Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Reggio Emilia

When most people visit Italy for the first time, they go to Rome, or Venice, or Florence. My first trip to Italy was to Bologna. I did eventually make it to those other cities, but I never would have guessed that the first place I would revisit in Italy would be...  Bologna!

Why Bologna?  Well, our friends Rob & Diana had invited us to meet up with them during their 2-week tour of Italy, and that's where they happened to be over the weekend that we were able to join them.  More specifically, they were staying in the nearby town of Reggio Emilia, but we had to fly into Bologna to get there.  We rented a car at the airport, and as we  neared the exit for Reggio Emilia, I saw a familiar sight:
A familiar sight - the Calatrava Bridge
And then an unfamiliar sight.  This train station was designed by the same architect, but had not yet been built when I visited the area last June.
The new Reggio Emilia train station, by the same architect
This part of Italy (the middle of the top of the 'boot') is known for its food more than its sights.  It's mostly agricultural, and the landscape reminds me quite a bit of central California, where I grew up.
We made our way through the maze-like streets of Reggio Emilia to the Hotel Posta, which overlooked the main square right in the center of town.
Hotel Posta
Built in the 13th century as a palace, it has been a hotel since 1515!  The room below is over 800 years old, and can be rented out for weddings, meetings, and other events.
Taking a peek at the "Del Capitano del Popolo" room
Despite being mid-July, it was pretty quiet in the hotel, so they upgraded us to a suite.  Aptly enough, it was right above Rob & Diana's suite.  Josh and I used to live in the apartment above Rob's many years ago, so we were all very amused to find ourselves back in the same configuration.
The view from our room
Rob's travel agent had recommended this part of Italy because it is not very touristy and 'off the beaten path.'  Indeed.  It's a lovely little town with nary a tourist in sight, but there's not a whole lot to do in Reggio Emilia. The whole town essentially shuts down in the afternoon (and then comes back to life in the evening), but we were content to wander around and catch up with Rob & Diana and their friend Angela, who had joined them for part of their trip as well.
One of the MANY churches
The dome interior
Remnants of an ancient mosaic floor
A nice park
An unexpected flag
Church exterior
The theater
We spotted lots of interesting graffiti as we walked around.  I understand why we borrowed the word from Italian.
'Four Eyes' meets 'Six Eyes'
"Pearls before Swine" (a brand of beer)
Italian birds can't spell
Ginger T-rex Red Sox fan?
It's hard to see in this photo, but there is a gargoyle chained to the top of the wall by the tower.  We were convinced it came to life at night.
Impressive gargoyles
Hanging garden
Italian version of Tesco
Market in another piazza
Franciscan church with a nice mosaic
Another church
Church interior
Part of the original city wall
Our hotel had a sister property in a historic farmhouse perched on a hilltop just outside of town, so we made arrangements to go there for dinner one night.
Angela, Diana, Josh, and Naina at Cavazzone
It was a bit hazy, but we still enjoyed the view of the countryside before dinner.

Naina & Josh

Diana & Rob

Making good use of the self-timer on my camera

They make balsamic vinegar here, so before dinner we had a brief tour with an explanation of how it is made.  This is a much smaller operation than the huge factory I toured last summer.
Balsamic vinegar barrels
We ate out on the terrace looking out over the city.  Everything was delicious, including the best prosciutto and melon I have ever had.
Lovely terrace
Not surprisingly, we ate very well on this trip.  Lots of ham, cheese, wine and, of course, gelato.
Done with pizza, ready for gelato!
I wouldn't recommend Reggio Emilia for your first visit to Italy, but it was definitely a nice setting to catch up with friends and experience Italian culture and food away from the hordes of tourists.  And, believe it or not, while it was still warm enough to be grateful for air conditioning in our hotel, it was actually a bit cooler there than it was in London that weekend!

1 comment:

  1. What do you know? The view from your hotel window was exactly the same as from ours. :) Thank you so much for making the trip to meet up with us. I'll never forget it!


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