As the weather heats up in Queensland I am reminded of the rainy Autumn days that we spent in Venice in 2015. For the most part, the weather was cold and wet, a high tide was predicted and we could not have been happier. Protected by the covered passage of the Doges Palace we watched a parade of colourful umbrellas and plastic ponchos pass us by.
Liquid this week’s topic for the weekly photo challenge instantly makes me think of Venice and waking up to a high tide which flooded St Mark’s Square. On this morning we went for a stroll before breakfast to see how the piazza and surrounding areas fared after a night of rain and a high tide. We had seen photos of flooding in Venice, but they were extreme and I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful Venice looked with a layer of water covering most of the piazza.
“Venice never quite seems real, but rather an ornate film set suspended on the water.”
To choose just one favourite place is not an easy task. My favourite place depends on my mood, the weather or what I am looking for in a favourite place at a specific time. For example, my favourite place for dark night skies, peace and quiet and the best sleep ever is my family home in rural New South Wales. If I am feeling sad and craving solitude my favourite place is curled up on the lounge with Bundy, watching old movies or reading a book. For this week’s photo challenge I have decided to go with a favourite travel destination, one I could happily return to again and again even though it is considered by many to be ‘too touristy’. I’m sure that you will recognise it without difficulty.
For me the pleasure in returning to Venice is watching the sun set over the lagoon, the golden light creates a warm glow that affects all it touches. The thousands of day trippers head back to their hotels and cruise ships, the streets are less chaotic and the soft light of glass lanterns makes everything seem so romantic. During the day I love exploring streets beyond St Mark’s Square, getting lost and finding little gems in which to enjoy an espresso or a bite to eat and a glass of wine.
Just over twelve months ago we spent three nights in the medieval centre of Bologna, heart of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy and the perfect location for meat loving gourmands. The Atlantic Hotel was home during our stay and it was well situated between the train station and the main piazza. It did take us a little while to find it, for some reason I lost all sense of direction and had us going the wrong way before Hubby stepped in to ask for directions. Each of us had a role on this trip, Hubby was languages and I was logistics, it worked really well most of the time. Once settled in our hotel we set off to find typical Bolognese food to eat. We had experienced illness on and off since arriving in Paris, it had affected our appetite and our energy levels and we were keen to use our time in Bologna to recover. The main reason we included Bologna on our itinerary was food, we’re not connoisseurs of gourmet food but we do like eating good food and exploring the medieval old town also had its appeal.
Tamburini deli is the most amazing shop to walk into, from floor to ceiling the shop is stacked with the most tantalising produce. I was in heaven. The choices were overwhelming so we asked them to recommend something suitable for a picnic in Piazza Maggiore. Unlike other Italian cities we were not discouraged from eating in the piazza, surrounded by like minded tourists and locals we devoured the selection of cheese and mortadella that had been prepared for us, delicious with chunks of fresh, crusty bread. That simple but tasty meal was the beginning of our food focused visit to Bologna. While enjoying the atmosphere of the piazza we got talking to a couple of university students, one of them was walking his neighbour’s dog, a cute French bulldog called Frati (I think that was his name). Sadly, Frati’s owners didn’t take him out much because he had wheels as a result of not being able to walk properly so this student kindly took him out for regular walks. Frati was extremely friendly and seemed to really appreciate the chance to be out of the apartment and say hello to random strangers. I certainly appreciated the opportunity to get some puppy cuddles and I tried taking a few photos but Frati was too busy and the lighting was poor. So typical of me to remember the name of the dog but I don’t remember the name of the students, both spoke english beautifully and were happy to chat with us about travel, Australia and the Paris attacks (which had happened a week before). They recommended checking out the part of Bologna where all the students go to eat and drink, there we would find good food and wine and good prices. We took their advice and spent an evening in that more lively part of town and we tried the wine, it was good and of course we could not help but indulge ourselves at one of the many gelaterias.
Eating out in Bologna was a bit like walking into Tamburini, so many choices that deciding where to dine was really hard. One night we seemed to walk around in circles before coming across a small, underground restaurant in the back streets and for lunches we returned to a busy little cafe situated in the old market in the Quadrilatero, the food was good and the prices were right for our budget. During our stay we tried all the typical dishes: tortellini in brodo, lasagna, antipasti platters of cheese and meat, meatballs, roast pork, grilled seasonal vegetables and little round bread called Tigelle. The narrow alleys of the old market was thriving, lots of noise and activity as shoppers and shop keepers went about their business. Dining alfresco provides the perfect opportunity for people watching however I tired of the beggars constantly hitting us up for money, at one sitting we were approached by at least 5 different beggars. The following day we sat indoors, the weather was much cooler so it didn’t take that much to convince Hubby. The begging in Bologna was constant or so it seemed, perhaps because the central historic area is smaller and more condensed than some of the other cities frequented by tourists. Hubby and I tended to buy dog food at the supermarket and give that to the beggars and homeless that were with their dogs, most seemed happy to have food for their furry companions.
The old markets in the Quadrilatero
A walk through one of Bologna’s markets
Fish market in the Quadrilatero
Tigelle, antipasti and meatballs for lunch
Museums and galleries weren’t a priority for us while in Bologna however we did venture into an old church, the Basilica di Santo Stefanowhich is known locally as the Sette Chiese or Seven Churches. Supposedly established in the 5th century over the top of a pagan site of worship, the church has been added to over the centuries. Even Hubby enjoyed walking through Benedictine cloister, Pilato’s courtyard and the chapels of varying ages. To one side is a small museum of paintings and sculptures, entry is free although a donation is welcome and it is well worth seeing. For the most part, we wandered through the city via the porticoeswhich make it easy to get around regardless of the weather. Medieval timber porticoes can still be found in the historical centre, the majority are made of stone, brick and concrete. In addition to tracking down the timber porticoes we searched for the hidden canals of Bolognaof which there is roughly 60km, mostly covered over. Two canals can be found near the edge of the historical centre where the Reno river enters the city, and the Moline canal we discovered by accident down a side street.
Bologna is an incredibly fascinating city and well worth including on an Italian itinerary, being there in November made it the perfect time to indulge in some of the more hearty dishes on the menu. Being the capital of the Emilia Romagna region, it is also centrally located making it easy to get to other food lover destinations such Modena and Parma. We did not venture to either of these cities, instead choosing to take it easy in Bologna and recover which was a wise decision.
One of the hidden canals
Beware of the dog
One of many porticoes
Medieval timber portico
Bubble is Piazza Maggiore
View of the Castello di Galliera ruins from the Park of Montagnola