11 Jul 2019 – Thursday.
Bologna it was on Thursday, which, like Parma, is only a short drive away from Modena. First on the agenda was going in search for their hidden canals.
Apparently, Bologna used to be filled with canals, but many of them have since been covered by buildings.
As with every town we’d visited so far, and every town we’ll be visiting, we went to the piazza where Basilica di San Petronio is located. It’s famous for being half completed on the outside, so the bottom half is covered in a beautiful white and peach marble, while the top remains as bricks.
We did go in, but we weren’t allowed to take photos unless we gave an offering. It wasn’t as impressive inside compared to the cathedral in Parma. This basilica is also heavily guarded because there have been threats made to it in the recent past.
We went looking for lunch and found ourselves at Osteria Bartolini which serves a seafood-centric menu.
Nice, warm, toasty breads to start our meal. Most Italian eateries then to serve mediocre, chewy bread so this was refreshing.
Flo and I shared a plate of grilled prawns and squid, and a bowl of garlic butter cozze aka mussels.
The seafood were fresh, and the mussels in particular were so plump and juicy. You’ll see me ordering cozze many more times during our trip.
Cigarette vending machine, literally in a hole in the wall.
Quick stop for a quick snack. Flo had a lemon aragoste, better known as sfogliatelle (lobster tail). A thin, flaky, almost like puff pastry, kind of pastry filled with lemon cream.
Light and crisp on the outside,
Citrusy and creamy on the inside.
We went on towards the leaning towers of Bologna. If memory serves me right, there used to be about 6 of these leaning high towers. These two, Asinelli and Garisenda, used to stand at around 60m but one was reduced in height, and the other had a height increment where the extra levels on top were made a little smaller in order to put minimal stress on the structure.
Although Asinelli and Garisenda can be seen from a distance, we happened to walk right by their base because we were searching for St. Stephen Basilica.
My curiosity about this basilica peaked when I found out that it held 7 small cathedrals within.
I believe there are still monks living within its walls as we saw them going about their day. While we were able to visit the courtyard, the upper levels of this inner building is not accessible to the public.
As you can see from the floors and walls, the basilica is extremely old, with some of its buildings being build way way back in the 4th Century!
After visiting St. Stephen’s, dinner came calling and before we went to Bologna, Flo refused to order any Tagliatelle al’ Ragu, insisting that he would only eat it in Bologna. So I checked with our trusty friend, Google, and found a wallet-friendly eatery, popular with students, that supposedly served a very good rendition of this dish – Osteria dell’Orsa.
I wasn’t keen on pasta, so I went for a grilled vegetable bruschetta. We were going to order two thinking they’d be a simple two slices of baguette with toppings, but when the order arrived, we were happy to have stuck to the one because it was a whole slab of thin cut bread.
Flo of course, went for the Tagliatelle al’ Ragu which came looking pleasingly homey – just like how you’d imagine grandma would make it, if you had an Italian grandma.
It tasted very rustic, with the earthiness from the meat and as usual, tagliatelle cooked perfectly. That being said, I actually made a ragu for us before back in Singapore, and it tasted the same. Even Flo had to give me that!
Always room in Italy for some gelato.
We went to a random gelateria that we found on the way back to the carpark and Flo found some space to pack away a small cup of pistachio gelato and stracciatella, hands down his favourite. It was pretty good gelato, then again, you can hardly go wrong with gelato from any gelateria in Italy.
Two satiated people, and three satiated babies (in my belly), drove back to our B&B thereafter. Bologna was definitely worth the visit. It’s a little bit more of a student town but it was filled with activity and life, similar to Parma. Modena, compared to the other two, is still a little bit slower in terms of pace, but each has their own character and charm so it’s tough pinpointing which was my favourite.