Friday, June 22, 2012

B-O-L-O-G-N-A: Day 1

Will I ever get the Oscar Meyer jingle out of my head?!

I met up with a dozen other ladies at Heathrow airport on June 18th to fly to Bologna, Italy for a culinary tour of the region.  This was my first trip with the AWC, which organizes several group tours each year for its members.  Since Josh was in DC on a business trip, this seemed like a lot more fun than staying home by myself.

It was quite a shock going from cold, rainy London to Bologna, where it was sunny and in the 90's, but we were all thrilled to experience seasonally-appropriate weather for a change.  We met our guide, Mara, who is Italian and lives in London but has family in the area, and piled into our air-conditioned bus, eagerly changing into our summer clothes as soon as we arrived at the lovely Hotel Corona d'Oro.
Our hotel
After a quick lunch of cold cuts (prosciutto, mortadella, salami, etc), cheese, and bread, we took a walking tour of the city with a local guide.  Bologna is the seventh largest city (population-wise) in Italy and dates back over 2,000 years.  There are no stone quarries nearby, so most of the buildings are brick, earning it the nickname "The Red City."
Neptune fountain in the Piazza Maggiore
Pope Gregory XIII overlooks the Piazza
The University of Bologna, founded in 1088, is the oldest university in the Western world.  We took a peek in the library, which is painted with heraldic shields representing the families and home countries of all the students who have studied there.
Library of the University of Bologna
Some of the coats of arms painted on the ceiling
Restoration work underway on the interior painting
The Anatomical Theater, built in 1637
Anatomical Theater
Along the way, we were surprised to see some familiar products on display in a shop window...
Mmm Mmm Good!
Another plaza lead to a cluster of seven interconnected churches known collectively as the Basilica di Santo Stefano.
Basilica of Santo Stefano
Nice brickwork in the cloisters
A distinctive landmark in Bologna is the two medieval towers near the town center.  Like many other structures in the city, they were under restoration and covered with scaffolding, so it was hard to get a good photo.  The towers are believed to be nearly a thousand years old, and both lean slightly.  The taller one is about 320 feet tall -- comparable to a 30-story skyscraper!
The taller of the Two Towers
Bologna is also known for its porticos, which provide architectural interest as well as shelter from the elements.
Ancient porticos
Not far from our hotel was a nice marketplace with shops and stalls tempting us with all sorts of goodies.
Meat and cheese
Fresh produce
When we got back to the hotel, they had laid out a lovely spread for us with prosecco, ham, cheese, olives, nuts, and other tasty nibbles.  Very fancy!
Noshing in the hotel lobby
We tried not to fill up too much on snacks as Mara had made a dinner reservation at a nearby restaurant for us.   We feasted on fried zucchini flowers, mortadella, veal cutlets and lasagne.  And, of course, more sparkling wine.  I think we all slept very well that night.

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