We are flying over the Alps today, July 14th, to spend two weeks with Shell’s family. We’ll be in Amsterdam, Ghent, Bruges, and Wiesbaden. After just a week and a half, I think we are both looking forward to the pace of movement slowing some, but that won’t be happening until the end of July at least. That said, we’ve only been going as long as I’ve ever vacationed in my life. Why pass up the opportunity to keep packing things in while we have the chance?
Personally, I’m very happy to leave the heat of Italy behind for the cool mid-60s that the Dutch and Flemish cities promise. Some may scoff at that statement, given the coasts and lakes that define summer Italian travels. But, our Italian experience was inland and mostly urban with the exception of a few hours in Camogli. Heat indexes in Florence and Rome surpassed 100F. Melina moves onward to the island of Ischia, which sounded like a very promising place to spend time in this weather. We’ll link back up with her in Ghent.
Rome was the last city we visited in Italy and will end this post. Before that, I wanted to touch on Bologna, which was our home base for four nights. Where we launched our Florence and Modena day trips.
Bologna has two sides, which can be quite evident. One side is funky and gritty, with politically active graffiti and a grungy, student focused bar scene. We stayed in this side of Bologna and really loved the vibe. Youthful and full of character, you can find reasonably priced drinks and food easily. You can also see the students celebrate graduation around the time we were there. Friends embarrass their graduate by making them wear crazy outfits, spraying them with confetti, mayonnaise, ketchup, or anything else, in and around piazzas through town. The other side of the city is more Bourgeoisie with a lot more shopping. We loved both sides, they each had their givings and misgivings. I read in a travel guide something like: “you can be debating Chomsky in a grungy bar on one side and later be dining on a tasting menu in a Michelin rated restaurant on the other.”
We saw really beautiful dinners in the street with live music, and an alley over taken with shipping containers setup as bars and eateries. Communal seating and gathering spaces between the scattered shipping containers. Plenty to see and do by day, and plenty of life at night. Shell and I always seem to judge a city by how quickly we warm to the idea of living in it. We warmed to Bologna quite quickly. The cafe pictures are of Paparre, which we loved, with their stuffed croissants and wholemeal pancakes.
In Rome, we stayed in an old working class neighborhood known as San Lorenzo. The area seemed populated by mostly Italians and plenty of students being near Sapienza Università di Roma. Spending a lot of time in the tourist neighborhoods made us really appreciate being away from it all in San Lorenzo.
We did a lot of the required activities such as the Roman Forum and Colosseum. We also visited Vatican City, St Peter’s Basilica and the walked up the Cupola. It was hard not to be thinking of the emperors and popes that had walked the grounds we were walking. I recently began reading Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations making some of these people seem all that more tangible.
Melina is a Montessori teacher, and as luck would have it Maria Montessori’s first school was in San Lorenzo only a few blocks from where we were staying. We stopped by to walk around and take a look. Seemed like it was a public school now, but there was an information plaque there explaining the history. We also were able to get a nice dinner with a friend of mine from school who was also vacationing in Italy, and then strolled through the night markets. It was so nice to see her, and I hope this begins a theme of the trip for running into friends and classmates all over the world.
I want to follow up with more history and pictures from some of the tours we did in Rome. Until then, it’s family time.