Bollocks to Bolognaise

4th May 2015

Bologna Parma Rimini Ravenna

Bologna: that oldest University city in Europe; a city of a million (ordinary) bicycles with helmetless riders (only the lycra-clad racing-types wear them); a city of beggary, penury and a landed gentry who just may, or may not, be mafiosa – we are never going to know. Certainly, many look privileged.

Ah, the bollocks. Well, you will see them lying next to the tongues, the hearts, the livers, the tripe, the brains, oxtail etc. at any good fresh meat shop. The Bolognaise . . ? Sauce, of course, this is its home town, mmm. But following a day trip to the very interesting port city of Ravenna, we took the rail to Parma for the day. Yep, Parma ham and Parmesan cheese: the real McCoy and we have to admit that both of these products (and the many more we indulged in) have never tasted better. To purchase any of these in Perth can only lead to disappointment subsequent to this experience. The Italians really do excel in cuisine (not just cold meats), and that’s hard for me to admit after raving about Spanish food for so long. But we intend to make the best of Spain’s food anyway. Parma, another major university town, has stunning architecture too. I really do wonder about people’s obsession with Rome – perhaps it is just its fame (and oops, I see I miss-spelt ‘Sistine’ in the last letter – tch tch tch).

A hard life: Our hotel for the first 6 nights is in quite a rural setting (but still with busy roads) in this verdant, intensely-farmed region. Each village housing block too (nothing over 5 stories), has well-tended garden allotments  To reach the bus stop to get us to town we walk a kilometre along a footpath that borders young wheat fields, shaded by mature, tall plane and poplar trees. Each day, not 500 metres from the hotel we pass a young, slender maiden who stands patiently at the roadside wearing a tube dress, the shortness of which leaves no doubt as to what wares she is selling. We are on nodding terms now. She is young, with a tiny body but her face seems much older and her smile somewhat tortured – embarrassment? I would love to talk with her, to know her history as in this Europe she could have come from anywhere and her story is bound to be interesting (but undoubtedly tragic). Another young lady paces at the opposite side of this busy highway, and last night on our return there were six of them grouped in the same place, while two, also young ones, paced idly by the front of our hotel’s broad car park and entrance. While I couldn’t imagine this hotel having any official connection to these hookers, there is clearly a link; this is a busy hotel, its customers largely businessmen and those attending conferences within. Hmmm.

What sweet-tooth folk these Italians are, but while that may be construed as a negative, when it comes to creating renewable energy sources, their hearts are in the right place: there are banks and banks – fields upon fields of solar panels out there in the countryside. This and a few other things I won’t go into here lest I sound too critical, have me doubting the wisdom and quality of our Australian (and NZ) governance.

The black migrants who don’t drown in the attempt to get here are present in Bologna too, many simply asking any and everybody for money. But they compete with many home-grown destitutes – not that Perth, in that oh-so-lucky country, isn’t without its destitute beggars. As usual, they present a moral dilemma and so far we have resisted giving anything to anybody.

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