Friday, August 09, 2013

Viva l'Italia: Bologna & Milan

Since Bologna is known for its food, also called la grassa, Dan and I decided to spend a few days there during our trip. We took the fast train from Florence, which took less than an hour! And the train was on time. Unfortunately a heat wave hit the city that weekend. Our B&B was close to the train station, but we took a taxi because it was so hot out. Our host showed us some sights, gelaterias, and restaurants on the map, then recommended we stay in the room because of the heat. We ventured out in the late afternoon.

Neptune fountain
Piazza del Nettuno

Porticos
Porticos 

We had to get gelato right away. After the gelato, we got fruit granita for the walk. It was just too hot. The lady asked us how to say granita in English, when we realized there is no granita at home. We told her a slushy is the closest thing. Which is sad, when you think about it.

There is a movie festival in Piazza Maggiore in the summer. The Basilica of San Petronio was getting a makeover. We went inside Sala Borsa, the public library, and saw the Roman ruins underground. The Quadrilatero food market was closed as it was Saturday afternoon, it was closed on Sunday too. (Note: Visit Bologna during the week.) We visited Santa Maria della Vita and saw the Compianto sul Cristo Morto, terra cotta sculptures that are incredibly moving. The Oratorio is quite beautiful and features Transito della Vergine, another terra cotta sculpture. The gentleman working at the church was very kind and did his best explaining the scene to us. We wandered the streets and bought torrone and cookies for Dan's coworkers at Drogheria Gilberto, a cute little food shop. There are 24 leaning towers in the city. Apparently they were built as displays of wealth, not for protection.

Piazza Maggiore
Piazza Maggiore

Leaning towers of Bologna
Leaning towers 

We saw another Basset hound on our way to dinner! I said hello, and the owner said because I was talking in soft voices, "now he is waiting for your caresses." So I petted him. He was missing a tail, but still very cute. We had dinner at Trattoria La Montanara, which was filled with pretty antiques. We started with the antipasto misto, which included ham and mortadella mousse and a very tasty quiche Lorraine. The bread was very good too. Then I had pasta with tomatoes, basil, and cheese, and Dan had Bolognese Cotoletta, fried pork stuffed with ham and cheese. After dinner we walked to a spot to see the canal, then got another gelato for dessert, this time at Gelateria Gianni.


The next morning we were served a feast for breakfast. Homemade cakes, jams, and yogurt, fresh ricotta, fruit, prosciutto, mortadella, it was a crazy spread. Then we went on a walking tour that our host had arranged. We saw several weddings outside city hall, I was surprised because it was Sunday. Our guide was very informative, and did the tour in English and Italian. She pointed out the un-matching windows on City Hall, decorated during different time periods. We spoke into arches and heard each other, just like at the Exploratorium. We saw the meridian line inside Basilica of San Petronio and the purported first nativity at Santo Stefano. And I saw a beagle at Palazzo della Mercanzia.

Bologna City Hall
City Hall 

Windows in Bologna
San Petronio

Palazzo della Mercanzia
Palazzo della Mercanzia

Piazza San Stefano
Piazza San Stefano 

Brick pattern
Brick pattern at San Stefano 

After all that walking, it was time for gelato. And a nap to escape the midday heat. We went out again in the late afternoon. We saw an early sculpture by Michelangelo at the Basilica of San Domenico. A miniature, clothed precursor to the David, according to our guide in the morning. I wanted to go up to San Luca, but it was way too hot to walk the 666 porticos. So we waited for the bus, but it did not appear to run on Sunday. Instead we got gelato at La Sorbetteria, then attended mass at San Stefano. I was disappointed there was no music, but Dan says that is the case during evening mass. We walked through the former Jewish Ghetto to the university. On the way to dinner we saw a beagle! I got to pet him. His name was Winston. We had dinner at Trattoria Vicolo Colombina. We ordered the small cured meat plate to start, but it was huge. Dan had the slow-cooked pork shoulder, and I had tagliatelle with ragu. Another meaty dinner.

Gelateria Gianni
Gelateria Gianni 

Water fountain
Water fountain 

Della Robia
Della Robbia, perhaps

We were up early the next morning for the Italian Days food tour. The first stop was a Parmigiano Reggiano factory in Modena. After observing the cheese-making process, we sampled one and two-year old cheeses. With focaccia and mortadella sandwiches, and Lambrusco. I was drinking wine at 9 in the morning.
  
Giant vats of milk
Giant vats of milk 

Stirring the curd
Stirring the curd 

Scooping out the cheese
Scooping out the cheese 

Draining cheese
Draining cheese

Shaping the cheese
Shaping cheese

Salt bath for cheese
Salt bath 

Cheese brushing machine
Cheese-brushing and turning robot

Cheese cheese cheese
Cheese Gromit! Cheese!

Next stop: Villa San Donnino. We saw batteries of barrels aging and tasted 12 and 25 year samples, then some fresh ricotta with balsamic jam, and vanilla gelato with balsamic vinegar.

Black gold in the making (slowly)
Batteries of barrels

Next was the prosciutto factory, there were thousands of hams in various stages of aging. Dan really wanted to a buy a ham. He also wanted to buy the fancy meat slicer that apparently costs 8,000. We tasted prosciutto and drank more Lambrusco.

Fresh hams
Fresh hams 

Hanging hams
Hanging hams 

Finished hams
Finished hams 

Meat slicer
Meat slicer

Then it was off to Antica Trattoria Moretto for a "light lunch." We started with Pignoletto white wine and a few antipasti. There were three pasta courses, then some red wine "very young, easy to drink," and two meat courses. Then dessert, coffee, a digestiv, and grappa. (I skipped the grappa.) Alessandro says he is a professional "food pusher," and he is not kidding. It was time for a nap! Unfortunately later in the day I got sick. At first I thought I had eaten and drunk too much (which I had), but I had chills and then a fever. I could barely walk. I think a blister or mosquito bite on my foot got infected at the cheese factory, where the floor was wet. We had shoe covers, but they were not waterproof. I still would recommend the food tour, it was a lot of fun and very delicious. Lesson learned: Wear closed-toe shoes.

I felt a little better the next morning, and our host was so kind, she gave us a ride to the train station. We took the fast train to Milan, again super quick and on time. The B&B was near the subway, but we took a taxi there. We rested for bit, and I had an espresso. Then we explored Milan, after a gelato. Dan looked at the stained glass in the Duomo through his binoculars. I liked the 3D painted choir inside Santa Maria presso San Satiro, a tiny church near the Duomo. Dan spun his heel on the bull mosaic at the Galleria for good luck. Then we went to see da Vinci's Last Supper.

Naviglio Grande
Naviglio Grande 

Roman columns in Milan
Roman columns

Wedding cake duomo
Duomo 

Trompe l'oeil
Trompe l'oeil 

Galleria rooftop
Galleria 

My foot seemed worse, so we went to the hospital in the evening, it was not the best way to end our trip. The next day we made the long journey home. Despite a bumpy start and finish, we enjoyed Italy and hope to return someday!

6 comments:

snoopyjoanne said...

I am amused that Dan only smiles real big in the MEAT picture!!!! hahahah

JuicyBit said...

Love the photo with you two and the cheese wheels! Looks like you photoshopped yourselves in there

To live that day said...

Wonderful photos all over the blog.

Yi-Jiun said...

great pictures. Italy is beautiful. I visited the country about 5.5 years ago. nice memory.
http://yijiun.blogspot.tw/2008/07/incomplete-itinerary.html

Turismo said...

Beautiful heritage

ANA CRISTINA C said...

HOLA HERMOSA EMPRESA FELICITACIONES DESDE COLOMBIA ..