Blogville by the Numbers: What We Saw, Ate and Drank in Bologna, Italy

The 2 1/2 month Blogville project in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy has now come to an end.  I was only able to attend one portion of the project while Erin went back two more times to tour Rimini and that part of Emilia Romagna. I am thankful for my time there — I had a great stay in Bologna!

We met some wonderful travel bloggers and members of the local community, and got to experience quite a diverse mix of places and sights across the region.

As Erin prepares to head back to Bologna for BlogVille 2013, here is a brief breakdown of my time at Blogville, broken down in numbers.

ONE – One Apartment at BlogVille

The BlogVille apartment was a fantastic 2 bedroom + 2 loft apartment right in the middle of Bologna, just steps away from the Piazza Maggiore.

EIGHT – Eight Different Craft Beers

Italy may be known for its wine, but we managed to try 8 different craft beers as well, with five of those coming at the Festival dei Birrai Eretici.

Beer Taps at Lortica

Beer Taps at Lortica

NINE – Nine Travel Bloggers

During our stay at BlogVille, there were 9 other travel bloggers, besides Erin and I, who stayed in or visited the BlogVille apartment.

Nicholas from ERT Tourism with some of the bloggers from our week (Erin, Michael, Bianca, and Brett)

Nicholas from ERT Tourism with some of the bloggers from our week (Erin, Michael, Bianca, and Brett)

10 – Days at BlogVille

We were to lucky to have the opportunity to spend ten great days at BlogVille in Bologna, from May 7 to May 16, 2012.

12 – Flavors of Gelato

Between the two of us, we managed to taste 12 different flavors of gelato during our stay.

One of the many gelatos we sampled during Blogville

One of the many gelatos we sampled during Blogville

14 – Ducati Riders’ Championships

Over the years, Ducati riders have won 14 Superbike and MotoGP Riders’ Championships.  Ducati’s factory and headquarters is in Bologna.

Ducati...the holy grail of motorcycles

Ducati…the holy grail of motorcycles

14 – Espresso Shots for Erin

Coffee is an integral part of any visit to Italy, and the best way to consume this in Italy is in the form of Espresso.  During our 10 days in Bologna, Erin managed to go through 14 shots of espresso in its various forms.

By far, Erin's favorite espresso was at the Ducati Factory

By far, Erin’s favorite espresso was at the Ducati Factory

29 – Operas by Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi was one of the most beloved individuals to come out of the Emilia Romagna region.  Over the course of his prolific lifetime, he composed 29 operas! During our stay in the region, we visited Verdi’s birthplace and opera halls in Parma and Busseto.

Erin and Michael checking out the opera house

Erin and Michael checking out the opera house

38 – Wines

While we won’t admit to drinking the entire bottles for ourselves, and in a few cases, we only had a single glass from bottles shared in the house, we did sample 38 different wines during our trip.

Working away with a glass of vino, the only way to write blog posts!

Working away with a glass of vino, the only way to write blog posts!

42 – Espresso Shots for Brett

If you thought Erin’s 14 shots of espresso was impressive, during our 10 days in Bologna, I managed to enjoy 42 shots of espresso.  Some of these were simple solo or double espressos from small cafes, some as part of (double) cappuccinos. More than four shots per day!

Brett was a coffee addict - whether it was an espresso or morning cappuccino, he definitely adopted the Italian lifestyle right away

Brett was a coffee addict – whether it was an espresso or morning cappuccino, he definitely adopted the Italian lifestyle right away

498 – Steps in Asinelli Tower

Perhaps the best views of the city can be seen from the top of the Asinelli Tower, the taller of the two signature leaning towers in the center of Bologna.  To get to the top, you need to navigate your way up 498 old, narrow steps.

Aren't these views worth the 458 steps?

Aren’t these views worth the 498 steps?

666 – Arches in the Portico di San Luca

A wonderful morning walk from the city center, the 3.5km covered walkway that is the Portico di San Luca leads to some of the nicest views of the countryside surrounding Bologna, including the Apennine Mountains.  The 666 arches of the Portico stretch from the Saragozza Gate to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca.

At the 658 Portico

At the 658 Portico

Photo of the Week: Strawberries and Parmigiano with Balsamic Vinegar

I’m still trying to get settled in here in Europe and I am also still dealing with not only withdrawals from my regular Asian foods, but also from all the awesome eats I had while in Italy for the BlogVille project. Last weekend we perused one of the biggest farmers markets here in the Netherlands and brought home some fresh vegetables and fruit, including a basket of sweet strawberries.

Strawberries just happen to be one of the best matches for traditional aged balsamic vinegar from Modena. Add some hunks of Parmigiano cheese and this became dessert Sunday night!

Fresh strawberries and Parmigiano cheese with aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy

National Ice Cream Day: You Say Ice Cream, I Say Gelato

Back in 1984, President Ronald Reagan declared July to be National Ice Cream Month and July 15th to be National Ice Cream Day in the United States. Most often, the holiday is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of July.

Like most kids in America, I grew up eating ice cream regularly, especially during the summer months. I can still remember lounging in the pool and waiting for the sound of our neighborhood ice cream truck making its way down the street. My best friend and I would bolt from the pool and make our way to the front yard as soon as we’d hear the music, which now, as an adult, I find extremely annoying ironically.

One thing I learned early on in my childhood was regular ice cream soon bored me. I think there’s a reason they refer to boring things as “vanilla” sometimes. I was not a vanilla ice cream kinda girl, unless it had heaps of caramel on it. I can distinctly remember driving my parents bonkers during multiple pouting fits if we went to our local Foster Freeze and they didn’t have chocolate that day.

As I got older (aka had my own money) I started buying more interesting and unique flavors of ice cream — the more stuff mixed in, the better!

And then in 2006, I visited Italy for the first time.

Gelato…The answer to all my frozen dessert dreams.

Gelato…oh how I love thee!

Sadly, it seemed to be a fleeting affair as I did not indulge in too much gelato since that trip. Perhaps, it was discovering Movenpick’s decadent ice cream and various shaved ice desserts the last few years in Asia that distracted me from my true love.

And then, the Blogville project with the Emilia Romagna Tourism Board presented itself, and I suddenly found myself back in Italy three different times for a total of 25 days between May and now. In fact, I just returned from Italy yesterday.

Gelato and I were reunited and it was love at first bite all over again — we picked up right where we left off so long ago.

Enjoying gelato with a view in the historic city center of Rimini, Italy during Blogville

Wonder what the differences are between gelato and ice cream? Despite many saying that gelato is just Italian ice cream, there are noticeable and important differences that separate gelato from the traditional ice cream many of us grew up with.

Gelato has Less Air and Lower Fat

Gelato has much less air than traditional ice cream, which can be as much as 50% air. And for those concerned about the fat content in ice cream, check out gelato! Gelato typically has 4-6% fat whereas ice cream may contain as much as 16% in some cases.

Gelato is Made Daily

Typically, gelato is made on a daily basis in gelaterias in Italy whereas ice cream is often made in large batches incorporating ingredients designed to ensure its lengthy storage in the freezer.

Gelato has a Stronger Flavor

Because of the less incorporated air, lower fat, and higher temperature, you have probably noticed you get a more pronounced flavor profile versus eating ice cream of same flavor. According to the Carpigiani Gelato University in Bologna, this is because the higher fat content in ice cream coats the tongue, the less air in gelato provides more flavor in each spoonful, and your taste buds are not dulled from the frozen temperature of ice cream.

The stronger flavor profile, the softer and more smooth texture, and the lower fat content are just a few of the reasons I prefer authentic gelato over ice cream. I could not, and would not, eat ice cream every day, but I could, and did in a few instances, eat gelato every day in Italy. Blog posts of all the amazing gelato I consumed in Emilia Romagna still to come!

Interesting gelato creations from our favorite beach area gelateria in Rimini, Italy

I think it’s safe to say after Blogville, my love affair with gelato is likely to transition into a more long-term romance. Fortunately, there is a pretty decent gelato place next to the new apartment in the Netherlands, and I am thinking of taking my love of gelato to a new level — perhaps taking a class and learning how to make it myself!

While my stay(s) in Emilia Romagna were hosted by the tourism board, all views and opinions are my own.

Festival Dei Birrai Eretici – Craft Beer Festival in Bologna, Italy

When I think about Italy, usually great food and wine are the first things that come into my mind.  However, being the inquisitive soul that I am, I wanted to find out if there is good craft beer as well.

Last week, Erin and I were in Bologna, Italy for the BlogVille project, sharing an apartment with a great group of travel bloggers from the US (Oregon), Australia, and Venezuela.  Up until one of the last nights, my search for beer had not been very thorough. I do have to admit that I got caught up in the tradition of enjoying some of the wines of Emilia Romagna with our meals, and we’d been too tired most nights to do much in the way of going out to look for a pub to enjoy a beer in the evening. I did see a few beers around that I want to go back and try, and managed to try a couple craft beers in Ferrara at the Eco + Food Festival we attended, so I was hopeful that I’d have a chance to experience the beer culture in Bologna before we had to leave.

Apologize in advance for the lack of quality photos — Erin had the good camera with her as she was scheduled to do an interview with a local chef!

Sadly, on Monday, our initial group of six was breaking up, as Bethany and Ted from twoOregonians and Michael from Time Travel Turtle were leaving to continue on their journeys.  As Sunday was to be our last night together, and hearing there was a craft beer festival in town, we decided to head out and see what was on offer.  Michael, Bianca from Nomadiba and I wandered down to the university area of town, to where the Festival Dei Birrai Eretici was being held in a collection of pubs and cafes on the via Mascarella.

Beer Festival in Bologna, Italy (credit: BeerLab.it)

The establishments taking part in the Festival (and their offerings) were:

Lortica
Via Mascarella 26
+39 051 5876455

Beer Menu at Lortica

Beer Menu at Lortica

Beer Taps at Lortica

Beer Taps at Lortica

Birrificio Del Ducato, Roncole Verdi di Busetto (PR), Italy, Via Emilia – 4.8% Classic German Pilsener, slightly hazy blonde color. Fruity and slightly peppery. Pleasantly bitter and refreshing.

Birrificio Del Ducato, Victoria Light IPA – 3.5% American Pale Ale. Clear, light and fun-loving. Strong character given by dry hopping from American and German hops.

Birrificio Del Ducato, AFO – 5.4% American Pale Ale. For those obsessed with hops – 9 different types to get this Pale Ale with a complex and intriguing bouquet.

Birrificio Del Ducato, New Morning – 5.8% Belgian Saison style, created to celebrate the spring. Golden and slightly veiled, particularly spicy, with aroma of wildflowers, green pepper and ginger.

Vecchia Orsa, Crevalcore (BO), Italy, Saison – 5.5% Dry and refreshing Saison. Very spicy and slightly fruity bouqet.

Menaresta, Carate Brianza (MI), Italy, Flora Sambuco – 4.8% Spice/Herb/Vegetable Style, brewed with Elder Flowers. Intense, strongly characterized by the elder, fresh and fragrant, supported by a good bitter taste.

Left Hand, Longmont, Colorado, USA, Wake Up Dead Barrel-Aged – 10.2% Russian Imperial Stout exaggerated and uncompromising, peculiarly American. 12 months in barrel. Rare and not to be missed.

Ridgeway, Reading, England, Bad King John – 6% Stout, dark but not impenetrable. Tied to the ancient British traditions. The aroma and taste are dominated by liquorice and toffee.

De Ranke, Dottenijs, Belgium, XX Bitter – 6.2% The most bitter of the Belgian Ales. The explosion of noble hops in the nose, fine structure balanced by malt and Belgian spice, giving it an unmistakable rustic touch.

Hardknott, Millom, England, Cool Fusion – 4.4% Pale ale for those who love ginger spices.

Birrificio Italiano, Lurago Marinone (CO), Italy, Vùdù – 5.5% Dunkel Weizen. German style, uncompromising, spicy and refreshing, well-structured body.

Emiliano, Anzola Nell’Emilia, Italy, Forum Gallorum – 5% Inspired by the beers of Cologne.

Girardin, Sint Ulriks-Kapelle, Belgium, Black Label – 5% Geuze, A blend of lambics of different vintages. Wild and refreshing, well-carbonated with citrus notes.

Dark Star, Horsham, England, Old Chestnut – 4% Old Ale, Light in alcohol content but rich in flavor, from wood to dry fruit. Served in a cask, English to the core.

Old Chestnut Barrel

Dark Star Old Chestnet Barrel

Modo
Via Mascarella 24/b
+39 051 5871012

St. Peter’s, Bungay, England, Cream Stout – 6.5% Stout. Soft and elegant, very balanced.

Centokiodi, Bologna, Italy, Sveltina – 5% Cream Ale. The slender body makes it a very drinkable bitter beer.

Bruton, San Cassiano di Moriano (Lucca), Italy, Lilith – 5.5% American Pale Ale, Tuscan version, for strong palates.

De La Senne, Brussels, Belgium, Taras Boulba – 5% Belgian Ale, lower alcohol content, with a high bitter content.

Au Allertau, Germany, Weisse – 5% German wheat beer, straight from Bavaria. Banana and clove characterize the traditional bouquet.

Moustache
Via Mascarella 5/a

+39 051 235424

De La Senne, Zinnebir – 6% Belgian Ale, Sister of Taras Boulba, shares the bitter elegance and innovative spirit.

Brewfist, Codogno, Italy, Fear – 5.2% Sweet Stout. For those who are afraid of the dark beers. Cream and cocoa beans make for a sweet and soft palate. Romantic.

Gwatkin, Hereford, England, Golden Cider – 5% Cider in the best Anglo-Saxon tradition.

Cantina Bentivoglio
Via Mascarella 4/B
+39 051 265416

Rurale, Certosa di Pavia, Italy, Seta – 5% Blanche-style Belgian wheat beer. Clear and slightly veiled. Spiced with orange peel and coriander.

Menaresta, Felina – 7.5% Beer with a beautiful amber color, full and enveloping tones of cinnamon spice and ripe fruit.

Birrificio Italiano, Tipopils – 5.2% Classic German Pilsener. The founder of Italian pils, distinguished from its German sisters with a more slender body and more explosive aroma, herbal and peppery.

Bon Secours, Péruwelz, Belgium, Triple – 9% Golden. Dry and floral. Elegant final alcohol.

Bravo Caffe’
Via Mascarella 1
+39 051 266112

Revelation Cat/Mikkeller, Copenhagen, Denmark, Cream Ale – 5% Inspired by traditional pre-Prohibition American blonde, it breaks the boundaries of style, being more bitter and more fragrant.

Cremeria Mascarella
Via Mascarella 30
+39 051 263236

Granita of Craft Beer

Twenty-seven beers in total as part of the festival, and fourteen of them were from Italy, and none of them named Peroni!

Birrificio Del Ducato AFO

Birrificio Del Ducato AFO

I was very happy to see the high concentration of Italian craft beers as part of the festival, with more than half of the total selection coming from Italy.  And the styles of beers presented by Italian craft brewers showed a nice diversity.

Birrificio Del Ducato Via Emilia

Birrificio Del Ducato Via Emilia

Unfortunately, the Bravo Caffe’ was closed already when we arrived, so we did not get to try the Revelation Cat/Mikkeller Cream Ale.  We passed by Moustache and Cantina Bentivoglio but they were quiet and empty, and we wanted to be more in a crowd.  We found L’Ortica, where not only was there a nice mix of people, but we also managed to snag a table out on the patio where we settled in for the next few hours.

Hardknott Cool Fusion

Hardknott Cool Fusion

Over the course of the evening, I tried the Via Emilia, Cool Fusion, Old Chestnut, Flora Sambuco and Wake Up Dead.  I wanted to try a few of the other Italian beers, but two of the taps were on rotation, and neither Saison was available, the AFO available instead (which I had already tried), and the Vùdù and Forum Gallorum being off the tap in favor of the Cool Fusion.  AFO and Bad King John also found their way to the table, and I did take a small taste of the Bad King John when it arrived.

Bad King John and Old Chestnut

Bad King John and Old Chestnut

I loved the beers I did try, especially the Old Chestnut, Flora Sambuco and Cool Fusion.  The Wake Up Dead was good, but had a bit too much alcohol taste for me.  According to Bianca, this would be a great beer for marinating meat with.

Flora Sambuco and Wake Up Dead

Flora Sambuco and Wake Up Dead

Next door to L’Ortica is Modo and we discovered it was quite interesting as well — nice crowd and also a good beer selection – offering a one-two punch for a night out in Bologna. I would definitely suggest making 24 and 26 Via Mascarella your places to stop when you’re out for a beer.  And I would definitely suggest giving the Italian craft beer selections a chance, as they are quite good, and show that there is definitely a growing beer community in Italy.  Granted, not as strong as the wine community, but certainly not something to ignore for the future.

 

Photo of the Week: Tagliatelle Pasta in Bologna, Italy

Without a doubt, one of the “must try” specialties of the Bologna region is traditional Tagliatelle pasta with Bolognese sauce. I have a much deeper respect for fresh pasta making and the skill that goes into creating something that looks so simple after visiting Bologna and taking a pasta making course. Tagliatelle are 7-8mm wide and the key to purchasing this pasta is the nest. After preparation, Tagliatelle should be stored in a fresh environment and made into “nests” which allow the air to go through them.

On the market street in Bologna, countless stores offer fresh Tagliatelle, making it super easy to bring home and boil if you have an apartment or a hotel with cooking facilities available.

Fresh Tagliatelle pasta available in markets in Bologna, Italy

The team of Our Tasty Travels is in Bologna, Italy as part of a special blogging project, BlogVille, which is sponsored by the Emilia Romagna Tourism Board and TravelDudes. While we are being hosted, all views and opinions expressed are our own.

Photo of the Week: Heirloom Tomatoes in Bologna, Italy

Bologna is filled with fresh vegetable stands and markets selling some of the best produce I’ve had while traveling.  While exploring the city on our first day, we happened to wander onto this “market street” filled with vegetable stands, fresh meats, and stores selling local pastas, balsamic vinegars, etc.

Heirloom tomatoes at vegetable stand in Bologna, Italy

The team of Our Tasty Travels is in Bologna, Italy as part of a special blogging project, BlogVille, which is sponsored by the Emilia Romagna Tourism Board and TravelDudes. While we are being hosted, all views and opinions expressed are our own.

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