We Still Didn’t Drink All The Vino: Mai Tai Tom’s 2018 Return To Italy
CHAPTER EIGHT: THE FOOLS ON THE HILL
Next: This Ain’t Your NYC Eataly, Taxi Time, A Mass Of People, Tell Me If You Like The View, No Taxis, Da Nello, You Have One Hour, San Francesco Open Your Giant Doors, I Doubt OSHA Would Have Approved Of This, We’ve Got The Meat (And Cheese) and Dinner With A View
Sunday morning … and the streets of Bologna were empty except for four people in search of a latte. Amazingly, after 14 hours of deep sleep, Tracy was once again feeling fine.
After wandering around finding virtually nothing open, we happened upon Eataly. The four of us loved our time at Eataly in New York City back in 2011, but this store was disappointing.
We left and found a little cafe where we had our requisite croissants and pastries. I hope there’s still some bread left after our visit to Bologna.
Our plan for the day was to take a taxi to the Arco Del Meloncello, which at first I thought was a melon liqueur. In fact, the Arco el Meloncello is a Rococo structure erected in 1732, and a place where we might start our two-kilometer walk through the portico (the portico is the longest in the world … 4 km … if you start at the beginning back in Bologna) up to our destination of Santuario di Madonna di San Luca. It’s located on the top of Monte della Guardia.
Mai Tai Tom Fun Fact: Coincidentally, from the beginning of the portico back in Bologna to the Santuario di Madonna di San Luca, there are 666 arches along the way. I assume that must be a devil of a walk.
We asked our taxi driver if it was a steep walk, and he replied, “Si, it’s pretty steep.” In a moment of pure laziness, we had our driver take us to the top. Maybe we’d walk down. As we drove alongside the portico, it didn’t look as beautiful as I had envisioned when I read about them. We were all glad we drove.
The18th-century Santuario di Madonna di San Luca is quite a sight to behold at first glance.
It was a glorious day as we walked toward the church. Looking down the portico the looks on some of the faces made me happy we chose the taxi.
The church is constructed in typical “Bolognese tradition.” There has been a church or chapel located here for 1,000 years. Once upon a time, until 1976, you could take a cable car up here.
Stepping inside the church we ran into a mass of people celebrating Mass.
We stopped in the back and took a few photos, until we read a sign with the words and accompanying camera with a line through it. Well, at least I got a couple.
For a few extra Euro, you could climb to the top to take photos. These days I always have to take a quick look to see how narrow the passageway is because of the fun blood thinners I take. I worried about scraping my hands against the wall, so after seeing the winding, narrow stairwell I deferred to the other three to climb so my hands didn’t look like they’d been through a meat-grinder. Getting old sucks sometimes.
I stayed and watched Mass, as the others climbed to the top to take some photos of the surrounding countryside (and a couple of lovey ladies).
Our taxi driver had told us we might have trouble coming back because there was a big soccer game and the streets were blocked off. We thought about walking, but were told that a tram was on its way. Hunger trumped walking the portico, and after a short wait we took the tram that plopped us at the Piazza Maggiore.
In the alley behind our AirBnb we had seen a patio that we believed was part of a restaurant so we walked the short distance over to it. To my amazement, this wasn’t just any restaurant, but a place called Da Nello, that I had read quite a bit about on the travel board. The patio was empty so I thought we’d easily secure a table here at about 12:30. When I asked if we could sit down, the greeter said we could eat there, but we’d have to be out in exactly one hour, because they were sold out. No problema. We were lead downstairs to a labyrinth of rooms, and the restaurant was jammed. Business was booming.
Lunch was very, very good including my pasta with tomato, Kim’s grilled chicken with mashed potatoes, Mary’s porcini mushroom flan and Tracy’s insalata mista with fennel and radish, plus a cuppa d’orzo.
We got out of there at 1:30 and stopped by the apartment to do a little laundry since our next church (yes, there are more) didn’t open until 3 p.m.
At little before 3 we headed toward Basilica San Francesco, with directions from the Monument to Ugo Bassi, a Roman Catholic priest who “traveled all over Italy preaching and tending the poor.” For all his good efforts, he was executed by a firing squad in 1849. (Check your friend Google for “the rest of the story.”)
Basilica San Francesco was built in the13th century by, not coincidentally, the Franciscans. It’s been called “one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic architecture in northern Italy.”
One of the highlights is a marble altar-piece that was sculpted by Venetians Jacobello and Pier Paolo dalle Masegne. Sculpted at the end of the 14th century, it depicts the “happenings of St. Francis” and “the figures of the Virgin and of the Eternal Father surrounded by saints and prophets.”
We visited a few tombs …
… and wandered for a bit in yet another beautiful church.
We didn’t spend a long time here, because we wanted to head back outside on a beautiful Bologna autumn afternoon.
We walked back to take a few more pictures of Le Due Torri …
… but first caught another glimpse of the 16th-century La Fontana Vecchia (The Old Fountain) that we had walked by often. It can be found on the side of one of the walls of the Palazzo D’Accursio on Via Ugo Bassi.
It was busy around here because the street is pedestrian only on the weekends, so there were a lot of people strolling about. By the way, “Libertas” represents the city of Bologna, and the fountain still works after all these years.
Mary ran into an old friend, Peppa Pig, a British preschool animated television character, who Kim and Mary’s youngest grandchild likes. For just a minute, they hogged the street.
We headed back to our first Bologna stop, Basilica di San Petronio, but not to check out its interior (although we did walk through it to reach our appointed destination).
On the backside of the basilica is an elevator that takes you up to La Terrazza Panoramica. Since 2015 people have been riding an elevator to a terrace above the basilica where one gets a great panoramic view of “the red city.” Before going up, however, we had to pay €3 and sign a liability waiver. “I wonder why they do that?” I asked. In a matter of moments I received my answer.
Tracy and Mary had already ridden this bad boy to the top with a previous group, so Kim and I hopped on the next ride up. It was a freight elevator with an operator who had a devious grin on his face.
As we neared the top, the elevator shook pretty good, causing more than a couple of gasps from yours truly. The operator’s grin was even bigger now. I hadn’t been this happy getting off an Italian means of transportation since the infamous “Bucket of Bolts” in Gubbio back in 2005. Kim got quite a kick out of my ultimate fear of crashing in an elevator. From their smiles, so did a few others,
The views over Bologna and the countryside were beautiful.
We took in the view from many directions.
We had picked a beautiful day for coming up here.
Meanwhile a group people with hardhats appeared. I didn’t see any caves, so I asked someone what they were up to. It seems that the basilica offers a tour into the belfry.
It reminded me of the tour we took at Salisbury Cathedral back in 2013. (Picture from 2013 trip.)
Back on terra firma after a relatively smooth ride down, we discussed dinner. We decided instead of a restaurant, to explore one those narrow lanes and go in search of meat and cheese (we’d already hit a nearby grocery to pick up some fruit) and have a picnic on our AirBnb patio (you have to save money somewhere).
The cheese and meat shops were heavenly, and prosciutto was calling my name.
We stopped in a couple of shops, and we were in for an inexpensive (and delicious) feast.
Strolling down the street, we saw more quaint shops and a cool restaurant or ten. “I could live here,” I thought.
Back at our apartment, Tracy and Mary made some elegant platters and out on the patio we celebrated Bologna with a picnic fit for a King.
It made for a perfect ending for our last full day in Bologna. As the sun set, we looked out at the beautiful Cattedrale Matropolitana di San Pietro.
Tomorrow we’d be hopping on another early morning train for our planned day trip to Ravenna, where mosaics take center stage.
Our day in Ravenna would take us to some of the more remarkable sights we’ve seen on any trip. Although we knew the mosaics in this town were its claim to fame, in person they were mesmerizing. We visited a number of the town’s spots that contain these incredible pieces of art, some that date back more than 1,500 years. Simply incredible!
CHAPTER NINE – THE STUNNING MOSAICS OF RAVENNA
Next: Day Nine – A Case of the Benz, That’s The Ticket, A UNESCO Beauty, Of All the Galla, The Neon Bishop, I’ll Have 10 Orders of Ravioli Please, Where’s Steve Martin, Monument To A Poet, Fish In The Crypt, Falling For Tracy, Saved By The Umbrella, Some Good Deeds Are Not Punished, A Rainy Night In Bologna and Unintended Candlelight Dinner