Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Posts Tagged ‘Bologna

No Baloney in Bologna

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Fountain of Neptune anchors Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore.

Story & Photo
By Cecil Scaglione

BOLOGNA —- Bologna’s location is one of its major attractions, said Na’ama, the young Israeli economist who came here to study at the oldest university on the continent.
“From here,” she said, “you can get on a train and in a short time be in Parma or Ravenna or Rimini.”
There’s also Turin, Venice, the Italian lake country, Padua, and Florence all within a two-hour train ride.
After a 45-minute ride, we debarked onto the comfortably clean streets of Parma and fine-tuned our noses to hone in on a local delicacy — not parmesan cheese but prosciutto di Parma. Cut thin enough to almost see through, this version of the Italian cured ham is tender on the teeth and has a keen flavor that still lingers.
The following day, we headed in the opposite direction to Ravenna, just off the Adriatic coast.
Before tracking down a site to gorge on a plate of overflowing seafood, we made our way to the Basilica di San Vitale to view 1,500-year-old mosaics that reflect the town’s tenure as capital of the Byzantine Empire in Europe for three centuries.
We stopped by Dante’s tomb on the way. Dante was tossed out of is native Florence after he picked the wrong side in the ongoing battle with the papacy. In exile, he wrote “The Divine Comedy” after taking up residence in Ravenna.
Incidentally, you won’t find any baloney in Bologna. The model for the U.S. version of the large round ground-pork sausage is mortadella, which houses delectable chunks of fat and, when copied on this side of the Atlantic, was dubbed bologna/baloney.
And the street-and-sidewalk no-baloney bustle convinced us we weren’t in the typical town when one thinks of somnolent sunny Italy.
The desk clerk gave us a polite but brisk “Bon giorno.” The fellows who put together our coffees, rolls and fruit in the eating emporium down the street must have known we weren’t fully awakened to local prices. The bill for a banana was more than $4, which taught us quickly to ask the locals where they munch.
The clerks in the bank where I set off alarms by trying to exit through the wrong door did not take operatic offense. They just politely pointed me to the designated door without much more than a polite shrug.
The point is, Bologna is as much business as badinage. But it’s still as much about food as finance.
For our introduction to what Bolognese boast about — tortelloni made on the premises — we checked with merchants in the old quarter. A florist suggested Trattoria da Gianni, a hole in the wall down a little alley that we would have overlooked. The proprietor ushered us to a table crammed amongst many jammed with men and women in office attire who gathered here for the same reason we did. The fine food.
After getting fortified with the local specialty, we moved on to visit the two leaning towers that anchor the historic downtown. While not as attractive nor as storied as Pisa’s I Torre Pendente, these two monoliths lounge unruffled by the hurrying hordes and beeping buses rumbling around their bases. They appear more attuned to the music and musings that emanate from the nearby University of Bologna grounds, where Copernicus and Dante once scurried to class.
There’s an outdoor market every Friday in the Piazza dell’ VIII Agosto on the rim of the commercial hub that offers everything from boots to bracelets. Merchants in the nearby market-and-bakery complex display an array of fruit, vegetables, breads and sweets to match all the sights and scents of one’s dreams.
Among them we found a fist-sized roll with thumb-sized studs poking out in all directions. They appeared on our table at Trattoria Fantoni, another enticing hole-in-the-wall eatery, where we watched other diners break off these protuberences and eat them as breadsticks.
Asked what these rolls are called, our server said: “Sputnik.”

– 30 –

Written by Cecil Scaglione

September 27, 2015 at 7:16 am

Posted in Italy, Travel

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A Day for Delays

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With the worst winter weather in years trampling all over England, we flew right into its maw, and paid the price. After getting from Bologna to Gatwick without incident – not even a 10-minute delay – on Tuesday, we stayed overnight in nearby Crawley and Bev got her pub-meal fix. Out taxi arrived about 7:30 a.m., a couple of hours after the snow began falling, and got us to Gatwick without delay. We noted how pretty southern England looks draped in white.

Pretty thoughts ended at the airport. The Virgin holding pen was crammed and jammed and under-manned. We were told the world’s largest/busiest single-runway airport had been closed for hours. Then it was announced that passengers on our 11:20 a.m. Las Vegas flight would be bused to Heathrow and the plane would take off at 1:30. Having given ourselves a four+-hour window when we booked USAir to San Diego, things still looked workable.  After milling and telling and listening to strained jokes for 2 1/2 hours, we were shredded into groups of 40 and marshaled down to minibuses, after we poured our luggage into vans that were supposed to follow us.

Now, mind you, it was snowing, but lightly, and it wasn’t cold. I grew up in northern Canada and my memory still works. The only reason we could surmise for closing down Gatwick was that no one ever ordered snowplows for the complex.

AT 1:30, we were told our 747 had not yet arrived from Las Vegas. So they gave each of us 5-pound vouchers “for the inconvenience” and suggested we all go grab some coffee somewhere. We’d all be checked in but no one was certain what gate would be used. We managed to get double vouchers because Bev and I went separate ways to find the source and each came back with our share. And we sat down with a healer from Australia who was heading to Barbados as the guest of a cancer patient she’s working with.

An airport announcement notified us of what gate to report to, where chunks of the group were picked at random to go through security again. And then they herded us onto buses to head to our airplane, which, we learned when we reached it, had just been emptied and the sanitation crew and security folks still had to sweep it clean. We sat in the buses for an hour.

Fortunately, it wasn’t a full plane so we passengers scrambled aboard in rather short order and, after de-icing the wings, unglitching a minor engine glitch, and standing in line for takeoff, we slid off the snow almost six hours late. Which slammed shut our window to our Las Vegas-San Diego flight. And there were no more USAir flights later in the day. ,

The10-hour flight was actually quite pleasant but our concern about getting home lowered our level of appreciation. After clearing customs and immigration at McCarran, we trolleyed our luggage to Terminal 1 and barreled into a Southwest counter. Explaining our position, the ticket agent said we were too late for the 7:35 flight, which was leaving in 20 minutes, but there was another at 8:55. Magnifico? So we called home and arranged for our pickup. Then we were told that a Reno flight had to use our gate first and our San Diego flight was delayed until 9:50. I fell asleep as soon as I sat down on it and didn’t awaken until the wheels bumped the tarmac at Lindbergh.

We got home at 11:20, about 26 hours after we awakened to head to Gatwick.

It was a grand trip but the return journey made us feel like we’d been riding planes and hanging around airports for the past two months.

San Diego smells fresh and oceany. And I’d forgotten how quiet it is here at home.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

January 14, 2010 at 3:23 am

Posted in Britain, Europe, Travel

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Love Travel, Hate Traveling

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The thought that we’re heading home in four weeks – we’ve been gone a little more than five weeks – not only underscores how rapidly time disappears down the black hole of time, it includes thoroughly uncomfortable images of the physical act of “getting there” and “getting home:” maneuvering the rental car through Bologna traffic back to its stall, manhandling luggage through four airports – Bologna, Gatwick, Las Vegas and San Diego (we also have to change planes in Phoenix but at least our bags get checked thru) — dressing and undressing for security checks, and scrunching in crammed tubes for several hours.

Why isn’t our luggage checked all the way through? We made our own travel arrangements online and, as a result, each leg is a separate transaction. By shopping and buying our own tickets, we saved more than one-third the total ticket cost.

As it stands, Brit Air already has cancelled and re-sked our Bologna-Gatwick leg. We’d planned leaving Bologna in the morning and spending a pleasant day re-visiting Crawley, the British village we’ve hung around about a dozen times on our European jaunts. BA canceled the morning flight and we leave Bologna at 4 p.m., get into our Crawley hotel about 6 p.m. and have time only for a quiet dinnerand fair night’s sleep before heading back to Gatwick the next morning.

It just occurred to us that we’ve never had a satisfying experience with British Air. They’re courteous and polite, but they’re also bureaucratic and unpredictable. We’ve flown them more than a half dozen times and, in each case, they’ve re-scheduled at least one leg of our flight.

When they had a direct San Diego – Gatwick, flight, they re-scheduled our flight back home to a day later. We fortunately had arranged a couple of layover days in Crawley and checked Brit Air before we left the airport for our hotel. Their only response when we complained was, “We called your travel agent to notify you.” When we told them there was no travel agent, we made our own arrangements, there was only silence. As it turned out, our plane was lightly loaded so we each had a row of three seats to ourselves. In a follow-up letter to Brit Air, I told them I understood why they have so many empty seats.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

December 18, 2009 at 8:46 am

Posted in Europe, Travel

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Bologna Bit

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Bologna Airport is small and busy but customs and immigration weren’t open. Got into Hotel Mercure about  22:30. Cab driver said it would cost about 16 or 17 euros. The meter read 13.40, so we gave him 18. Had a note from Barbara in 448. Our room was 412 for 65 euros a night. The rate card above the desk said double rooms cost 160 euros a night. We got the internet rate. Bev and Barb not impressed with Bologna; people not as friendly as Panicale, and Rome, etc. Food’s good, tho. Prices have gone up in this country. Bologna is expensive and we saw higher prices in Panicale, too.

Picked up our rental. We asked for a compact and they upgraded us. That’s all they had. Good for us because of all the freakin’ luggage. No problems on streets and roads. Italians drive like I do. : “Get the f— outta the way.”

Left the hotel at 11 and, after some rain, fog, a couple of dozen tunnels through the Appenines, a coffee stop, and picking up some essential groceries, we walked into Aldo’s bar at 14:30. Don’t know how the heck we’re going to make it back to our hotel when we go back to Bologna. Aldo’s barista Camilla called Riccardo and Mariolina came to the bar. Had coffee and emptied car and headed to Riccardo’s for wine and chat. And met his son Lucca. Both M and R look peaked and worn. They’ve had a bad year. One of their long-time dogs died in their car and Riccardo broke his hip and is still on crutches. And, when you stand back and look, there’s more but we’ll have to wait and let the tale unfold.

Headed for Maselino’s for dinner BUT THE PLACE IS CLOSED – until Dec. 3.  Bev’s initial prod to come was to celebrate the restaurant’s 50th anniversary Nov. 20, my birthday, Christmas, New Year’s, and Little Christmas (Jan. 6).. We learned just before we came that Maselino’s is going to celebrate in the spring, “when there are more people.” And Bev also had planned to have a nice dinner there on my birthday Dec. 2. So we had some great cold cuts at Aldo’s. At a great price – 45 euros. If someone charged us that in PB for cold cuts, we’d call the cops. Got to Chiusi station at noon Sunday and checked times to and from Naples. It’s about a 4 hr train trip and round trip costs about 59 euros. Don’t save money with roundtrip ticket so buy one way and pick your train. Think we’ll go next Sunday because parking lot looked like it had plenty of spaces today. To Margaret Leon’s in Paciano, after lunch at La Brucciatta l’Oca, and delivered her peanut butter and voltage converter.  She had a “pre-holiday” sale of her photos and we met some of the local ex-pats. Interesting people but not the type who would enjoy a beer with me – and, more importantly, vice versa. MTK….

Written by Cecil Scaglione

November 17, 2009 at 6:24 am

Posted in Europe, Travel

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A Little Help

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Our son Ross is driving to Las Vegas Sunday to spend a couple of days supporting the Nevada economy. But the good news is he ‘s taking our luggage with him. He’s staying at the Luxor and we’re booked next door at the Mandalay Bay, both at the south end of The Strip. So we don’t have to manhandle our luggage for the first leg — San Diego to Las Vegas — nor do we have to pay USAir the baggage fees for that flight. We fly there Monday afternoon for an overnight and board Virgin Atlantic Tuesday afternoon for Gatwick, spend much of Wednesday there and get into Bologna Wed night where Barbara Brill will be waiting for us. She gets there, from Amsterdam, a half dozen hours ahead of us. We plan to eat our way around town Thursday and Friday and picking up our car Saturday morning just around the corner from our hotel — Hotel Mercure, across from the railroad station. It’s about a 3 1/2-hour drive to Panicale.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

November 7, 2009 at 12:38 am

Posted in Europe, Travel

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Airlines Check in

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E-mail notes from Virgin Atlantic and British Air remind us of our flights next week: Virgin from Phoenix to Gatwick, BA from Gatwick to Bologna. All is A-OK, altho we cannot select BA seats until 24 hours before boarding in other words, when we can book on-line. No seat selection when you buy your ticket. We’re set to leap on line from our Vegas hotel to book both Virgin and BA. Will have to do BA from Bologna on our two-hour return flight and again from Crawley (Gatwick) for Virgin and USAir (from Phoenix to San Diego). We’ll see how it works.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

November 5, 2009 at 12:59 pm