The past few posts on the blog have been about anything but Italy as I scheduled them ahead of time knowing that I’d have iffy Wifi (which has been the case since I moved into my dorm: at first it didn’t work, then I got my laptop connected, and Wifi completely disappeared from my computer until today when I went to the dreaded Apple Store). Anyways, I’ve had some time to explore the city so far, trying out coffee, aperitivo, and pizza. I’m sure when I get home from Italy, I’ll start putting together a more comprehensive guide to the city, but for now I have some cool things I’ve discovered that I’d like to share.
Caffè shakerato—My Italian TA back at school in the States told me about Italy’s answer to iced coffee (espresso over grated ice), and when I went to my first Italian “bar” (in Italy, bars are coffee shops but sometimes also serve cheap and light bites and alcohol as well) I asked for one, but they don’t serve it. Instead, they made me a caffè shakerato (yes, that’s right, the word shake is in there), and I must say it was really refreshing and I’m very surprised it hasn’t really made its way to the US yet. A caffè shakerato is espresso shaken in one of those martini shakers with ice and then strained into a glass so that you get a frothy, cool coffee for the hotter days. So far, I think the caffè shakerato is best at Terzi Caffè. It’s cost roughly the same everywhere I’ve been, so even though Terzi seems more upscale inside, you don’t pay that much more than you might elsewhere. Zanarini next to the Piazza Maggiore also has it, but not as good and just as expensive (Zanarini, though well located and serving good enough food, has been mediocre all around but good enough to make me come back at the same time, weird).
Aperitivo—Italy’s version of happy hour is also particularly big in Bologna. From about 5-7 PM restaurants advertise aperitivo in which you order a drink and then get to eat all sorts of light bites from a buffet. If you don’t go out to eat as late as the Italians, this can be an economical way to assemble a dinner out while enjoying a “spritz” (a classic drink in Bologna). Baratollo is good for a 3 euro spritz and their snacks like squares of cream cheese on white bread, nuts, olives, sun dried tomatoes, and cheese puffs, in a funky and colorful atmosphere. I’ve been to Zanarini for aperitivo, but I’m itching to get to MAMBo, Bologna’s Modern Art Museum, to try it there.
Books—I’ve written post and again about great bookstores, but I think Bologna has the most well put together bookstores of any city I’ve ever been to. Maybe because it’s Italy’s major university city there are so many stores, but everywhere you seem to go you bump into another bookstore. It can be hard to tell at first which are chains and which are local, but they’re all fun to explore. Also popular in Italy are fumetti, or comics, like Dylan Dog, and you can usually find an extensive comic section in these stores. And in Italy, adults often read fumetti as well. So far, I’ve enjoyed Libraccio Outlet, Libreria Acursio (specializing in travel books and travel writing), and Librerie Co-op. Modo Infoshop near Bartollo is my favorite so far: they sell a lot of comics, graphic novels, and generally interesting looking books. Very local feeling bookstore.
Punkabbestia—My Italian professor last semester told us about punkabbestia in Italy when we were learning about clothing and different sorts of styles, and we all laughed at this when we heard about it first, but it’s very real here in Bologna. Oftentimes, punk students will sit on the corner or somewhere on the street, sometimes with a jar asking for money, with their dog sleeping next to them. There are also older punkabbestia throughout the city, but overall it’s something you do not see often back home.
Wine at the grocery store—The other night some of my friends from the program and I cooked dinner together. When we were getting groceries from different shops, we saw at one grocery store barrels of wine where you buy a one liter reusable bottle and fill it up with your choice of white or red wine for less than 2 euros. In general, when eating out here I get frustrated by the idea of paying for bottled water, and sometimes it seems more economical to just buy a drink or wine if you’re going to pay for water.
Mastro Lindo, Brooklyn, Colpe delle Stelle—Finally, a lot of little, American things have stuck out lately. Mr. Clean takes on Mastro Lindo as his Italian alias, though he still looks exactly the same. So many people, not just in Bologna, wear US sports teams jerseys and hats for different parts of New York (particularly graffiti-ed Brooklyn hats). And lastly, when I was in Spain I noticed posters advertising Debajo la misma estrella (Under the Same Star), the Spanish dub of The Fault in Our Stars. In Italy, it takes on the name Colpe delle Stelle, which I believe translates a bit better. But in both Spain and Italy, a lot of American movies are dubbed while in Portugal American movies are exported with Portuguese subtitles (which, they say, also means that a lot more Portuguese people speak English)