We started out mulling over where we should go - somewhere close, but different enough to be exciting and fill two days of our time. Florence was throw out as an idea, but quickly rejected when we realized how long the transportation would take. We thought about Verona, but figured that we might be able to see the whole city in a day or less. Finally, we came up with the perfect destination.
Home to the oldest university in the world and the gastronomy capital of Italy, this red-bricked city was perfect for us. Emily quickly took care of the hotel reservation while I ordered our train tickets, and we were set to go.
On Saturday morning, we grabbed an excruciatingly early 7 am bus from Paderno del Grappa to Bassano del Grappa, hopped across the street to the train station and took a regional train to Padua. A quick connection and a much-needed cappuccino and chocolate muffin got us on a high speed Frecciargento for a quick 170 km/hr ride into Bologna.
Ever the reliable navigator, Emily quickly got us down the street to Via dell'Indipendenza where we found our hotel, I Portici Hotel Bologna.
We couldn't check in until 2 pm, but the hotel staff allowed us to check our bulky bags at the front desk and come back later.
After that, our exploration down the main street commenced.
Unfortunately, after making our way almost down to the main piazza, my asthma started to get the better of me (Bologna is a very smoky city). Emily and I haphazardly ducked into the nearest restaurant that had a downstairs, and boy did we pick a good one.
At Ristorante da nello Al Montegrappa, we each got big bottles of water and chugged them while looking over the menu. I ordered the tortelloni verde (which I initially pronounced tortellini, but was corrected by the waiter) and was given this delectable wonder.
Homemade pasta stuffed with veal and cheese in a gratuitously creamy sauce. Truly one of the best things that I've ever eaten. Emily grabbed some basic pasta in pomodoro sauce, but agreed that it was much better than a similar version of the dish that we'd been having in the cafeteria for the past few days.
After our quick break, it was nearly 2 pm, so we went back to the hotel to check in, get situated, and make a game plan for the rest of the day.
Our two-bedroom suite in the heart of the city was a bargain for 95 euros a night (hotel link here for interested travelers). And yes, the painting on the wall was titled "My Sexy Little Pony." It led to a 10-minute conversation about what exactly makes this pony 'sexy' as compared to a regular My Little Pony character.
Anyway, after we mapped out our day, we headed back down the main street to the piazza.
There were multiple demonstrations, street shows, and what looked like an MMA tournament going on in the square, bookended by some of the oldest buildings I've ever seen. Large speakers blasted popular Top 40 music as Emily and I strolled around soaking it all in.
Haphazardly wandering, we followed some tourists into an enormous brick building at the end of the piazza. We figured it was a museum, the signs said it was an observation desk, and we were fairly confused but chose to dive in anyway.
What we found was the fifth largest church in the world.
Cameras (particularly flash) seemed to be frowned upon, but Emily and I couldn't resist snapping a few shots of the impressive ceiling and the incredibly ornate side chapels like this one:
After our unexpected church scouting, we filled our afternoon with shopping, shopping, and eating. We headed over to Brandy Melville so Emily could get some new leggings, and then beelined over to Cafe Terzi, supposedly the best in Bologna. My macchiato with a touch of chocolate shavings certainly didn't disappoint.
Of course, a gelato stop was necessary. We opted for a place fairly close to our hotel, and boy did we make a good decision.
This little beaut, called Caffe Amaro was a creamy zuppa inglese base with swirls of cocoa and cocoa nibs, and it was definitely some of the best we've ever had. Which is a big deal coming from Emily. You see, she works at a gelato shop back in Michigan, so she's a bit of a gelato connoisseur. She knows the tricks of the trade and can tell just by looking at the stuff whether or not it's going to be quality. This gelato definitely got her seal of approval, which means it's top-notch on the quality scale.
After our run around the city, which included running into a second group of travelers from our trip, we headed out to dinner at a little nearby trattoria.
Reasonable prices and filled to the brim with locals - we felt that we'd picked a good spot and promptly ordered water and a half liter of wine.
It true Italian tradition, we decided to try multiple courses. First, the pasta: I had been longing to try traditional tagliatelle al ragu (a famous bolognese original), so that was a no-brainer for me.
And we split a large platter of grilled sausage and veggies
Eggplant au gratin, grilled eggplant, grilled zucchini, and boiled potatoes. Delicious.
The meal was extremely fresh, extremely filling, and cost a total of 34 euros for everything we got. A bargain for right downtown.
After dinner, we strolled back across the street to our hotel and passed out from food comas by midnight. For us, nightlife means heavily eating and relaxing in bed. I'm cool with that.