Saturday, December 24, 2016

It's not all rainbows and butterflies

I have to blame this post on the French lady I met on the plane in Montreal. She started my negative mood, so she is to blame. But I also think it’s fair of me to write something not so picture perfect about my travels, because let’s be real, traveling is not always easy and is not always perfect and fun. And if I’m getting really honest, we all know how much I rave about Italy, its beauty, its people, its language, its culture, its food, etc. I could go on… but thank goodness Italy has all of that to offer on its good side because it is very easy to find yourself down, frustrated, angry and upset at the way you end up treated and the number of obstacles that can be hurdled into your perfect day.
So, this French lady started my flight off terribly. Her and I were one of the first people to board the Air Canada flight, Montreal to Brussels. Naturally, since we were the first, we had to wait for the entire plane to board after us, a completely sold out flight, that’s a lot of people and luggage to be put in the overhead compartments! I’m settled, so I start playing with the television on the seat, and pick a move to start watching, I put my headphones in, sit back and relax, watching this film as the plane continues to board.  Then all of the sudden I hear this lady talking at me in French, and I just can’t help but stare at her with a dumb look on my face as she continues to talk at me in French. Finally, she pauses and asks in French, if I speak French, to which I respond no, (although I understood everything she was saying) so she then begins to lecture me in broken English about how it is important that I remove my earphones while we are on the ground because it is critical to my own safety and the safety of the passengers that I listen and not be distracted by my headphones. I just stared at her, said thank you, and put my headphones back in. This drove me INSANE and ruined my mood for my transatlantic flight, why did this lady insist on micromanaging the way I was behaving on the plane, when I was doing something that was so not even worthy of commenting on? ‘sta gente.

Waiting in the boarding area for my flight to Bologna from Brussels was another experience. 5 minutes before our flight has started to announce, folks start lining up at the gate ready to board. I sit there and watch. These people were so interested in being the first on the plane that they had queued up in anxiety even before they had started the boarding process, you can only imagine how that turned out once they did start the boarding process and asked for those who need assistance and other special passengers to board first… what a nightmare! At least I can laugh at that one.

Now let’s talk about space. Personal space. This is something you don’t get when you’re in Italy. Especially public space, like sidewalks. This straight up gives me stress. Running, walking, skipping, no one cares. It’s you against them, and I NEVER win. It’s mind blowing, literally. I walk by myself nearly hugging the wall most times or on the cusp of the curb, groups come at me, single people come at me and none of them move. I always secretly swear to myself that the next person who does it I’ll just plow right through, but I never have the courage!

While avoiding the people seems not so bad, it becomes more difficult when trying to avoid all the dog poop all over the city at the same time. Don’t get me wrong – I am still obsessed with Bologna, but it will never be the same city it was when I was actually living here. Now I notice the obscenely terrible graffiti all over the beautiful walls of this town, and it makes me sad. Particularly, this time around there is one individual who vandalized wall after wall after wall with “NO RENZI, FUORI RENZI, CACCIA RENZI, BASTA RENZI”, I thought it was entertaining the first time, then I realized it is painted all over the city, under beautiful arch ways, religious statues, porticos, the list goes on… that makes me sad, because this city deserves so much more. I also notice that maybe 1 and 10 people pick up after their pets, walking around you literally have to dodge dog poop and pee everywhere you go and it makes traveling a little unsettling.

Ultimately, the perks of being in Italy outweigh these few unfriendly details, but I do think it’s important to keep it real, so I hope some of you can sympathize with some of these points!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A long layover in Brussels

This holiday season comes with many strange feelings for me. It’s the first time that I will not be spending Christmas with my family.  In October I decided that since my office undergoes a holiday shutdown from December 23rd through January 3rd, I might as well take advantage of it. So, I thought, where should I go that I could get tickets affordably and also not be completely alone? Naturally, the answer was Italy.

Hours spent looking at frequent flyer tickets I realized no flight the day before or the day after Christmas was going to be available with miles, or would be too expensive, leaving on the 27th or 28th wouldn’t lend me enough time for a Europe trip because I couldn’t use vacation days after the break is over given our crazy meeting schedule that resumes the day work is back in session. So I opted for a 30,000 mile and $25 fee ticket with a long trip duration, getting me to my beloved Bologna by 5:30 on Wednesday, December 21st. YEAH!

Anticipating my trip, but also feeling sad about being a loner wandering around Italy while I could be home eating 7 fishes with my favorite family members, going to church, eating Nonna’s lasagna, and watching movies with Uncle John, my departure date finally arrived!

Thankfully my cousin Juliana came and brought me to the airport, so I did not feel so disconnected from the family. She was so nice! It really made a difference being left by her J

Sunset view from Logan, Terminal B
Departing Boston at 5:30, connecting in Montreal and then again in Brussels, my total travel time would be nearly 18 hours, with a 6 hour layover in Brussels. I tried everything I could, called United, bothered people at the ticketing desk to try and get me on the Lufthansa flight, BOS -> MUNICH -> BLQ, or BOS -> FRANKFURT -> BLQ, that both arrive a number of hours earlier, but it’s Christmastime, no luck. Everything was booked. So I resigned myself, and decided not to worry about it, besides I had all these United Club passes that I could use at the fancy lounge when I got to Brussels and I’d have all this time as an excuse to enjoy being in airports, blog and read my book.

I say that now as I’m drinking a shitty cappuccino that came out of a automatic machine that I had to pay almost 4 euro for because, yes you guessed it, the Star Alliance does not ally nicely when it comes to utilizing beautiful perks like the “Air Loft” lounge in the Brussels Airport.

Airport vitamins
But hey! I’ll still try to look on the bright side of things. This long journey has allowed me to think about how bummed I am that I am not spending Christmas with my family and friends at home, but it has also got me very excited when I look at my crazy (non relaxing) itinerary for this vacation. While I might not be with my American family and friends, I have a unique opportunity to spend 12 days during the beautiful holiday season to take in Europe and visit with friends made during my time in Bologna, our family friends the Grillos and my beloved host family who I stayed with 6 years ago in 2010 during my term abroad in Florence. How lucky am I?

My itinerary goes like this:
Wednesday, 5:30 arrive in Bologna – EXPLORE
Thursday – Bologna/Forli to visit Lina for dinner
Friday – Bologna/Modena to visit a family friend of my mom and dad
Saturday – Monday – Firenze to spend Christmas with my host family J
Tuesday – Back to Bologna
Wednesday – Torino to visit with the Grillos
Thursday – Sunday – Chamonix with Serena and amici
Monday – Tuesday – ROMA, the back to Boston.

What I am most looking forward to is spending time with all these people I see so rarely, and turning my Italian switch on for a full 12 days.

Set up shop, not at the lounge.
Cappuccino from a machine
Additionally, Italy during the holidays is such a magical sight. I can’t wait to step off the plane in Bologna and feel that charm envelope me and take me in. Christmas markets, aperol spritz outside under heat lamps, lasagna alla Bolognese, streets lined with holiday lights, Christmas trees in every main square and the smell of chestnuts being roasted on every street corner.

I know that Bologna will have also changed so much since the last time I was here, so I can’t wait to see what new shops, restaurants and bars I come across. And I know one of my first stops when I get chilly will be my cioccolata fondente calda con panna from Grom on Via D’azeglio.

If only I could’ve convinced my mom and dad to join me!

BRING IT Italy! I’m ready! [Just 3.5 more hours until I depart from Brussels!]

(I also hope travelling alone will get me back in to Blog mode, I want to put more of my time into my blog in the new year, and I owe Toni a post on our trip to Italy last March, salutero’ Nonno <3)

Friday, December 16, 2016

Camminando a Strada Maggiore, 45

Us lovers of Italy understand the attraction of the language, the draw the smell of a fresh baked brioche has on our hearts, how the clinking of cups nearby catches our attention because we know there is un buon caffe that awaits us in the next store front or  around the corner or around the corner or around the corner. These are simple things that make living in Italy a daily adventure, in fact, you might even call them a daily pleasure despite the fact we are well aware jobs are limited, the political system is corrupt and you will never get through the line at the post office as quickly as you may have imagined.

The other day I was chatting on the phone with another Italophile realizing that we both expressed and shared these same feelings towards Italy. We among all understand well the idiosyncrasies of Italian society and the bureaucratic headlock you can so easily find yourself in, nevertheless we love Italy the same, if not more. I found so much comfort in the fact that I wasn't alone in thinking these odd almost trivial pieces of life were more than just pieces of life, but adventure and lust. We discussed how we were fortunate to spend time in Italy, to want the thrill of living abroad and to enjoy living in a daily adventure.Italy is just that, an adventure.

My most traveled adventure in Bologna was my walk to and from my apartment to my school, the department of political science in Strada Maggiore, 45.  One might characterize this daily walk as a commute, but for me it was an experience every time I stepped out my front door on to Via Solferino and headed East towards Strada Maggiore.

But let's start even before I stepped out of my house. My general morning routine consisted of making coffee and having breakfast in my apartment kitchen. The adventure began there, every morning, at my kitchen table. Looking south out of my kitchen window, I had a perfectly framed view of the church San Michele in Bosco, sitting humbly on top of the hill. It was such a treat, and I soaked up that view as often as I could.

Class for me generally started at 9am Monday through Friday and ran the entire day. It was like being back in high school with class all day long! So by the time I got my books, bags and coffee ready, I'd leave my house by 8:40 or so in order to make the quick 15 minute walk to school and have time to get settled in the classroom. This walk, although short, was my favorite daily adventure and routine. Depending on the day my walk could have multiple stops or be nonstop to Strada Maggiore. A few of the places I passed that distracted me from my non stop path to class generally were coffee related, but even particular doorways, windows or cars would stall my journey as I always walked the streets of Bologna to class treasuring the views.  Here are a few stationary things that often caught my attention on my walk to school and helped shape my daily adventure in Bologna:

1. San Michele in Bosco: Like I previously mentioned, the sight of a the sunrise (or a sunset), a set of fluffly clouds, a clear blue sky or a foggy Bologna morning  encompassing the church on top of the hill framed perfectly by my kitchen window was my favorite sight and adventure every day. The magnificent view often stole my attention, comforted me every day I lived in Via Solferino and often made me a few seconds slower out of the house.

2. Sorbetteria Castiglione: La Sorbetteria is well known among the Bolognese as one of the best gelaterias in town. Lucky for me I walked passed this everyday, and I often couldn't resist going in, but contrary to what you might think, my stop was always made in the morning, not for gelato but for their delicious pastries and coffee! My favorite one was a girella that had pear and chocolate chips in it. But, their cappuccino wasn't the best offered on my walk to work, so I only went to the sorbetteria when I was in need of that pear and chocolate girella! And don't get me wrong, you could find me walking here not on the way to school when I might have been craving a gelato :)

3. Piadineria Vecchio Mulino: As many of you know, Piadine are a staple to life in Bologna. This Piadineria sat at the corner of Via Castellata and Via Rialto, right at the point so you could never miss it, especially walking home from Strada Maggiore. There was always a crowd here at lunch, hanging in the streets, hudled over their neatly wrapped piadine or tortelloni ripieno con nutella. I enjoyed stopping here for a yummy crescente or their special nutella stuffed tortelloni.... yes, I am a golosa!

4. Calzolaio: One day I realized my boots needed some new soles and I realized, hm! Don't I walk past a cazolaio everyday on the corner of Santo Stefano? Yes! You can't miss the tools hanging in the window and the shoe molds dangling from every corner, and of course... the smell of leather! I loved peaking in this window to see what shoes the Calzolaio might be banging on, so fun!

5. Cinema Rialto: There is a small movie theatre located on Via Rialto, the back of which faces Via Castellata (my daily route). I always enjoyed walking down the road behind the cinema and listening to see if I could hear the movie playing within. It's something I liked to listen for, but I have to say that I never went to see a movie there, and I probably should have. 

6. Shoe Store: It's crazy but I can't remember the exact name of the store, only the exact location, smell and beautiful shoe display remain in my memory. It was a sort of outlet of hand made leather shoes and I was never lucky enough to find the perfect pair for me, but many a pair of men's shoes I brought home for my brother and boyfriend. I loved slowing my walk to browse the windows lined with beautiful leather shoes, men's and women's, on SALE!

7. Bar Maurizio: Unassuming by morning, but bumping at night. I'd walk past the red metal stools of Bar Maurizio daily and enjoy looking at the name in the sign made from a cursive neon blue light. On my way home from Uni is when this bar really stood out. Most days I'd have to walk in the street as the portico was blocked with students enjoying their approx spritz and a cigarette. Loved this crew. And you can't beat an aperol spritz that's 3€;

8. Caffe dell'Academia: My bar! From the owner who wore split apart glasses colored with the Italian flag, to the thoughts for Lucio Dalla notebook seated outside, this was my go to bar and study place on the way to and from Strada Maggiore. The water bowl for dogs outside, the poem and limerick of the day, the cappuccinos, the pastries and the lunch choice are among my favorite things Caffe dell'Accademia had to offer. I would often meet my friend Lina here before class where I'd take a cappuccino and she'd have a ginseng she claimed to be among the best in town. My only regret is that I didn't talk to the barista often enough, I should've been more outgoing!

9. Cheese * Wine * Fruit * Veggies * Pasta * Bread * Biscotti * 
Salumi: At every corner and along every street fruit, veggie, che
ese, wine, pasta, bread, biscotti and salumi vendors would catch my eye and turn my attention towards what I might stop to by and cook on my way back from class.

10.  Santa Maria dei Servi: This is one of my favorite churches in all of Bologna, notable because I pass it to and from school, but also because the front of the the church opens into a lovely brick lined courtyard enclosed by beautiful rows of porticoed walkways. The portico spanned nearly the whole block leading up to the political sciences department and framed the beautiful facade of the church. Along the left flanking wall you could always peer into the side door of the church at the beautiful decorations and see the madonna on the wall protected by the portico. Not to mention the beautiful terracotta color that brightens the day!

11. FRAM Cafe: This cafe was a late find in my two years of walking to Strada Maggiore, but once found, I couldn't stay away! Fun decorations inside, as well as a fun menu boasting fresh fruit smoothie like drinks and other healthy non traditional snacks.

12. Graffiti: A small pink graffitied area on the orange wall in Via Castellata always caught my attention and made me smirk. The graffiti wasn't originally there when I first began school in 2012, but I noticed the new graffiti during my second year at Uni: "Peace, love, and drugs"

13. Doors and Moldings: This is all of Bologna, not just my walk! But these certainly made me smile along the way to school, one door in particular won't ever escape my memory, the tiny wood door against the bright orange painted wall in Via Castellata. Moldings above the continuous porticos, barred windows and details that you just don't find in every city.

14. Cars: My favorite blue FIAT 500 L lives in a gated area outside an office space in Via Castellata. I fell in love with it the first time I walked by and wish it was parked there everyday. FIAT EPOCA = LOVE & HAPPINESS.

15. Avoid the dog poop! Evitare la cacca del cane! Not my favorite surprise on the way to school. Rule of the Bolognese roads... watch where you step! More than once I've been a victim of dog owners not picking up after their dogs.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Top 5 Day Trips with Bologna as your home base!

When I first moved to Italy I quickly discovered that I am a person with natural wanderlust. Being in Italy only further encouraged my wanderlust, the best part being that I could even do it on a student's budget.  When you're in a country where trains and buses make traveling to the remotest of areas easy, it's impossible not to explore, and even easier than you might think to navigate to remote areas far beyond busy cities with out a car.  What makes it even better is that you quickly learn it's easy to find countless picturesque cities with at least one delicious restaurant, bar, cappuccino or pasticceria. With Emilia Romagna as my oyster and other neighboring regions close by and well connected by train, I made sure to take advantage of my days off of school, free half days, as well as long and short weekends.

What I discovered during my two year master program is that Bologna, more so than Rome is incredibly well connected to magnificent paesini and many UNESCO world heritage sights.  In fact, Bologna couldn't be a more central and perfect location to explore the big town and small town parts of central/northern Italy. From Bologna Centrale you can easily hop on a train and be in Milan, Venice, Verona or Rome in just about two hours, add another hour of journey and you've nearly made it to Switzerland, or you're in Trieste or exploring the five towns of the Cinque Terre or Genova. Bologna's centrality and connectivity is undeniable and it also proves to be a perfect location to explore many small, beautiful and unique towns that can be found along your way to any nearby major city.

The first small town I urge you to explore is in the Province of Ravenna.

How to get there: 40 minute train ride from Bologna Centrale to Faenza, followed by a ten minute bus or train ride Faenza to Brisighella. Trains run hourly.

I have to admit that I would have never known about Brisighella if it weren't for my friend Julia who is a natural explorer and loves quaint Italian towns. And she hit the nail on the head with this extraordinary find.  Brisighella is situated at the foot of the Appenines, a perfect point where the Appenines roll into Brisighella from the West and then East of the village, rolling fields continue towards the Adriatic Sea.  The village is unique because of three structures, resting on three defining hills of the city that define it's history and panorama,  L'Orologio, La Rocca, e La Chiesa. Resting just above the top of the city a stone stair pathway leads you up along the ridge to arrive first at the clocktower "L'orologio," from there you continue on the rocky path to pass La Rocca, a medieval fortress dating from the 1300s, and on to the third hill where La Chiesa sits, the "Santuario della Madonna di Monticino" dating from 1662. Apart from the three hills, Brisighella has much more to offer in architecture, nature, cuisine and culture. The beautiful small streets of the town are lined with bright colored homes creating a naturally beautiful sight for anyone wandering the streets. Beyond that, the town is affordable and has a number of top notch restaurants to enjoy at an affordable price.

What to see:
La Rocca
Santuario della Madonna di Monticino
La Torre dell'Orologio
L'Antica via del Borgo - A beautiful street famous for it's characteristic half moon window openings and bright colors. A unique architectural beauty!
Parco Regionale della Vena del Gesso Romagnola - Check out this site if you have a longer time to spend in Brisighella and want to check out some hiking and nature at it's best!

Where to eat:
Ristorante La Grotta, Via Metelli 1, website
Trattoria La Casetta, Via Parco Ugonia 6, website
L'Infinito, Via del Trebbio 12/14, website

 If you like quaint, but also like the idea of Venice, Cesenatico is the place for you!

How to get there: Not as easy of a train ride as Brisighella, but still do-able in a day. Depending on the connection you get the train ride can be just under 2 hours or slightly over it. By car it's a simple hour and 15 minute drive.

Cesenatico drew my attention because it is a port city on the Adriatic sea. Being in Bologna, I also longed to see the sea and would happily adventure out to a town that was on the coast.  A mere 2 hour train ride away, you simply can't say no to a sea breeze and fresh salty air.

When to go: If you are a fish lover, i'd suggest making your trip to Cesenatico around their fish festival "Il Pesce Fa Festa". I traveled there during this festival and it was such an amazing experience. The canal is lined with fish vendors and pop up tents selling fresh fried fish, fish risotto, fish soup etc.  It's not to miss! And all of the fresh catches are super affordable. Check out their event on their page

What to see:
Museo della Marineria - Cesenatico's own Marine Museum, learn about fisherman and sailor history and check out the boats they host, website.
Porto Canale - The main canal of the city
Spazio Pantani - If you love cycling, check out the Spazio Pantani, an exhibit dedicated to famous cyclist Marco Pantani (a Cesena native) who won both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in 1998.

Where to eat:

fish, fish, fish, fish - that's what you eat!

Osteria del Gran Fritto - If you like fried fish, this is the place for you! Corso Garibaldi, 41, website

12 Ristorante - Higher price range, fish specialties, central location. Via Armellini, 12, website
Mare' - Great patio and outside seating, fabulous view of the sea. Molo di Levante, 74, website

Parma is a colorful, right sized, biking city, known best for it's claim to fame "Prosciutto di Parma"

How to get there: Parma is EASY to get to from Bologna Centrale. A quick hour train ride directly north west of Bologna makes it easy for you to get the real low down on Prosciutto and Parmigiano Reggiano. Trains run every thirty minutes!

A classmate of mine studied in Parma during his time abroad at college and ever since it has been on my "to see" list. Disclaimer: My "to see" list is actually code for "to eat". He boasted of the rich culture, the ease of movement around the city by bike, and of course the amazing proximity to some of Italy's most esteemed food products, prosciutto and parmigiano! I finally visited Parma for a quick day trip when a Botero exhibit was in town, I explored the parks of Parma, the cobblestone streets, the colorful building facades and of course, treated my taste buds. Parma like Bologna, is a smaller city, but with big city attractions. It has high fashion shopping, a plethora of delicious restaurants, parks and green space, and of course amazing museums and cultural attractions. You can't go wrong with Parma!

What to see: 
Cathedral of Parma
Baptistry of Parma
Parco Ducale

If you have time and money:

Food tours - there are a number of Parma based food tours that will organize your group being picked up from the main station in Parma and then brought to various locations, ie. the parmigiano reggiano factory, or to a nearby vineyard. There are many various food tour groups all with different touring options and customizations, ie. staying local within the city walls or exploring the country side of Parma.

Food Valley Gourmet Tours -
Parma Golosa -
*Check out TripAdvisor for reviews on various food tours originating in Parma*

Note: If you contact the Parmigiano Reggiano factory in advance and have a car, you can arrange for free tours of their factory directly with them.

Where to eat:

Pepe'n - For a quick and crazy sandwich experience Pepen is the GO-TO! A Parma speciality is horse, so don't be afraid if you see that on the menu, and try not to craft your own sandwiches. The busy storefront likes to keep sandwiches streamlined and delicious, and they know their off the menu options are the best of the best. Borgo S. Ambrogio, 2, website
Osteria i Tre Porcellini - Borgo del Correggio, 60/A, website
Sa Marjoga - Borgo Garimberti, 27, website
Osteria dello Zingaro - Borgo del Correggio, 5/B, website

Gelato - Emilia Cremeria (Luigi Carlo Farini, 29,) & Ciacco (G. Garibaldi, 11)

Two reasons (that quite frankly are one in the same!):
1. Mosaics
2. UNESCO World Heritage site

How to get there: Another easy train ride from Bologna Centrale, however this time north east and toward the sea. Most trains are direct to Ravenna and run hourly. The best news is, the train ticket only costs 7 euro!

Ravenna is one of those places that if you're near it, you simply cannot miss it. Mainly because it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the tomb of Dante Alighieri. I have to be the first to admit that Ravenna did not meet my expectations in terms of food. The culture was fabulous, the mosaics scattering the cities beautiful churches were unbelievable, but we just so happened to drop the ball on finding that great restaurant for our day trip, it was rainy, we were cultured out and at that point where we couldn't spend anymore time looking for that perfect place to eat, so my final view of the trip was just so-so. If you haven't noticed... I like to eat WELL.

What to see:
UNESCO World Heritage: Byzantine Mosaics (8 locations)
  1. Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
  2. Neonian Baptistery
  3. Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo
  4. Arian Baptistery
  5. Archiepiscopal Chapel
  6. Mausoleum of Theodoric
  7. Church of San Vitale
  8. Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe

*It's worth stopping into the local tourist office to buy an integrated ticket that includes all UNESCO sites in Ravenna*

Where to eat:

As we've entered the Romagna part of Emilia Romagna, you should note that the best eats include Piadine.
Antica Bottega di Felice - Via Ponte Marino 23-25, website
Ca' de Ven - Via Corrado Ricci, 24, website 
Profumo di Piadina - Via Cairoli 24
Cupido - Don't judge by it's looks! Via Cavour 43/A, website

(I think I deserve to give Ravenna another chance!)

A couple of things make Modena a must see town:

  1. Home to Michelin 3-star rated restaurant Osteria Francescana (Rated 2nd best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine)
  2. Torre della Ghirlandina
  3. Food
  4. Walkable/Bikeable
  5. Ferrari

How to get there: Again the train is our friend. Modena is the closest of the five cities, a quick 20-30 minute train ride. Trains run multiple times per hour. There is no excuse to miss this gem!

What attracted me to Modena is a quick train ride from Bologna and it costs less than ten euros for a round trip ticket. Among other things, Modena is famous for it's Balsamic vinegar and like other cities on this list, it's cuisine. If anything, I was planning on hopping on the train just to try a Modenese restaurant! I also must admit the draw Modena has to those car fanatics in your life, the Ferrari museum is situated just outside the city center, but don't be fooled, if you're going to visit with a Ferrari fanatic it's not likely you'll have much time to explore the churches and monuments of the city as well!

What to see:
Duomo di Modena
Torre di Ghirlandina
Piazza Grande
Palazzo Ducale
Mercato Albinelli
Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari

Where to eat:
Osteria Francescana, Via Stella, 22,  don't miss this 3 michelin star awarded restaurant of Massimo Bottura. But be aware, this is no cheap eats!
Franceschetta58, Strada Vignolese, 58 if you want to try Massimo's sister restaurant, this is the place, slightly outside of the city but worth it!
Ristorante da Danilo, Via Coltellini, 31,
Antica Moka, Via Emilia Est, 1496, (all I can say is read up about Gnocchi fritti and you might think it's worth the hike!)
Trattoria il Fantino, Via Donzi, 7,

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Il Barbiere

Il Barbiere or the barber shop is a pastime that has not fallen into the shadows, especially in Italy.

When I started living in Italy, Barbershops quickly became one of my favorite spots to people watch.  This may have been because on my walk home every day from Piazza Grande, I would walk the beautifully painted blue ceiling portici of Via Garibaldi in Piazza Cavour and walk past one of the oldest and most interesting barberia in Bologna.  The Antica Barberia Le Marchi has lived under the beautiful portici of Piazza Cavour since the late 1800’s and has not changed one bit.

Given the odd hours of the shop it took me a while to realize what a wonderful treasure I walked passed nearly twice daily to run errands and go to class. It was the head barber himself that gave away the secret. One day walking through the portici, gazing up as I often did to look at the bright blue intricate detail painted on the portico vaults, I decided to actually look where I was walking and noticed a full man in a white coat, a grey full head of hair and a fantastic silvery mustache taking a cigarette meandering slowly between the columns of the portici. That’s when I decided to look right and notice the barbershop to which he belonged.  How could I not have noticed this before? A beautiful glass paned storefront, framed by a perfect old wooden door and window frames. I must have been too occupied by the portici ceilings or checking to see how long the line was across the way at Cremeria Funivia, to notice how beautiful the shop front was, beautiful glass and aged wood, making a crisp and clean appearance and quickly transporting you back to an earlier time. The glass paned storefront allows you a full and clear view of the barber chairs, the barber tools, the outfit the barbers wore themselves and the clientele who were patiently getting hot shaves with a razor to their throat.

The insides of the shop are adorned with beautiful antique mirrors, nearly floor to ceiling, framed in a beautiful mahogany wood. Wood pedestal-ed marble topped floating tables adorned the space below each mirror where a set of what look like ancient shaving tools sat. Even the barber chairs seemed original, leather and wood rounded back chairs, and much different than the chairs I always looked when I peeked in the window at SuperCuts! Shelves on mirrored walls are lined with aftershave and other products in fancy bottles for freshly shaven faces and newly cut hair.

I became obsessed. The two men who worked in the shop always wore their white coats, pajama like bottoms and “croc”-like shoes. Their hair was never left too long before a cut and their facial hair, always well manicured. I’d walk by and peek in as they were sudzing up their antique shaving brushes to lather their clients face with soap.  They expertly and effortlessly put a straight edge razor to their client’s throat, clipped their hair with precision, and always left them dazed in a cloud of aftershave. Clients always walked away looking dapper, thoroughly satisfied with their time in the chair and always gave the two barbers many “saluti” as they left knowing they would return soon for their routine cut and shave. I even witnessed the two barbers trimming their own pristine mustaches every once and a while. To say the obvious, my eyes became trained to a new routine walking through Piazza Cavour, now I had three things to look at; the blue painted portico ceilings, the line at Cremeria Funivia and the barber duet.

Since I fell in love with the shop, I decided to set my Dad up with a hot shave appointment when he came to visit over Thanksgiving. He had quite the experience and he even attested that they gave him the closest shave he has ever had! Complimenti!

Sala da Barba | Piazza Santo Stefano, Bologna
Here is some vocabulary that you might find useful when visiting a salon or barbershop in Italy:

Barbiere = Barber Shop
Barba = Beard
Baffo =  Mustache
Lozione Dopobarba = after shave lotion
La Riga = Part
Un Taglio = A Hair Cut
Una Spuntatura = A Trim
Salone di Parucchiera = Hair Salon
Pettinatura = Hairstyle
La Forfora = Dandruff
Tintura = Hair dye
Spazzola = Hair brush
La Frangia = Bangs
La Piega = styled blowout/dry
Il Ciuffo = Side bangs
Il Phon = Hair dryer
Capelli Scalati = Layered