Purple Travel

[September 15 2015]

Exploring the city of Bologna

Bologna has an appealing old university city blend of ancient buildings, a tradition of left-wing politics, and amazing eating. For the latter, old bourgeois stalwarts like Tamburini with its pasta, salumi and cheeses sit alongside places like Trattoria Fantoni – owned by Davide and his wife for the past twenty years. Here the menus are scribbled in biro and then photocopied black and white, featuring Bolognese classics like tagliatelle al ragù as well as fresher choices like linguine with butter-braised fennel, pine nuts, raisins, parsley and vodka, and a battered veal fillet served in white wine and radicchio. Alongside the food it’s also a mecca for comic and graphic novel artists (including ‘Persepolis’ writer Marjane Satrapi) who leave the owners their hand-drawn tokens of thanks, which are then framed and placed up on the walls.

The city’s canals were nothing like as extensive as those elsewhere in Italy, and were mostly covered over after WWII to make space in the centre for new roads, but the remnants are visible in the streets near Via Malcontenti, where Bologna’s old flour and textile mills were driven by the water. Just further north, up by the central station, We_Bologna is a new development designed to house travelers in the summer months and students during the rest of the year, with modern marble and concrete interiors that provide a contrast to the rest of the city’s medieval and renaissance architecture. They also have a nice line in vintage bike rentals and my black and red Bartali had a story, that of stout, muscled Christian-Democrat Gino Bartali and his rivalry with wiry, left-wing (allegedly amphetamine-fueled) Fausto Coppi.

No visit to Bologna would be complete without heading to Giambologna’s statute of Neptune (his trident became the logo for the Maserati car company founded in the city and now based in nearby Modena), which stands, surrounded by boob-squeezing, lactating sea nymphs in its own special square next to the Piazza Maggiore.

Text and photo Jethro Turner


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