22.05.15 – 28.05.15
I should really be calling this post ‘Anzola’ because that’s we spent most of this week, which is about 25 minutes outside of Bologna. Nonetheless, after boarding the bus at 5am we arrive at Bologna Bus Station at 11am with a few hours to spare before meeting my friend –or my Italian sister- Virginia in the Piazza Maggiore in the centre of the city. We ditch our bags at the train station across the road, something I’d only recommend doing as last resort –it cost us close to 30 euros for all three of our bags! And to top it off, the attendant was not impressed with me politely asking him (in Italian) if he spoke English, curtly replying ‘no, I only speak Bolognese’ –the regional dialect. Ok then. Looks like it’s definitely going to be a refresher course in Italian for me this week.
So after quickly dumping the luggage and running away from the angry Bolognese man, we begin to wander the city. Unfortunately for us the weather is pretty miserable, cold and drizzle which shows no signs of clearing. Thankfully, Bologna is the type of city where the rain doesn’t hold you back too much as everywhere you go there is cover underneath the porticos, which are throughout the whole city.
Before meeting Virginia we spend most of our time at a small café called Naama, a small place but not lacking in aromas of spiced coffees and herbal teas which spill onto the street alongside the handful of outdoor seats to choose from. Two espresso, two cappuccinos and a slice of delicious cake later, it’s time to wander towards Piazza Maggiore to meet Virginia.
We end up bumping into Virginia more or less in the middle of the street as chance would have it, and from there the rest of the week went by in a flash. The whole week we’re treated to the wonderfully Italian hospitality of Virginia and her mum Beatrice, staying in the same house I visited over eight years ago when I arrived here as part of a school exchange. It’s hard to even begin to think about what we did from day to day, but that’s because honestly, we didn’t do a whole lot. We took the time to sleep in, relax, and not feel pressure to get out and ‘do, do, do’ all the time. It was also lucky that for much of the week is was dark and rainy, making it easier to justify lazing about the house. We were incredibly lucky and spoiled the entire week, having home-cooked lunches and dinners prepared for us daily. I think we must have gained several kilos in this week alone!
Daniel has a keen interest in cooking, so Bea took him under her wing a bit and spent many an afternoon explaining dishes and teaching recipes. The only problem is that she doesn’t speak hardly any English, and the same problem with Daniel speaking Italian. It didn’t seem to be too much of an issue though, especially with Virginia or myself always nearby to translate that which can’t be conveyed with hand movements or pointing. Between the two of them they cooked up many typical dishes of Emilia-Romagna, like tortellini, ragù and even polenta –something neither of us had tried before.
One of the many highlights of the week were the two occasions we were invited round to some family friends’ of Virginia and her mum, a couple called Julia and Agostino. They own a large property and land on the outskirts of Anzola, as Agostino is a farmer. They have two sons, Enrico who lives in Milan with his wife, and Franco, who unfortunately passed away over ten years ago. We of course can’t forget their lovable dog Brick, and chubby cat Yogo. Both times we went to theirs for lunch and then dinner, was something pretty special. We helped in the kitchen to roll pasta, helped to lay the table, and Julia, who speaks English very well, would tell us about her family and also repeatedly tell us how happy she was to be hosting two Australians. We all ate together around the table and talked always for hours, sometimes it was hard even for me to follow the rapid fire Italian conversation, let alone poor Daniel. Both times we dined on some authentic local dishes, firstly Gnocco Fritto (more or less fried pasta), and the second time it was Tigelle (like small, thick flat breads). Both were delicious, but if I had to pick a fave, I’d choose the Tigelle. There’s honestly nothing that compares to the smell and taste of fresh bread.
As our time in Bologna was coming to an end, we felt it was really important to do something to give back to Virginia and Bea for their unwavering kindness and hospitality all week. They would seldom even let us put our own plates in the dishwasher! So, on our last full day in Anzola, we headed to the local shops to stock up so Daniel could prepare a feast for dinner tonight. He’d decided on Osso Bucco, which isn’t a typical dish of the region, but rather of Lombardy. We’re heading to Milan next, so in a way it is kind of fitting. Not surprisingly, it turned out amazingly, and both Virginia and her mum were very taken aback and happy with the results! Virginia said it was honestly the best thing she’d ever eaten while Bea compared Daniel to a Michelin starred chef. Safe to say Daniel went to bed with a slightly inflated, but deserving, ego that night.
This week just raced by, and I’m not even sure how considering how little we honestly did. But it was such a good way to catch up with my ‘Italian family’, see people I’d met last time plus make new friendships as well. I never thought that when I arrived at this same house when I was 16 years old, that I would create such a bond with this family and return some eight years later, now with my partner to let him experience the same love and warmth Virginia and Bea offer to everyone. For me it’s the perfect reason to show why everyone should pick up another language, you just have no idea where it will take you or what doors it can open up for you –though for it’s meant struggling to fit through most doors after this week.