Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ancora una volta

So... let's think back to May 2014... what in the world was Lia doing then? My memory is starting to fail me... but oh wait, I think I recall a quick week and a half cram sesh between Greece and my parents deciding they were changing their California plans to return to Bologna, cause heck, Why not?

Allora, cram cram cram I did! I returned from Greece with two full weeks left of classes before the period of exams would begin. My first exam for my last master career appello would be Sistemi Internazionali Comparati, taught by Panebianco. The exam was held on May 5th, technically the last day of class where he allowed frequentanti to take his written exam. My other two exams would follow occurring in the first real week of appelli, which would start May 15th. Since my favorite class of the semester was Sistemi Internazionali with Panebianco I was very concerned for my outcome at the exam. He taught by far the most interesting class and the theories on total war, offensive realism, realist theory, balance of power, institutionalism, constitutionalism, and I can go on... were by far the most attention capturing topics I had read thus far in my Unibo career. One of our assigned books, John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: Norton, 2001), was so interesting I couldn't wait to come home to my little balcony at Via Solferino, whip out my chair, my little blue table and my book to dive deeper into Measheimers realist theories throughout the history of the major world wars since the late 1700s. In addition to enjoying what I was learning, Panebianco also had a reputation of being a hard ass when it came to grading exams, so I was going to learn his stuff and learn it good. But, my parents and a friend from college were also planning to visit during prime study time, so time management was KEY! During the day I studied my but off, I focused the majority of my time on Panebianco's material, but I also was concurrently writing a 20 page paper for my United States in the Contemporary World class that I wanted to do well on purely because it would be embarrassing if the American girl did poorly on an exam focused on the United States. So those Union time management skills kicked in during the weeks that unfolded from the day I returned from Greece until the day of my last exam on May 21st. While my parents and my Union classmate Jenna visited the lovely BO, I studied during the day and spent time with both guests at night.

My mom arrived in Bologna alone two days before my dad, Mom stayed with me in the apartment until my dad arrived Monday afternoon. Prior to his arrival, mom and I made sure to enjoy a couple of cappuccinos and even try some new restaurants that were deemed worthy due to tripadvisor reviews and fellow bolognese bloggers. Naturally the first thing we did when she arrived was head straight toward the quadrilatero to check out the new Mercato di Mezzo, and to eat at the place that my Zizi Linda still raves about, zerocinquantino! You know what that means... tagliere misto and tigelle, nothing else compares! After an afternoon passeggiata digested our lunch we headed down to Via Del Pratello to check out dinner options. If you hadn't noticed from prior posts, when you visit Bologna your vacation becomes a food race. One meal followed by the next, the pattern broken by 1 of 4 options; the passeggiata, the second or third coffee of the day, a nap, or a gelato (what else did you expect?). Anyways, I digress...the weather was gorgeous so we strolled up and down until we landed on a trattoria we found appetizing, had outdoor seating and had a good vibe. I was a little nervous about eating dinner on Via del Pratello with my mom because that was a street that students traveled often to cause shenanigans, drink and smoke Hookah (Narghile), but to my surprise she found the road very endearing and lively! Wahoo! Our meal was good, Al Cantinone hit the mark for the atmosphere and price but we didn't find it to be one of those Bolognese knock outs, in fact, I had a difficult time remembering where we decided to eat that night over a year ago! Nevertheless, it provided my mom with a new neighborhood to see and an urge to try another restaurant on its pedestrian only cobblestone way once my dad arrived in town. 

Sunday, RAIN. They day started out beautifully, but by mid afternoon the clouds descended. We didn't really mind, but if it held up to greet my dad the following day, he would surely be bummed. My mom did her thing while I did mine and we spent the latter half of the day together since it included eating dinner. This time we walked another way to check out what few options we had on a Sunday night so we wandered down to Via Belli Arti in the university district down on via belli arti. We walked with our umbrellas up in then pouring rain to Via Belli Arti hoping to land on a welcoming and yummy place that evening because I had heard there were a number of good trattorias that I had yet to try. Our immediate impression of Anna Maria was good, it was your traditional bolognese menu with your typical wooden tables, checkered table clothes and signed photographs lining the walls of all the famous 

Gianni & I

people who had graced Anna Maria's presence and lasagna verde. The food proved to be good, but the experience iced the cake.  Our waiter was a character, very talkative and cordial and far too elegant for the establishment he was working in. He explained his job situation to us, saying he wouldn't be working at Anna Maria's unless he had to, apparently he wasn't treated very well, and he was formerly a waiter at a high scale restaurant on a cruise ship. We weren't sure we believed him till Anna Maria herself came down the stairs in her apron, we were so excited to see the famous chef had actually cooked our meal, but the following interaction she had with our waiter proved their relationship was quite rocky indeed, he came back to finish our order with a smirk on his face saying "I told you so" "ve l'ho detto". Finishing up our meal my mom searched the walls of photos to find her man, Gianni indeed was up on the wall. We walked home in the  rain, walking home from a filling meal was my favorite  thing to do in Bologna, even in the rain!Monday, I would study while my mom did her thing, but only after we grabbed a cappuccio together. That afternoon we went to move her things to I their bed and breakfast down the road, B&B Porta San Mamolo and awaited Dad's arrival, knowing he would be bummed to see it was raining in Bologna... Again! I hoped it wouldn't down his spirits too much! After getting settled the game was food again. I had reserved at a restaurant at the end of Via Del Pratello, after mom and I had researched it on our stroll and on tripadvisor later. It was a roman restaurant and our choice was field by our desire to enjoy some carciofi... Leave it to the culinary romana to own springtime artichoke based meals. It was a fabulous choice for Dad's first Italian meal, and the only thing that dampened his spirits was the still ongoing downpour of rain. Che palle.

The routine continued throughout the week. Wake up, meet for breakfast, go study while dad and mom picked a city to day trip in, meet for aperitivo and eat dinner, repeat. On occasion we went on on a morning jog... This is one of the things I miss the most since being home.  We did my route that climbed to the top of San Michele in Bosco to see the beautiful full panorama of la rossa, winded down through the flowering and bustling giardini margherita, the finished off by running down Santo Stefano, past Nettuno, through Piazza Grande and looping back down to Via Solferino. It was the perfect 4 miler and once that I miss very much running. Another yearning I've been having is to do what my parents did that week, hopping on the treno regionale to a neighboring town to check out it's secrets, it's treasures, it's cappuccinos and it's other culinary delights. It's like visiting a whole new world but your back by the end of the day, didn't have to take a car anywhere and paid less than 10 euro for a round trip ticket. #winning. Their day trips included Imola, Dozza, & Faenza. Bologna is just the best hub ever! Mi manca assai. My parents even took the bikes from the hotel and rode the path down to Casalecchio and to the bridge on the Reno, that was also part of my longer marathon training runs. Out and back past San Luca, never daring out actually run up to the Santuario like many crazies do... Maybe the next time I live there ;)


Run to San Michele in Bosco!
Funivia w/ Sheryl & Jenna

FaceTime with Alex :)
Jenna & I @ Santo Stefano

Trattoria Meloncello

Da Tony
Dal Biassanot
To add more craziness to the week my friend from Union, Jenna arrived Thursday night. She and her friend Sheryl came from Palma, Spain to explore Italy for the weekend. I was psyched to see Jenna and hear about her experience teaching Spanish in Palma so far and also to catch up on everything we missed since college. Jenna and Sheryl were the BEST house guests, so polite, respectful, fun and independent. They arrived late Thursday night, I met them at the bus stop and we walked back to my place. We got settled then we headed out to eat. Pizza due torri was the go to since it was late and they didn't want a full meal. The plan for Friday was to see Bologna, I woke early to study until they woke up. After we were ready I took them on the Bologna tour which included seeing Piazza Maggiore, Santo Stefano, il quadrilatero, Via Indipendenza, my school, Piazza Verdi, i 7 segreti, etc. we bought balls of buffala mozzarella to snack on from Tamburini. We walked around for a while and I left them to explore while I headed home to study some that afternoon. We'd meet up for dinner later on at Da Tony and no Bologna trip is complete without gelato from Funivia. For Saturday and Sunday I gave them direction on getting to Venice and Florence for day trips, they spent the entire day in both cities, finding Venice not to be so magical, but Florence to be one of the most beautiful and enchanting cities they've ever been too. I spent Saturday studying until dinner time at Dal Biassanot down on Via Piella. It was actually one of our better meals had all week! Sunday was my final study day and also my parents last day. We ran in the morning, enjoyed the sun on the breakfast patio and enjoyed our cappuccini. I left them around noon to go finish studying before the girls came back from Florence and hoped that I had Sistemi Internazionali Comparati under my belt. Another great week in Italy spent with my parents, and they'd be back just in 2 and a half short months for my laurea... That is if I passed my exams!

Friday, May 1, 2015

More food in BO? Il famoso Mercato di Mezzo.

In retrospect... although I am over a year behind in my blog posts, re living these memories is becoming quite handy as I realize I can pin point where I was just a year ago and compare and contrast where I am today. It's also happening at a convenient time where I am going through Italy/Europe/Bologna withdrawal and painting these memories in my head is a temporary remedy, along with diving into the stack of Travel & Leisure, Saveur, Bell'Italia and Bon Appetite magazines that arrive in the mail to my mother's name every month. I am also enjoying writing this a year later because it also proves that the experiences I had over a year ago were truly enriching and memorable experiences... my readers (family/friends mainly) always comment on how incredibly detailed I manage to make these blog posts and sometimes I find these details a burden because I just ramble on when I write, but it truly is a testament to how enriching my experiences were and how they resonate through my life even today (I swear I can't remember the details of a meeting I had at work just yesterday!). Also, I won't give you a misguided impression... I can't remember EVERY single detail of my travels, although most I do. I'll tell you a secret... My mom always asks for a business card of every restaurant, cafe or wine bar she ate at, so I caught on to this habit, so I too take business card from every restaurant I eat at and save my ticket stubs from train rides and museums, so looking back at my collection is a good refresh on my travels since they mainly revolve around the dinner table! So anyways, that was just a little reflection, now let me tell you about the Mercato di Mezzo...

Just when I thought I was finally getting a handle on the food Bologna has to offer, they throw me a curve ball! Like the facade of San Petronio, ever since I arrived in Bologna in September 2012, there has been a second edificio of Bologna that has maintained its scaffolding since Day 1. This building, however, seemed to be much more hidden and less conspicuous even with it's close proximity to Piazza Maggiore, so it's scaffolding went practically unnoticed to foreigners and non natives until 2 weeks before its grand opening.

It's not to say that I was blind to this so called "Mercato di Mezzo" one of the oldest markets in Bologna. In fact, I had noticed work being done in the streets between the Quadrilatero and Galleria Cavour, next to the lovely church of Santa Maria della Vita during my many walks to get coffee or to peruse the freshest fruit and grab 250 grami of fresh pasta. But to be honest, I never expected anything to come of it, and quite frankly I was unaware of what exactly the space used to be.  All I was aware of was that an old building known as the Mercato di Mezzo was under construction and that it appeared to by physically worked on rather infrequently, that is, until the end of March 2014.

Late March, my roommate had mentioned that the renovation of some old "Mercato di Mezzo" was almost complete. I was utterly confused and quite honestly had not a clue as to what Zoe was referring to. But then she helped me connect the dots, and I soon realized that the Mercato di Mezzo was that mysterious building that had been under construction right in the center of Bologna since I had arrived. Aha! Comunque... I still didn't quite understand what the renovation consisted of or what the interior of said market could have looked like before construction and what it was to look like after construction... so I googled and googled to find out more about the Mercato's grand opening and google failed me. I found a couple of articles briefly describing the project and the opening, but facts seemed to be misaligned and there really was not a great amount of information available on this famous Market. And I really had to go digging for it! The first article I can find was written February 4th 2014 and contained mainly speculations that it would open in April and more speculations about what would be housed inside. What was clear from the articles was that the Mercato di Mezzo was in decline before 2008 and was not utilized. So 2008 marked it's revamp and began year one of a six year restoration period with few inclinations on what it would become, but the goal was to revitalize the rich gastronomic and cultural traditions that the building represented in Bologna's history.

Come opening day, I believe the scope of the project was achieved. Despite the lack of media attention that I felt the hard opening of the Mercato di Mezzo lacked, the number of people who visited the Mercato di Mezzo on opening day proved that this date was marked on the bolognese people's calendars as a day not to miss.

Of course being the foodie lover that I am, I could not miss the grand opening of the Mercato di Mezzo. My plan included aperitivo and mortadella... what could go wrong? That's a good questions... The downfall was that aperitivo and mortadella seemed to be the whole city of Bologna's plan as well! The place was a ZOO! Hardly enough room to shuffle through the entire building. The minute I stepped in, I knew I wanted to get out, but I had to spend five minutes pushing people from one end to the other all without seeing any of the treats and stalls the new market had to offer. The good news is that the Mercato di Mezza was already a hit and even lack of advertisement couldn't deter the crowds, bad news is I had to wait nearly 2 weeks before a normal flow of people went through the market and I could enjoy my Pignoletto Frizzante and mortadella. From that week on, Mercato di Mezzo was where I went to waste time and to try new wines, new craft beers, and different ingredients in my piadine and crescentine. No complaints!

So what did the Mercato di Mezzo have that enchanted and pulled me there multiple times per week in my last months in Bologna? Four things:

1. Location
You can't find a place more central than the Mercato di Mezzo besides Piazza Maggiore itself. Anyone who goes anywhere in Bologna might find themselves walking past the Mercato di Mezzo, and at any point in time could be craving a snack... It's a perfect solution! Immersed in the neighborhood known as the quadrilatero, the Mercato di Mezzo is a great addition to complement products the neighborhood already has to offer including fresh fish, meat, cheese, fruits, vegetables and pasta, now shoppers can stop to grab something pre prepared if they get hungry during their daily grocery shop. The quadrilatero being known for it's fresh produce and products is also one of Bologna's favorite tourist attractions, the bright colored vegetables and many 38 kilo (84 pound) wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano casually displayed in store fronts are a sight to see, but unfortunately tourists don't have enough time to cook on vacation and custom laws and baggage restrictions sometimes detract visitors from bringing home that fresh wheel of cheese or a kilo of fresh tortellini con carne! Now the Mercato di Mezzo offers those visitors fresh piadine made with fresh ingredients you could find during a normal grocery shop in Via delle Pescherie Vecchie, along with beer, wine, gelato and other treats visitors might be craving after waltzing through the vibrant quadrilatero.

2. Modern Vibe
The inside of the market is a stark contrast to the cobblestoned streets and painted portone of Via delle Pescherie Vecchie. That being said, it is perfect to have the old and the new nestled in the quadrilatero so that you can be amazed by both worlds. The inside of the Mercato di Mezzo has a white, sleek, clean, and modern effect. Wood top tables are scattered down the middle with funky short and tall ghost chairs scattered throughout. The food stalls run laterally down both sides of the building and have white back drops, brown wood counters and sleek stainless steel accents and lighting to create a cool modern vibe. The ceiling has windows across so light flows in effortlessly allowing for an almost open feel inside. On the second floor, the famous Eataly Pizzera thrives on what appears as just a floating wood platform raised above the ground floor and enclosed with short glass sides. The tables up at Eatlay are also ghost chairs accented with a flash of orange color, and the whole ambiance is just open, cool and modern. What's not to love!?

3. Variety
The variety inside the Mercato is extraordinary. I've walked passed the location many times thinking wow, I'm craving Gelato, or wow, I miss home, I could really use a hamburger, or wow, I could use a beer... and for every craving there is an answer!

The stalls inside the Mercato include:

Birreria Artiginale Baladin - An artisanal brewery from Cuneo, Piemonte. Pints are just 4 euro.
RoManzo - Where I now go when craving a hamburger in Bologna!
La Centrale del Gusto - That includes a pasticerria, gelateria and bar that Gino Fabbri perfected with Granarolo. So pastries, good coffee and gelato are all found here!
DeGusto Coop Adriatica -  A mini supermarket where you can find Alce Nero and Fior Fiore products, or also grab a tagliere misto and a glass of wine, or little stuzzichini for Aperitivo!
Forno Calzolari - If you're in need of fresh bread, this little forno which was founded in the heart of Monghidoro, in the Bolognese Appenines, also sells in the Mercato di Mezzo (Organic flour and local grains!).
Pescheria Del Pavaglione - With their fresh fish shop located just around the corner in the quadrilatero  you never have to second guess the freshness of this food. The stall in the mercato has fried calamari, misto fritto, and many other yummy fish salads.
Enoteca Regionale dell'Emilia Romagna - The original is a destination not to miss if you have the time, founded in Dozza, a small town east of Bologna, the enoteca has wine tours and has all regional wine and is found in a cute little city filled with street art, but Dozza isn't the easiest to travel to if you don't have a car! Luckily, you can find this little piece of Dozza in the mercato di mezzo now, along with all of it's fabulous regional picks... My favority - Pignoletto!
Grandi Salumifici Italiani - A great choice for fresh meat plates, grab a tagliere misto here for a great price. They make crescentine and piadine to order as well, always fresh ingredients. Not to miss!
Pizzeria di Eataly - Last but not least you'll find fresh pizza cooked in a wood burning oven on the second floor of the Mercato. Eataly uses the freshest ingredients, including organic flour from the Mulino Marino, and accompany their pizza with great beer! Baladin or Peroni! You pick!

Buon appetito!

4. Social Atmosphere
Finally, all of the above factors lead to an excellent social atmosphere. The types of stalls, bars, gelateria, birrieria, enoteca etc. lead to an overall excellent choice for social affairs. It's quality, location, and outside seating availibility also make excellent reasons for people to head to the Mercato di Mezzo for an aperitivo, or to grab their morning coffee on the way to work. You can count on me asking my friends to meet me there to grab a glass of Pignoletto or a birra from Baladin, without a doubt!

So... andiamoci!