New Touristy Things to Try in Bologna

In a previous post I declared that Bologna as a tourist destination had little more to offer. This never was meant to imply that I wouldn’t return, but rather that I would return to a love; to reminisce, to eat, and be together. But I had no more museums of interest. No more new sights to see. That our relationship was moving to a new level. L and B however had some new suggestions including a visit to San Luca and a tour of the canals of Bologna. The pictures of the latter were stunning and I was sold.

We got up today (Sunday) and considered the option of going to Parma for the ham festival, but decided to stick with the above plans. So away we went.

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We knew the visit to San Luca would be a nearly 4k walk, through 666 porticoes, but we weren’t quite ready for it to be uphill both ways. And this would be a climb in 90° heat. B begged off at portico 505 but L and I continued valiantly (perhaps foolishly) on, like the medieval pilgrims we had become. Because frankly, in the heat, we were sweating and smelling like medieval pilgrims.

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At the top, we found …. A baptism in progress and a church we couldn’t properly visit. There was a fantastic moment, however, when we accidentally staggered into the sanctuary with hundreds of eyes upon us and a nun chasing us down. But still we never saw a view of Bologna from above. The pug strutting through the reliquary was adorable, however.

Alas, we turned around and met the wiser, less pungent, and more well-rested B at portico 489. We returned to town, stopping for gelato near portico 10 and found a lunch of sandwiches at a bar near Piazza Maggiore.

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After lunch we sought out the canals of Bologna. On the website they were lush and beautiful. In September 2013 they were muddy, at best, and dessicated and smelly at worst. From the beginning, where the waters enter the city, above, it was a long walk until we next saw water, which was mostly dried up and bore the reek of rotting carp.

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See – rotting carp.

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The next place where we hoped to see water was a parched conduit between buildings. And this brief synopsis basically summarizes our tour of canals of Bologna.

Hope springs eternal, however, where food is involved, and redemption reigns in the restaurants of this lovely city.

Following a brief ripasso we were of to dinner at da Cesarina. This restaurant sits on Piazza Santo Stefano, and we ate outside overlooking the church. This was an enchanting setting.

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Dinner started with fried zucchini blossoms. They weren’t stuffed, just lightly breaded and fried. Perhaps a touch of salt. The balance in this simple dish was breathtaking. I considered what I might have added to improve it, but in the end came up empty. It was simple perfection.

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Next course I had Zuppa Imperiale. This is a hot soup, and I was concerned that it might be entirely too hot for the weather, but I have never had this here, although I make it at home. The soup is sublime. The cheese cubes (made of eggs, semolina, and parmiggiano) are lighter than I have ever made. This dish is an education. I now know my target.

For the secondo I had fritto misto salate e dolce. This means, “mixed fried food, salty and sweet.” A delicious collection, it is definitely too heavy for the warm evening.

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To start, there is fried cheese and mortadella (the cubes on the skewer at 3 o’clock, the moving clockwise), followed by some fried ricotta. The spherical item of fried goodness remains a mystery. The potatoe croquette was ok, but Sicilians do it better, and the fried pork cutlet was very nice. The items in the center of the plate were fried zucchini and potato chips.

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The sweets across the top of the plate were breaded fried honeydew, which was a bit unusual. The breaded fried apple slice (topped with a cherry) was surprisingly good. And the cubes of fried custard were delicious.

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L and B had similarly outstanding meals, after which we staggered back to the apartment knowing that tomorrow will be a day dedicated to food, the true siren song of the Bolognese tourist.

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