First of all thank you to the readers who wrote me messages of encouragement about my blog. It’s nice to know that people enjoy it. I will continue until there’s nothing more to write about.
I have been back in Rome for a couple of weeks and it’s been a busy time since I got back. Loris’ family had a re-union at an uncle’s house in the countryside. It was near a small village called Agassano just outside Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna. The house is the gate lodge of a medieval castle. Beautiful countryside all around with fields of wheat, tomatoes, hay and red poppies lining the roadsides. We had lunch in the garden, feasting on barbecued meats, cheeses and various local produce. Emilia-Romagna isn’t called the breadbasket of Italy for nothing!
Since I was in northern Italy, I took the opportunity to visit Bologna which I had never visited despite having passed through its outskirts many times. I was very lucky to be introduced to Lorenza and Gianni through friends. They lived in Canada for many years where Gianni was a wine maker. Now having returned to Italy, he gives cooking classes at their apartment which is situated in a palazzo, as well as taking small groups on walking holidays. They invited me to their place for a dinner of homemade tortellini the day I arrived. All made from scratch and absolutely delicious.
Bologna is a small city with a walled historic centre. It is beautiful and very quaint. As you can see in the photo, the roofs have red tiles giving the city a reddish glow and the nickname ‘la rossa’, the red one. Almost all of the buildings in the historic centre date back to medieval times and have porticoes spanning the pavement so that one is protected from the sun in the summer and the rain in the winter. Bologna boasts the oldest university in Italy, or possibly in Europe, dating back to 1088 so it is also sometimes referred to as ‘la dotta’, the learned one. You see lots of students and young people on the streets giving the city a vibrant energy.
One morning, Gianni took me on a bike ride. Bologna is perfect fot biking as it is flat for the most part, with designated bike lanes. It is also great to walk around in, as parts of the historic centre are closed to traffic. We biked outside the walled historic centre to the bottom of a small hill on the outskirts of the city. At the top of the hill is a church dedicated to the Madonna di San Luca. An icon of the Virgin was supposedly brought to Bologna in the 12th century by a Byzantine pilgrim from the church of Santa Sofia in Constantinople (Istanbul). A covered arcade of 3.8 km goes up the hill to the church so there is plenty of time for prayer and reflection before you arrive! I didn’t take a picture of the icon as there were people solemnly praying in front of it and it seemed disrespectful. After the walk up and down as well as the bike ride there and back, I was ready to stroll around with Lorenza and sample more of Bologna’s culinary delicacies for lunch. Another nickname for Bologna is ‘la grassa’, the fat one. It’s reputation for good food lived up to my expectations and I didn’t see a single fat person perhaps because it is an easy city to walk or bike everywhere.