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Country Roads: Bologna
Country Roads:
Bologna, Gone in 60

Story and photos by Tom Weber

he 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.

Insight Vacations bus

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.


tobacco shop at Bologna's historic center

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.


the Il Calice, Bologna

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.

tartine, sparkling white wine and a cup of macchiato at Il Calice

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.

fresh produce at the Quadrilatero, Bologna's old market area

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.

scenes at Bologna's Piazza Maggiore including the Fountain of Neptune, Palazzo D'Accursio, and the Basilica of San Petronio

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.


Insight Vacations bus driver Carlo

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.


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.

building along the Grand Canal at night, Venice

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.

Related Articles:
The 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 in Spello

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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

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Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: Thanks for stopping by and commenting..


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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal

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