New friends in Bologna

Our hotel had a balcony. This makes me happy – I love to be able to take in the sun, the city, the view, and then step inside to our little world for the day.  We had several hours to kill before dinner (thank goodness!!!), so we ventured out to see some of the sites of Bologna.

One of these sites was the ancient library, including a small amphitheater with benches surrounding a marble table – where they would dissect corpses for the doctors in training. The room was beautiful, with wooden sculptures all around, and the “skinless” – two very naked wooden men carved on either side of the teacher’s desk, their muscles in plain view to the world.

We stopped for a couple of campari sodas, then lambrusco (a sparkling red wine they make in this part of Italy) and some people watching. Next we made the not very bright decision decided to climb to the top of the Tower of Asinelli – a famous spot in Bologna, but one that involves almost 500 steep steps. Maybe a great stop for the morning, but not a good idea after a huge lunch and (quite) a few drinks. Plus, I have a problem with heights. However, the view was beautiful (if you’re ok with heights…)

Surprisingly, we survived. And we headed to the nearest wine bar we could find, which seemed like the sensible thing to do at that point. On the way we passed a beautiful fresh bread and pasta store, and of course we had to check it out. Wish we had one of these in Wayne.

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With a sign like this (see below) in the window, they know what they’re doing. (translation: Tortellini: To fool your husband into thinking you made it yourself!) Unfortunately I highly doubt I could get away with that…

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After a plate of fantastic salty salumi, tasty bread (baked with prosciutto – bacon!) and a delicious bottle of Verdiccio from Marche, a nap was in order.

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On the way back for said nap, we had to stop for a quick gelato or two. It ended up being the gelato that changed the world. (Ours, at least). Not so much the fig and mascarpone flavored one, but the very simple buffalo milk gelato. No nuts, no chocolate, nothing added. Just a little cup of cold sweet white stuff that tasted exactly as it should. It was one of those little bites in life that made you feel like you found what you had always been looking for, but didn’t know it until just then.

Our same friend who recommended our lunch place had several dinner spots on his list for us. After our very satisfying lunch experience, we wanted to go to every place he suggested, but unfortunately time – and appetite – were limited. So, Restaurant Ciacco received a visit from us. Dinner was fantastic, with barely cooked whole prawns, (the heads, or brains, have the most delicate, light flavor – if you are ok with sucking it out of them),  scallops seared to perfection, another tagliatelle bolognese, (since we’re here…) lasagna bolognese with spinach pasta (as close to a perfect lasagne as you get in this world), and desserts of glorified rice pudding, and simple fresh strawberries slightly warmed in olive oil. Please note the color of these strawberries – they truly did not need anything further added or done to them, and I appreciate the recognition of that.

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The highlight of the dinner was the end, when the chef (a friend of Federico, who sent us there), pulled up a chair, ordered all of us a round of drinks, and just wanted to talk. We spoke of Federico, his family, Bolognese food, our experiences so far, the chef’s trips to America, how he met his wife in California at a bar (they are both from Italy – he from Marche, she from Bologna). To me there is something so special about showing up in a city we’ve never been before, and ending up learning about the personal life and cares of a new friend, someone we will always remember, and will look forward to meeting the next time we go.

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