Bologna: Short and sleet

OK, it wasn’t all sleet, but there certainly was snow. And icy rain. Bologna was our home during the second half of the Beast from the East, the unusually harsh winter in the UK and Europe at the end of February and first few days of March. We were flying to our next destination from Bologna, and we had a few days free between our Naples house sit and that flight. Hanging out for a few days in Bologna seemed a good option.

From Naples, we rode the high-speed train through snow-covered fields and green spaces that looked like they hadn’t seen a flake of snow. At one point, we sped into a tunnel leaving behind green fields and exited the same tunnel into a winter wonderland. But as we arrived in Bologna, the sky was fairly clear, and the roads were dry enough for us to walk the kilometre from the train station to our accommodation for the next 3 nights.

We went out for a walk to find a place for dinner and discovered how close we were to many of the sight-seeable locations. Back in our room, we dug up a good What to see in Bologna in one day guide so we were ready to head out the next day.

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The Chamber of Commerce in the Piazza della Mercanzia is a very important building–it’s where the original recipe for Bolognese sauce and the official measure for filling tortellini are housed along with other critical Bologna artifacts.

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Views of the Piazza Maggiore, one of the biggest and oldest squares in Italy.

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The Basilica of San Petronio, begun in 1390, dominates the square but remains unfinished with the upper half of its facade still exposed brick. We were hoping to take the elevator at the back of the basilica to a rooftop viewing area for views of the city, but it was boarded up, only open on weekends in the winter. (The photo below was taken the next day when the police car and armed military personnel left the area.)

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For something a little different, we stopped by Archiginnasio, the first seat of the University of Bologna. There we visited the Teatro Anatomico, where corpses were first dissected for scientific study.

The room and the building were badly damaged during the war, but the theatre was rebuilt and displays the original wooden sculptures.

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Also in the Archiginnasio is the historic university library.

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Following our day-in-Bologna guide, we headed to Quadrilatero, once a medieval food market and now streets named for the shops they house (for example, fish street – via Pescherie).

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We stopped for lunch in the renovated Mercato di Mezzo, and I enjoyed probably the best gnocchi I have ever eaten, along with a glass of Italian wine, of course.

Though there are many towers in Bologna, probably the most famous are Le Due Torri, or The Two Towers. One of the two gives the leaning tower of Pisa some serious competition. One of the towers boasts 498 steps ready to be climbed. We couldn’t see where to get tickets or how to go up, but we didn’t try that hard to find out.

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The Piazza Santo Stefano offered access to the Basilica di Santo Stefano, also known as Sette Chiese (Seven Churches), a complex of ancient interconnected churches.

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The porticos (covered or arcaded walkways) were everywhere, and felt to us like a differentiator for Bologna. There are about 40km of these protected sidewalks, including one that is 3.7km long.

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During the night, the snow started to fall. It wasn’t pretty, light-flaked snow. It was heavy, wet, slush-on-the-ground snow alternating with icy rain, and it went on all day making staying inside and getting caught up on trip planning a much more desirable prospect. Other than zipping out to nearby restaurants for lunch and dinner (breakfast was in the hotel), we snuggled down and tried to stay warm and dry.

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