day 7 :
saturday, 20 may
We drove into Bologna today to see the sights. After searching for a bit, we found a parking garage near city center, so we followed another car into the garage entrance. The garage was a bit dark and small, and as we pulled in we noticed that it seemed to be full. We were just inside the entrance when the car in front of us stopped suddenly, went into reverse, and although Eric honked as soon as he saw the white backup lights, the car backed right into us! Eric and the other driver got out to assess the damage, and fortunately there was nothing visible. However, times like this make you wish you knew more foreign language vocabulary; our basic Italian class certainly hadn't taught us how to discuss a car accident. After accepting the driver's apology (“Mi dispiaci”), we took off and found other, safer, parking.
Bologna is famous for several things: the world's oldest university (earning the city the nickname Bologna la dotta — “Bologna the learned”), its cuisine (nickname Bologna la grassa — “Bologna the fat”), and 35 kilometers of beautiful porticoes and arcades covering the city's sidewalks. The porticos started being built in the 13th century to expand the living space in a city growing from the university population. Since there was little room to expand, the building extensions were built out over the sidewalks. We spent a leisurely day walking the city streets and studying the architecture. They also have a beautiful public garden on the southeast side of the city, where we observed the turtles and ducks keeping cool in the pond.
Dawn had read on eGullet about a restaurant just outside Bologna called Osteria Numero Sette (previously known as Osteria del Minestraio) which is known for its pasta tasting menu. Now that's our kind of place — no Atkins dieters here! We arrived for dinner a little after 9 PM, and we were the first people in the restaurant; the locals didn't show up until closer to 10 PM. But no matter, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. We opened the menu, which was initially disappointing, since it looked just like a normal menu. Where was the pasta tasting menu everyone had spoken of? But then Dawn noticed one of the items listed under the pasta section was 30 euros, which seemed a little pricey for a pasta dish. After translating, we realized this was the tasting menu we were looking for — it was a selection of each of the pastas listed above, which could also be ordered individually as part of a more traditional meal.
Each course was distinct, and every course delicious. A few of the dishes we enjoyed: homemade cheese cappellini, passatelli (a long, thick, chewy pasta, which is a Romagnan specialty) with white ragù sauce, locally grown farro with asparagus, green lasagne with leeks, and veal ravioli. We now realize that the best pasta in the world is made in Bologna.