Despite the devastating earthquake north Italian region near Bologna has been experiencing the past few weeks, I decided to make my way down from Tuscan hills to Emilio-Romagna region. It took me an hour and a half train ride on the Regional train, 2nd classe. After arriving at the Bologna Centrale train stazione, I walked out with my suitcase and immediately found myself liking the city, it's vibe, architecture and the academic atmosphere.
The architectures are stunning with rising pillars all throughout the city. It is bustling with a very large student population mixed with its inhabitants and travelers. I found my lodging in the city center with help of two college students who walked me through the cobbled stoned streets where cars are not allowed through most of the time. I found the place very close to the University of Bologna which housed more stunning arched way buildings and students milling around the university quad. In typical Italian fashion, coffee/wine bars, osterias and gelatteria lined the streets.
Bologna soon became my favorite Italian city. The city itself is not large yet the spirit of the place and its inhabitants are larger than life. The city of Bologna is known for it's student population, beautiful women and cuisine. After walking around the city, I would have to agree with the sentiments.
I got to try the true Bolognese cuisine at the well known restaurant in Bologna called Diana's. It's simple yet hearty food is simply perfect. Menu consisted of cold cuts which is a must get (prosciutto, mortadella-Italian version of baloney, salumi, and finocchiona.) and the main dish, tagliatelle al ragù or also called tagliatelle alla bolognese. Although typically considered a second course and a prelude to the main course, the plate of cold cut and pasta is filling for most diners. If you want the main course, many of the Italians ordered a plate from the meat cart that was strolling up and down the restaurant.
I loved the simple presentation.. simplicity in its flavor with focus on the ingredients rather than complicated sauces and spices. It is true Bolognese cuisine. Sangiovese wine (my favorite Italian wine.. peppery and robust in flavor) accompanied the meal which went perfectly with the meat sauce. Finished off the perfect meal with limoncello, an Italian after dinner drink that tastes like spiked lemon gelatto. It is the best meal I have ever had. The Italians certainly know how to live la dolce vita.
I also got to experience the nightlife in Bologna. Went to a few clubs.. very elegant and trendy Italians did not move very much which surprised me. I thought they would be filled with passion, enthusiasm, and liveliness that Italians are known for.. but they just moved in very calm manner to the beats although everyone sang along to the chorus with the music that is top of the charts in the states. It felt good to finally hear English being spoken in Italy. Everyone knew the chorus by heart.
My weekend in Bologna was an amazing experience just like the rest of my journey through Italy. It was raining the day I left and sort of reflected my mood as this marked the last week of my stay in Italia. Bologna is a city after my heart although I do have to say that Paris still holds the title for favorite city in terms of the build.. but Bologna tops it in the people, food, and comes very close in the architecture rivaling Paris. The only thing that bothers me about Italy is the graffiti on the buildings. It is definitely an eye sore on otherwise stunning and beautiful landscapes.
Tagliatelle photo courtesy of Chef di Ter