Enough Parmesan cheese to last a lifetime! (or a week)
We said goodbye to the Hall parents (Emily's flight was a day later) and moved to the hostel we'd be staying in that night, in a nearby neighborhood, next to the central train station. We had some cheese that we'd bought earlier and weren't interested in eating, so we spent an hour looking for hungry looking people in need around the station. Some chose the cheese , some denied the dairy, and some elected to elucidate extraneously. Emily also haggled a umbrella salesman down from 5€ to 2€, which I took advantage of to keep myself dry. We walked around for a little bit, trying to stay out of the rain. We headed to the old Jewish ghetto, and then crossed the river to Trastevere, a working-class neighborhood full of little streets and ivy-covered walls. After much searching I found a pizza place we'd read about, and we fought through the rains and crowds to grab delicious pies.
a street in the Jewish ghetto
The next morning Emily went back to the US and Billie and I went to Perugia, a pair of train rides away. A small city on a hill, Perugia was a cool place to hang out for a few days after the hustle and bustle of Rome. We found that a movie was being filmed in the main piazza, so we stopped and watched that for a while.
this dude's job was to feed and then agitate the pigeons, to add a certain ____ to the scene being filmed
We didn't really have an idea of where to eat in the city, so I looked online and found that the city's highest-rated restaurant, which some thought deserved a Michelin star, was not very expensive. We found the restaurant, and enjoyed one of the best meals I've ever had. One of those meals that ends with another main course instead of a desert.
La Taverna in Perugia. Deliciousness.
After Perugia we caught the train to Firenze (Florence). It was much more crowded and touristy than Perugia, but it was still a cool city to visit and explore. We didn't see the most famous sites -- the Academia or the Uffizi, nor the cathedral. But we were still able to enjoy the city's other sites, and had a good time just walking around people-watching and eating gelato.
We had some delicious food in Florence too, although we weren't able (rich enough) to try the city's famous massive steaks. At the main market, I was able to have a deli make me a panino with Milanese salami, fresh mozzarella, and sun dried tomatoes -- simple and really delicious. We stayed with a crazy old lady (which Rick Steves seems to enjoy recommending) who insisted that the TV would work if we would only hold the remote backwards. Oh well.
From Florence we took a high-speed train to Bologna, where we got off with a fellow who had been hiding in the bathroom for the entire trip. In Bologna we had a hotel room with a great view of a church across a courtyard, but we left the hotel to run through the rain in search of food. That first meal was a bit disappointing, but I had high hopes for the rest of the city, which were soon met.
The view from the hotel
We were lucky enough to be in Bologa for the International Ocarina Festival, a gathering of people who dance around and play the ocarina (a tiny little round fluteish thing) merrily, sometimes accompanies by drums and other instruments. It was pretty bizarre. We watched for a while and then moved on. The rain was somewhat negated by the fact that Bologna's streets are almost all arcaded -- the buildings overhang the sidewalks -- which kept us mostly dry.
the arcaded streets of Bologna
We found a store that had some cool, but overpriced, shirts, and the guy working there gave us a great recommendation for lunch. It was all the way on the outskirts of the town, and in a pretty grungy residential area, but by george if Da Toto' Pizzeria in Bologna, Italy isn't the bees' knees. The pizzas were priced from €4-7, which is pretty cheap. The pizzas were about the size of King Arthur's round table. And the service was so fast that I ordered, the waiter walked to the oven, and when I called him back to add sausage to my pizza, he said it was too late because the pizza was already in the oven. Then he walked back to the oven and brought our pizzas. I swear, it was less than 4 minutes. Add a big mug of beer and I was a happy paisano.
The next day there was a political rally in the town's main square. The communist party was offering up wine for all -- at 10am. Red, of course. In the spirit of things, I grabbed a cup.
We had a flight to catch later in the day, so I stopped at one. We had some delicious gelato, a pretty good lunch, and then made our way to the airport. It was an excellent trip to a country I really like, and I hope to get back to Italy some time soon.