Ladies & Gentleman... the lover of Italy and its food, wine, art, language, architecture and weather is BACK! Well, maybe, not so much the weather as the other aspects...
Easter holiday was finally upon me, I found myself having an entire week off of class due to getting the day off before Good Friday (venerdi santo), then the day after Easter (pasqua) off because its Easter Monday or pasquetta here in Italy, and then no class until Thursday just because it worked out that way (french cancelled, strategic studies postponed etc).... wowee I was lucky! And even LUCKIER that my mom was returning, this time bringing along my dad!
We had been anticipating the week for quite some time now, so an in depth eating and drinking schedule had been planned out in advance. Along with numerous day trips from Bologna and an overnight in Verona and Milano. This pasqua week was going to be JAM PACKED!
Waking up early, going on a run and getting some errands done, I returned home anxious before 11am and I waited for my parents to ring up to Via Solferino. Obviously, I was early in anticipating their arrival, so I cleaned and cleaned until it was nearly 1pm. Finally they arrived, we got all settled in my one bedroom and then we were off to show Dad BO! First stop, Piazza Maggiore. Second stop: FOOD. We strolled the streets I normally take to the center, pointing out the famed barber shop that dad would get a hot shave at later in the week, we walked under the brightly painted frescoed porticos surrounding Piazza Cavour, walked the length of San Petronio past the ritzy clientele of Zanarini enjoying their early afternoon Spritz and Prosecco, walked through Piazza Maggiore and down the vegetable, fruit, meat, cheese and fish filled cobblestone ways of Via Pescherie Vecchie and stumbled into Tamburini to buy some delicious treats to bring to Osteria del Sole. We bought grilled veggies, a fresh quiche and crescentine (the softest half moon crepe type pastas filled with the smoothest ricotta you've ever had and covered in a mushroom cream sauce). With our reheated treats, I navigated us to the hole in the wall of the famous, beloved and characteristic Osteria del Sole, that was filled with mostly older men playing cards (for it was only 2pm). We ordered a bottle of Pignoletto frizzante, and enjoyed our first meal together in Italy. After we finished our food and the bottle of Pignoletto, we continued on, slightly buzzed to enjoy the rest of the day in Bologna. Dad stopped at a stall to buy some candied nuts which he did not hesitate to munch on inside the church we visited. He sat himself in a pew, staring up at the frescoes, munching away at those caramelized almonds like he was eating popcorn in a movie theater, it was priceless. We strolled up and down Via Indipendenza, then back to my apartment for a quick catnap before we went to dinner at our favorite Al Voltone, right in Piazza Maggiore. We enjoyed a lovely first meal, dissapointed we couldn't order the large tagliere misto (mixed plate of meat and cheese) for it was venerdi santo or Good Friday, but we made due with our meat restrictions and had a delicious meal, then headed to bed ready to wake up early and head off to Verona.
Verona in the rain
We met Serena in the lobby of our 5 star hotel due torri, that was justified by my parents not paying to stay in a hotel the rest of the week. The hotel was gorgeous, and Serena was overwhelmed waiting for us there in the lobby. Unfortunately it was a very rainy day in Verona, but we were able to see all the main sights and go to a fabulous exhibit: Da Botticelli a Matisse, where we were able to see many extremely famous paintings all in one exhibit. However, it was interesting because over 50% of the paintings appeared to be loaned from the MFA in Boston, including Renoir's famous painting Dance at Bougival. After the museum we split up with Serena while she went to go meet with some friends. We wandered around the city then headed back to the hotel to dry off, and then check out the church of Sant'Anastasia that was right next to our hotel where there was supposedly a concert. When we realized there was no concert, we start off toward our dinner destination, Enoteca Segreta, where we enjoyed wine, laughs, slow food, and horse meat (yep, Dad ate horse). After dinner we returned to the hotel where we noticed we got a lovely turn down service, including some chocolate easter eggs, then it was right to bed for us and up early for Easter mass!
We awoke in our extremely elegant room to an abrupt doorbell ring, and two, large, green, lindor chocolate eggs. Who could've give us those?? Easter bunny? or Dad chuckling around the corner? opzione numero due. I phoned their room to get the game plan. I headed downstairs to meet them for breakfast while Serena finished getting ready and met us for breakfast a little later. We were lucky to have a gorgeous day ahead of us. We walked to the duomo and peaked into the Easter Sunday mass, the crossed the river to climb a hill to get a beautiful view of the city. Verona was truly gorgeous. It was already nearing 1pm by the time we had walked up the hill across the river, so we headed back down to go through centro to find the Buon Ricord restaurant my mom had reserved, this time without umbrellas. Verona was still gorgeous in the dry weather, nobody poking you in the eye with their umbrella, no puddles to step in and no fear of getting my camera lens dirty. However, something about the shiny, wet cobblestone, hundreds of brightly colord umbrellas and puddles that reflected the bright hues of the buildings had made Verona even more beautiful than when it was dry. Piazza delle erbe was still beautiful, but it seemed to be lacking something that Sunday without the colision of umbrellas! Anyways, I was happy to be dry when we entered the gorgeous cantina of the 12 Apostoli for our Easter lunch. The table was ornately decorated with tiny mandarin oranges, flowers, chocolate eggs, and gold mushrooms. We were prompty greeted with glasses of Prosecco and a plate of delicious focaccia to start. And we continued to be impressed... a delicious pasta fagioli, meat, fish and pasta to follow. No complaints -- except that we were TOO full. This trend would follow us the rest of the week... Finishing up dinner we walked around for a little longer, then returned to the hotel to grab a cab and get to the stazione for our train back to BO.
Pasquetta plans were for a tiny bandiera arancione town in the hills of Emilia Romagna. Brisighella was the destination for the day. It took us a little over an hour to arrive at the small town that I had planned as a surprise for my parents. The town was adorable, and recomended to me by a friend to visit. It had three hills that you could hike, one home to the church, another to the castle and the third to the clock tower... la chiesa, la rocca e l'orologio. Afraid of the rainy weather forecast, we were lucky to have a gorgeous and dry day in Brisighella. We hiked the three peaks starting with the clocktower, we made our way past the flowering almond trees and olive groves to the castle, then ascended the final hill to the church and headed back down to the town center to meet our 1:00 lunch reservation at a place called La Grotta. Once again we were greeted with Prosecco... I was getting accustomed to this service! We had the most spectacular and economical meal at La Grotta. We had a delicious antipasto of meats, cheeses and breads spread out on a beautiful piece of wood. We enjoyed a delicious bottle of red after our Prosecco. Then went into our primi. Pasta with swordfish, gnocchi with creamy carbonara sauce and pasta with greens. Total bill: 60 Euro. Best meal ever.
We caught the 3:00 train back to Bologna, and realized we had the perfect day in Brisighella. Mom & dad walked around Bologna for a little while longer, while I returned home to nap and study before dinner, I was wiped out. Since we really weren't all that hungry at all we decided we'd go for pizza so that we could split 2 and be happy having ate, but not over stuffed. We walked down Via Santo Stefano to the very end where Pino's Pizzera was located (also recomended by a friend). We ordered two delicious pizzas, and my parents switched it up by getting beer instead of wine, and I was content with my acqua frizzante. We had a lovely light meal then headed back to Solferino to sleep and rest up for the following day in Ravenna.
The mosaics of Ravenna were as gorgeous as people had talked up. But, Ravenna itself did not rub me in any particular way. The intricate bizantine mosaics found in 5 churches of Ravenna were truly amazing. The color, the designs, the detail... all mind blowing and worth the 9 euro ticket. My mom spent more than enough time drooling over the intricate detail of each mosaic masterpiece of the churches, soaking it all in. My dad and I were quicker observers but still rather appreciative of the artwork. We were able to walk through the town a little bit, but there was nothing that really rubbed me the right way in Ravenna. It just didn't have that 'feel' that I get when I tour many other Italian cities, but that's okay. Italy can't be flawless throughout! We returned home to Bologna in time for dinner. Dinner reservations had been made at Il Pappagallo one of the most famous restaurants in Bologna. It was clearly an elegant tourist attraction, but it's food did uphold to the standard. Lasagna alla bolognese was superb. The best of the 6 that my dad ate throughout the trip.
Wednesday, classes restarted, so I unfortunately had obligations besides sight seeing and eating with my parents all day long. I headed to class leaving my parents to do their own thing. Only item I knew that was on the agenda was a stop at the old barbershop, Marchi, in Piazza Cavour (1870). This hot shave was something I had wanted to witness after walking past the shop daily and seeing the two barbers with their perfectly shaped dramatic mustaches and goatees, cut and maintain their old italian clients. I swear I could sit there for hours with a camera if the men didn't think I was weird. So after my classes I hurried to catch up with my parents for dinner. Luckily, when I called them, they informed me they hadn't even left my apartment yet, so I could meet them at the barber shop to witness my dad's hot shave. Perfetto! The barber foamed his brush to perfection, making the perfect lather for my dad's face, but the actually shaving did not seem to be as gentle as I had expected. You could hear the blade scratch his face with every stroke, and that barber was not leaving any hair behind. He was extremely thorough in his work, and the end result was the closest shave my dad had ever experienced. From Marchi we walked to Piazza Maggiore to sit in the sun and enjoy a cappuccino. Coffee enjoyed, we continued to tour the church and climb on top to take in the gorgeous view of Bologna from above while the rain was holding off. We climbed 8 or 9 stories high of scaffolding until we were above Piazza Grande. Around us we could see the due torri, the green Bolognese hills/colli bolognese, San Michele in Bosco, San Luca and the porticos winding up the hill to it, and the beautiful red top buildings and churches of the old city center within the walls. It was 360 degrees of beauty, and we discovered we were the lucky few who would get to experience the view. For once the scaffolding was removed after the restoration of the facade in October 2013, the climb up would no longer be possible. Siamo stati fortunati! After the climb we went to grab lunch at La Traviata, where we had eaten with Tori and Alex the last time my mom had come. I ate quick and left them to climb San Luca while I hustled off to French class... that I was pleased to find out actually hadn't recommenced after Easter. So instead I went home to nap and wait for my parents to return to finish off the night. Obviously an evening couldn't go by without a wine bar, so we walked in centro to find a glass of wine and a small aperitivo before jetting off to the Unipol Arena in Casalecchio for EROS RAMAZZOTTI! Fantastic evening of music, even from our seats that were super far away. But Eros rocked, the concert was a blast, and we were the luckiest people to stumble upon a lost cab driver who was willing to take us home... we thought we were going to be stranded when we exited the arena to find ZERO cabs in the area. Wednesday = Success!
Thursday -- days are getting slim! We aren't!
I had class again so my parents were off exploring Bologna again while I studied. We met at 1:30ish to eat lunch, the place; Ca'Pelletti. I enjoyed a very fresh frittata while the genitori wolfed down some pasta! A small glass of wine for each of us and then a chocolate torta to top of the meal. I walked my mom to the Pinacoteca on Via delle belle arti, then I was off to french class! Luckily for me French was apparently not happening, yet again! So I walked home to rest up with daddio. Despite my strict evening dinner reservations, Mom insisted on stopping at another wine bar before dinner. This one was very chic and under a lovely sectioned off portico. The crowd was very fancy fancy, and the atmosphere was nice to enjoy. We drank or glasses of wine had our aperitivo and then headed for the main meal. Our dining venue for the evening would be Cantina Bentivoglio on Via Mascarella -- an esteemed destination for many. It was traditional italian, set in an old cantina downstairs, serving the best bolognese specialties, PLUS they had a jazz muscian every evening! So when I called to make my reservation, I asked to be put in the music room, and we were able to get a very nice meal just steps away from the band. Mom finally was able to get her tortellini in brodo, the famed bolognese dish that she had been dying to have. Her comments while eating it proved that the meal was up to par. Per usual we had ordered an antipasto of meats and cheeses that were beyond delicious, so I was barely able to make a dent in my tagliatelle bolognese but I wanted to finish it so badly. Luckily, daredevil mom asked the server to take the portion home (this is very rare in italy) and he happily went and packed it up in the kitchen and came back pointing out that he graciously added a fat piece of lasagna! SCORE! Dad was geloso! Meals for the week after deprived of mom and dad! We walked home in the rain to burn some calories and prepare our tummies for the next meal.
Friday was our last day in BO. I had classes through the day, so mom and dad were off on their own. Last minute shopping and museum seeing tookover the hours. Julia Caffrey (family friend) was flying into Bologna after travelling for her spring break, so was stopping in to have dinner with us before heading back to her study abroad location of Florence. So after class I rang the parents who had met up with Julia. They were obviously at Cremeria Funivia (dad's a goloso), so I went to meet them there and then figure out a plan. We didn't have much time since Julia had to catch the last train to Florence, so our 9pm eating time was going to be shifted as early as italy could possibly do. So at 7:00pm we were sitting at Da Serghei, a small, highly rated, trattoria on Via Piella. The waiter quickly attended to us, explaining the few homemade pasta specialties and second course meat dishes. We spotted the Nonna in her socks and slippers who was clearly tending to the kitchen, making reservations and cleaning all at once. We decided our meals. Dad ordering a last lasagna alla bolognese. Our meals came out promptly. Literally, within two minutes of us ordering them. Shocked at the preparation time, we asked the waiter how it was possible and he explained how everything was cooked so fresh his mother just needed a few minutes to make final preparations. It was fantastic pasta too, so no complaints! Wine was delicious! And we daringly got the stuffed zucchini for a secondo which was interesting but good. And mom got the big stinco. A huge deliciously juicy shank of meat. A wonderful last meal in bologna.
We walked Julia to the stazione then walked back to Solferino one last time together to pack and rest up for our final days in Milan.
Early Saturday morning we departed from Bologna Centrale bummed we didn't have enough time to grab one last cappuccino together in my neighborhood. The train ride was quick to Milan and we were meeting Gaetano and Christina at the hotel and I was hoping my second trip to Milan would change my original opinion of it. Luckily things were already looking better for this 24 hours in Milan.
Milano centrale was gorgeous and massive. Our hotel was half a block behind the duomo and we could see the top of the church from our balcony. My mom knew some cute neighborhoods. We saw the Milan stock exchange and the controversial middle finger statue that I never knew existed.
And food and wine was on my parents done. Plus we got aperitivo on top of La Rinascente (a chic italian department store) and after a glass of wine and a small italian microbrew tasting, looking at the ridiculous upscale clothing in an 8 story building could not have been more fun.
Icing on the cake was while we were trying to find a second wine bar with a view after Gaetano and Christina left us, and trying to find a hotel my mom swore existed, we stumbled upon a window with a big chocolate fountain in it and with a massive mob of people waiting inside! Yes! An amazing gelateria with peculiar flavors and variations of chocolate and the option to fill the bottom of your come with a melted chocolate syrup of your choice was lying in the back streets of Piazza del duomo. I was ecstatic and I never wait in long lines, but this place looked professional and looked well worth it so I insisted I wait, and it ended up being well worth the wait! So nommy! Cone filled with dark chocolate! Who could resist!? Slowly savouring the gelato we walked back to the hotel for mom and dads last night. We didn't even eat dinner that night we were so stuffed from a weeks full of indulgences. But wine, aperitivo and gelato was plenty satisfying for me.
Sunday morning (their last morning), we woke early and went down to the breakfast room to eat and figure out the morning plan. The marathon was starting at 10 so my parents needed to figure out the best way to get to the airport, which entailed leaving around 11:45/12:00. We decided to walk around and hang out by the turn that touched the outsides of piazza del duomo until the first finishers sped by, we wandered around for a few blocks, stumbled upon the university and the had to head back to the hotel so mom and dad could fly back home to America and I could walk myself to Milano Centrale to head back to BO da sola. I hated to see them leave. Such a cry baby everytime I leave them from the US or they leave me from Italy, but I was so thankful for a fantastic week. Minus a few poor weather details, some rain and cold, the days turned out to be the best when we needed them to be. Brisighella was the favorite day, with it's La Grotta being the best meal. Couldn't have asked for a better week! From their departure I'd have one more visitor, two trips to Muto and I'd be home! Time was flying and I'm thrilled that I'm here another year so they can come again and we can explore more new towns and restaurants together. Cause that's what we do! Eat, drink, appreciate, explore!