European Travelogue #6: Bologna, Italy

Bologna

Bologna

Bologna, home of Spaghetti Bolognese, Ducati and the oldest university in Europe. A place of culture, style and genuine warmth. It is located in the middle of Italy.

Getting There

The city is served well by train, the Aeroporto G. Marconi and the Autostradas A13 from Padova in the northeast, A14 from Ancona-Rimini in the east, A1 from Milano in the northwest and A1 from Firenze Napoli in the south. We drove along the A13 from Venice and it was a two hour drive at about 120 – 170 km/h. The autostrada has 3 lanes all the way and if you want to hotdog it in the fast lane, remember, if someone catches you up from behind, you are going too slow….Ah Italian drivers!

Where to Stay

We just did a day trip, although there is a range of accommodation from backpackers to 5 star hotels. This is a University town, so cheap accommodation is plentiful. Just look around on the web.

Eating Out

When in Bologna, you can’t avoid the quintessinal Italian experience of lunch from 12 to 3 and dinner from 6 – midnight. Don’t try and get a feed between 3 and 6pm because, like we found out, every restaurant closes for the afternoon. However, there are lots of great restaurants and this town has a plethora of choices for your dining pleasure. We ate at a cafe just on the main piazza (Piazza Maggiore) next to a very old cathedral. An expensive bottle of red and a few nibblies made for a relaxing afternoon watching the cabeneiri patrol in their Alfa’s along the square.

Handy Stuff

Just off the main piazza in the centre of town, there is a terrific information bureau (Assessorato Turismo) that has a helpful staff and data on everything you could possibly want to do in this great town.

Internet

We found a place on via Montegrappa called ‘Crazy Bull’. They are a bar / restaurant with a cybercafe out the front. A great place to have a beer and surf the net, although their food service was atrocious and the meals ordinary. I guess that just shows what the Italians are like when they try

to cook American!

Sights

There are many historical buildings, churches, museums and statues in Bologna. If you want a listing of the principal sights, then request a map with legend here. We visited the Torre Asinelli (Asinelli Tower) which is one half of the “Twin Towers” of Bologna. For an entry fee of L3000, we climbed to the top and looked over this ancient city for about an hour. We snapped a few photos and generally soaked up the Roman atmosphere.

Museums

I made a point of organising a tour of the famous Ducati motorcycle factory before I came to Europe. This was an absolute must for me being a Ducatisti. I emailed the factory, and made arrangements. The factory sent me a map, directions on how to get there and generally treated me as part of The Family.

Ducati Production

996 Assembly

We rocked up to the Ducati plant at Via Cavalieri Ducati 3 and took the tour of the factory floor with a group of about 12 people. I was fascinated to see how each engine is assembled by hand by one engineer. The crates full of castings and crankcases lined up next to frames and wheels. Our guide, Marco, was a mine of information on Ducati and their manufacturing processes. We looked on as workers assembled many $30,000 top of the range 996SP’s, one after another. I was generally impressed with the whole set up, including the guy with the world’s best job – he gets to dyno test each bike as it rolls

of the production line!

After the factory plant tour, we went upstairs to tour Ducati’s new museum. The assistant curator of the museum was our guide.

Smart's Racing Ducati

Paul Smart’s Ducati

He gave an excellent account of Ducati history and explained each of the famous types of racing motorcycle on display. I was awe-struck to see the actual bikes raced by the likes of Paul Smart, Mike Hailwood, Troy Corser, Doug Polen and Carl Fogarty. Ducati are justifiably proud of their impressive racing victories over the past 53 years and this museum showcases it all. In the World Superbike Championships, Ducati have won 9 world titles in the last 11 years.

Summary

Bologna is a place full of interesting things to see and do. Watching the locals go about their day in the main piazza, whilst you are putting away a fine bottle of red may seem like a waste of time to some, but to me it was the essential Italian experience. This town and it’s people were a highlight of our Bastards R Us tour!

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