That Thing I Tried : A Day in Bologna, Italy

Bologna, Torre Asinelli, Photo: Julie Santini

Err-merr-gerrd! A new column! Hi! I’m Julie Santini and I usually write about shows in Montreal. Sometimes I’m even in shows in Montreal. But, as a human, I’m just trying stuff out– pretty much the whole premise of this column. I’ll explain more about the birth of this premise some other time. For now, I am writing to you from charming Reggio Emilia and have decided to share the story of the time I tried to see as much of Bologna in a day as possible…

Ever been?

Four of us meet this summer in an international commedia dell’arte intensive and are crazy enough from exhaustion to gather at the train station at 8:30am on a Saturday for a day trip.

We aim for the 9:14am train, which gets delayed to 9:40am. Each ticket costs us 5.80 EUR, which is about 8.60 CAD. I, personally, pass out for the 40ish minute ride from Reggio Emilia to Bologna, despite the children playing beside us.

Waiting for the train Jeannine (USA), Jason (Australia) and Sophie (England), Reggio Emilia, Photo: Julie Santini

Waiting for the train Jeannine (USA), Jason (Australia) and Sophie (England), Reggio Emilia, Photo: Julie Santini

Once out of the station at Bologna, we bee-line to one of the bars across the street. Press sandwiches and coffee all around! We eat standing at a counter and bolt to the center.

In the center, we find the torre assellino. It costs 3 EUR to climb its 500 steps. The narrow steps are not for people who suffer from claustrophobia. This journey involves a lot of stopping on tiny landings to let people coming down pass. So, if the idea of climbing the tower seems overwhelming and impossible, there are a lot of guilt free breaks. You have to stop whether you need to or not, so…

Jeannine, Sophie, and Jason take the first steps up, Bologna, Photo: Julie Santini

Jeannine, Sophie, and Jason take the first steps up, Bologna, Photo: Julie Santini

Before climbing, we decide to inject ourselves with caffeine (yes, again). Across the street was a bar, next to a pizza place we had hoped to get back to, but never did. Here’s a lesson! The coffee was 1.50 EUR if you drank it at the counter, or 3.00 EUR if you took it to a table. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The last flight of steps has the tiniest steps. People coming down walk sideways, and if they’re really afraid, backwards.

The top of the tower looks like this:

Jason, Sophie, and Jeannine, Bologna, Photo: Julie Santini

Jason, Sophie, and Jeannine, Bologna, Photo: Julie Santini

Next stop on the guidebook was the International Museum and Library of Music in Bologna. On the way, we spot a lovely bakery named “Di Nonna Vincenza”. It has a piano in the window and upon entering, we get cannoli and stick around because the place has wifi! Since getting to Italy, finding hotspots has become an all costs mission.

We eventually make it to the museum, which has secret drawers with hidden memorabilia. Here’s some of the cool stuff you can see there:

Harps, Music Museum, Bologna, Photo: Jason McKell

Harps, Music Museum, Bologna, Photo: Jason McKell

Hungry, we walk back towards the bakery to bum more wifi. Two men sitting outside ask if we’re lost. They recommend a place that we attempt to walk to, with Jason getting hangry (hungry to the point of angry.) When we get there, we learn the restaurant is closed for renovations. Hangry Jason recommends going to one of the million places we already passed.

We backtrack until we get to Nicola’s Pizzeria Ristorante in Piazza San Martino.
The waitress is lovely and tells us to choose fast; kitchen closes at 3pm and it’s about 2:30pm. Each of our meals ranges from 6 EUR to 14 EUR. The cheapest being a mushroom pizza and the most expensive being a seafood pasta. I ask for the server’s personal favourite. She recommends the lasagna, and that’s what I have.

Lasagna, Nicola's Pizzeria Ristorante, Bologna, Photo: Julie Santini

Lasagna, Nicola’s Pizzeria Ristorante, Bologna, Photo: Julie Santini

Her other recommendation is the seafood pasta, which Jeannine orders with pleasure!

Jeannine with seafood pasta, Jason with pizza with french fries on it, Nicola's Pizzeria Ristorante, Bologna, Photo: Julie Santini

Jeannine with seafood pasta, Jason with pizza with french fries on it, Nicola’s Pizzeria Ristorante, Bologna, Photo: Julie Santini

We eat extremely well! Following lunch, we want to go the the market, and decide now would be as good a time as any. In less than seconds, we decide to get gelato instead and hit the market on the way back to the train station.

A friend who lives in Bologna recommended Cremeria Funivia. There are two in the city. We struggle to find the one in Piazza Cavour, but eventually make it with a little help from a local working in a fancy dress shop. It’s a pretty ritzy looking part of town. This place is majestic! They even pour a ladle of something that tastes like melted Nutella in the bottom of the cone. I would take the train back daily for another. We all get medium cones with 3 flavours for 3 EUR, while Sophie has a bowl/cone with four flavours for 5.50 EUR.

Sophie's gelato, Cremeria Funivia, Bologna, Italy, Photo: Sophie Ashby

Sophie’s gelato, Cremeria Funivia, Bologna, Italy, Photo: Sophie Ashby

We make it back to the market, which has a lot of nepalese and indian swag. Harem pants range from 10 to 25 EUR. But there are also bins of things from clothes to household items for as low as .50 EUR. Earlier in the day, we passed through to get to the center, and Jeannine picked up a pair of sunglasses for 2 EUR.

Back at the train station, we run into Marta (Barcelona) from the intensive course. She tells us about buying socks for her friend’s birthday.

Jason, Sophie, Jeannine, and Marta, Waiting for the train home, Bologna, Italy, photo: Julie Santini

Jason, Sophie, Jeannine, and Marta, Waiting for the train home, Bologna, Italy, photo: Julie Santini

All waiting for the train home, rather pooped and happy.

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