A Travellerspoint blog

Cooking in Bologna

Flour and eggs are enough

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After our usual breakfast, we were off in search of a bus to our cooking class. We now remember to validate our ticket in the machine on the bus, put on our masks, and press the stop button if we want to get off at the next stop. After six days, navigating was becoming routine.

It took a little work to find the address. We pressed the button on the list of names beside the gate. We were buzzed through the gate, then found the third building, buzzed in, and at the third floor heard a friendly voice, “Ciao, welcome to my home.”

Grazia welcomed us into her house and then into her kitchen. Across the foyer was a living room where a table was set up with dough boards, bowls, dough knives, and a bowl with three eggs. In her kitchen, she was cooking the ragu. Her English was accented but very good. Every once in a while, she struggled for a word. She laughed a lot. “I am so happy to have you here. You are bringing the world to my house.”

She described how she made the ragu, and that pasta in the North is different from the pasta in the South. “In the North, we have different land, and so we have different wheat. Our pasta uses dura wheat ground very fine and egg, no water. The dough has to be treated gently. They use semolina wheat ground a little coarser in the South and water, not eggs.”

At our workplaces, we broke the eggs into our bowls already filled with 100g of flour. We mixed and kneaded the ball, flattened it, and ran it through a pasta machine to get the thickness correct. “My mother didn’t use a machine, but this is easier.” We made tagliatelle which is wide noodles, and tortinella, which is a filled pasta. We filled our tortinella with cheese. While our pasta was drying we had bruschetta with tomatoes and olive oil.


Grazia cooked our pasta as we sat at a dining table. After the tagliatelle with ragu, she served the tortinella with butter sage and Italian saffron, again very good. We had Prosecco to drink and in the end a flan and limoncello.

We were well fed but still able to find the bus and make our way back to the apartment. After a nap, we headed out by bus to the Portico San Luca. The Portico is the longest covered walkway in the world, running along a street for 1.5 kilometers. At the Arco del Meloncello, the Portico turns to climb up a mountain to the Basilica of San Luca, over a 600 feet rise of stairs and ramps for 2 kilometers.
We began our heart-pounding walk at the bottom o the mountain. People passed us running, families ambled up with children, and others in far worse shape than us struggled the climb. There are 666 arches in the Portico. Up the mountain, there were shrines every few porticos, stations of the cross, and various other religious events. We reached the basilica at the top were we could look over the rural landscape to one side and the city to the other. Large homes claimed hilltops, down the hills were vineyards, fields and patches of woods At least two wedding parties were being photographed outside using the Basilica or landscape as a backdrop. It was a fantastic place for a wedding.

fdbd0310-1498-11ec-8efc-47870ccb69e3.jpegfd6a2820-1498-11ec-84c8-2b364aba5071.jpegAt the bottom, we walked to the beginning of the Portico, then to a bus stop, and eventually got off to look for supper. Most places already had tables reserved or seated customers. We finally found a perfect Greek restaurant and finally made it home. Another day of adventure and sore feet.

Posted by Deuxenvacances 14:44 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day Trip to Parma

A festival is still a festival

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After a cappuccino and a pastry, we headed to the train station for our trip to Parma. The Parma ham festival was to begin, and I wanted to see what we could see. Parma ham is a type of prosciutto and prosciutto is simply the generic term for ham in Italy. Parma is one of the best. Parma is also famous for cheese, parmesan cheese. Since we were taking the regional train, the tickets are at the tobacconist in the train station. It took a little fretting to make sure we had the correct platform and train.

Outside the station at Parma, we found a statue of an Italian explorer. He stood tall, with two Africans lying at his feet, one on either side. I scanned the QR code on the sign for the English audio. The narrator made it clear that today we consider the conquest of Africa wrong. The narration switched to each of the men lying on the ground, pointing out that their people had few enemies but fought ferociously when the Italians attacked.
We walked to the old part of town, beside a reflecting pool at a massive brick building with arched passageways. I was trying to find a tourist office or some place to find out about the festival. Searching my phone, I discovered that the website I was using was pre COVID. All the shuttles to the events, which were on farms, had stopped.

ba674c50-1494-11ec-b85c-c52b9e8c5491.jpegba63c9e0-1494-11ec-b10e-2f8f4ae82e61.jpegNot deterred, we walked to the duomo, admired the baptistery, then walked through the narrow streets unlit we found lunch at Zambelli where we had our own Parma festival. The waiter was old school smooth, funny, gracious. After a cutting board of Parma ham and chunks of parmesan, the waiter brought out a salad with prosciutto, and a pasta. Of course there was wine.

After lunch, we walked to the river. Over the low stone wall, we saw a wide expanse of grass with a walking path and threading its way down the middle, a very small creek, on the other side another low wall and the city again.

On the train home, we sat across from a young woman with a very young setter. The dog looked at me with big brown eyes. I petted him, but that resulted in an explosion of wagging, wiggling, and then some barks. A porter told her to quiet the dog. After she took him for a walk, he wasn’t any less excited. She gave him water, then a treat.

Back in Bologna, we took a short nap then headed out to wander the streets, in the gathering evening people were leaving work and finding a place for a drink. We searched for supper, something light, maybe only a snack. Unfortunately, Sally asked if there were specific restaurants I had researched. Why yes, there were, and we then headed off for Trattoria Anna Maria.

f08678f0-1495-11ec-b85c-c52b9e8c5491.jpeg Outside, under the portico, all the tables were full. The waiter said if we wanted a table, it would have to be inside, and only if we were vaccinated. We showed our vaccination cards and entered the friendly restaurant. Framed notes, pictures covered the walls, children’s crayon messages, race car drivers, politicians, and movie stars. We still weren’t hungry, but that didn’t stop us. The roasted pork shank, the tomatoes, and onions, the flan, they were all fantastic. A great meal and a liter of wine later, we dragged ourselves towards home. In our neighborhood, which is very quiet during the day, we discovered it converted to a restaurant.

Posted by Deuxenvacances 13:22 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Arrival in Bologna


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We were up early, packed then walked to the local cafe for coffee and pastries. The market in the neighborhood piazza was not open. People were walking dogs, walking to work or standing around talking. We took the train to Bologna with only a little worry since it was a local train, we bought the tickets in a tobacco shop (think miniature convenience store). IMG_1305.jpeg

In Bologna, we navigated past the park and a small market to our neighborhood. After several texts with the landlord, we found a cafe and ordered lunch. At two we were in our apartment, a two bedroom on a side street. Dropping our bags, we headed out towards Piazza Maggiore and the Duomo. We walked the whole way under porticos, which lined almost every large or small street. At Piazza Maggiore we were met with a massive COVID vaccination operation. Around the corner were hundreds of chairs were set up like a theater. There were outdoor movies every evening.
We headed down a side street. People were beginning to collect in street cafes for drinks. We found the Mercado Mezzo, which was small but very nice. People were buying drinks and antipasto which they took out to the tables in the alley on either side. We picked up prosciutto, cheese and wine. Lights came on, more tables came out, more people gathered.
We walked back we stoped at a church to listen to a group practicing. We followed narrow streets and alleyways with after work people laughing, talking, drinking and snacking on ham or other things. Restaurants don’t open until 7 for supper but we weren’t hungry so settled for gelato. Along the walk we found one of the hidden canals of Bologna. Most are now covered over by buildings or roads.
It was a great evening, walking from block to block, past cafes crowded with people enjoying the evening and food. I’d live in Bologna.

Posted by Deuxenvacances 13:50 Archived in Italy Tagged bologna Comments (0)

The Colesseum, The Forum and a Thousand Narrow Streets

Our third day walking Rome

sunny 83 °F

On the second full day, we didn't have any organized tour, just tickets to the Colosseum. We found a bus that took up there with little effort other than we were criminals, not having mastered the system. Bus tickets are bought at tobacconists, but they are not at every stop, and we raced to get the bus. After you buy your ticket, you must validate the ticket in a machine. That activates the ticket. We validated no ticket because we had no ticket, having already used our tickets the day before. We promised to make up for our larceny.

The Colosseum and Palatine Hill were fantastic. At the Colosseum, we encountered the largest crowds so far. Wandering through the Palatine Hills certainly brought the sheer scale of what Rome had built to reality. The engineering of the Colosseum was astonishing. Certainly, the brutality of the games was evident.
After the Palatine Hill, we found an alley lined with cafes. We had a delicious lunch with some beer and then took off walking. We were not nearly up to our daily quota. After having our vaccination verified, we walked to the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore for a thoughtful exploration.

We walked to the central train station, checked on trains for tomorrow to Bologna. We took another bus using my phone. After a nice ride, it was obvious we were headed in the wrong direction, to the Vatican, not our area of Trastevere. We rang the bell for the next stop, walked back to a street we knew, and headed back through the neighborhoods. As we passed, cafes were opening up, setting out tables, writing on chalkboards.

At a food pantry we had seen handing out food earlier, I stopped and donated five euros to compensate for our larceny of bus rides. My guilt addressed, we decided to stop for wine, so we turned down a street to find eight or ten cafes. We couldn't decide but finally sat down at Bacco en Trastevere.

We had a lovely bottle of wine which was hard to select because they had pages of possibilities. The staff was terrific. After the wine, we walked a while, then turned around and went back for supper. It was getting dark. Lights were out, and people collected on the streets, in bars, at cafe tables along the sidewalk.
Children played in the little piazza, dogs barked greetings, scooters beeped, and people laughed. All three of us wanted to move. While it threatened to rain, sprinkled a bit, that vanished and our placed filled. The girls at the next table were from Milan and celebrating an exam in a master's program as data analysts. They were going to be working in police or military security. They had one more exam to take. When we went to pay the bill, they gave us a discount for being so friendly,

After dinner, we wandered back down the alley, through the crowds, past people eating and laughing into our piazza where boys were playing football(soccer).

Another great day and eight miles of walking.

Posted by Deuxenvacances 19:52 Archived in Italy Tagged rome roman cafe colosseum forum Comments (0)

Eight miles from Vatican to Pantheon

And some wine.

sunny 85 °F

We hit the cobblestones running a two-mile walk to the Vatican the first full day, which seemed a decent choice. There were bus choices, but we wouldn’t see as much. Navigation led us past our local market, down a cobbled alley. We turned after three narrow alleys intersections, headed straight, under the Roman arch, and ate breakfast at a cafe, coffee, and a cornetto, think of croissant, with marmalade. abb075f0-117f-11ec-9b6f-a3980e739845.jpeg
A little heated up, we arrived at the rendezvous point for our tour with TheTourGuy.
Once collected, we took off through security, verification of our vaccination, and into the wonderland of the Sistine Chapel museum, etc. 99a85f30-117f-11ec-9b6f-a3980e739845.jpegVatican #4

Vatican #4

9aaf47e0-117f-11ec-9b6f-a3980e739845.jpeg9a6aebe0-117f-11ec-9b6f-a3980e739845.jpeg98d75390-117f-11ec-9927-eb8370cba150.jpegOur guide was great, the crowds were minimal, and my knee was very grumpy after three hours. We headed to a cafe, had a nice lunch on a corner under an umbrella where people passed, waved to the waiters, buongiorno or ciao. There were conversations beyond our understanding of the language, but the friendliness was clear. A little refreshed with 1/2 bottle of wine, we headed across the Tiber River, past ruins, 19th-century buildings, and every so often a modern insertion. 9961b940-117f-11ec-9b6f-a3980e739845.jpeg We jumped a bus to the Spanish Steps. The plaza was beautiful, a little busy with people sitting around a fountain, horses, and carriages waiting for customers and people wandering around, primarily Italian, and some were Italian tourists.

We headed out for the Trevi Fountain using my phone map for navigation. Soon it was clear we were going in the wrong direction. I was getting a little defensive, and the knee was hurting. Finally, after walking several miles out of the way, we arrived at the fountain. Wow. There was a crowd, people tossing coins, people taking pictures, families on a big trip, big families, Italian families gathered for a photo. 9ae4d6d0-117f-11ec-9b6f-a3980e739845.jpeg

Double-checking my phone, we took off for The Pantheon. At every turn, we questioned the navigation. The day was wearing on, and alleys with graffiti and closed doors were suddenly cafes with tables and chairs, potted plants, umbrellas. Chalkboards came out with menus.

At the Pantheon, we were greeted by a long line at the entrance. 9c2cc020-117f-11ec-9b6f-a3980e739845.jpeg994cf8c0-117f-11ec-89c5-8524cbf72c3c.jpegA crowd of Brazilians in green and yellow with balloons and signs were protesting the appointment of judges in Brazil. They sang, laughed, and chatted as our line threaded up to the door. At the Pantheon, our vaccination cards were checked, temperature taken, and reminded to put on a mask.

The Pantheon was impressive, almost empty, quiet. We saw the tomb of Raphael. As we were walking away from the Pantheon, we passed some street musicians.992329a0-117f-11ec-8940-0de08bde7014.jpeg

Back in our neighborhood, we ate in a cafe down the street, and it was delightful. People were walking around, lights glowing, a quiet evening. We walked almost nine miles and were tired.

Posted by Deuxenvacances 16:04 Archived in Italy Tagged fountain spanish steps vatican pantheon trevi Comments (0)

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