“Bologna la grassa!” said the woman in the fur coat as she peered out the dirty, train window. Her head, covered by a matching, fur hat, swayed with the rocking of the car. Apparently she knew Bologna. And she knew it by one of the Bologna's many monikers—Bologna la grassa. Bologna the Fat.
Bologna got its fat reputation because of the food. There are other food cities in the world but none are more glorious, more dripping in abundance than is Bologna. Depending upon your perspective, Bologna is many things. It is a graceful and ancient city of arcades and of red and mustard walls. It is a bustling center of commerce and of progressive politics. And it is home of Europe's largest and oldest university. But, to us, it is a city of food, something that becomes evident as soon as we set foot in the city center.
After our train ride from Venice, we took a cab to our hotel. The rooms weren't ready. Good. We were hungry and the luggage could wait. We had window shopping to do and a lunch spot to find. If I had but one day of travel left in my life, I suppose I would spend it among the food-shop windows of Bologna. I could hardly wait as we walked briskly across the Via Ugo Bassi, dodging scooters, buses and cabs.
We knew the way by heart, having been here some fifteen times. Our hunger increased with each step on this brisk, winter day. Soon we were there. Candied fruits dripping in syrup! A grotto made of prosciutto and salame hanging from a shop ceiling! Enormous stacks of parmigiano wheels! Handmade pasta in fifty windows!
Bologna the Fat. There are few cities that can cure me of the melancholy of leaving Venice. But, the prospect of eating lunch in Bologna could lure me out of heaven itself. We walked among the shop windows and under the arches. We dodged a hundred other shoppers, all eager to get past the gawking obstacles that were us. Were they actually used to all this? Could one really become jaded by all this food?
Bologna la grassa. This was way different than the floating city of Venice. It would take some time to acclimate to its substantial presence. A Bolognese lunch would help. Looking at my watch and listening to my stomach, I knew it was time. It was time to stop thinking about Venice and start eating in Bologna.