travel

Summer in Europe, 2014: One full day in Bologna

(This is the fifth part of my six-part travel blog series. We’ve previously visited RomePompeiiPrague, and Padua/Venice.)

I do not have any photos of the oppressive Bologna train station. The construction site (where the bus stop was supposed to be) may not have been malicious, but the numerous customer service signs that pointed nowhere certainly were. I’m sure the experience would have inspired Dante for one of his circles of hell.

On the plus side, it was in this train station that I learned exactly how much Spanish I do know after all, and how well Spanish may be used to converse with an Italian police officer when asking for directions.

Once we finally emerged from the train station with a sense of direction (an hour after arriving, but at least the rain had stopped), this is one of the first sights that met us:

across the street from the bus station, outside Bologna Centrale

across the street from the bus station, outside Bologna Centrale

I have no idea what that is, but it looks remarkably old. That’s what I love about Italy: the way ancient things crop up unexpectedly, everywhere you go.

Also, as has previously been covered, I love street views and architecture.

narrow Bologna street

old architecture, new fashion

street leading to Santo Stefano basilica

street leading to the Santo Stefano basilica

looking the other way down the same street

looking the other way down the same street

yes those are HEADS popping out of the building, and they are all different

a building with HEADS emerging, all of them different

One of the best-known basilicas in Bologna is Santo Stefano, also called Seven Churches.

Santo Stefano basilica

Santo Stefano basilica

Pilate's Courtyard within the basilica

Pilate’s Courtyard within the basilica

other side of Pilate's Courtyard

other side of Pilate’s Courtyard

Cloister within the basilica

Cloister within the basilica

One of my favorite things in Bologna was the covered sidewalks, as this is what you saw when you looked up:

Italy's idea of public walkways, because everyone deserves magnificent art over their heads

Italy’s idea of public walkways, because everyone deserves magnificent art over their heads

A close-up:

walkway ceiling square

walkway ceiling square

Bologna also has two towers, built in the twelfth century, though one of them had a bad foundation and was abandoned unfinished.

Due Torre

Due Torre

The city also had some pretty cool graffiti.

this is a rad eagle

a rad eagle on a skateboard (my interpretation)

useful PSA

useful PSA

Other sights on our afternoon walk:

Basilica of San Domenico

Basilica of San Domenico

around the corner:  statue of Madonna of the Rosary

around the corner: statue of Madonna of the Rosary

My Italian friend in Padua told us about a church that had a mummified nun on display, which certainly sounded worth seeing.

inside the Church of Corpus Domini

inside the Church of Corpus Domini

altar inside the church

altar inside the church

also inside the church

also inside the church

In a small side room, we found the nun. The atmosphere was one of the most solemn of all the places I’ve visited in Italy, with the other women in the room keeping complete silence, so I didn’t feel right taking out my camera. But you can see a picture of her on the wiki page, of course.

Back outdoors, we found more conventionally pleasing sights.

I liked that tree

I liked that tree

angular street view

angular street view

ritzier street view

ritzier street view

Bologna is known as the food capital of the world, and I wish I had solid food reviews, but perhaps my expectations rose too high — I never had the transcendent experience I was looking for. I do recommend Restaurant da Nello al Montegrappa, which was near our hotel and very tourist-friendly while maintaining quality and an authentic atmosphere. After being disappointed by my first taste of panna cotta in Rome, I was amazed by its texture and flavor here. And I could have drunk several more glasses of sgroppino — an amazing concoction of prosecco, vodka, and lemon sorbet — if only it weren’t quite so expensive.

As we remained on foot inside the city center, I’m sure there’s a lot we didn’t get to see, but it was a satisfying peek into an Italian city new to us. And it was a hell of a beautiful day.

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