6th August, Saturday

Getting here was free of hassle. Stepping onto the plane, which wasn’t full, I showed two stewardesses my pass and behind me my mother said

“I’m with him.”
“Lucky you,” said Barbara, the chief.
“He’s my son.”

Soon B. came down to us and said we could move forward into an empty row. The taxi to Bologna city centre was seventeen euro and I found the narrow street with the hotel (Albergo delle Drapperie) handily enough on foot. Out on my own come midnight, I wandered around photographing Bologna at night.

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I also discovered the Mercato di Mezzo around the corner is open on Sundays and the nominally Irish pub on Via Zamboni won’t be showing any hurling unless it’s on Sky. There was a lot of Carabinieri out but they weren’t busy. One carload of the Polizia Municipale turned up too, shooting the breeze on Via Rizzoli.

7th August, Sunday

A late goal got Kilkenny a draw with Waterford, who hit the ball wide five times in a row before it. No goal (for us) and we still nearly beat them. Nearly. I was relying on texts from my brother. The result came late this afternoon while we happened to be sitting in a stuffy church, San Giovanni in Monte.

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Hit my knee for the third or fourth time on the knee-high wooden corner of the bed frame that’s hidden by the bedspread. It’s about eight in the evening now. This morning we got a breakfast of sorts in the Mercato di Mezzo and walked down past the Due Torri while the Sunday bells were ringing.

From there we walked Via Zamboni and back before catching a brass band Bolero on Via Rizzoli. It consisted of five musicians, one of whom was a girl with an accordion. They played in a cool spot in one of Bologna’s 38 km of porticoes.

We had lunch around the corner on Via Clavature where the waitress at the Buca San Petronio was a bit of a linguist. I overheard her tell another customer she had spent extended periods in France and Germany. She complimented my Italian, as did a girl in a supermarket, completely unprovoked, after I’d only said a few words and gone “Si” when she mentioned a sacchetto, but though I’m winging it, certain things are bound to make me crash and burn.

A typical scenario involves ordering ice cream. This afternoon I was going well in the Cremeria Funivia on Piazza Cavour, ordering coni and assuming the classic bacio and zabaione were going to be straightforward dollops, that is until the sweet young blonde handed back the change and started talking about the gusti and their combinations. When she saw the look on my face – presumably that of a man who had suddenly lost his hearing – she switched to English and volunteered to make the choices for us. I explained I wasn’t certo about the gusti, even in inglese. I’d be lost after banana, mint, chocolate and vanilla.

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Soldiers were guarding San Petronio today, along with the Carabinieri. That’s how Europe is now, though Bologna seems a very relaxed city. Red Bologna in sight and spirit – near the Buca di San Petronio a busker who looked like Roger Waters (& of similar age) did Working-class Hero in an Italian accent.

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Tonight we dined nicely at Rosarose, again around the corner on Via Clavature. Pullets and roast potatoes and Pinot Grigio. A smattering of salad. A few green leaves. Being Bologna, it wasn’t as plain as it sounds. A nearby Israeli kid nearly hit my mother’s elbow when he yanked a chair but a waiter soon told him to get back in his own seat. The kid and one of his little brothers then blew out their table candle while the parents were paying, inside.

Later I went on my own to the Celtic Druid where one of the barmen felt like talking. He suggested that going to an Irish bar was a comfortable option but I explained it was my way of meeting locals, like him. At first he seemed to think I meant the Florentines when I said Florence was come pieno di insetti. I meant tourists, of whom he wanted more for Bologna, like a poor relation. I left there at one.

8th August, Monday

Noon in a park near the station. We’re here since half past eleven. We have hours to kill here. It’s hard to believe the next train to Verona is not until half past three. The cicadas are sawing away in the trees. The grass is burnt. A couple of the male pigeons are doing 360° turns to impress the girls. I can’t say I’m hungover but I could sleep more. How can we have to wait this long when Verona is only fifty minutes away?

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