Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bologna, Italy

We got back on that screaming eagle fast train in Naples and flew through the Tuscan countryside stopping only briefly in Rome and Florence to add and subtract passengers.  I didn't see anything more of the scenery this time than I did before.  I do love the idea of fast trains, but if you really want to see the country, you need to look for the milk runs.  Back in Bologna, we checked in to the Mercury Hotel which I can highly recommend.

Looking back, my first impression of Naples was that it needed a good cleaning; the side walks were in need of repair; the work on public transportation should be accelerated; and the graffiti should be scrubbed off the buildings.  It was impossible to follow the tourist map around the old part of town so they certainly needed more signs.  I wasn't sure there was anything like a Board of Health, but if there was it needed a complete revamping.  Then it occurred to me that if all that was done, the city would not be Naples.  All those little details are what make Naples a unique city.

My first impression of Bologna was of a clean city with broad smooth sidewalks, a workable public transportation system, fabulous signage, and the cleanest restaurants you could hope to find.  Now, about the graffiti - Bologna has its share.  Although Bologna is a very prosperous city (by today's standards) like all of Italy's cities, it is plagued by a high rate of unemployment, mostly unemployed youth.  They are angry, frustrated, and out of patience.  Graffiti doesn't solve any of their problems, but it is a cheap way to vent.  The venting is cheap, the clean-up is expensive.

Now for the really good stuff.  If you like arched covered walkways and great food;  friendly people who aren't cynical tourist predators; lovely piazzas lined with architectural wonders - Bologna is a great place to visit.  This is a prosperous, progressive society which respects their history rather than worships it.

I loved the porticos.  They stretched uninterrupted block after city block.  Here are the photos of some of the many different arches.  It was amazing how many variations on the theme I saw.

Excavating the past

This shows a portion of the stairs leading to a beautiful park.
Sculpture  (Large Format Garden Art)

Book Stores Out the Zakoo.  Huge stores and small kiosks.  Italians are great readers and the folks in Bologna seem to be the best.
When we arrived in Naples, we faced blocks of unorganized flea market.  In Bologna, we found the extreme opposite.  A flea market under cover with wide aisles and neatly arranged inventory.  Try as I did, I was unsuccesful in photographing the inside, but here is the sea of white plastic tents that covered the area.
As we walked back to the hotel later that evening, the entire flea market had disappeared and a crew of workers was there cleaning up the litter.  The next morning, the piazza was spotless.

Lots of interesting shops


Piazza Maggiore and the Basilica of San Petronio

 Cameras were prohibited inside the basilica, but I bought postcards which I will scan and add later.  It was another great variation on the common thread that runs through every Catholic Church I have ever visited.

The Towers

Piazza San Martin

Drawing a Crowd
This man was completely surrounded by folks crowding in to see watch his fingers perform magic.  What was he creating?
Dragons of course!  Not a rat in the bunch.

The City Wall

This large portion of the old city wall actually serves as the back wall of our hotel garden.  These photos were made from outside the garden.
And these photos were made inside the garden.  In the 'old days' this side of the wall would have faced outside the city.  This wall and the gate just down the street were the scene of a huge battle between the people of Bologna and the Austrians.  
The Bolognese were victorious and the battle became a turning point in their history.