Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Day 9: Cortona-Bologna

Before we leave Cortona, I spend a half hour at the Internet shop just down the street from the hotel…we had only noticed it yesterday when we drove up the Via Guelfa–nice fast connection and pleasant people. I am able to send off some work e-mails and download some material quickly…a pleasure after struggling with the slow dialup connection at the San Michele.

We stop at Il Girasole to say goodbye to Alessandra and then walk down the hill to get the car, drive back to the hotel and pick up the luggage. Before we leave Cortona, we visit the Franciscan hermitage of Le Celle, one of St. Francis’s country retreats. Set on a steep hillside above Cortona, it is yet another of the peaceful and spiritual retreats that St. Francis favored. The buildings of the hermitage cling to the steep hillside and make an imposing and beautiful sight.
On our two previous visits to Bologna–an overnight stay 13 years ago and a quick visit for dinner 4 years ago– Bologna hadn’t made much of an impression on us. It only takes this thirty minute stroll to the center to convince us that we had somehow been in the wrong parts of Bologna or had been unduly affected by the rainy weather on our earlier trips.
Our walk through the Piazza Cavour, the Piazza Galvani and into the Piazza Maggiore is very striking. There are lots of trees on the street, the Piazza Cavour is an attractive park surrounded by handsome palazzos and the everpresent porticoes are very appealing.
We stop for a prosecco at one of the tourist cafes on the Piazza Maggiore and enjoy the view of the massive Basilica of San Petronius, the Neptune Fountain and the people strolling past.

We make a quick stop in the ghetto and locate the Museo Ebraico, walk past the site of one of the old synagogues
and walk through the mouth-watering market area on the way back to the hotel.
We are having dinner with our friend and my old boss at Great Travels, Patti Absher, who is in town for a night en route to a travel trade fair in Rimini. I walk back to the center to guide her back to our hotel; we are having dinner at a place just down the street from the hotel, Al Sangiovese. Patti has much the same reaction to Bologna that we have….she is finding it much more appealing than she had on her previous visit.
Dinner is very pleasant….we have a nice time with Patti, the food is mostly fine and the owners of Al Sangiovese are very pleasant. We share a plate of very good salumi and cheese, I have a terrific gramigna (thick pasta) with a sausage topping, Patti has tortellini in brodo–one of Bologna’s signature dishes–and Diana has the other Bolognese signature dish–tagliatelle with ragu, which is pretty good. The wine–a Sangiovese from the restaurant’s own vineyard–is excellent–rich and smooth. Diana’s cotoletta Bolognese (a piece of fried veal with ham and cheese) is okay and Patti likes her filet. The off-the-menu dessert–a torta Sangiovese–a sort of fruit cake with Sangiovese wine sauce–is a bit weird.
After dinner, I walk Patti back to her hotel, say goodbye, stop for a gelato on the way back at GROM–the famous Torino chain (the fior di latte and stracciatella are both excellent). Back at the hotel, I do a little internet work before calling it a day.
Tomorrow we will go to St. Petronius and to the Museo Ebraico in the morning.


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