Bologna! The city I never heard before going on the trip, but that's precisely why it turned out to be one of the loveliest places we went to as a whole. It's pretty much off the beaten track, and I really think that made a lot of difference. The locals weren't sick to death of tourists crowding all over the place, and the we weren't sick of all the other tourists crowding all over the place. People smiled more, were friendlier, and treated us like guests. The pace of life felt slower and more peaceful. Muted, kind of.
We had a really great Airbnb host that left a whole free plate of biscuits, introducing me to the best chocolate biscuit snack in Italy (Ciok) and biscuits and fruit, that also turned out to make a decent enough breakfast when combined with fresh coffee.
One of the most bomb meals, however, was Streetoast, a little casual sandwich eatery just down the street from our house. If you see its Google reviews patrons have only ever sung praises about it, and I'm here to verify that it is ALL TRUE. The host immediately knew we were tourists, came round and his big personality just shined. The restaurant (only has a few seats, more outdoors) has free wifi and charging points, and he personally offered to exchange our sandwiches for free if we weren't satisfied with what we ordered. When we left, he also insisted on refilling our water bottles for us and made it a point that if we ever needed water- or anything else- he was here to help.
What a sweetheart. Oh yeah, and the sandwiches were GOOD. I ordered a vegetarian one with hummus and ricotta, and it was good enough that I finished all of it even though the portion was big.
"Little Venice", a tiny window in some street that's famous for looking like Venice. To be honest, it doesn't
One noteworthy spot in this city is what I call the Random Bologna Museum because
1) It's weird, and
2) I tried looking up the official name for it online and there's nothing on the websites that look like this.
We arrived in late afternoon, which means that the whole museum was practically empty save for several staff working the cafes and shifting props around. It was nice having the whole place to ourselves to kick around. But that wasn't all. What stood out to me most was that there was absolutely zero English, anywhere. The descriptions of all the displays were in strict Italian. And the displays themselves looked like they were just plucked from the sea of Italian Stuff and just fluffed up to be presentable to the masses.
Not to say they were ugly or boring. In fact everything looked quite nice and interesting, but rendered meaningless because we weren't able to understand anything.
Note to self: pick up fluent Italian before coming.
Of course, you can't leave Bologna without popping into the San Petronio Basillica, which dominates the Piazza Maggiore. It's a really big church, but permanently unfinished- it's evident where the marble work was stopped smack halfway through its facade. The interior too, it was planned to be as big as St Peter's in the Vatican, but our tour guide said the construction was stopped as soon as the leaders heard.
The inside is a little plain, having been unfinished, but it's famous for a painting by Giovanni da Modena which has Muhammad being eaten in hell, which is pretty offensive to a Muslim. That's why they have an armored truck and guards standing by outside 24/7.
Our walking tour also covered the Archiginnasio di Bologna, the oldest university in the world. It's been preserved beautifully and it was cool to walk where serious academics once walked, studied, and learnt. An inspiration if any.
To sum it up, Bologna was that: quiet, quaint, and charming. It's a little haven in bustling Italy that you seek for good food accompanied by free wine and appetizers (that actually happened in one restaurant), people who take things a little slower, and all the trappings of a town drowned in a soft pink-blue sky.
L / 18 / SG / ACJC
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last updated: 5 september