We didn’t have a concrete reason for stopping in Bolgona. I just looked at the map, saw that it was located between Venice and Florence, and thought, “Well, why not stop there?” But now I’m glad we did decide to stay there, because we really enjoyed it. Bologna’s population is around 380,000, so it’s a fairly small city. We could easily walk around the entire downtown area in an hour. It’s a college town and the University of Bologna is actually the oldest existing university in the western world. Bologna’s nickname is??La Rossa (The Red One) because of its red buildings and also because of its political leanings. Interestingly, the whole city was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its “rich musical tradition that is continuing to evolve as a vibrant factor of contemporary life and creation.” It’s also considered Italy’s culinary capital. Basically, it’s an awesome place.
The streets were deserted when we were there because many Italians go on holiday in August. We welcomed the peace and solitude, especially after the crazy tourist circus in Venice. When we went to see the leaning Two Towers, Bologna’s famous landmark, there was nobody around. Another day, we hardly saw anyone when we walked under the Portico of San Luca, the longest arcade in the world, to the??Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca. On our last night in the city, we went down to the local farmer’s market and finally saw a crowd of people. The market was pretty similar to our farmer’s market, except in Bolgona they sell draft beer and glasses of wine while people shop around or listen to live music.
Florence was the next stop on our itinerary. I’ve wanted to visit Florence since I read about it in my European history classes. It seemed to me that all the best art from the Renaissance was there. I was mainly looking forward to seeing Michelangelo’s David and his frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. David was incredible, but apparently I didn’t pay that much attention in my history classes; as it turns out, the Sistine Chapel is in the Vatican City. We saw the tombs of several illustrious Italian men, including Michelangelo, Dante, and Galileo. We also visited the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most famous art museums in the world.
However, Florence didn’t live up to my expectations. I liked the art we saw, but I wasn’t crazy about the city itself. I much preferred our??day trip??out to the Chianti region in Tuscany. We went to a farmhouse and tried different types of olive oil, cheese, bread, meat, and wine. Then we stopped at a tiny medieval town for a quick stroll, and then we took a tour of a winery. It was in the Chianti Classico region and they have to follow strict rules when they make the wine. For example, they are only allowed to make a certain quantity of wine per year and 80% of the grapes have to be Sangiovese. ??The wine we tried was very good and the countryside was beautiful. It was a grape escape! (You see what I did there?)