I love taking city breaks around Europe, the flights are cheap from Malta and we look for hotel deals, then plan what we want to see, how we’ll get there and pretty much know exactly what the trip will consist of. This time, Joe suggested doing something a little different and just seeing how we felt as we went along. Rather than go away for a quick 3 day break and wish you had longer, or go for a long 10 day break and get bored of the city, we thought we’d set a starting point and just book as we went along. That way, if we loved a city, we could stay, but if we were done with it, we could move on to somewhere new.
This kind of unplanned, unorganised trip, at first, made me think of utter chaos and uncertainty but I found it was the complete opposite and ended up being actually much more relaxed than a trip which is planned and organised down to the minute. It was exhilarating and had a sense of freedom that I don’t usually allow myself to feel. We really just went with the flow and rather than being chaotic it was surprisingly calming.
So, we started off by booking our flight to Bologna, Italy and two nights in the Best Western Re Enzo Hotel. Click the hotel name for my full review, but in short, I do not recommend it. Staff were amazing, hotel not so much.
Slightly grim hotel aside, Bologna didn’t really strike us all that much. We absolutely adored Turin when we visited last year and foolishly thought that most places in the north would be similar- not the case. I felt like the whole place looked a little tired. Old I can deal with, old I love; old, quaint and charming, but Bologna didn’t have much of that. There were pretty areas and we spent most of our time in the prettier parts, but even they weren’t breath taking. I know that I haven’t loved somewhere when there are hardly any photos!
We spent most of our time around the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana where the Two Towers are located. The Two Towers are actually pretty cool, the shorter one, Garisenda, is a leaning tower. I’m not sure what it is with Italy and it’s tilted towers (they were everywhere!) but they are fascinating. I’m sure I can google it, but if anyone fancies enlightening me, please do.
Bologna was the first city where we encountered ‘coperta’ which I think is a horrible, horrible piece of cultural crap. It’s usually between €2 and €3 per person, and restaurants charge it on top of your bill when you eat. We did a lot of researching about this, and the most reasonable explanation is that restaurants have to add this on the bill, as traditionally Italian families dine together and take so long over the meal that it’s needed in order for the restaurant to make a profit. I call bullshit. Firstly, I’m fairly sure they’re not charging Italian customers this, it’s rarely listed anywhere in the restaurant or on the menu and you get charged the flat rate no matter how long you took or what your bill comes to. If we were charged a coperta then we never left a tip- depending on what you had it could be way over the 10% I usually leave for good service, or way less, which I refuse to feel guilty about as they do themselves out of a fair tip by adding shit on.
We also found in Bologna that cafes in Italy really do charge tourists more. We didn’t have any of these €15 for an ice cream type cons that many tourists complain about, but often we’d be charged €3 for a coffee when we saw the price was €1.30/€1.50. We didn’t bother contesting as I knew they’d just say it was more if you sit in, but I don’t think sitting in = more than double the cost. We were walking around the University area and saw a nice looking little cafe, Il Caffe Delle Sette Chiese. The guy working was really friendly and warm to us, but we were charged over double the menu price for the drink, which really disappointed us.
Food in Bologna
Something we were super excited about on our Italy trip, was food. Last time we’d been to Italy, every meal had been amazing, but in Bologna we didn’t have one meal that was particularly good. Everything was just a bit average, and no better than we have back home… even when I’m cooking!
On our first night we were starving and ready for dinner at around 5:30PM but unfortunately most restaurants were still closed and weren’t set to open until around 7, so we had to take what we could get. We found a decent looking pizzeria and couldn’t wait for our first amazing Italian pizza. Ristorante Mangiassieme didn’t quite live up to our expectations though. The pizza was alright, I went for something with buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil and Joe went for a prosciutto cotto pizza. Both were OK but not anything special, or worth going back for.
For the second night we figured we had to get bolognese- you can’t go to Bologna and not try the bolognese! We did some research this time and tried out Restaurant Donatello, which was well rated by locals and tourists alike. It seems like, in Italy, pasta dishes are usually a ‘first course’ coming after the starter/appetizer but before the main. We can’t eat a pasta dish and then a meal though so we got ourselves a starter and then pasta as our main. Again, it was alright, but not a game changer. The place was absolutely packed and was super popular with the locals but really didn’t do anything for us. Personally, I prefer the bolognese I make at home, although we do now much prefer it with tagliatelle than spaghetti!
So what with over priced coffee and coperta, Bologna wasn’t somewhere we fell in love with and although we enjoyed our time there, it’s not somewhere I’d go back to.