Tag Archive: Italy



Called La Rossa, La Dotta and La Grassa. The Red One. The Learned one. The Fat one. Aptly so. It is the home of Mortadella, Tagliatelle al Ragu, Tortellini, Lambrusco, Tortelloni, Parmegianno Reggiano, Prosciutto (from nearby Parma), Balsamico (from nearby Modena) as well as home to fast cars (think Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ducati and Maserati). Fast engines aside, Bologna’s rich history is only overshadowed by its being hailed as the gastronomical capital of Italy. I mean, eating here has been exalted nearly to a religious experience!

We had to train ourselves into joining walking tours and visiting Bologna’s major attractions lest we get stuck in its trattorias and mercatos. Eating and wining brings out the best in us — topics hop from this to that, laughter comes easy and over time (and many trips together), we’ve shared many private jokes. Our happy bunch sure knows how to munch. And while we’ve explored Bologna’s old town, canales, towers, piazzas and churches, somehow the day’s highlight always ends with food. Even our shopping has largely been food shopping. After all, how can you resist all these quezos and ham?

Piazza Maggiore is right smack in the Center and the square layout reminds us of the many piazzas in and around Europe where the city hall, major churches and rows upon rows of shops and trattorias compete for attention. Except for this tight security crew right in front of the church. The Basilica of San Petronio in the piazza is dedicated to the city’s patron saint, Saint Petronius who was the city’s bishop in the 5th century. It also happens to be the world’s 10th largest and the world’s largest brick church. It could have topped the list if the construction wasn’t stopped in time by a jealous Pope who feared this “half-complete” brick and marble church would compete with the one in Vatican. For good measure, all the surrounding land was bought and actual buildings erected adjacent to the Church to preclude any extension and expansion.

But why the tight security? An Islamic terrorist group reportedly planned to blow up the church because of an offensive Dante’s Inferno- inspired mural depicting Mohammad being tormented by the devils in hell. The artwork was rendered by Giovanni of Modena. Interesting. And jibes well with Bologna’s independent and rebellious character. How about this statue of the Pope in the same piazza but deliberately marked as that of St Petronius? Another iconic symbol of Bologna are its two towers along the ancient Via Emilia. It is said that both towers are leaning, like the one in Pisa. Asinelli Tower is the taller one; the shorter, more-leaning torre is called Garisenda. The towers were named after 2 families — obviously filthy rich — who competed on who’s building the taller torre as a show of power. Oh these horrible humans! Really, it’s easier to write and talk about food over these iconic landmarks.

An illustration of what food to find and eat in this area.

Our best meal in Trattoria da Pietro


We’re a band of baby boomers, Generation X and millennials who just can’t stay put. But we all share the same penchant for food and serendipitous adventures. Having just recently returned from Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava, our beer-drinking group of 6 grew to a band of 15 pax. Quite an assortment, if you ask me. We’ve had a few trips tucked under our belt and I must say, we had so much fun. And this happy bunch is going again! I ditched earlier plans to go to Slovenia and Croatia to join the Happy Bunch for a holiday in Bologna and Vienna. Switching from the city of dragons (Ljubljana) and towns along the Adriatic, it’d be a week instead of food porn in this part of Italy where trufa, prosciutto, tortellini, mortadella, balsamico, tagliatelle, parmeggiano, Lambrusco reign supreme!

And this was only last July!

Touchdown, Bologna!

While some of us are visiting first-timers, Bologna as homebase offers many possibilities. Florence, Lucca and Pisa are just a half hour away by train and so is Modena, and a bit farther down, Parma. Then there’s Venice, Verona and Padua or Padova. The boys would likely not miss the chance to check out the museums — NOT of artworks, but those lovely machines going by the names of Lamborghini,Ducati and Ferrari. Different folks, different strokes. That’s what I love about this group. We’d split up to chase our own dreams, and reunite in a heartbeat. Like when we all agreed to visit one day the little republic of San Marino together and hopefully do a side trip to Ravenna. But most importantly, we agree on the food and vino. That’s important — and that’s how we ended up in Ristorante Victoria for our first meal and in Mercato delle Erbe for cocktails cum dinner after our walking tour.

Prosciutto, Mortadella, Burrata

Tagliatelle al Ragu

We had mussels cooked in wine and also with tomato sauce. Both really good!

Almost devoured before we remembered to snap a photo of Tortellini al Panna

It’s only Day 1. And we plan to do a more leisurely tour of Bologna after a good rest. For sure, we’d be back in Piazza Maggiore and visit the basilica and cathedral. There’s enough time as we’d be holed up in the same hotel for the next 5 nights. Bologna is not as cold as Vienna but single digit temps outdoors walking around the piazzas need some serious consideration. After all, it’s truly beginning to look like Christmas everywhere. The Christmas trees are up, so with the Christmas lights that make the place look so festive and magical. Much time to enjoy the illuminations since sunsets are early. Like 5pm!

On our way back home, we’d catch our homeward flight out of Vienna. Staying a few nights in this capital makes me giddy with anticipation. Why? There’s the many Christmas Markets of Vienna! Too many to count. It’s the Christmas Market of my dreams! A genuine Christmas Winter with temps hovering at low single digits or negatives. Gluhwein or mulled wine, raclette, bratwurst, apple strudels, Sacher torte and all those flaky baked delights. All savoured in negative temps. I’m excited, if you haven’t caught the drift. White Christmas feels? Let’s do this!

The Christmas Market of my dreams!




The equivalent of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela is the Via Francigena. The first ends in Santiago de Compostela in Northwestern Spain but involves many routes with the same final destination. The latter starts from Canterbury, England and ends in Rome. Specifically, in the Vatican. We walked the last 100+ kilometers from Viterbo to the Vatican. This is our story. 


Day 0: Viterbo

Day 1:  Viterbo to Vetralla

Day 2:  Vetralla to Sutri

Day 3:  Sutri to Campagnano

Day 4:  Campagnano to Isola Farnese

Day 5:   Isola Farnese to Rome/Vatican

Day 6:  Roma, Finally. 



Just click on the links to read the blog for each VF walking day. Buon Camino!

       

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Europe: Then And Now


Back in 1986,  I traveled to Europe for the first time. Alone.  At the time, I was still smoking and it was sheer torture to be in flight or around airports and train stations all of 21 hours.  Every chance I got, I filled my lungs with nicotine like it was the last stick I’d smoke.  I read the instructions over and over, matching them with the signages I passed, hoping I’d find my way to Bradford, England without a hitch.

 

 

The London stopover ended with my safe landing in Heathrow airport.  From there,  I took the train for Bradford.  Not an hour or two to check out the London sights  That had to wait for much later. I was expected for dinner somewhere within the halls of Bradford University.  From the tropics,  I had my first taste of snow when I got out of the train station in Bradford.  I wanted to run and throw my first snowball.  That had to wait too.  At the time, I was simply too eager to get inside Charles Morris Hall and sit by the fire to warm my fingers which were threatening to freeze.   As I “thawed”,  I met my new friends from Saudi Arabia, Italy, Finland, Brazil, Ethiopia, Burma, Solomon Islands, Iran, Nigeria, Sudan,  Poland, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Cyprus.  I have lost touch with all of them.  Hopefully, with this blog I can find some with greying hair but with the same smiles I still fondly remember.  These friends introduced me to varied flavors of the Orient, African, Middle East and Western cuisine:  from the Indian tandoori to the Italian pasta (back then, I only knew the spaghetti with meatballs), to Sudanese cabbage with rice stuffing yummy dish, to Brazilian beans and more beans!  Oh my,  too much beans.  Where are you guys?  Zeze, Raoul,  Rebecca, Lita,  Salik, etc.

 

 

I nearly cried when I saw Buckingham Palace.  I saw Big Ben at sunrise and sunset with coffee in a paper cup ,  seated on a bench somewhere. Always, I would be found reviewing a map.  I would imagine  myself taking the “Tube” as Londoners call their subway,  and visiting the popular London sights.  I also imagined which subways to take to go to the West End to watch Les Miserables and how to find my way back to our hotel.  When I crossed the English channel to go to Paris for the first time,  I was dripping with excitement.  Eiffel Tower was not really much to see the first time i saw it.  I was more awed by the Champ Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe.  By the time I reached Italy,  I could hardly sleep ……… spending my nights planning on how the next day would be spent.  There was just so much to see and so much food to try. I was young then,  and my taste buds were still waiting to discover new cuisine. I can relate to Peter Mayle’s first adventure with  French food.  Even freshly baked bread was new to me then.  I discovered wine and cheese for the first time too.  I even learned which wine glass is for what……..a far cry from those days when my wine glass was good for any wine, red or white , sparkling or not.  More than that,  I discovered what life is all about.  I turned many pages since then.  And my life, as a book,  now counts many chapters and sequels.

 

 

I visited the same sights over and over again. I worked, and worked hard. I saved, and saved good.  I traveled,  and savored every minute.   Through the years I have taken pictures of some favorite sights and found how they now compare.  I will throw in more recent pictures here from time to time , if only to lay down a better comparison between then and now.  The unwanted pounds. The unwelcome lines.  But who cares?

 

Check out the photos and see for yourself.

 

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