Despite any exhaustion my travel companion and I may have felt from our shenanigans in Milano the night before (of which there were many), we were resolute of take Bologna head on.
After settling into our hotel outside the walls of the city, we took the bus in to the outer circle to have lunch. Though the polenta place we had wanted to try was closed for the season, we opted to try a well-rated pizza by-the-slice restaurant, which ended up being quite fantastic! It reminded me of the many pizza tagliata joints I frequented while in Rome, but with a more artisanal flair.
After lunch, we headed into the historical district in the city center. Having arrived first at Piazza Maggiore, we took in the spectacle of the bustling city and took note of the stage that had been set up for a month-long movie festival for its denizens. Our eyes were then drawn to the incomplete, yet still commanding façade of Saint Petronino’s Basilica. After entering through its doors, one is immediately struck by the towering and stretched features of its Gothic Architecture. I craned my neck upward to study the stained glass and the many embellishments of the columns, and I now fully comprehended how the design was meant to strike the feeling of humility in the presence of God in those who entered.
From there, we left out the back exit and wandered into a square that happened to lead right to the Archiginassio di Bologna, which is one of the most important libraries in all of Italy. Though the actual library was closed at that hour, we were able to enjoy its palazzo and see some remarkably old texts that were beautifully inscribed by monks centuries ago.
After this, we briefly passed through the Galleria Cavour and gazed at all the luxurious shops whose wears we cannot afford before passing on to see the Quadrilatero and walk along the Via Pescherie Vecchie. I would have to say that this was my favorite part of the city just because of its display for all things food-related. We first stopped in anand bought some small gifts of wine and marmalades for our host parents. Then, we were able to just roam around and gaze at all the different shops and restaurants that were filled with cured prosciutto legs and giant Parmiagano-Reggiano wheels.
Eventually, we settled in a bar for a spell to watch the France versus Argentina game with an aperitivo while we waited for our ticket time to scale the tower. Climbing the seemingly infinite steps of Il Tuore di Asinelli was a tasking yet satisfying end to our travel day, as we could take in all the many pieces of the city that we had just visited, like a conquering lord looks over a city they have just taken. Not to mention it definitely helped us work up an appetite for the delicious meal we ate after!
After dinner, we returned to the hotel with a bottle of wine to prepare for our night out. Yet, as it always seems to go with this trip, many of the spots we attempted to check out were either closed or not what we expected. Despite the categories and reviews listed for the various places on TripAdvisor, it seemed impossible for us to find a suitable place to find fun people our age to get a drink and dance with. Frustrated by these suggestions, we decided to abandon the phones and apps and simply follow the sounds of the night.
Looking back at it now, it was unsurprising that the night immediately became much more enjoyable. First, we came upon a cheap, but youthful looking watering hole that was filled with the local Bologna college students. We soon broke into a group of various English and other international kids who talked with us for a bit about the city and their experiences. They then gave us a recommendation to check out this divey, yet quite fun night club that was nearby and usually full of other international people.
After staying there until closing time, we had a hazy chat with an English pilot outside the club and then attempted our journey back to the hotel. I say attempted because the task proved to be much more difficult than expected. Since all public transit was closed at this hour, our only hope was a taxi. However, despite my drunken best efforts to find a stop and call several taxi lines, it seemed impossible to reign one in. Looking back on it, it would have been quite easy to download the MyTaxi app and call one to our location. However, between my hampered state of mind and my friend’s tendency to intermittently pass out on random objects by the street, the whole effort proved futile.
Finally, at around 5 am, the bus system had restarted and we somehow managed to find the right bus to take us back toward the hotel. Even though both of us fell asleep on the bus, we both managed to somehow wake up to the bus being on a street just around the corner from our hotel, at which point we dragged ourselves into our beds and slept for the few hours we could manage. These precious hours were little, however, since we had to wake up again to take our train back to Cesano Maderno and recover from the weekend.
Despite this chaotic ending to the trip, Bologna was full of fond memories and beautiful places to visit, and it is a city I certainly hope to see again during my travels.