Valentine’s Day 2014 was a great day to arrive in Bologna; blue sky, sun shining – and in great company of course! We had arranged to stay with a friend who was au pairing for a local Italian family and spent the day exploring the inner city, which was as picturesque as they come. After eating out at a local restaurant, we boarded the bus to journey home. Bad public transport encounter number one: unfortunately we had not swiped our bus tickets correctly and got questioned by four bus officers – who pulled us off the bus and fined us €88 apiece. They spoke minimal English, and would not even attempt to listen to our pleas of ignorance, leaving us feeling very frustrated!
Eventually we got home and cooked up a wonderful Valentine’s feast of pancakes to enjoy with our adopted Italian family. Dinner was a wonderful experience; a mixture of chatter in both Italian and English, spending time with two gorgeous children, and their parents Luigi and Antonella, who were only too happy to answer the endless questions that Danielle and I had about life in Italy, as well as providing us with numerous travelling tips and words of wisdom.
Whilst we were in Bologna we had every intention of venturing across to Florence, but due to bad public transport encounters number two, three and four we ended up missing the bus, train and I guess the boat to that delightful city. Instead, we walked under a covered path for 3796 metres – up 300 steps and under 666 arches to reach the Basilica di San Luca; a beautiful temple providing panoramic views of the city. Unfortunately for us, the weather restricted the extent of our view (we seem to be making a habit of climbing to viewpoints on foggy days!)
That night we experienced an authentic Italian family dinner; the first course (primo) was pasta and risotto, the second course (secondo) was homemade pizza bread with a delightful array of meats, cheeses and gourmet toppings (olives, picked onion, sundried tomatoes etc) to put on top and the third and final course was dolce (dessert) and consisted of sweet fried pasta – interesting, but delicious!
Public transport encounter number five (missing our train by one minute) meant we arrived in the nearby medieval town of Ferrara about an hour behind schedule. The main tourist attraction is a massive castle, with a huge drawbridge over a moat. Personally, my favourite thing about the town is that everyone bikes; the city centre is closed to vehicles and so everywhere you look characters of all ages, sizes and occupations are cycling. Who knew bad luck came in sixes, but to finish our weekend of transport dilemmas off in style, we caught the train back to the wrong station and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get back to the first station (all so that we could get our bags before heading back to the other station to catch our bus home!). Our memories may be tainted with our bad luck (or skill) of the transport systems – but overall Bologna was another beautiful Italian city, well worth a visit.