Italy Vacation Part 3: Bologna

Wander On Foot

Bologna was another stop on the DMB European tour, so we also planned on seeing our second concert while there.  Bologna was bigger and busier than Padova.  Instead of a hotel, we had reservations for an Airbnb which wouldn’t be ready until 5:00, so we had several hours to kill.  Unfortunately, that meant we had to stroll around town with our suitcases in tow, but that’s a common site around Italy:  tourists rolling their suitcases along.  It’s a pain, but because we had packed fairly light, which just one rolling suitcase and a backpack each, it wasn’t so bad.

We got a taxi at the train station and picked a random hotel near the center of town for him to drop us off at to make it easy.  The Bologna train station is huge with multiple levels.  You arrive underground, then take escalators up a few levels.  We first went out to the street level, but found out the taxis pick up down a couple levels in what is like a parking garage. There is a short queue, and the taxis are lined up so it only takes a minute to get one.

The main area of Bologna (Centro Storico) is around the square near Neptune Fountain and the Basilica San Petronio called Piazza Maggiori with numerous cafes, restaurants and shops.  There are some typical stores you’d see in America, like Victoria’s Secret and Sephora, but also unique shops with specialties from the area.  In the evening, lights hang over the shopping area with Italian phases giving it a sort of festive atmosphere.  This is a very lively square, and we enjoyed sitting at cafes, listening to random people playing live music, and people watching.  Grab an aperol spritz, a sandwich, and enjoy the sun here – it’s a perfect way to spend a nice day, which we did both days we were there.

Our Airbnb was in a great location, within walking distance of the Quadrilatero, the train station, restaurants, cafes, and we always felt safe day or night.  Our Airbnb host actually had the flat ready an hour early, so we left the café where we stopped for a bite to eat, caught a taxi, and headed over (even though we were so close we could have walked).  The flat was modern and looked like it was straight out of an Ikea catalog with a comfortable bed and a modern bathroom with an awesome shower. The host was the sweetest, and gave us some recommendations for dinner.  We ended up eating dinner at Trattoria Oberdan da Mario and it was fabulous.  Again, no reservations, but we were able to sit outside.  They had heaters on the patio, so we were completely comfortable even though it was a bit cool out. I had the Tagliatelle all Bolognese and it was everything I hoped for!  Chip had the trio of pastas that included a ravioli in a sage butter sauce and hands down the BEST lasagna ever.  It was nothing like lasagna here in the U.S. but more delicate and without all the globs of cheese.  It’s hard to describe but it was heaven in your mouth.  Again, we had the house wine which was very good and ended our meal with some sorbet and limoncello.  After dinner we walked up to the Neptune fountain and the area with all the stores, and on our way back to the flat, stopped at a café for a drink.

Bologna is definitely a “foodie city” with markets full of fresh pasta, prosciutto, cheeses, produce, and flowers in an area called the Quadrilatero.  I spent hours the next day just wandering, taking pictures, and wishing I could taste one of everything.  There is a super cool “food hall” called Mercato di Mezzo across from Eataly (the most amazing store!) that had several cafes with fresh pastas, breads, pastries, coffees – everything you could possibly want.  We grabbed some fresh tortellini for a snack there and took it to go, eating as we wandered.

The Concert

The next night we attended the DMB concert at Unipol Arena.  Knowing we didn’t want the same unpleasant experience as Padova with the transportation problem, we did our research ahead of time and found out there were special shuttles to the arena.  We walked to the bus station and purchased a Unipol shuttle ticket for 5 euros which took us there and back via bus.  Thank goodness!

The arena was bigger than the venue in Padova, but still quite small and somewhat dated.  I’m guessing it holds maybe 18,000 people, and it was half full, with the floor and seating areas cut off at the midway point. There were food trucks and bars outside, but once you were inside, you were limited to beer.  And, we encountered the same situation with seats as we did in Padova:  no standing! Unfortunately, at this venue we were not permitted to go to the floor and had to spend the entire concert sitting. We watched as the strict security guards kept telling people to go sit down.  While sitting and looking out at the crowd on the floor, it struck me that no one was dancing.  Sure, there were some random people having a good time, but for the most part, the Italians were very subdued.  We were able to sneak onto the floor for the encore, which was awesome.  I guess by then, the security guards just didn’t care. The bus ride back was easy and quick, letting us off at the main square where we tried to find something to eat, but it was nearly midnight and most places were closed by then so we headed back to the flat for some leftover tortellini.

I feel like we had a really good experience in Bologna, and I loved the friendly people and the ability to just walk everywhere.  I left there satisfied, knowing we made the most of our time there!

Click here for Italy Part 4:  Florence

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