It’s been 17 years since my first and solely go to to Bologna. I had been right here on a ‘Grand Tour’ with an outdated boyfriend on the tender age of 19, at that time woefully untravelled, stuffed with wide-eyed surprise on the easiest variations from life again dwelling and incapable even of appreciating any foodstuff aside from a margherita pizza. Certainly, on that first journey to Italy I ate the aforementioned pizza for lunch and dinner day by day for 3 weeks.
It was a extra refined and well-travelled Rachel who returned to Bologna this weekend, gratefully dispatched right here on a piece journey, of kinds, to fly an thrilling new helicopter with a view to writing an article for a common aviation journal. The much less mentioned in regards to the journey down right here, the higher; suffice it to say that it concerned a 20-hour flight delay, 24 hours at Heathrow Airport and precise tears of frustration. After I finally landed in Bologna at 7pm yesterday I used to be whisked straight off to a close-by airfield to fly the helicopter earlier than the crew went dwelling for the weekend – the poor blokes having needed to cling about all day awaiting my arrival because of increasingly more delays from hapless BA. I had nice enjoyable flying the helicopter and I’ll write extra about that one other time. Within the meantime I assumed I might share some scenes from the few hours I’ve needed to discover Bologna at present, to assist whereas away the time sitting on the airport ready for my flight.
My resort was conveniently positioned proper by the facet of the still-unfinished Basilica di San Petronio, which definitely takes the “unfinished” little bit of its status fairly significantly, as you may see.
Eager to get a view of town as a complete, I booked, for the modest sum of €5, a ticket to climb to the highest of the Torre degli Asinelli. There are two towers: a stumpy leaning one, and a VERY tall one harking back to Barad-Dûr in Lord of the Rings.
It’s the latter which you could climb, and it’s important to get a timed ticket owing to the logistical difficulties of permitting many individuals to ascend and descend the one slender, steep staircase that winds its approach spherical and spherical and spherical the within of the tower.
There are 498 steps altogether. No, there is no such thing as a elevate. And sure, this endeavour was each bit as arduous because it sounds. I might not suggest it in case you are in any respect claustrophobic, terrified of heights or unfit.
Your appreciable labours are rewarded with views alongside the traces of the next whenever you lastly emerge, sweaty and out of breath, on the prime.
I requested some fellow Brits to take a photograph of me to show I’d achieved this spectacular feat.
Having dutifully admired the views from all sides of the tiny summit of this Everest of towers, one is confronted by a fair worse prospect: getting again down. Whereas bodily much less demanding, it’s most assuredly harder mentally, for if you are going up, you don’t actually look down. When you are happening, you may’t assist trying down – down on the infinite spiral of skinny, worn picket steps and the drop separated from one’s individual by what usually appeared fairly unsubstantial picket railings. Not solely that, however the steps are so steep in locations (assume the kind you’d see on HMS Victory) that twice I elected to go down them backwards. Don’t neglect, this tower is so tall that that is how small the one subsequent to it appears from the highest:
I believe my aid will need to have been palpable once I lastly descended the 498th step and the darkish confines of the tower spat me again out into the blazing sunshine. Staying firmly at floor stage for the rest of the morning, I wandered avenue after avenue and located the shady colonnades most agreeable within the warmth of the noon solar.
In my rambles, I stumbled upon the pleasant remnants of a Medieval canal system, which drew apparent comparisons with a sure lagoon-based Northern Italian metropolis.
I additionally discovered myself within the ‘foodie’ quarter of town – Bologna being famend for its cuisines – an space replete with retailers promoting cheese, pasta, fruit, cured meats and all method of different delicacies.
For lunch I felt I must have one thing usually ‘Bolognese’ and eschewed my pure inclination in direction of pizza in favour of tortellini with ragu. In case you didn’t know, ragu is what we consider as Bolognese sauce, they usually don’t have it with spaghetti right here (sacrilege apparently!). It appears to be with tortellini or tagliatelle solely.
I promise you there may be some tortellini beneath all that Parmesan!
As any proponent of Italian journey may agree, dessert is greatest handed by in favour of a gelato, and this one from Cremeria Cavour didn’t disappoint.
With that appreciatively devoured, it was time to make my approach again to the airport, from which your correspondent is now writing. Please want me luck for my return journey – I don’t assume I’ve it in me to get by one other journey just like the one I had down right here!
–initially posted on Substack in June 2022–