Holy Bologna

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In some parts of the English-speaking world, Bologna rhymes with pony and is used to soften cuss words blurted out in surprise. I don’t know how it had gotten there but they certainly do not rhyme in Bologna. Keeping up to its sausage and pasta sauce namesake, the city is all shades of red orange. Certainly, it couldn’t be as literal especially if you view the entire city from the top of one of the Due Torri leaning towers. The city looked like a huge spread of red pasta sauce. Good thing the pavement isn’t white. Or maybe I was just hungry back then.

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Anyway, when we arrived in Bologna, I could stop telling my friends that the typical tagliatelle/pasta dish they have there shouldn’t be called Bolognese as fancied by restaurants elsewhere in the world. I mean, if you are a local, that would really be so strange. In fact, I met people from Bologna prior to our visit to the city and they all told me the same thing and use the word “ragu” instead. But then, starving as we arrived, we immediately pounced into a random restaurant and the first thing on the menu was “tagliatelle bolognese”. So yes, screwing that fun fact was a bit embarrassing for me. Or well, the city lives basically on tourism so most of the restaurants downtown may have probably felt victim to this overt commercialization.

What’s distinct, however, about Bologna is its obsession with porches. The shaded hallways under the arches are endless; almost every building has this by their street facade. They provide for some really august walk back in time. I have never seen a city with quite extensive, almost exaggerated use of the porticos or porches. It was quite a wonder. Santo Stefano, for example, a cluster of churches and chapels are tied together by a network of porticos which also reflect additional medieval aesthetic.

The alleged world’s oldest university is also in this city so yes, there’s abundant student population which is always alive and full of energy. Piazza Maggiore is also a spacious promenade guarded by the massive San Petronio Basilica and the statue of Neptune surrounded by yet, you guessed it, porticos.

Bologna’s preservation of its old city within the walls is quite laudable. It’s a compact city with history literally engraved on its walls and tiled streets (and yeah, maybe in its pasta). It’s a day’s worth of tour and its lively squares are entertaining amidst the throngs of tourists and the ubiquitous powerful sound of the Italian language swarming across. Although it could be easy to get bored in the city without participating in midnight pleasantries on youthful pub crawls and bar hops and tripping over drunk Italians who could curse you forcefully with bizarre hand gestures but yes, it is a living fantasy on its own.

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