Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A Visit from Mimi

Oooh it's been a while since I wrote anything...

...I've been suffering a little bit from January blues. I'd had such a lovely time in the UK at Christmas that I miss home all the more, and not to mention I'm getting impatient to start my semester in Germany, which isn't until the start of April but it feels so close!

Luckily, when I came back to Bologna on the 5th January I'd managed to drag my sister along with me for a visit.

We figured that this was the best time for her to come out and visit, before either of us had exams. We flew from Stansted together in the evening but had met at the airport, as I'd been at home up north and Mimi was coming from uni. Dinner at Wetherspoons in the airport (wayyy overpriced for a Spoons, and the menu was about a fifth of its usual size), a half hour or so delay (of course), a quick nap on the plane and by midnight local time we'd reached my apartment. Still got the place to myself at the moment which is pretty nice, but all the better when I have company. We were to bed pretty much straight away as we were knackered!

Next day we were up at a not-too-unreasonable time, feasting on the crumpets and Yorkshire Gold tea (my fave) that I'd brought back from England (I also brought jaffa cakes, some chocolate, and a pack (or two) of sausages and a pack of bacon, because why not?!) before jumping on the bus and heading to town. At the weekend and on special occasions the city center becomes pedestrianised and today was no exception - 6th January, when Epiphany is celebrated in Italy, is a public holiday. Naturally it was very busy in town but we still wandered around for a while and I pointed out the usual interesting bits in full-on tour guide mode.

We mooched, drank coffee and I thought it was quite nice to be back again. The afternoon we spent watching films back at my apartment, drinking tea and catching up before heading out for dinner at...obviously.....a sushi place.


Hey, no judging. I know I'm in Italy. But €18 for an all-you-can-eat Sushi buffet? You do not say no.

The plan was to get up and catch a train to Parma on the Wednesday but, being the lazy things we are, we ended up sleeping in most of the morning and saving Parma for Thursday. So what else to do? We made pancakes, of course.

I was in the mind that we should still do something, so we went to have a look at the city from the viewpoint at San Michele in Bosco. The building itself is a religious complex consisting of a church and a monastery - though nowadays the old monastery is the home of a orthopedic center. But the interesting part is the view that you can go up and enjoy!

It was a bright but pretty hazy day, as you can tell.

We'd got the bus up to the top (since I get lost aaaalll the time and no not because it's a big hill - it's not at all) but took the path (a little bit steep) through a little park to get back into the city.

That night I cooked for us at the apartment - tortellini with a garlic mushroom cream sauce, which we ate with some nice ham, sun dried tomatoes, mozzarella and (my fave) pane con pancetta - yep, that's right, it's a bread that has little bits of bacon in it. Hea-ven.

Eventually Thursday came around and we dragged ourselves out of bed and onto a train to Parma. It's only about an hour away and the train goes through a lot of countryside, so it was pretty pleasant. We arrived about 12 and set about finding our way to the center, which involved going along the river (I say 'river', it's techincally called Torrente Parma, which is not a river and is probably why there was so little water).

Parma, it turns out, is a nice, small, quiet place. We wandered down cute little side streets and found a place for a coffee, then headed out to see the main sight - the Cattedrale di Parma (the cathedral, yes).

Cattedrale di Parma

Very nice building! Shut, of course.

In fact, as it turned out, so was pretty much all of Parma. I'm still not entirely sure why! But unfortunately it only made the place seem all the more empty...

We grabbed a couple of slices of pizza for lunch and headed back to the river in order to cross it and check out the Parco Ducale. It was a pleasant enough place, although I'm guessing it would look so much nicer, as parks do, in any other season but winter.

Palazzo Ducale

After that there was a bit more time for another wander through the little streets before we decided that we'd had enough of Parma and we went to catch a train home. We only spent about 3 and a half hours there but we'd felt it was enough. I'd like to see the place on a busy summer's day, I'm sure it'd be much more interesting!

On Friday Mimi was due to leave on an evening flight, so we went out for lunch at one of my favourite places in Bologna - it's called Scalinaterra and is located down one of the side streets off the main road Rizzoli. I go as often as I can - the food is delicious, the staff very nice (and always let me speak Italian without answering in English) and everyone loves it. Mimi opted for gramigna alla salsiccia (pasta in a sausage sauce, which was so delicious that I'll probably order it myself some time) and I had the risotto ai porcini (mushroom risotto - amazing).

And then we went home and drank tea whilst Mimi finished her packing, then we were on our way to the airport and she was off! The visit went very quickly and I was sad to see her go, though since the next time I see her will be March at least it's not too long a time this time.

But today I have realised something - I have 36 days left in this beautiful city, which is pretty much five weeks. And I've also realised that there's a few things that I've not done here yet - like climb the Asinelli tower, and finally get up to the San Luca Basilica (I've tried this one a couple of times, in all fairness). So, I guess that now is the time to get on with these things.

The Asinelli tower - only 498 steps....

I've also got a couple of friends coming to see me soon, yay! My friend who's in Milan, who I've visited a couple of times, is finally making her way to Bologna this weekend so I get to show her the sights (and maybe tackle the tower....?) which will be fun. Then next month I have two really good friends visiting, literally one after the other, and then BAM I'll be getting on that plane myself to head home to the UK! A crazy thought, but it's still a little way off yet and I have told myself to get on with it and enjoy the time I have left here. Which I plan to do!

Ciao for now!


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