Peter and I have just returned from a long weekend in Bologna, Italy. Bologna is pronounced as “ba-lone-ya” NOT as “ba-lone-ee”.
Bologna is a landlocked city located in the “knee” of Italy. The population hovers around one million residents making it the seventh largest city in Italy. It is also one of the wealthiest cities in Italy and is home to the oldest university in the world, University of Bologna and to the famous Italian dish, spaghetti Bolognese. Bologna is basically a food and wine mecca.
We arrived on Thursday evening at our Airbnb property. The property was mostly terrible and I sent private feedback to Airbnb stating that the property was filthy and that it should be removed from the site but as of April 2018, the property is still available to rent. I mentioned the plethora of pubes in and around the shower and bathroom, mold in the shower and dirty glassware in the cupboards. These are things that the host can rectify and perhaps has but I will never know because I will never stay at that property again.
There were also problems with the property that the host had no control over and no property review hinted as being potential issues. For example, the property was located on a narrow and busy road so there was a fair amount of motorcycle noise and there were large metal rubbish and recycling bins next to the property and with those came the constant noise of glass bottles being tossed into the metal bins.
What I have come to realize with Airbnb properties is that the star rating system is skewed. The same issue occurs with ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft. You’ll almost never find a property on Airbnb with less than 4 stars. In respect to cleanliness, I’ve found that a property with anything less than the full 5 star rating is going to dirty. Even a 4.5 cleanliness rating is not good enough. To combat this, Airbnb implemented an additional rating system for hosts where a host can be nominated as a “Superhost” and properties with Superhosts are like 6 star properties. As of 2018, they have also implemented a special category of properties named “Airbnb Plus” which is a “selection of properties verified for quality and comfort,” however that is defined by the person verifying the property.
If guests were honest in their reviews and ratings, Airbnb would not have to come up with these ridiculous awards and classifications to help set properties apart from one another.
Enough about my love/hate relationship with Airbnb.
On our first night in Bologna we dined at a restaurant which did not have a printed menu. I wondered how we would navigate the dining experience. Being tourists, we were seated with the other tourists in a narrow hallway which led to the bathrooms so let’s talk about Italian bathrooms for a moment. When we visited Venice, Florence and Rome in 2012, one takeaway was that the toilets in Italy were terrible. Most were simply the porcelain bowl with no seat, no toilet paper and stained orange because of the water. It’s now 2014 and Italy has made strides in the toilet department!
The bathrooms in Bologna were clean and modern – a little too modern for my liking and now come with instructions.
- Put the seat down.
- Sit down and relieve oneself.
- Watch out for the hinged seat after standing up.
- Sprint away from the toilet.
These rules are straightforward until you try to put the seat down to pee and realize that you actually have to sit on the seat in order to keep it in the downward position. Squatting over the seat allows the seat to lift back up and then you end up and get stopped by your thighs and then you end up peeing all over the front of the seat.
Some toilets in Bologna had a pedal which you pressed with your foot to trigger the flush. Some sinks also had a pedal to get the water flowing instead of levers. I’ve seen pedal sinks throughout Europe and I remember the first time I encountered one because I was so confused as to how to get the water running!
Our first full day was Friday and we spent all day on a food experience tour. We were collected at our Airbnb at 7am and were dropped off at 5:30pm. During this all day tour, I ate more than I ever have in any single 10-hour period in my life. I’ll be documenting that experience in a separate post but for now, below are a few photos I took while walking around Bologna. The weather was perfect for wandering about and taking in the scenery.
The city is filled with covered walkways known as porticos. Porticos allow you to walk around the city without getting drenched when it’s raining. Every portico had a unique style and flair. I wish London had porticos and pretty architecture.
Bologna has a 60 km network of canals, most of which are covered by streets, walkways and buildings and can only be seen from secret and hidden spots throughout the city. The canals were covered many decades ago because of their smell and because stagnant canal water brought mosquitoes and disease.
One section of a road we were walking on had a wall which blocks the view of the canal. The wall has a window and when it is open, you can see the canal. When it is closed, you would have no idea that there is a canal on the other side of the wall.
The translation for the handwritten text below the window is “You have to change your life”.
When I faced the other direction so that my back to the window, the view was cars parked on the street. The canal flowed under the black car.
Other canals were visible from the streets like this one:
Piazza Maggiore is the main square in Bologna. It was always bustling with people.
It is believed that there were around 180 towers in Bologna during the 12th and 13th centuries. They were built by wealthy families as a show of power and to serve as defense system. The most famous towers, known as Due Torri (“Two Towers”), are Asinelli and Garisenda towers. Asinelli is the taller of the two with a height of 97 m / 318 ft and is one of the highest towers in Italy. Garisenda stands at 48 m / 157 ft tall and has a 3.22 m / 10.5 ft lean. With its lean of 4%, it leans more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa (3.97%).
We climbed the 498 steps to the top of Asinelli Tower to take in the vast views of Bologna. The view looking straight down was dizzying and looking to the horizon was a sea of orange Tuscan clay roof tiles.