Bologna, what a freaken awesome city. It might possibly be my favourite city in the world. It's a pretty town with lovely porticoes keeping the sun off your skin and amazing Medieval architecture. Two towers mark the city centre, with it's amazing fountain.
The thing about Bologna that won my heart though was the food. OMG, the food is so amazing. I can't even describe how good it was.
Once I found my apartment (they didn't give me very good directions so I ended up catching a cab) and got settled in, I hit the streets. One of my aims in Bologna was to see the Neptune fountain in the town square.
Sightseeing makes you hungry so I stopped for a late lunch. If I'd fallen in love with the cheese in Florence, in Bologna, I met my soul mate.
It was as if someone had taken a DNA sample of my taste buds and analysed them to make the perfect combination of flavours to provide maximum satisfaction in lasagne form. I am talking mind blowing, life changing lasagne here. I will never be able to eat lasagne again because it will only be a disappointment from here on in.
That night I had dinner at a place my host had recommended (pics 4 and 9 above). It was the least good meal I had in Bologna but still pretty awesome since the bar had been set incredibly high already. The potatoes were awesome. I had planned to eat dessert but, after that creamy gnocchi, I couldn't fit any in... although that did give me more room for gelato.
The next day I went shopping. Hey, I found a red polka dot tote bag and DIDN'T buy it and that makes me totally strong and frugal and all that. I did buy a polka dot head scarf though. I already have one but it's cotton and this one was chiffon.
Then I headed to Eataly, where I'd have the life changing lasagne for lunch. This time, instead of going to the restaurant upstairs, I sat downstairs on the street. I got the vegetarian burgers - can you pick them in the photos? They are photo 8. Yeah, not at all what I was expecting either but they were super delicious little morsels with their chickpea wafer outsides. I followed that by the pasta in photo 6 - ragu sauce (see how I call it ragu and not bolognese - that's because I've been in Italy!) with added hazelnuts. OMG, yes!
After lunch, I headed to another of my must-sees in Bologna - the 600 year old mummified body of St Catherine of Bologna. Yes, I might've missed out on the macabre stuff in Sienna but Bologna turned up the goods in spades.
I almost flaked out because, when I got to the church, I wasn't sure if it was open (hey, it's Italy, everything shuts for lunch) and some guy sitting on the steps freaked me out. I pretended I wasn't going in and kept walking then got a ways down the street and turned back. I saw some other people outside the church and hide behind a car, watching them to see if they walked into the church. Don't judge me. The catholic religion freaks me out.
When I got in, I realised this was old school Catholic. In Florence, I saw about 65,000 crucifixion paintings and most of them looked like Jesus was lolling around on the cross having larks. As you do when you have your hands and feet nailed to a bit of wood. In this church, Poor Clares, you see the full agony.
When you enter the church, there is a small door to the side. If you ring the bell, a tiny monk answers the door and takes you through to another room.
Let's face, I was there with idle curiosity to see some wacky shit expecting much of the same. When I got in the room though, the few other people there were praying for real. I think other people's beliefs should be respected and didn't want to look like a tourist on their religion so I tried to stay low-key. When they left, I asked the tiny monk if I could take photos but he answered me in complicated Italian and I wasn't sure if he said no or if he said no flash so I refrained.
In the centre of the room, sat St Catherine, her body now a waxy black. She held a simple wooden crucifix in her hands with her head down. I don't get creeped out easily but I totally expected her head to pop up at any moment.
The walls were covered in display boxes with various relic bones of saints. And, over the two doors, I kid you not, were skulls wearing FLOWER CROWNS. Folks, we have gone beyond macabre to manic pixie macabre!
Since I couldn't take photos, I went through to the next section, the gift shop. Hey, it's the catholic church, they aren't going to miss an opportunity to make dollars.
The woman before me brought rosary beads. The little old nun behind the caged counter (to keep out burglers?), took the beads out of their container and touched them to the side of a bed set up in the corner - I'm assuming the bed of St Catherine - then touched them to the foot of a large wooden Jesus then did some blessing on them. This is why Catholicism scares me.
I got a St Catherine of Bologna fridge magnet. She didn't bless that but she did give me some information about St Catherine in English. She was a very sweet nun even if she did look like one of those rapping you over the knuckles with a ruler types.
After that, I needed a cleansing gelato. Then, because I left lazy, I went on the little tourist train around the city. The tourist train was not that interesting and not that cheap either.
The next day, I went back to Eataly, to the food court area and had an awesome calzone and little toothsome dessert then headed to the station to spend my last night in Italy in Milan.
There was so much more I could've seen and eaten in Bologna. I wish I'd skipped the overcrowded Florence and just spent the time in Bologna instead, maybe doing a day in Florence as a side trip. If you ever go to Italy, you could probably skip the rest of the country and just head straight for Bologna. That's how awesome Bologna is. I will go back one day and I will eat that lasagna again.