Bologna, Gone in 60
Story and photos by Tom Weber
late Italian film director Sergio Leone, best remembered for his "spaghetti
westerns," brought together three unique characters in his U.S.
Civil War period feature centered on the search for buried Confederate
gold: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. The 1966 flick runs 161
min. and stars Clint Eastwood (the Good), Lee Van Cleef (the Bad), and
Eli Wallach (the Ugly).
Bologna, the capital city of the
Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy, has three unique sides to its
personality. It's known as La Dotta (The Learned) because the
oldest university (1088) in the western world is there; La Rossa
(The Red) because of the terra cotta color of the roofs; and, La
Grassa (The Fat) because of all of the great cuisine found within
its postal code.
Unlike Leone's classic, Bologna has no
runtime, but my presence here does.
You see, my band of merry media
guests of Insight Vacations on one of its Country Roads of
Italy journeys has just hopped off the motorcoach at the
edge of Bologna's Centro Storico (historic center).
Before we're unleashed, Belinda, Insight's
tour director-slash-storyteller, puts everyone on the clock. We have
exactly 60 min., or just a bit more than a third of the way through
Leone's capolavoro (masterpiece), to wolf down lunch, on our
own euro, and see what we can see of this triple-headed city before
the sand in the hourglass runs down.
Feeling like a contestant on one of the
legs of The Amazing Race, I do what anyone would do when time
is of the essence: ask a local.
I pop into a nearby tabaccheria
(tobacco shop) for a quick lunch recommendation, and the friendly attendant
behind the register, without blinking an eye, responds: Il Calice.
It's a bar, straight ahead on Via Clavature. Walk through the portico
and it'll be on your right.
Got it. And I dash out like the White Rabbit
sans the oversized pocket watch.
Il Calice the Chalice
is right where it's supposed to be, and pretty much empty when I enter.
Massimo, the barista, tells me there's
a small restaurant upstairs, but I'm on the clock, watch, hourglass,
whatever, and stay put at street level and order what I see eyeing me
back: a tray of tartine, delicious bite-sized open sandwiches
topped with shrimp, avocado and fresh veggies.
I grab two, along with a glass of sparkling
white wine followed by a caffè macchiato (an espresso
with foamy milk).
In between bites and gulps, Massimo gives
me a quick lay of the land. As it turns out, I'm standing right in the
middle of where Bologna clicks, the Quadrilatero neighborhood
of the Centro Storico.
It's the city's old market area, with narrow
streets and shops filled with all kinds of food products, fresh produce,
along with catches-of-the-day from the nearby Adriatic Sea.
And I'm just an alley or two over from
the very expansive Piazza Maggiore where the Fountain of Neptune, Palazzo
D'Accursio, and the Basilica of San Petronio, home to the world's largest
sundial, are located.
Speaking of sundials, I'm late! I pay the
bill, thank Massimo, and, under the cover of some of Bologna's 40-kilometers
of porticos, pass quickly by the aforementioned landmarks toward the
prearranged meet-up point.
All present and accounted for, we head
back to the motorcoach, hop on board and let The Learned, The
Red and The Fat fade away. Bologna, gone in 60 minutes.
While we're reclining our business-class
legroom seats, Belinda announces, excitedly, our new GPS coordinates.
We've got a two-hour drive ahead of
us to reach the last chapter of our "Country Roads" journey.
We're headed to Venice! The city of canals, gondolas, Casanova, Carnivale,
decorative glass and sparkling Prosecco wine!
Someone in the peanut gallery raises their
hand and asks, Did you just say, "the LAST chapter of
our Country Roads journey"?
Yes, Belinda replies.
All together now: TURN THE BUS AROUND!
LET'S START OVER!
For complete information on Insight
Vacations' 12 Italian premium and luxury-escorted itineraries and
over 100 journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE,
or call toll free (888) 680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
See you soon on the private water taxi
as we float down the Grand Canal to a five-star, luxury "bunkhouse,"
our digs while we're guests in La Serenissima.
Ciao for now.
Good Humor Man of San Gimignana; Scorgiano:
A Dark and Foodie Night; San
Gimignano: Scraping the Tuscan Sky; Chianti
Pours Forth from Fonterutoli; Cortona:
Under the Renovated Tuscan Sun; Linnertime