoes). Ate dinner at La Greppia, a Fred Plotkin recommendation. Had a cooked vegetable appetizer then had gnocchi with radicchio and some cheese. It was so good I may never eat gnocchi again in the U.S.---light, delicious, yummy. Met a couple who recommended I go to Enoteca Congrande the next night, pre-opera (another place Fred Plotkin mentions) so made reservations there.

Must admit I have never thought Italian pastries come anywhere near French ones but oh in Verona, yes, yes, yes. Found Flego on Via Stella as I was walking and it was great. Yhen a couple of others that are mentioned in books. Had dinner at Al Pompiere and it was fiine but not great. A good salad and superb salumi appetizer but the place seemed to have staff who were either totally frazzled or cold in demeanor.

Next day walking and walking around, came upon Caffe Monto Baldo and had their sopresso and fig special lunch plate along with a glass of wine (almost all of which were 2.50e) Charming place. Pre-opera dinner was at Enoteca Cingrande and I am still thinking about the cannelloni with fontina, porcini and truffles---with prosecco, salad, water and espresson came to 52e. The opera was Il Travatore and a friend later told me it was the cast that sang at the Met in NY. What a fantastic experience. I went for it big time by getting 5th row and am glad I did. It wasn't too close and I ended up talking with some people which also made it a fun evening. It's really a don't miss experience if you are there---the streets are totally alive, the staging is amazing, performance wonderful and fortunately, a lovely night weatherwise.

Next stop was Bellagio where I stayed at the Metropole, right on the lake by the ferry landing. I loved the location and had a great balcony right overlooking the lake, looking across at Menaggio where there were fireworks I watched the next evening. The rooms are nothing but oh that view. Just spectacular and I loved the boats coming and going. I took the train from Verona to Milan then Varenna then the ferry across to Bellagio. In retrospect, I might have preferred staying in Varenna for the 3 nights rather than the last one since Bellagio is much more touristy (but then I wouldn't have had that balcony and that was really special). Very nice dinner at Bilacus, in all the books. Good lake fish (like trout in taste), caprese with fantastic, melt in your mouth buffalo mile mozzarella, wine for 28.50e---the coperto or cover charge in all these places is ually around 3e and I stopped getting bottled water since that added another 3 or 4e. Good place and friendly.

A highlight of the Como trip was going to Lenno to Villa Balbianello. Years ago I had gone to Villa Carlotta and was disappointed. This vastly exceeded my expectations. A few movies have been shot here including one I had seen years ago, A month at the Lake. It is one of the most magnificent settings anywhere, any place. Walked up to the villa from town (the pedestrain path is not open every day however), then took the little boat back which was fun and fast. Hopped over to Menaggio where I had stayed years ago then decided to get some stuff to eat in my room (and drink) and sit and enjoy the view, and later the fireworks. It was bliss. Have eaten more meat in the 2 weeks here than in 6 months or more at home........and more wine......

Then Varenna and Hotel du Lac and Villa Monastereo. All I can say is that I totally loved it all. Hotel du Lac is wonderful, friendly, warm, go back to again kind of place. Ate lunch at Villa Cipressi and walked in the gardens and later that night had a fine but not great dinner at Il Capatappi--cute, small place with good but not great food. The entire 5 day little holiday was a great beginning to the stay in Italy.

So, now back in Bologna. Did the markets this morning, lunch at Tamburini, off to Ferrara tomrrow where there is a Buskers festival--international street musicians. I'll be trying many places in the next 6 months, especially as visitors come and go so will post discoveries as they come along. I'm liking Bologna a lot---it is big enough as a city but not overwhelming, very walkable, great buildings, friendly, welcoming people.

Kathy
kathrynj is offline  
Aug 28th, 2010, 08:45 AM
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Kathy, thanks for taking me back to some of my favorite places. This is a wonderful start to your adventures. Keep us posted!
Jean is offline  
Aug 28th, 2010, 09:21 AM
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Thanks Jean. If you have any tips, please pass along!
kathrynj is offline  
Aug 28th, 2010, 10:08 AM
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What are you doing in Bologna for six months? I was only there for one day, a few years ago, but really like it. I'm going back in November for several days so I'm interested in your observations. I'm thinking of day trips to Ferrara and Modena so I'll be waiting to see how you like them.
isabel is offline  
Aug 28th, 2010, 11:30 AM
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Am working here for the period and returniing back to DC twice in between for a week....will let you kknow about Ferrara. Modena is another daytrip I'll be doing, as well as Ravenna....and Florence....and Parma, etc.
kathrynj is offline  
Aug 29th, 2010, 06:14 AM
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Hi Kathy - thanks for the report and all of the great details. I'll be in Bologna in November, so I'm glad to hear you are enjoying it and am looking forward to hearing more of your impressions. I hope you enjoy your time there!
jmct714 is offline  
Aug 29th, 2010, 09:15 AM
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Looking forward to more. My daughter is studying at the university there for the next 6 months. We are planning a visit for October.
Jim_Tardio is offline  
Aug 30th, 2010, 09:19 AM
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So glad I found this thread! I'll be in Bologna for a week in November and have planned day trips to Modena and Ravenna. Looking forward to hearing more!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Aug 30th, 2010, 10:07 PM
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Hi Low Country---I remember seeing you looking for information on Bologna as I was preparing to depart. I will definitely be going to Modena before you get here, as well as Ravenna most likely so will post after those trips.

jmct714 and Jim, feel free to ask any questions as it gets closer. This Saturday I am doing a walking tour and will probably continue to get the know the city better and better over the next months. The porticoes really make it a unique place and the ones on Via Farini are simply spectacular. You'll all like it here.

Maybe a Bologna CTG is forming in November?
kathrynj is offline  
Sep 3rd, 2010, 05:52 AM
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Hi Kathy - what did you think of the walking tour on Saturday? Did you take one of the ones offered by the Bologna Turismo? wondering if I should try to fit one in... thanks!
jeanne
jmct714 is offline  
Sep 4th, 2010, 10:42 AM
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Jeanne,
Did a wlaking tour that was organized where I am working. I did see the tours from in Tourist office and I would dfeinitely do it--sort of why not. One thing we saw that I might have missed was the Anatomy Building part of the od university, right by Piazza Galvani. By the way, the city was packed with people today---at last! Wonderful place.
Kathy
PS Had lunch at Caminetto d'Or and was disappointed, especially for the price.
kathrynj is offline  
Sep 7th, 2010, 03:14 PM
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Yeah, you're right about the tour... why not?
Thanks for the tip about Caminetto d'Or, as well as the Anatomical Museum. I had read about the latter in (I think) someone's trip report on Fodors, and it sounds interesting. So glad you're enjoying your time, and thanks again for sharing your tips!
jmct714 is offline  
Oct 16th, 2010, 02:32 PM
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Kathy

I've been reading your threads. I'll be in Bologna in mid Nov (15th-18th). Did you get to Modena yet? I just read that the Torre della Ghirlandina was under renovation but due to be completed by the "end of 2010". Was it under scaffolding when you were there? I'm trying to decide where to go as day trips - Modena, Ferrara, Parma - or further to Ravenna or Mantova. I was in Bologna a couple years ago but I'd still like to spend some time in Bologna itself as well as a couple day trips. Thanks for the info you've been posting.
isabel is offline  
Oct 16th, 2010, 10:31 PM
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Hi Isabel,

Don't know about Modena since I haven't gone there yet. Parma may be this next weekend (yesterday was another daytrip to Venice!) I liked Ferrara a lot--very close, different from Bologna, interesting---nice daytrip. Ravenna is a must from my perspective since seeing the incredible mosaics there. Have not done Mantova and not sure if/when since I also hear Padua is great. People who have been there seem to like Parma a lot.

I may end up doing Modena just as part of the "Italian Days" tour I have booked with a friend. It has been mentioned on this board and gotten good reviews so I thought we would give it a try. When I had visitors last month they tried but it was booked.

Low Country may be in Bologna at that same time (she responded on my post about Ravenna)...maybe a Bologna GTG?

Kathy
kathrynj is offline  
Oct 17th, 2010, 02:57 AM
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Sounds great so far! Thanks for posting.
TDudette is offline  
Oct 17th, 2010, 03:55 AM
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Thanks Kathy, If you do get to Modena in the next few weeks please post on how you like it ( and if the tower is still covered in scaffolding). Also I'm interested to hear how you like Parma. From the train schedules it looks like it would be rather easy to combine those two in one day - but you'd only get about 3 hours in each. Which might well be plenty of time, hard to tell.

I would be very interested in a Bologna GTG.
isabel is offline  
Oct 17th, 2010, 12:03 PM
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Looks like next Saturday I will either go to Parma or Padua which I also hear is very interesting and will post right after. Will be posting my Perugia trip tomorrow from last weekend.....

Maybe will do a Bologna GTG question in a week or two but I will be here as will Low Country and glad your time will also coincide.

Kathy
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Oct 17th, 2010, 05:59 PM
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Would love to do a Bologan GTG if our schedules coordinate!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Oct 17th, 2010, 11:01 PM
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I think we all are around at the same time (Low Country, me, Isabel) in November. I'll post next week about a couple of dates, see if anyone else is in town, etc but there seem to be at least 2 days when we can connect which would be fun.
kathrynj is offline  
Nov 12th, 2010, 02:44 AM
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kathrynj,

Sorry to interrupt, but have you been to Ferrara yet? If not, I highly recommend Trattoria Volano. It's on the street of the same name, just a stone's thow beyond the walls near the Volano river (take via S. Romano). I had the pasticcio and it was a delight. (Lunch, even without wine, can be pricey.)

To me, Casa Romei is the jewel of the city's interiors. The Palazzo Diamanti the most fun exterior. A walk through the Jewish quarter is startling and rewarding. (The via Volte is startling too.) If you have any feeling for '30s architecture in Italy, Ferrara has some outstanding examples steps away from the Castello Estense.

http://www.artecultura.fe.it/index.phtml?id=628

I highly recommend a bus from the train station to the city center to save time, or a taxi. Had I known, I would have taken a taxi to the Palazzo Diamanti to begin. I'm dungeon allergic, so I spent very little time in the Castello Estense, although the frescoes were rewarding to me.
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