Dreaming In Italian

Ok, maybe that wasn’t the last post

Friday, March 1st, 2024

I couple from the U.S. are here in Bologna with the intention to stay at least 2 years and possibly more. We’ve talked and I gave them some advice about places to go, things to see and stores where they can find essential items. I decided that this might be a blog post of interest to others planning to visit Bologna and even to live here.

So here is a list for visitors for perhaps a week.

Places to eat:

Sfoglia Rina – This is a good place to get good Bolognese food at a reasonable price. You can also buy freshly made pasta, filled pastas (for example ravioli or tortellini). It is open for lunch and dinner but they do NOT take reservations. The open for lunch at 11:30 so my advise would be to arrive at the door no later than 11:15. In good weather maybe even earlier. If you arrive at 12:30 there will probably be 20 people in line and the wait can be pretty long.

Osteria Bartolini – A good seafood restaurant. Especially recommended when there is nice weather because other than the food, a major attraction is a large terrace for outdoor dining with a spectacular tree which I’ve been told is the oldest tree in Bologna.

Trattoria da me – Open for lunch and dinner. Reservations are mandatory. There is a TV program called “Alessandro Borghese – 4 ristoranti” in which the chef Alessandra Borhese visits 4 restaurants in a different city and declares one of them as the best. So he came to Bologna in 2018 and declared Trattoria da me the winner on that episode. Perhaps it was very popular before that but since then it is absolutely necessary to have reservations.

Radici Terra d’Amare – Closed Monday. Open for dinner all of the other days and for lunch only on Saturday and Sunday. Great inventive seafood at a moderate price.  I found it accident when I walked along the lightly traveled street not far from where I live. Highly recommended.

Places to go/see:

Piazza Maggiore – the very heart of Bologna. A large piazza with a large cathedral named for the patron saint of Bologna, San Petronio. The original plan would have made it bigger than Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome but the pope vetoed that idea. Still it’s a big church and particular interesting item is the sundial (or more accurately the Meridian Line). It’s too complicated to explain here but you can find all of the details here: https://www.basilicadisanpetronio.org/the-sundial-of-s-t-petronios-basilica/

Piazza del Nettuno: Adjacent to Piazza Maggiore is the this piazza. The main attraction is the Fontana Nettuno ( the Fountain of Neptune) which is one of the major symbols of Bologna. It is quite spectacular – especially the water streaming for the nipples of the women in the fountain.

Biblioteca Salaborsa – The central library of Bologna which is very close to the Fontana Nettuno. The name comes from the fact that it was for sometime a financial market (borsa), also, surprisingly, it was a basketball court for a period. Along with the regular library functions which are vast, there are also ruins under the main floor dating from the Etruscans  and then Romans. There are usually very interesting displays of one type or another. Definitely recommended.

San Luca – Well the long name is Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca. One of the symbols of the city along with the two towers and Neptune’s fountain. It’s on top of a hill not very far from the historical center and boasts the longest portico in the world to arrive there. I went there on foot once and I guarantee a good workout. It’s certainly an interesting hike. You can also drive there or take the little tourist “train” from piazza Maggiore.

T-Day  – Some years ago they closed two roads in the center of bologna to vehicle traffic on a weekend. The two roads intersect and the closures form a “T”. It started as a one weekend experiment and was so popular that it became permanent.  Especially when the weather is nice there is always a crowd of people walking around and enjoying the entertainment; jugglers, puppeteers, musicians, street artists and of course vendors of various thing. It’s a big open air party. 

Garisenda and Asinelli, the two towers – the MAJOR symbol of Bologna. Several years ago I climbed to the top – 498 steps. It was a spectacular 360 degree view. Unfortunately the sister tower, Gaisenda which has always been leaning, has serious problems now and the there is a lot of work going onto to save it from collapse. It would indeed be a disaster if it collapsed since it is so important to the city. They saved the tower in Pisa so I’m optimistic that they can also fix Garisenda. In the meantime Asinelli is closed to tourists and one of streets closest to Garisenda is closed causing significant headaches for traffic.

Museum of the History of Bologna- I really like this museum. You take a tour through the history starting with the Etruscans, then the Romans and even Napoleon. I think it’s well done and is a pleasant way to know the city more fully.

For a long term stay a year at least

Here it gets more difficult to make suggestions. In this scenario people are not really tourists as much as they are residents. High on the list would be learning as much Italian as possible in the shortest amount of time. Unless you are quite young the dream of leaning Italian in a month is an illusion. So I would recommend going to an intensive language school for at LEAST a month and better two and then decide whether or not to continue. If you really want to live here you probably need to go to school at least 6 months. I stopped language school here when I had enough knowledge of the language to have at least a rudimentary conversation. At that point if you don’t know a word of phrase in Italian you can describe the word using the vocabulary that you have. For me this has been a continuing process and I will continue “studying” Italian forever. The way that I “study” is by reading books written in Italian. I like mysteries of one form or another so that’s what I read in Italian. It’s no easy at first but it works over time.

Beyond these limited recommendations I willingly give advise upon request so leave a comment and I’ll respond.

Will this be my last post?

Thursday, June 8th, 2023

I haven’t written a post for quite a while – since last October to be exact. I’ve kind of run out of ideas. I’ve written a lot about my love of Italy before and after having moved here to live 5 years ago. I find the food and style of life excellent and I mostly complain about the bureaucracy. So what else can I write about that might be interesting? Sometimes when lying in bed before going to sleep and my mind is not distracted by other things I start having memories. I’m really amazed at the memory capacity of the human brain. Some of the memories from more than 50 years ago are almost as fresh and detailed as those from yesterday. Perhaps even more so because they are from experiences less mundane than the day to day activities. At times I try to talk about these with Laura but partly because of my stumbling Italian and partly because mostly people don’t like to hear longwinded stories, I decided to write about some of the more significant experiences just for my own enjoyment in the writing process. I use Google Translate to convert them to Italian for Laura and check that the translations are reasonably accurate. I have shared them with my best friend here and she likes them and perhaps they might be interesting to others. So here is the first thing that I have written and I am publishing it.


Yes, I remember everything.

I was inspired to start writing this stuff by the last song that John Prime recorded before he died of Covid in the spring of 2020. I highly recommend the song “I Remember Everything” which you can find on Youtube. After thinking more about it I would add Leonard Cohen and Robert Frost as inspiration. Leonard Cohen and John Prime are both singer songwriters and their songs are poetry set to music. Both have a strong emotional impact for me. Leonard is more refined than John in a certain way but I find John more visceral. I’d say that Cohen is more in the league of Robert Frost in the poetry area.

I am especially thinking of the Frost poem “ The Road Not Taken”. It’s about life and all of the decisions we make as we traverse our lives. The road taken goes only in one direction in life, you can’t turn back. It has big and small choices, it’s hurts and joys; all of which shape us and hopefully lead to wisdom. Being retired and having time to contemplate more has opened the window into some interesting experiences that I’ve had on the road taken.


I am willing to share some of these stories with people that I know and trust so if you would like to sample one, leave a comment and I can send it via email as long as you swear not to publish it.



Sunday, October 30th, 2022

This word is written exactly the same in Italian and in English although it’s pronounced a bit differently. So why am I writing a blog post about this. First of all I haven’t written a post for a LONG time as my friend Renata reminded me not too long ago and also because the circuitous train of thought that led me here. Laura and I usually listen to music with our lunch and dinner meals together and today I chose Aretha Franklin. Why, I don’t know, maybe because I haven’t played this music for a long time. The first song was “Freeway of Love”. This set my mind on a journey jumping from one thought to another. Given that my memory is not what it used to be I was really stunned that I remembered exactly where I first heard this song, I would guess it was in 1985 with my then girlfriend Cynthia. We went to a club called Rockin’ Robbin in the Haight Ashbury (very hippy) area of San Francisco and they played this song. The incredible thing is that sometime I can’t easily remember either the English or Italian word for something like a vegetable. It takes a while for it to bubble up from somewhere inside my brain but this was like a flash and crystal clear. A columnist in the San Francisco paper of that era sometimes related such trains of thought as his “monkey mind” and I see why. So the next thought was that like a fair number of black female singers Aretha got her start in choirs in black churches at a young age. Then my mind jumped to a black church that I had gone to in San Francisco a few times called the Glide Memorial Church. It wasn’t purely black and in fact it attracted lots of people like, well, me. Its church service was, I think, typical in some ways of a black church. A big choir, a lot of audience (maybe congregation would be a better word) participation. It served and I’m sure still does the poor people of San Francisco. The minister at the time was very charismatic and inspirational and the service was always a celebration. There was always a point at which he said we should all meet and great those seated near us, to either side and front and back. It became a very personal and at the same time community experience.

I know that nostalgia has more than one meaning. It can be the longing for something in the past and even the desire to return to that past but that’s never true for me. The meaning for me is remembrance of something emotional and inspiring. Sometimes, especially when I have an, er, altered state of consciousness my monkey mind is in high gear. I think it’s open to memories that are little snippets of my life that have always been there and sometimes in amazing detail. It’s a very pleasant journey through long forgotten paths although obviously not totally forgotten. I started this blog post perhaps 2 months ago and stumbled upon the draft today and decided to complete it.

I will add something more current. Twelve days ago I had another hip replacement. This time I was only in the hospital for 4 days after the operation rather than the 7 or 8 last year. I was anxious to get home because frankly unless it’s really necessary it’s quite boring being in the hospital and largely confined to a bed. By the time I left I had demonstrated all of things necessary to go home, walking and going up and down stairs with crutches among the most important but basically showing that I could take care of myself adequately with the help of my wife. When they said that, yes, I could go home they also told me that they could send me in an ambulance at no charge. That sounded great to me; kind of like going home in a limousine. That part of my joy was smashed a couple of hours later when they told me that I had tested positive for Covid. It’s still a mystery to me how I got infected in the hospital. I was totally asymptomatic but the ambulance was no longer an option. So Laura came and helped me dress, packed the little suitcase with the stuff I’d brought with me and we went home in a taxi. I couldn’t start physiotherapy at home right away because of Covid and I started doing it on my own (lots of web sites and videos available). After 5 days I did an at home test (negative) and uploaded the results to the SSN (National Health Service) site and now things are reasonably normal. I’m well along in the physiotherapy although the therapist will probably come next Tuesday or Wednesday.

Now I have a matched set of hips

There is one particularly interesting item about the new hip. Because my pelvis is crooked from when it was broken in an automobile accident 57 years ago my left leg was, in effect, 2 cm shorter than my right one. I compensated by adding 1 cm to the sole of my left shoe and have inserts in the same shoe that total about 1 cm. I had talked to my orthopedist knowing that I would have to have the right hip done and asked if he could add some length to the left leg. He said he could and to lower the risk I asked for just 1 cm although I could have gone for 2. That means I won’t ever need to modify the left shoe again. So he did it. He came to see me afterwards and was proud to show me that the left was indeed 1 cm longer than previous. In the early spring or maybe late winter almost all of the store have sales here so you can guess what I’ll be buying.


Saturday, August 27th, 2022

In August it seems like everyone goes away for vacation. Obviously not everyone but lots of stores are closed and there are lots of parking spaces available in our the city which is a rarity in our neighborhood. It all seems a little bit strange, perhaps like a movie by a quirky director. Today even the coffee bar where I always meet my friend Renata on Saturday mornings was closed but of course the employees and owners also deserve a break. Along with the bar, the butcher shop (macelleria) and by favorite bread bakery (panificio) are closed for the month. So we decided to leave this semi-ghost town and go outside the city for a lunch – after all it’s at least easy to find a parking space when we return.

We went to a place that we’ve been to twice before that’s about 20 kilometers away. It’s the “Antica Hostaria della Rocca di Badolo”. An “hosteria” usually written without the “h” was originally just a pub where you could get wine and maybe beer. There is one in the very center of Bologna that still carries on that tradition, the Osteria del Sole. You can only buy something to drink but are free to bring your own food. They claim that it’s the oldest osteria in the world and has been there since 1465. But I digress.

We have been to the Antica Hosteria 2 times before. I’m always a bit hesitant to drive outside of the city since I often get lost and frankly Google maps sometimes is not very useful. The last time that we went, sometime in the spring I took a wrong turn when returning to Bologna and instead of a normal 35 minutes to return wandered around following the directions of Google maps and it took about an hour and half. This time I found a much better route both to go and return. It has few turns and is easy going in both directions. Should you ever drive a car in Bologna you really have to be careful because at some point the most direct route will get you a traffic ticket because it is a lane reserved for buses and taxis. This route doesn’t have that complication. It’s the blue route below. I used Porta San Mamolo as the starting point to force Google maps to provide this more direct route.

The food at this place has always been exceptional, the view from it’s position on the hill is sublime and the costs are beyond reasonable. We split two generous plates of food, which we shared and they split the portions into two plates in the kitchen. In addition we had a bottle of water, a half liter of wine, two deserts and for coffee for a total bill of 56 euros.

Laura and a hint of the view
Spaghetti with black truffles
Venison stew with grilled polenta

I forgot to take pictures of the deserts before they were half consumed. Mine below had figs and I told the waitress that I love anything with figs. I don’t remember what Laura’s was but it was beautiful and good.

My desert
Laura’s desert

The website for the Antic Hosteria is pretty bare but here is a link for the page in Trip adviser with lots of photos. I was shocked to see the website (here) for the Osteria del Sole. I smell the hand of a marketing consultant.