Bologna and Florence without sightseeing

Drab mustard colour

Drab mustard colour

It was a greyish day in Bologna. The canopy of clouds darkened the mustardy yellow and uncertain ocre of the buildings that looked rather drab even when the sun came out. In the weather shrouded light they looked distinctly depressing on arrival. But it was good to get away for a couple of days, even though it was for work,

The locals are refreshingly polite and straightforward. At the cozy hotel*, the delightful ladies who run it went out of their way to make us comfortable for our little meeting. There was no time to see much, and to the probable horror of most people reading this, I had lunch in a Chinese restaurant. Yes, in Bologna. Bolognese food is delicious, but heavy on meat and sauces, better enjoyed in the evening with good wine. I just had a short lunch break, and there was a long afternoon meeting ahead.


Chinese restaurant in Bologna

Chinese restaurant in Bologna

That’s where plain travelling and tourism differ, and I’m perfectly happy living the now of a city, without all the duties of having to seek out the past.

In our tourist personas, we go for the history, which is fine, because faced with novel architecture, colours and dialects, if not languages, we look for the visible signs of ancient roots and art. The centuries of events, alliances, wars and humanity that have molded the present.

But living in Italy has made me a bit history-weary and I like to look at the now of new places.  Do people walk quickly, do they promenade sedately, do they look around them or are they oblivious in their rush to arrive somewhere? When travelling, to locals you’re obviously not one of them – there’s a je ne sais quoi in the way you dress, or walk or look passers-by in the eye – or don’t.  You tend to look everywhere, at shop windows, tea-rooms and restaurants, and you also stop and gawk at all the stuff dangling around the newstand.

Kiosk in Bologna

Kiosk in Bologna


When I got off the train in Florence in the evening, it was cold and drizzly dragging my trolley bag over the slippery cobblestones. So much so that even stupendous Piazza del Duomo failed to move me. When you visit these famous places again and again, the novelty wears off and the wondrous views and statues start to look like so many postcards.



But on the upside, it’s also when you become more aware of the details of daily life, the products on supermarket shelves and people queueing at the counters, the garbage collection notices, the bus stops and bike traffic. The friend who walked me to the banks of the Arno pointed out just how high it had risen in the great floods of 1966 and I thought that just couldn’t be possible. That’s history that will never cease to fascinate me wherever I go, the events that took place during the lives of the living…



Returning home was good too, if anything because the weather in Rome is its best feature. You can usually count on a warmer evening to welcome you back from the north.

All my photos

*this is NOT an advertisement, but a thank you to  central location, lovely rooms, great breakfast too.

This entry was posted in Blogging, Cultural, Italy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Bologna and Florence without sightseeing

  1. Hi Bea.

    Since my best friend is spending the night with me I thought I would give her a little tour of WordPress. We were lucky enough to come across your site. My best friend is very famous. I bet you have heard of her. She likes to be called “insomnia”. She visits me quite frequently. She and I both like your site and we will be regular visitors, I’m sure. The only problem I have with your blog is the fact that not only am I wide awake but now I am deeply homesick as well.

    I lived in Florence from 1980 to 1983. My mom was there a total of 13 years. We are both from America but Florence is home. Even in 1983 you could still see the water line (from the flood) about two inches beneath our windows.

    We lived just minutes from the Arno and right around the corner from Piazza Santa Croce. We often sunbathed at the Arno. Most spring, summer and fall nights we would find ourselves walking near the Arno on our way to Piazzale Michelangelo or we might head to Palazzo Vecchio. My favorite place in the summer was Piazza della Signoria. The Piazza would be filled with people from all over the world selling their goods or playing instruments one would never see in America. Those were truly the happiest days I have ever known. I pray for the opportunity to go back one more time before I die. We were dirt poor when we lived in Florence and yet neither of us had ever felt richer.

    Good job, Leah. Now I’m wide awake AND crying! Lol. I will be keeping up with your posts but I promise not to cry every time I stop by. Thank you very much for sharing about your travels. You words have reminded me of so many wonderful and magical moments I was blessed to have.



    • Bea dM says:

      Glad Italy brought back good memories. Good times are also there to help when times are bad. Thanks for reading, but if you come back, I hope it’s for smiles and not tears 🙂

  2. lundygirl says:

    Hi Bea – I love that you had Chinese food. I must admit that I am always imaging what a place was like in the past but you’re right; it’s good to look at how a city feels in the here and now.

  3. eurobrat says:

    Thankfully I have no idea why Chinese food in Bologna would be bad, so I’m not able to get all huffy about it 🙂 I agree that living somewhere is entirely different than visiting, which is why I wish I could live everywhere at once.

  4. Barb Knowles says:

    I love that you wrote about how tourists act/react differently and about relishing the “now” and recent history of a place..

    • Bea dM says:

      It came to my mind very strongly that tourists often know so much about what happened hundreds of years ago, and are relatively clueless as to recent and present-day politics and realities. I’ll mull further and probably post on that soon 🙂

  5. mubeenazam says:

    Looks like a great place to visit despite the weather! Take care

  6. Hi Bea,

    Thanks for taking us along in your travels. I feel as though I was right there with you. 🙂


  7. nananoyz says:

    I always enjoy seeing places through your eyes. Was the Chinese food good?

  8. We travel for work as well, too often sometimes, and it definitely has a different vibe. Unless we take time at the end of it to do some tourist things, it is often just a trip. There is something to be said of understanding the “now” of a place and not just its history.

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