Continuing with my Bologna experience…
As I already mentioned, we only had a few days in Bologna, so we decided to do some exploring outside the city on our second day there! It was a Sunday morning so we walked to the train station (not to be mistaken with the bus station which is close by) and bought a couple of tickets to Parma! We all know what Parma is famous for right?? Yep, FOOOOOOD!!! Prosciutto (parma ham) and Parmeggiano cheese to be precise! This is the city that gave the world Lamborghinis, Verdi and delicious, delicious ham and cheese!!! (Yes… It’s the ham and cheese which is most important to me! Although Verdi is a close second).
There’s also some great architecture to see, so a day visit is ideal to get some nomnoms on and do some touristy sight seeing!
First things first, make sure you know which line the train is leaving from before buying your ticket. I bought the ticket two minutes before it was due to leave, then realised I had to get to a gate which was about 400 meters away…. We had to run, run, RUN to get to the train on time!! My sister was not pleased… We weren’t exactly wearing running attire you see…
Anyway, we made it, so all in all it was a funny experience, and it ended well. 🙂 It’s about a fifty minute train ride to Parma so we were there by 10 AM, ready to see some pretty buildings and eat some tasty food! Getting to the historical centre of Parma is very easy, just follow the signs from the train station. The old city is quite small, so it’s very easily managed by foot.
Make sure to walk to the beautiful Piazza Duomo, one of the city’s most elegant public spaces. You can visit the Battistero, Duomo, the Diocesan Museum and Bishop’s Palace while in the area. Absolutely amazing buildings!
The Galleria Nazionale is also worth a visit if you’re into fine art, it displays Parma’s main art collection where you’ll find works by local artists Correggio and Parmigianino as well as paintings by Fra Angelico, Canaletto and El Greco. The gallery is actually housed in the very interesting Palazzo della Pillotta. This massive complex is impressive in size, as well as design, so even if you don’t want to visit the gallery, a walk through the complex is still a very enjoyable experience (that’s what we did!).
As I said, I wasn’t going to go to Parma without having a taste of the world famous Prosciutto and Parma cheese! We chose a lovely little place called Osteria dei Servi (http://www.osteriadeiservi.it/osteriadeiservi/) and asked the waitress to set us up with a platter with some of the local foods, as well as a glass of local wine. It was delicious, so I would definitely recommend a visit to this establishment should you be in the area! Being a coeliac I was very pleased to be served gluten free crackers along with the otherwise naturally gluten free ham, salumi and cheeses! 🙂 My sister, who is not a coeliac was also served freshly baked bread and yummy pastry pockets to go along with the platter.
Parma is a nice place to walk around and do some window shopping, which is what we continued to do for the rest of the afternoon before heading back to bella Bologna for the evening!
Our final day in Bologna was relatively short as we were leaving the country late in the afternoon. We decided to spend the morning doing some “souvenir” shopping, although I think this more of my sister’s excuse to do some serious shoe and clothes shopping. If you want a good pair of leather shoes, Bologna is the place to be! I am not a personal fan of designer labels or fancy footwear, so I wasn’t that interested in this part of the trip, but if you love shopping, Bologna is definitely worth a visit. You can find all the popular brands and labels along Via dell’Indipendenza, as well as some fantastic local designers. So keep an eye out for some good deals as whilst the products are not cheap (especially shoes and handbags), they are of very good quality leather and design (typically Italian of course). I was allowed some respite from the shopping by being allowed visit food shops to check out the local produce and get to taste some cheese and meat (again) and to visit the Basilica of San Domenico, which was closed to the public that day!!! BUUUUUUU!!! At least I got to sit down in the piazza and feed the pigeons though 🙂
All in all I think Bologna was a fantastic short break. I would have liked to spend a couple of more days in the area as I would have enjoyed a visit to Ferrara and Modena as well as see a few more local Bologna sights. I am disappointed I did not get to walk up to the Sanctuary of San Luca. An arcade with more than 600 vaults, covering almost four kilometres (3,796 m) – connects the shrine (which is up on a hill overlooking Bologna) with the town. It looks beautiful and promises some picturesque views of Bologna as well as its surrounding countryside, and is in my opinion a must-do. I’d been wanted to visit it for a long time and had actually planned to slot it in on our last morning there, but we just didn’t have enough time during this trip. Ah well, guess I’ll have to revisit the city just to do that!! 😉
Just one little final note to all you coeliac travellers reading this. Bologna, like Rome is full of coeliac friendly eateries. I got to eat lovely gluten free pizza, lasagna and pasta during my little break. Just be sure to speak to the waiting staff of the restaurants you’re visiting. Most places are very well informed about the condition and the dietary requirements and even if they do not have a gluten free menu, waiting staff are usually quite happy to point out the dishes which are safe to eat. Just remember to say – “sono coeliaco/coeliaca” (I am a coeliac) or use the phrase “senza glutine” (gluten free) when in an establishment.
So that’s it for bella Bologna. Italy, once again, proves to be a beautiful country with just so much to see. Can’t wait to visit again! Maybe Milan next time? We’ll have to wait and see!