Sorry for the late posting but I was so full of pasta and good company for the night that I immediately crashed after returning to our hotel room. We made it to Bologna where we were due to meet our Italian relatives for the first time! I’d share pictures of us together but I think it’s only appropriate to share pictures of myself on this blog (I’ll also be keeping their names private). We were immediately greeted with big hugs and lots of kisses–I honestly felt so welcomed and accepted in this first 5 seconds of initial meeting that I wondered if I hadn’t simply known them all my life. There was a bit of a language barrier, mother couldn’t speak any English at all and the daughter spoke in broken, but we were able to make do with Google Translate which does a FANTASTIC job with, I’d say, at least 90% accuracy. The mother started making pasta for us to eat and we knew better than to refuse and I can’t tell you how magical it was to sit there in a real Italian home experiencing real home cooked Italian food. This is what dreams are made for!
After lunch, we headed out to downtown Bologna with our famgilia in the lead–our own private tour with locals who knew the city and could bring us to all the well known structures.
Our family explained that there used to be an old wall around Bologna and today you can still see parts of it scattered around the city. There are still 12 gate structures from the original wall and when you get further into downtown, you’ll see more of them embedded now between more modern housing.
We also noted the Spanish influence in the architecture to which our family agreed–there were a lot of Spanish families here throughout history. The city almost looks lik what I imagine the (Pirates of the) Caribbean to look like.
We visited the canal in Bologna, which unfortunately due to the hot summer, has all but dried up the river for now. My family assured me that when it rains, it will start to fill up again. The mother also pulled me aside and explained to me in Italian about the lockets on the gate (I didn’t think to grab a picture of this, argh!) But essentially, couples come here to scratch their initials together in the wall/frame and then they add a lock to the gate to symbolize their love and bond. I hurried out a question on Google Translate, “What if they break up???”. Mother shook her head at me and with her finger waved no no no. With a slow deliberate tap on my phone so that I was sure to let the message sink in, she had typed back (translated of course) “Love is Eternal.”
They also showed us a Cathedral which was intended to be built in the shape of a cross (quite common in this time period) but they explained that they had run out of funds and so it remains unfinished to this day–standing as an almost how-to build of an old church. Mother also pointed to the lamps above the street and under the awnings which we now noticed we’re off as the day grew darker. She said that lighting became too expensive for Bologna and so they leave these off now. I’d say Bologna isn’t the greatest for night walking.
I explained to my family that I was very much in love with history, specially with the “Romano Impero” and so they led me to towers that were still standing. It’s amazing how even structures created so far in the past can still make you feel as tiny and insignificant as a skyscraper in New York. They wanted to show me more from the Romans, but as it was a Sunday, all of the museums and sites were close. That’s okay though, taking in the city itself was far more history than we had yet to witness on our trip.
Before dinner, a reservation we had for 8pm (Man, these European eating times!) we stopped at “The BEST” Gelato shop in Bologna–Gelateriagelanni. The shop owners didn’t understand me or my traveling companions, but our family explained to them that we were Americans and you could understand that they were excitedly explaining that we were family visiting and being shown the city and you could tell our family were regulars at this shop. The shopowners warmed to us instantly and helped us pick out the best flavors. Actually, it’s not that unusual for the people of Bologna not to understand us–they explained that their city was not a tourist one but was instead a College town. The University of Bologna, home to famous students such as Dante, was what people came to the city for.
Once we had walked around the entirety of the city, it was time for us to eat at one of the best restaurants in Bologna and enjoy some of their traditional dishes.
Whew! I was FULL! I also ate bologna in Bologna which came with the table bread before our meal. I’d call that quite an accomplishment.
Okay, now I’m stuffed from just uploading these pictures. We said goodbye (for now) to our dear family–we will see them again in Calabria–and headed back to our hotel for one helluva a food coma.
Next up we’re in Florence!