What did I find in Bologna instead of spaghetti?
Just to settle things right at the beginning, there is no such thing as the famous Spaghetti Bolognese. I know, all the revolutionary memoirs about this city begin with a sentence like this, but still. In my eyes, Bologna had to get over a lot of other misconceptions too, but this city managed it and also achieved to build a brand new image in my mind!
It’s a fact, that after the fall of the communistic regime in Hungary, people who did not know anything about Italy, learnt this city’s name first through the Italian dishes arriving to our country as the first glimpse of the West European world. There were a lot of things that were branded as “Bolognese” products that had nothing to do with it. As a child I also dreamt about it: sometimes in the future eating Spaghetti Bolognese (or even worse macaroni), in Bologna, with a very red, very tasty, and very thick sauce on it. Around this dream I imagined the scenery just like in the movies, even though I knew nothing at all about the city back then. As an adult, I actually pushed Bologna further back on my travelling bucket list, thinking, well it is just another Nord-Italian city, which shouldn’t be even real Italian. However, with the experiences of my first journey there, I wouldn’t be able to dream or imagine a more Italian city than this: it’s loud, colorful, very alive and its hospitality just overwhelming.
This was the first city in Italy I have arrived to as a very conscious and attentive Pubtourist. I noticed a lot of things in the bars and in other venues, about which I still have to make my mind up if these are only regional specialty or an “all-Italian” thing. I actually got used to the pedaling at the pub toilets to get water from the tap very quickly, I even learned to like them, opposite to the mixed gender restrooms, which couldn’t make any sense for me. They are very common in pubs around there. I just didn’t get used to them. I spent a significant amount of time awkwardly milling around between two girls, standing in line at the corridor in front of the restroom.
It was a very important milestone in my Pubtourist career, that this was the first place I started to teach people how to make a Hungarian spritzer, especially the one called, hosszúlépés (it is a kind of Hungarian fröccs= wine with soda. This type contains from 1 dl wine and 2 dl soda) the right way, instead of their traditionally Prosecco Spritz Bianco. It was very interesting how well they welcomed the existence of this drink, especially its name translated and its story. The customized price was completely in every bar, as the waiter mostly shouted to the manager to figure out what price they should sell it for. From 1,5 Euro to 5 Euro, the prices varied a lot. Even at the same place I had to paid two different amounts for the same drink if another bartender served it to me than before. I quickly have learned to ask before they started to make the spritzer. Sometimes I even offered the price myself or bargained from the initial amount. Of course they “Italianized” my drink all the time, I got some lime or lemons into it, but mostly they served it with orange slices.
Ice cubes were by default included, the two straws would have been as well if I didn’t protest against them. The most extreme I got my spritzer served was with sweetened Schweppes instead of the the sparkling water meaning of soda, without question or any doubt, and I did not just get it at one place! At one pub they spiced it up with a little Vermouth syrup. It is a sure thing that in Hungary it would be just impossible to make a pub crawl accompanied by so many involuntary variants of spritzer adaptations. Also another lesson was, that even if this cocktail-spritzer tour was a lot of fun, from the financial perspective it seemed to be a bad choice over the beers on tap.
It seemed though, that the culture of handcraft beer is spreading in Italy as well. You can get them in shops as well, in a bottled form. This was how I got to know the Birra Antoniana from Padova, in the Casa della Birra,
but I was not able to find a trace of a crafted beer from Bologna, not in a bottle, nor on tap, I did not even hear about any existing. However, you could buy crafted beers from Rome and other regions as well. At the places I have been to, these beers were not more expensive, or at least not way more expensive than the traditional local variants or a quite common imported brand. The least expensive one was the Raffo, for 2 Euro.
From the tap it costs around 3-4 Euro a glass, the cheapest 3dl glass I paid 2,5 Euro for. The most expensive one was 5 Euro, but to be fair it was also a 4dl glass.
To be continued…
Another posts of the Bologna-Padova series: