Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Bologna (Comune di Bologna)

In Italy, there are two towns named after foodstuffs (or was it the other way around?) that I visited on my last trip. Quick, take a guess what they are! Ok, time's up, put your pencils down and read more. In some ways they were very similar, but in my quick first impressions, they couldn't be more different.

The first town was Bologna. As a food, I generally detest bologna, putting it somewhere between 'Spam' and 'Egg Salad'. But names aside, I met a great family from Bologna on the train from Rome. They were an upper middle class husband and wife travelling with a college age daughter and younger son. They commented on my GPS and I struck up a conversation with them, for a while in Italian, but then we switched to English. Being the cosmopolitan people they were, fluency in multiple languages was easy for them.

The Italian lady made her own sculptures which she showed me on her cell phone and I showed her some of mine which she graciously complimented. The husband was busy at first talking with his daughter who was just recently engaged to be married, yet you could still see he considered her his little girl because their family was super close.

Over the trip, we all talked Italian and US politics, art, business and what it was like to live around Bologna. And, that was before I even arrived in the city. By the time we were all there, I had made genuine friends with like minded people and was actually a bit sad to say goodbye. The city was clean, historic, and home to professionals and the affluent. As a generalization, it seems like people in the North are more career oriented and strive for a really high standard of living.

Bologna has been known for its superior universities and as knowledge center since the middle ages. Maybe long enough for all the smartest people's genes to have amassed more concentratedly in one location. Needless to say, I really enjoyed my time around the city of Bologna.

The other food named town, (Did you guess Pisa? It's not the same as Pizza...) was Parma, as in 'parmesan cheese' and 'parma ham'. At this point, I have to mention that I consider parma ham extremely gross as it is uncooked.

I'd been driving for quite a while on the highway after killing a large apple juice and bottled water in Milan. I arrived around Parma by car on Sunday afternoon on my way to Firenza, and had to go to the WC so bad my berries were about to fall off. So instead of going to an 'Automat', I pulled off the A1 and headed to the city center of Parma over by the museum (of course). I parked in the awesome parking garage and didn't find a public restroom there. So I headed in the direction of the museum. Walked up the stairs, but they were closed, on a Sunday afternoon. At 2:00pm...

Ok, so I thought it can't be that hard to find an open restaurant to order whatever so I could use the toilet. Well, it *was* that hard. I walked across the courtyard of the museum and down *several* long city blocks before I could find anything at all open. Along the way, there were sandwich counters and a few other things which had absolutely no restrooms. I must have painfully walked 2 miles in ever-widening circles like a Coast Guard pilot looking for a capsize accident survivor before I finally found a restaurant with the qualifications for which I was looking.

For this reason, I will forever have an unfair bias against the city of Parma and their evil 'shut everything down at 2:00 pm' ways. Where food named towns are concerned, I'll always go to the city historically more friendly, that is, to my Bologna.


  1. Darn, I guessed DiGiorno and Dominos. ;-)

    Sounds like a great trip! Except for the bathroom episode, of course. However, if you take me with you next time I can distract everyone by whipping off my top and yelling, "Mama Mia, check out these a spicy meataballs!" while you have a quick pee in the bushes.

  2. I guess I'll just cancel that shipment of parma ham then. Pizza instead? Alright, I'll send you some pizza.

    *some time passes*

    Bloody hell, I think I just sent you some leaning tower of some sort.

    Somewhere between 'Spam' and 'Egg Salad' is a bit vague for me. There are a lot of things in that gap. Cottage Cheese, for example, or ever-so-slightly-off coleslaw.

  3. I had a bit of similar episode after eating a Roman artichoke at the open air market, then a a frantic search for a restroom. Didn't stop me from having gelato soon after.

  4. Your bladder will never forgive those dirty Parms for not having a WC at the ready for such emergencies.

  5. I feel the same way about prosciutto (which may indeed be the same as Parma ham, I am ignorant I fear)- we used to live half a block from a store that always had huge prosciuttos hanging up in the window and I glared at them every time I passed by (I loved the gelato stores, though!)

  6. You remembered to pronounce it Boh-lown-ya and not Baloney, though, right?
    ; )

    I was struck by the number of public restrooms in the US, so maybe you just have more than the rest of the world and it's not Parma that has less!

  7. I must say that first pic is just gorgeous!
    It is always so great to meet strangers and they imediately become friends.

    "had to go to the WC so bad my berries were about to fall off." Nice way of say it! LOL!!

  8. I think we can all relate to your "difficulty" in Parma :o)....i.e. happens to the best of us!!! I loved your story about meeting such wonderful people on the train...I think that is what traveling is all about....learning about other cultures and finding that we are all connected.

  9. That's a horrible feeling. Not the berries falling off bit, I wouldn't know anything about that. But having to go really bad and not being able to...ugh. That being're a man. Men can usually find a corner to use.

  10. Pru,
    Good guesses! I'd probably get distracted by your spicy meatballs too and end up with 'pee shoes'.

    Cottage Cheese is more like between Spam and non-flavored hummus.

    Nothing can stop having the gelato. Particularly if pistachio...

    I can understand not having one on every street corner. But 10 large city blocks???

    Yes, I think your prosciutto is the same nasty dry cured uncooked pork products. Bleh.
    Pork is on thin ice with me already (I don't like leftover pork), but uncooked... yuck...

    Of course I pronounced it right, I respect it.
    In Parma, if you want to use the WC, you have to talk to a friend of some guy down the street...

    Maybe I didn't meet any friends in Parma because of the berry pain. :)

    Outside the Lines,
    I agree, there are so many people in different countries who are connected on levels that you wouldn't expect.

    I would have thankfully found any corner, but I have an irrational fear about getting arrested by the carabinieri while going to the bathroom publicly...

  11. Your berries? Ha ha haaaaa... um, well, you really should be glad that you don't have bladder control problems.

    Thank you for your sweet comment on my last blog post.

  12. That association makes perfect sense to me.

    Which isn't saying much, because it's ME, but... still.