Before we even arrived in Rome we knew that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were playing Bologna in October. We didn't make any concrete plans to go to the show back in June but the closer to the show date we came the more we found we might be able to make the trip. With the mountain biking season winding down we wanted to start visiting new cities and towns throughout Italy. A concert would be a great reason to spend a couple days in a city we had only driven by and not yet taken the time to visit. Our first impressions of Bologna came as we past the outskirts of town along the highway on our summer mountain bike trip to the Alps. Obviously it's hard to get a feel for a city from a passing car but we didn't think we'd be back any time soon.
A couple weeks before the show we decided we'd give Bologna a shot. We had heard from a well respected colleague of Heidi's that the city was a wonderful place to visit and that it was also home to a few local colleges. Hearing this recommendation quickly changed our outlook on the city. We jumped online to find some tickets for the sold out concert, booked a room for the night and arranged to take the high speed train from Rome to Bologna.
On the morning of the concert we made our way to the Termini station in Rome to hop on our train to Bologna. We paid an extra 10 euro to move up a class on the train and enjoyed our reclining leather seats through the Italian countryside at 245 km/h. The short 2 hour trip was a breeze to Bologna's central station. (I'm completely sold on traveling by train. It was so much easier and relaxing than flying or driving.) Once we arrived in Bologna we made the long hike across the street to our hotel for the night and headed into the city's center to see what Bologna had to offer.
As we made our way into the city center we quickly noticed that this city was a biking city. Every bike rack was full, every lap post was locked to a bike, and the streets had more bikes than cars. We were impressed. Getting closer to the main piazza we then started noticing that all the sidewalks were covered by porticos from the surrounding buildings. It was quite cool to see all the different architectural shapes of these porches through out the city. It made for a unique view of the city. If you looked out to the streets there would be no one. But look back within the confines of thousands of columns the city bustled with people.
Not knowing much about the city Heidi had done some quick research to find the most popular sites in town to give us some direction when we arrived. She had seen in her research the Fountain of Neptune was a beautiful structure in the main piazza at the center of town. As we made our way into the piazza I noticed some scaffolding built up around an area of the piazza. This isn't an odd site in Italy. It seems as if many cities are cleaning or restoring some aspect of their city. But just minutes prior to this moment I had jokingly said it would be funny if the fountain was being restored. This couldn't be the fountain being restored, could it? I jinxed it. Of course it was. Sorry folks, parks closed.
We had a quick laugh and went into the giant cathedral at the opposite end of the piazza. This was the Basilica of San Petronio. The tenth largest church in the world by volume. While the exterior of the church is still unfinished, the interior is absolutely amazing. There are 18 to 20 separate chapels within this one building with each chapel taking on its own identity and design. We've seen a lot of historic buildings and churches since we've arrived in Italy and I'm sure we'll see more but this was one of the grandest.
Keeping up with our new hobby of eating. We stumbled upon a portico covered restaurant serving delicious local fare. Heidi had a Nonna (grandmother) soup that was made with tortellini stuffed with chicken served in a chicken broth. Simple but so incredibly delicious. I had my first deep dish Italian pizza with rocket, ham and parmesan. I hadn't seen this style of pizza served anywhere in Italy yet so I had to give it a try. The crust usually makes a pizza and this one did not disappoint. We chose well.
Wanting to walk off our full stomachs we continued our tour through the city. We wondered onto the Two Towers, street musicians, parks, and plenty of great architecture. Our day of exploring opened our eyes to a new favorite in Bologna and we still had an evening with the Red Hot Chili Peppers to come.
Catching a cab out to the arena where the Chili Peppers were playing was super easy, but coming back to the hotel afterwards was going to be another question. We walked right into the venue and found our seats at the back of the arena. The seats were actually great for the sound and light show. The Unipol Arena seats about 15,000 people and is your classic basketball/hockey type arena. We had been in our seats about ten minutes when the band come on stage to a loudly cheering crowd. The Chili Peppers played a great show of the classics and plenty of the new hits for the kids. It was strange to see people singing every word of a new song but not knowing a word of the more well known punk tunes from an early album. Times are a changing. The band did show their age a bit here and there but overall put on a very entertaining show.
Having seen what the band had played throughout this tour we knew when they'd be done playing for the night. After they finished the encore with "Give it Away" we ran out to grab a cab before the hordes of people caught up with us. We were luckily close to an exit and made it out to find no taxi stands anywhere. Starting to panic a bit we walked to a side street where a taxi just happened to pull up. What luck! Our luck ran out when the women who had ordered this same cab showed up and drove off. Now we thought we were in for a long night. The crowd was making it's way out of the show and still not a cab in site. Wondering through the crowd we see a taxi and approached the driver to only find out its also been reserved. Bummed, we just hovered around the taxi until the fare showed up. Hoping the people would be willing to share this cab back to the city center. Luckily for us the two Polish fans were willing to help us out and let us split the cab with them. That was a close one. I think we'd still be out there if they hadn't been so nice. They even insisted on not taking our cash to pay for the fare.
This overnight in Bologna was such a great experience. It was again one of those times when things just fell into place and worked out so smoothly. Hop on a train, travel to a new city, learn something new, eat delicious food, and take in a concert all in a 24 hour period couldn't have been easier.