A quick post from gorgeous Bologna. Most of you know but I am here for just under a week for a conference. From Saturday to Wednesday I will be all go go go with work, but for much of today I have been able to get out and see some of what the city has to offer. It has been quite surreal, as it is about 17 years since I was last in Italy, and it is my first time here in Bologna. I have been to Florence (just up the road) but not to here, so I took the opportunity to see what it has to offer.
I have to say upfront, Italy was not one of my favourites when I first did the whole whizzing around Europe thing back in the day. For no reason really, just that I fell much more for France (and Germany), so those have been my destinations to go back to, while Italy hasn’t seen me since 2000. So I was pretty jazzed to be able to come back and see what I thought nearly 2 decades later.
My initial thoughts? I really dig the vibe of Bologna. For one of the largest cities in Italy (7th maybe?) it feels really laid back. Hardly seems crowded, everyone seems to be just hanging out, and as expected it is quite gorgeous. My memories of the places I visited in Italy all those years ago was just of crowds. Granted I was doing the “tourist” thing, but it was winter. I was expecting the warm weather here to have brought out all the tourists, but maybe they are down the road in Florence?
Anyway, what did I get up to? I had a very rough plan, mainly to see a couple of the main churches and a couple of the museums, as well as wander some streets, chasing LP’s and the like. Oh, and to eat lots of prosciutto, mortadella, salami, etc etc.
First up was a visit to the Basilica Santo Stefano. But on the way I saw one of the main landmarks in Bologna, the two towers (yep, that’s what they’re known as). One of the towers is supremely wonky making it a bit of a tourist spot, but it also made for a good landmark to get the bearings.
Santo Stefano was nearby and it was quite a low key church. It seemed to be a series of interconnected buildings rather than one big one. As such it was quite cool to wander through archways, and in small courtyards. Not too much in the way of religious iconography or show which probably explained the lack of visitors in there.
From there I wandered to the main centrepoint of Bologna, Piazza Maggiore. This is the central meeting place of the city, home to the main square as well as the main basilica, library, museums, and tourists. I took the opportunity to pop into the main basilica of the city, Basilica di San Petronio. This was more like your typical big Italian basilica! Huge and full of sculpture and painting and stained glass and arches, it was quite a sight to behold. I’m not religious, but religious iconography is immensely fascinating, and this was up there.
I wandered back out into the perfect weather and around the piazza for a bit. One of the museums I was keen to visit was nearby so in I went to the Museo Civico Archeologico. There are a number of museums and galleries in town, and in some respects with such little time I picked the couple that seemed to pop out to me. This was obviously filled with archeological artefacts from the area, which would make a nice change from the religious paintings I would no doubt be seeing a bit more of. In the end this was a good choice. Not huge, but a really great museum filled with sculptures, pottery, and all sorts of other finds. They even had a pretty decent Egyptian section, however the Italian parts were much more interesting. The courtyard was also a nice spot to just take a seat and relax.
It was lunchtime, so down a small sidestreet I popped to find something. When you see a bunch of locals outside a small deli, then that is where you go, and in I went to Bella Vita, a tiny cafe deli. It was the perfect time for a Campari soda as well as some prosciutto and other delights. I could get used to this.
I kept moving, and decided to just wander some of the smaller side streets. I was keen to see what I could chance upon, but I also knew the area where a record store or two were hiding. And yep, found one! Disco D’oro was one I read about and I gotta say, it was fantastic. A HUGE selection of LPs to wade through which was ace. I don’t really tend to buy LPs while travelling as I can typically get anything I am after, but it is always nice to browse. And in this case I also couldn’t resist picking up a limited colour LP version of the Radiohead OK Computer 20th anniversary release. It will be nice to play it remembering where I bought it from.
The day was creeping away from me, so I decided to head to the other museum I was keen to visit, the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna. This is the national art gallery of Bologna, so for that reason was worth a look. But by all accounts it housed a pretty decent collection, so I popped in for a look. While not huge, it had a decent collection of 13-18th century works that were related to the city. So given the time period and the focus, yep, they were mostly religion-themed works. From that perspective it was quite good, however with such a strong focus it meant that there wasn’t too much variation (for someone like me anyway). So while it definitely housed some impressive works, they did start to blur in to each other after a while.
With that, it was time for a quick refresh and to get on the job for the first time. We had our first get together of our conference working group, to start to chat and get ready for the busy 5 days to come. And with that, my exploration of Bologna came to an end. Hopefully there will be time to sneak a look at something here and there, but for the next 5 days it will be work work work!