Jun 30, 2012

Bologna & Modena, Itlay - June 2012

Bologna in June is hot!  100 degrees hot & for kids born in Seattle & living in London – it was seriously hot.  So I did what any Mom would do - I promised to buy lots of Gelato!

Bologna is a neat place – lots of old buildings & tons of beautiful arches.  It’s small enough to walk around but big enough to keep you busy.
We stayed at a B & B (Bologna Nel Cuore) right off the Piazza Maggoire square.  The owner – Maria was nice & the breakfast was very good.  Meat, cheese, homemade preserves, tarts – a great way to start off the day.

Day  1 – we arrive about 12:00 pm & decide to explore the town.  Oh - I love the colors of Bologna (reds, oranges, muted yellows, browns).   There are flowers everywhere & little alley ways with outdoor cafés, Italian men playing the accordion.  The women are all dressed really nice & the shoes are fabulous!  We ate at an outdoor café, had Gelato in the Piazza & took the open bus tour.     
Day 2 – we did a food tour around Modena (with Alessandro - Italian Food experiences).  Our 1st stop was the Parmigiano-Reggiano factory.  We saw the entire operation, met the “Big Cheese” & then got to taste everything. What did I learn? They have 2 grades – 1st grade & 2nd grade – everything else is just cheese.  You should buy Parm that has DOP stamped on the outside of it (dop are the officials that say if the cheese is good enough to be called Parmigiano-Reggiano).  The outside of the Parm (hard crust) – can be cut off & thrown on the grill with a little oil & eaten like a steak.  I really want to try that.  Our 2nd stop was a private farm that produces Balsamic Vinegar.  We tasted a 6 year Balsamic condiment (on gelato) – loved that!  We tasted a 12 year Balsamic Vinegar (on Ricotta) – that was good too (the Ricotta was amazing!).  We tasted a 25 year Balsamic Vinegar – that I didn’t love.  It was seriously thick.  I imagine in the winter when it’s cold – you would have a hard time even getting it out of the bottle.  It tasted a little like molasses. Our 3rd stop was a Prosciutto factory – this was a little disturbing.  Huge Pig legs hanging around – I love meat truly I do but even for me this was a tad nasty. I did try it & it was good but I didn’t bring any home.  Our last stop of the day was a farm called Corte D’Aibo – where we were stopped for lunch.  It’s in the hills of Monteveglio – it’s quaint & beautiful - it’s everything you imagine Italy would be.  They served a fresh onion focaccia that makes my mouth water just talking about it.   We were there for hours – I lost count but there were at least 7 courses.  They kept bringing out food & saying “manga, manga” (eat, eat)!  Oh my word – it was good but I was definitely heading towards a food coma. 

Day 3 – we slept in, had a late breakfast & then went to find San Francesco (a French Gothic church started in 1236).  It was cool – we tried to go inside but the priest didn’t speak English. My Italian is terrible & the best I could figure was that we were trying to enter the cloister! From there we decided to go shopping.  We found a fabulous tea shop, in some little alley way.  The smells were amazing – we lost track of time but had so much fun!  I think our favorite was a peach chai. We hit a couple of souvenir shops (for the kids) & then a clothing store (can’t remember the name) but we all found something in there (clothes, scarves, headbands).    Arms filled with Italian goods we decided to find La Brace – a pizza/pasta restaurant that was recommended to us.  The waiters were standing in front of the doors – when I asked if we could come in, he said “are you British?”  I said “do you want me to be British” & he said “NO! We don’t serve Brits!” – I said “oh good, were American” and he let us in (evidently, Italy & England were scheduled to play against each other in football (soccer) that weekend). I’d like to think he was kidding but I’m not sure J.  Anyway – they brought pizza to the table (instead of bread), the kids thought that was fun!  The menu was in Italian – again I know only a little so I asked what he thought was good, hmmm maybe I shouldn’t have because I had no idea what he was saying.  Instead of embarrassing myself – I said “great, I’ll have that”.  Thankfully – it was an amazing pasta dish! We ended with a Gelato & then headed back to the airport.
Only 2 other things of note:  
1st they have a McDonalds in the center of town.  They people speak English; they give you lots of ice with your diet coke (cheapest you’ll find in town), its air conditioned & the bathrooms are clean.  We stopped in here about twice a day J 

2nd a lot of the ATM’s are inside the banks – so if you need cash, get it before Sunday (when most banks are closed). After going to multiple banks that were closed - I was starting to get nervous until I noticed a lady go inside one of the closed banks (evidently you needed a code to get in).  I waited until she left & went in before the door closed ;)    As I was getting my cash - I was feeling really proud of myself - then I thought “OH MY WORD - please tell me I don’t need a code to get out!!”    Thankfully – I didn’t need a code but I didn’t have to hit quite a few different buttons until I found one that opened the door.
I loved Bologna and I would definitely go back, maybe next time I’ll rent a villa in the hills & take some cooking classes J

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