* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bologna: Travel & Culture

Bologna I 01We just had an opportunity to take a little trip to Bologna, Italy.  It's been about seven years since we were there last, so it was really exciting when an old customer needed Doc Leo's expertise one more time.  We were only there for one day, but half the fun is driving the countryside the days before and after, which doubled the pleasure.

As this is my first major trip outside France since I started this blog, I thought I would share some of the sights and experiences of visiting a very old Italian city.  This post will cover the aspect from a tourist's viewpoint.

Don't forget you can click on any photo to see a larger version.

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Welcome to Italy

The southernmost route into Italy from France is through the lower maritime Alps.  I can't imagine what travel must have been like in the past, but both countries have created a wonderful tunnel system to get through the mountains rather than over them.  Although we took different routes in each direction, we went through over 200 of them each way.  (We had our grandson count them on a trip years ago.)

This is the entrance into Italy near the border from France.

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A mountain community
Often toll road routes are fairly boring, but there's nothing boring about this area, and the little villages dotting the hillsides are usually really pretty.  It's hard to capture them at full speed, but this is a typical view.  While most of the route was fairly sunny, this section was mostly overcast with coastal humidity.

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Our favorite little house
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Man of Iron

It's always fun to come across interesting sites along the road, some of them being quite humorous.  We've enjoyed seeing this house and tree right above a tunnel for years, but it was more interesting before the house was completely remodeled a few years ago.

I have no idea what the point of this truck is, but it was funny to see in the middle of a round point outside Bologna.

We ended up in a hotel right in the heart of the center.  As it was a fairly typical nice Italian hotel, I thought you might like a little tour.

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The parking area

This particular one actually had a little covered parking area behind it, while often there is no parking whatsoever.  It was interesting to see how they painted the walls of such a utilitarian space, not to mention the model!

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Pretty entrance door handles

From the front entrance, I thought the back plates of the door handles were rather pretty.  The hotel restaurant was called Apple in Italian, so I assume that's why these statues are each holding an apple. 

Outside is one of the main pedestrian streets with lots of shopping opportunities.

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A welcoming hallway
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Wall tapestry

Each floor was very nicely appointed, including painted marble columns in the archways.  That seems to be a common technique in Italy, despite having so much natural marble in their mountains.

One wall had this beautiful tapestry.  I have no idea of the story behind it, but it's also common to come across all kinds of really old items in hotels, like they create mini museums.

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Nice place to relax

The wide central stairs were carpeted in deep red, with matching drapery on large windows on the landing and cording for a handrail.  This mirror is part of a pretty arrangement at the base of the stairs on one floor.

The top floor had this really classy sitting area where the other floors had continuing stairs.

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Typical Italian decor
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Our restful bedroom

This is the pretty setting at the stairs on our own floor.  It just looks so typically Italian, but it's too bad nothing was labeled like in a real museum!

Our room was pretty standard, meaning you had just enough room to move around in, so it was hard to capture how prettily it was appointed. 

The brass headboard really nicely set off the drapes and bedspread.

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Party or protest?  Dancing dissent?

After getting settled in our hotel, we went out onto the town.  We just happened to run into a big anarchy party against some other protest earlier in the day.  Mostly, it seemed to provide a fun street party in the major square for a lot of youth, probably students from the famous Bologna University.

I must admit we found the music quite enjoyable, despite what the age of the crowd usually blasts.

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Basilica di San Petronio, XIV Century, never finished

The square itself is usually fairly pretty, but it was difficult to capture this year.  While the basilica was lighted, the square was not, so I barely got the crowd in front of it.  (I was standing on the church steps for the above photo.)

The next day, all these tents sprang up all around the perimeter, basically blocking the view.  I'm wondering if they are installing a Christmas market, something they did not have when we were there last, which just happened to be closer to the holiday season.

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Being an Italian cop is a tough job

It must be a good job to be part of the Carabinieri, the national military police of Italy.  No matter where I see them all over the country, they seem to hang out in groups. 

Sometimes they walk all around, supposedly doing who knows what, sometimes they just stand around, also doing who knows what.

However, I suppose if my life depended on their abilities, they probably know how to get the job done!  Some of them provided some nice eye candy, at least.

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A typical pedestrian thoroughfare
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A pretty side street

Most of the streets surrounding the center of town are quite narrow.  While most are pedestrian, some are not. 

It's not unusual to see scrapes on the buildings in tight places, and I know the residents will sacrifice their car mirrors when necessary.

As Italy is one of the global fashion centers of the world, many of the shop windows were very classy.  Unlike in some areas where the stores show high class but the population does not, Italian women actually wear on the street what the windows are presenting.

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Great store entrance
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Classy wardrobe idea

This H&M is located in probably the most interesting building, designed around the turn of the last century.

I thought this totally black and white display was one of the most attractive windows I saw.  While the Italians do wear a lot of black, I think this is more the color palette of the season in general.

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Keep warm in style
I also found these window displays quite nice.  I decided that mustard and fuchsia must be the accent colors, although this window is missing the mustard.

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A fashion flash mob moment

This was a rather unusual display (still all in blacks and whites) in a large store.  Doc Leo decided it was a mannequin flash mob!  Good call.

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So that's where they come from!
No matter how many times I go to Italy, I am still amused when I see all the signs for children's clothing.  They even have a specific store advertising their ware!

The region, Emilia-Romagna, is the gastronomic heart of Italy, producing prosciutto and parmesan cheese from Parma, balsamic vinegar from Modena, lasagna, tortellini and tortelloni, ravioli, and of course ragù alla Bolognese (spaghetti sauce), which is always served with tagliatelle, never spaghetti.  Surprisingly, the American bologna sandwich does not come from this region, although their mortadella is quite similar.

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Classic Tortellini Soup
So, when in Bologna, eat like the Bolognese do, which we did.  It was highly recommended that I have the very local Tortellini Soup, which was actually quite nice, followed by a nice roasted lamb plate.  The doc started off with a steak tartare (seasoned raw beef), completed by the the famous Tagliatelle Bolognese. 

On the way home, we found this delightful little pizzeria in a mountain village.  Not only was the food delicious, the cooks (owners, I think), and the young waitress were a lot of fun.  We ended up having a great little conversation with a mix of English, Italian, and French. 

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The Doc's favorite Capricciosa and the house special

In case you've never seen an actual Italian style pizza, I thought you'd like to see ours.  Everybody always has their own, and it doesn't get sliced into wedges.  You just cut it up in bite sized pieces with a knife and fork. 

They also offer ingredients not usually seen on US pizzas, like artichokes.  Yum. 

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Sunset in the Italian Alps
And thus ended an unexpected enjoyable little jaunt into an interesting region of Italy.  It was a really nice get-away, helping to take our minds off our recent feline loss.  And while the weather could have been typical autumn cold and wet, it was wonderfully sunny and balmy. 

Stay tuned for some actual exploring of the city as I saw it on this trip.


  1. looks beautiful there...and the food ..yum

  2. Thinking of you and all of France at this difficult time.

    Great little travel tale! Thanks!

  3. As always, the photographs are fantastic and that's the best looking pizza I've seen in a while. Sounds like a lovely trip with nice sunny weather.


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