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John Mariani's "La Bella Bologna"
Food & Wine | Art | Restaurants
Like Turin, Bologna has been preserved by its lack of the kind of overwhelming tourism that quite literally plagues Rome, Venice, and Florence, which have become all but impenetrable. Although Italy’s seventh largest city, with about a million citizens, Bologna retains a Renaissance grandeur together with a graceful, even quiet, inner core, a city where the locals stroll and shop, buy food and sit down for lunch and dinner, and don’t depend on foreign traffic for their livelihood.
Its lobby and reception hall is expansive, larger than most in Italian deluxe properties, and my room (right) sumptuously decorated and wonderfully quiet (until a street performer decided to settle in for the afternoon on the Via Indipendenza). I wanted to throw pear at him from my window but the pear was too good for that.
There is a state-of-the-art spa, and the hotel also has one of Bologna’s finest and loveliest restaurants, i Carracci, of which I shall say more next week. And there may well be no finer, more genteel hotel general manager than Tiberio Biondi, who goes out of his way to greet and make guests happy, backed by a highly professional staff who are well aware they work in a deluxe property for a well-traveled clientele with high expectations.
Bologna is an ancient Italian city, dating back 3,000 years, with a rich history that includes the oldest university in the world, founded in 1088. There is a great deal of beautifully preserved medieval architecture, centered around the Piazza Maggiore (left), and a smattering of later styles; the city’s walls sre still evident and its many towers and archways give Bologna a vertical and horizontal balance.
Like all Italian cities, Bologna has had its good, bad, and horrific times, but currently, as the capital of Emilia Romagna, with a good industrial base, the city is as prosperous as it looks, but the Bolognesi do not show it off; they are not ostentatious; they do not flaunt their affluence. It is a city far more proud of its intellectual and educational heritage and of food so delicious and famous throughout Italy that the city has long been called “La Grassa,” the fat one. I shall be saying more about Bologna’s gustatory splendor in next week’s newsletter, but for the moment let me mention that Emilia Romagna is home to Parmigiano-Reggiano, mascarpone, mortadella, cotechino, grana padana, Prosciutto di Parma, tortellini, tagliatelle, and, of course, lasagne all bolognese. Florentine fabulist Giovanni Boccaccio tells a story in his Decameron (1353) of a land where there is a mountain made out of Parmigiano cheese on which people do nothing all day but eat macaroni; I'm sure he meant Emilia Romagna. I have recently written about its principal wine, Lambrusco, which has a wholly undeserved reputation for being sweet, fizzy plonk.
Given its long history of devotion to the musical arts, Bologna initiated the project "Bologna dei Teatri" in 1998, a circuit of theaters offering cultural and theatrical events from the folkloric to the grand. The city’s opera house, the Teatro Comunale di Bologna (left), is widely renowned, and its own heritage includes native son, conductor Arturo Toscanini.
Article written by John Mariani and published in his Virtual Gourmet available on his website www.johnmariani.com
John Mariani is an experienced traveler and restaurant connoisseur having been traveling the world for over 35 years. He publishes a weekly journal on his website which has a different theme every week. We highly recommend a visit if you are passionate about travel and food.
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