We hope you are well and happy. Lorri, Penelope and I have been "livin the life" in Italy. Our first stop was Bologna where the weather was hot and sunny.
After checking into our hotel we ventured out for a late lunch at a vegan place in a fairly hippie / alternative / grungy area but everything interesting in the vicinity was closed. So after treking too far in the heat past pizza or Middle Eastern places without air conditioning, we found a trattoria that was cool and prepared to serve us even after lunchtime.
The guy spoke a little English but his explanation of the menu confused us. Nevertheless, he suggested dishes for the lactose intolerant and the vegetarian in our group. I understood that I was getting some type of tortellini but Penelope and Lorri had mystery meals. Penelope ended up with a plate of cold meats and sausages and Lorri got surprise vegetables that were delicious. We all enjoyed house prosecco and frizzante. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow.
Even though there are many, many gelato shops in Bologna, we asked at Reception for recommendations of where they eat. During our stay we enjoyed the delights of non dairy as well as creamy gelato. Later we ventured out to find a restaurant that had been recommended by one of Penelope's friends. It had a local feel and we felt like we were eating in someone's home. The food was just delicious and the carafe of house wine was prosecco. Very cheap but so good.
We were up early the next day to have a real Italian morning coffee after our breakfast. We found the market area and soaked in its colours and smells before meeting our walking guide. She was a lovely, young girl who not only explained the history of Bologna but she shared stories and secrets of the red city that made our experience even better.
Later we returned to some sites to explore on our own. We bought food at the market and took it to an osteria where we could buy prosecco and enjoy our lunch on a long, community table. The place was so unassuming from the outside that you'd pass it without suspecting what was inside. The sign just said Vino. We spent time in the church of seven churches, some ancient and others still being used but all beautiful. There we found the oldest Nativity scene in the world.
Penelope and I went to a craft beer place with the best beer selection while Lorri did her thing.
After more gelato and a quest for balsamic at the herb market where Penelope thought she would be charged 10€ for a tasting if she didn't purchase anything, we took the bus to Lambrusco restaurant in the 'burbs. Penelope and Lorri knew about it from the Hughsey and Kate radio program. While the food was fine, the atmosphere was lovely and our waiter ("Roberto the big" because there is a " little Roberto") was a delight. We met the owner and had a chat and a picture with him because Penelope told "Roberto the big" about how she'd heard the owner interviewed on the radio. Giovanni, the owner, returned with a video message for us from Hughsey who'd met Penelope in Montreal. The whole experience made us happy.
Assisi was our next stop. While it was Penelope's first visit, Lorri and I have been there before and our return was even more lovely. It is the most picturesque place, high on an Umbrian hill. All the ancient buildings are of pale, well preserved stone and there are lovely flowers in window boxes. Despite the heat and walking up and down steep slopes, we loved it.
We had a regional wine tasting on the first day, partly to get out of the heat, and Lorri discovered that her preferred style of wine is aromatic. Good to know. I had an orange wine from a tiny vineyard in Assisi where the female winemaker leaves the skins in the wine for 15 days to produce the golden, orange colour. Penelope's was a fragrant white from the locality. Later in the afternoon we tasted a variety of oils and then fabulous balsamics. Sooo delicious!
Among our highlights was getting up early to go to a service at the Church of Saint Chiara (Clare) where the nuns sing like angels. They are secreted behind a grill in a side apse of the church so you don't see them which seems to make the experience even more special. Some of the community in the church joined in the singing. There was an old man behind us who sang off key in a gravelly voice that somehow added to the atmosphere.
Later we visited the Church of St Francis, which comprises an upper and lower basilica. They are elaborate and so beautiful. Under the lower basilica, in a crypt, is the tomb of St Francis. Lorri didn't go down the treacherous, steep stairs but I was able to touch the tomb and then touch her hand so we could share the experience. We had a teary moment. When Penelope returned from the crypt she told us she had been having a moment too when she used a paper and pen in the crypt to write a note to be left there. However a woman had been "in her face" saying things she didn't understand and ruining her feeling of calm. After a couple of interchanges between them, Penelope realised that the woman was saying "you're using my pen and I want it back please". Oops!
We had more gelato and lovely coffee in a cafe overlooking the church before tackling the very steep hill in the heat. I had scoped a route that began with a steep climb but flattened off which is a feat in Assisi.
We sought out a restaurant that catered to our tastes and was airconditioned and happened upon a great one. We had the best pasta and gnocchi we'd ever tasted and didn't want the meal to end. When we left Assisi we could look back with fond memories.
We spent the night in Rome where we had dinner at 10:15pm which was a shock to Lorri's system. Penelope went home the next morning and the Travelling Sisters moved on to Marseille, France.
Stay warm and safe while we are living through the European heatwave.
Lorri, Jude and Penelope xxx