I would have been happy to have stayed in Venice for a full week prior to venturing off to Rome but Paul really wanted to visit Bologna. I can understand why - I had spent a week there with our friend Palma in 201o and returned for work this summer. He had heard many stories about both the sights and the food and he was determined to experience both.
We had some time after breakfast before we had to head to the train station ( a 5 minute walk from our hotel) so off we went to explore some more churches. Of course, our luck being what it is, or perhaps because one was in Italy, things didn't pan out quite as we would have liked. The first stop, the church of San Giobbe, was closed even though the sign said it was open. The second, the Church of Sant'Alvise, was closed to entry because there was a funeral later that day. We finally got lucky at our third stop.
The Church of the Madonna dell'Orto stands on the far northern edge of the Sestiere of Cannaregio in a churchyard that still maintains its original paving of brick laid out in a herring-bone pattern within Istrian stone divisions. Originally built in the 14th century, the structure was heavily modified in the 15th and owes its name to a miraculous statue of the Virgin and Child - now in the San Mauro Chapel - which was found in a nearby garden (orto); in fact, the church is officially dedicated to St. Christopher Martyr.
The church is known as Tintoretto's church - both because his paintings grace the walls as well as the fact that he is buried there. Venice's most beloved artist lived and worked nearby so his connection with this church is profound. Both he and his children worked on the interior decoration.
Having finally experienced success we had no interest in tempting the fates by trying a fourth church so we raced back to the hotel, gathered up our belongings and headed to the train station. Generally a trip on the train in Italy becomes a comedy of errors for us with wrong tracks being listed, getting on the wrong car, and so on. Happily none of this happened. In fact all went swimmingly well until we got to out hotel in Bologna only to find I had booked it for the wrong nights.
The staff were great and they moved us to their nearby apartment. It is slightly more expensive than our room would have been but now we have this giant space in which to spread out. This, as they say, was a very happy mistake.
After a whirlwind tour of the Piazza Maggiore area we popped into Teresina for lunch. I had eaten two lunches there last summer and Paolo had drooled over the food pictures so we decided this would be a fine first stop. I introduced Paul to the joys of Culatello di Zibello with an appetizer platter of the cured meat and chunks of parmigiano. Later we both warmed up with huge bowls of steaming tortellini en brodo. We split a main course or grilled beef and roasted potatoes. It was every bit good as I the meals I had experienced in the summer and a great introduction to the food of Bologna for Paolo.
After lunch we wandered about some more and visited two churches - Chiesa di San Giovanni in Monte was an accident. I was taking us down an unplanned street when I noticed that this church on the hill (hardly a mountain as the name suggests) was actually open! I have been by many times and it has always been closed. Needless to say we had to do a quick detour and go in.
This 15th century church is considered by many to be one of the jewels in Bologna’s crown (albeit an elusive one). Artists such as Ercole, Domenichino, Conegliano, Perugino, Dalmasio, Guercino, and Raphael all contributed to the art within. We discovered that this church was also used as both a prison and a court during Napoleon’s reign. The architecture is Gothic, Renaissance, and classical all in one beautiful 'package'.
Next up was my favourite church complex in the city - Santo Stefano. The buildings of Santo Stefano represent the places where Christ’s Passion played out. Originally there were seven churches in the complex; now following renovations carried out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries there are only four. We wandered about admiring the church and the nativity scenes set up - one was huge and included the city's porticoed walkway up the mountain to San Luca all constructed of ceramic.
We had taken in all we could manage at this point so we headed back to out apartment where we relaxed for a few hours. I remember when I first used to travel - there was NO time for relaxation. How nice to not feel forced to be on the go constantly in case you miss something.
We headed out to dinner at 8:30. I had identified about three restaurants located near the hotel since we didn't want to talk far. The first two were both closed on Monday. The third, Trattoria Brattibecco, was open and able to accommodate us without a reservation.
What a meal this was. Everything from the amuse bouche (a warm concoction of ricotta and other cheeses) to the bread basket to our primi and secondi was brilliant. Paul started with a salad comprised of mixed greens, burrata cheese, crispy bacon and fried quail egg.
I had the pasta that everyone on chowhound raves about - housemade gramigna with saffron, sausage and sauteed artichokes.
I was too full for dessert but Paul managed to stuff down a ricotta mouse served with cookies and fruit. They also brought over an assortment of meringues and cookies.
I think Paolo understands why I rave about the food of Bologna!