Menu II

Italy 2012, continued

I left off after that first night in Bologna, at the place that had a giant golden tortellini hanging outside its door. The next morning we went to the breakfast area in Hotel Porta San Mamolo and saw this:


It’s really easy to become a glutton when you see a spread like this.




I took one piece of this but it was coconut cake.  Not a favorite. I swallowed my bite and gave the rest to Dave.


Our choices.


The breakfast room.  I just want you to know that our breakfasts at home look like this.  Every day.  Right.  This room is a courtyard between the three buildings that has been renovated into a warm and cozy place to dine, as long as you weren’t caught in the draft between the two doors.

Eataly Rush Lunch

For lunch that day, after bebopping around Bologna for a while, it was like someone rang an invisible gong and all of a sudden all the trattorias on the “food” street were packed.  To the brim. When last in New York City, we’d wandered through Eataly in midtown Manhattan and after ducking in and out of several lunch places, we went upstairs in Eataly — in Bologna, Italy.  The waiters were moving at warp speed, as shown in this photo.  We snagged a table for two after only about a ten-minute wait.  We felt blessed, frankly.


After placing our order, we looked around.



We were on the second level in a small alcove with pasta on one side of us for sale and vinegars on the other side.


After lunch I would pick out a vinegar, trying really hard to approximate what I’d seen in the farm and have it wrapped up in bubble wrap and carry it in my suitcase all the way home.  It arrived safely, and I pull it out and feel like I’m in Bologna again.  Plus, I loved the heart-shaped dollop of sealing wax on the top.


Dave’s dish was some kind of circular noodles, with pork, leeks, and vegetables.  As usual, we played the game of what we thought we ordered was not what showed up on the table.

Eataly LUnch DAE


I ordered Taglierini Bolognese, of course.  After all, we were in Bologna.  The noodle could have been tagilatelle, though.  I didn’t quite get which one.  Apparently they only serve the Bolognese sauce with this thin, flat noodle.  Mine was divine.  I could have it again tomorrow, if I were in Eataly.  In Bologna.


That night we tried a couple of places for dinner, but they were already booked up.  We had been warned by the hotel concierege to make our reservations early, but did we listen?  No.  We like to keep our options open, which meant that we only had one option for dinner: Osteria Le Mura across the street from the hotel.


We were the only ones there at 8:00 p.m.  We came in, and no one was around–we called out–and finally, from the back the owner/chef? came out and seated us.


He brought around the chalkboard, which was our menu and patiently went through EVERYTHING on the menu. He tried to sell us on one of the 46 euro fish, but we didn’t quite have that in mind.


We must have waffled a bit too long, because he said “momento” and returned with this, showing us our fish possibilities.  Um, that doesn’t really help, but at least we know this is fresh fish. I think we ordered the pink one.

DeMura dinner Bologna

Bread basket with the requisite vinegar and oil for our salad.  The bread in Italy runs the gamut from very good to eh.  This was eh.


Really terrible picture of our fish with vegetables.  Maybe I should take this down, but here it is.  We didn’t have any dessert, but after paying, walked across the street and went to our room.

Bologna Yogurt Shop

Here’s a few more sights and sounds of Bologna food: first, a celestially decorated frozen yogurt shop.


A cautionary sign near the tomatoes.


An array of artichokes, like a wedding bouquet.


Sinewy radicchio.  All of these vegetables disappeared back into the shops during the afternoon lunch break.  Actually the whole town about dried up and disappeared.  They take their afternoon lunch hours very seriously.


I’d read in one of my Guido Brunetti books about fave, an almond-flavored small cookie that is only sold around All Saints Day.  I exclaimed excitedly over this basket in one of the shops.  We bought one in the morning, and one in the afternoon.  They were delicious.

Bologna Train Station Sandwiches

This was our last meal in Bologna–warm ham and cheese sandwiches, purchased from the train station.  This is one of those times that the bread was amazing–a foccacia with just the right amount of saltiness.


For some reason, we thought that eating at BREK cafeteria in Padua would be a good experience–after all the guide  book that came with our Padua Tourist Card said it would be great.  Bad idea. Imagine high school cafeteria does Italian food.





Dave was the enthusiastic champion of eating here (we were tired and hungry and it was close by), but after he tasted my entree, even he agreed that it was pitiful.  On the way home, we sampled some  of previously-purchased chocolate and mine, again, was “icky,” as I wrote in my journal. Maybe we were just tired–tired of traveling, tired of fighting the internet at our hotel (it never did work properly), tired of the rain, but just like home where some meals are just cheese sandwiches or their ilk, some meals while traveling are equally forgettable.  This was one of them.

Padua Breakfast1

These pictures show our breakfast choices at this hotel.  While it looks like quite a spread, I think we’re homesick for our hotel in Bologna.  The girl running the breakfast behind the counter stared at us the entire time, like we were some captured species in a zoo (we were the only ones there).  At one point, she stepped outside on the balcony leaving the door open and smoked a couple of cigarettes, which “perfumed” the entire breakfast area.

Padua Breakfast2




This was a really strange hotel.  We took to calling it Hotel California, if you know that song. We walked over to the marketplaces and enjoyed all the sights of the markets.  See the regular Padua post for more photos.


We’re still talking about this veritable vegetable with a fractal design, apparently known as Romanesco broccoli.

Padua Market Food Couscous

And one stall’s version of prepared foods: bags and bags of different kinds of grains mixed with dried vegetables.  I liked this presentation where you could see all the flavors and ingredients, and found it more enticing than our boxed-up supermarket foods.

Before coming to Italy, I’d done a bit of homework and looked up a couple of restaurants.  We made our way to one for lunch, Enoteca Ristorante La Corte dei Leoni.  We stepped in out of the rain, and felt like we’d come back to civilization.


You’ve got to understand: we’ve been in rain about 90% of the time since we’d arrived in Italy, and the warm red wall, with the fireplace that contained a painting, and lovely place that was oh-so-different than last night’s dreck-at-BREK was like heaven.




Luckily, the waiter could translate the menu. I wrote down what he said so he wouldn’t have to repeat it.


This is the Insaltona Vegetariana, with lettuce, greens, tomato, apple and other stuff, which I have no idea–I think they were squash seeds.


I ordered the pork with mushrooms and roast potatoes. I think Dave had the exact same thing because we only have pictures of these two items.  But for dessert, we chose differently:


I had the Panna cotta with fig and apricot in chocolate sauce.


Dave had “Sugolo di uva fragola con yogurt magro, which we thought was panna cotta with grapes.  No, it turned out to be grape panna cotta in yogurt sauce.


In the back we found Guido Brunetti’s newspaper that he reads–we love that we read so many of those mysteries before coming back to Italy.  The waiter tells us about the special Halloween menu–it’s all pumpkin.  I laugh, and we decide to make reservations and return here for dinner after seeing Scrovegni Chapel.


I paused to take a photo of their fall display in the courtyard.  Apparently in the summer, people gather to come and have a lazy moment or two with some wine and live music.  but now, we dash through it to get to Scrovegni on time.


Another display was there when we returned, along with a lit Jack-O-Lantern (which didn’t photograph well).

PaduaCorteDeiLeonidinner menu2

The special Halloween Menu.


First up is a pumpkin flan, which was pretty interesting.  And no, I can’t remember what that dark thing on the top is.


Dave had the culatello, which is one reason why I wanted to return here so badly.  I’d heard about this cured meat–kind of like the Ritz Carlton of cured meats.  It was really tender and delicious and reminded me of prosciutto in terms of texture.  But it was oh, so, amazing.


Next course for me was the pumpkin risotto, which I had Dave help me eat.  It was a lot.


Dave had a salad, with that really great vinegar.


He had some kind of spaghetti carbonara for his entree.


Mine was medallions of roast pork with pumpkin sauce.


I’m wearing the necklace I’d purchased from the market–pumpkin-colors all around!


For dessert, these two little sweet treasures.  Your guess is as good as mine.  The restaurant is on Via Pietro d’Abano 1, in Padua, and is on a side street just north of the Piazza della Fruta.  Our last meal in Padua was another really great focaccia sandwich, again in the train station, as we waited for our train to Venice, but I have no photos of that.  You’ll have to imagine it.

Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

Italy 2012, continued

This is all you see from the outside, and of course, no photographs are allowed on the inside (all my photos are from the web).  But I’d done my homework, creating a slideshow of the images and titles of each, and had been reviewing them for a few weeks before we left.  I’d first heard about Scrovegni Chapel when I was taking Art History at my local community college some twenty-plus years ago.  The woman who taught it did not hold a degree in art, but she was well traveled, loved art and museums and was really knowledgeable.  She told us all that whatever we did in life, we should not miss seeing Giotto’s frescoes in Scrovegni Chapel.  So the seed was planted.  We’d tried a couple of other times, on trips to Italy to get here, but either we couldn’t warp the itinerary around it, or else it was closed for renovation.  All the stars aligned for this trip.

We walked around the side to see a small glass room with an airlock door.  The procedure was that you would enter with a group, sit and watch a video while you acclimated to the chapel’s temperature and humidity levels, then they’d let you out the other side into the chapel. The door would airlock shut, then the outside door would open–for just three minutes–then it would begin again..  We could see the video going on, and the chairs were half-empty: not a crush of tourists today.  We stood there, wondering if they’d let us in early, when a whole tour group walked up behind us.  The tour guide spoke English to these tourists (Americans?) and asked us if we were on her tour.  We explained we were there early. The group in the chairs got up and filed into the chapel.  The airlock door opened.  I got a crazy idea. (Best not to consult with Dave on these things.)

I leaned over to the tour guide.  “Maybe you could ask the guard, that since there is room in your group for us and since our time isn’t until the next opening, that maybe we could stay for two visits?”  She scowled.  “They won’t allow it.”  “But could you please ask?” I said.  A miracle occurred.  She asked.  The first Scrovegni guide/guard said he’d have to check with the second guide/guard.  We sat down with the group, wondering if we would be able to stay twice, as they have a strict fifteen-minutes-and-you’re-out policy.

We went in with the group after our acclimatising video had finished, pausing to look enquiringly at the second guide/guard, listening to the few spoken words in Italian. He gave the briefest nod,  as if to say, Yes.  You may have two times.  Dave and I squeezed each other’s hand and filed in.

Scrovegni Chapel is not large, but it is tall, and an average person’s eyes would be about even with the first row of frescoes.  There are three rows of frescoes detailing the life of Christ, plus some history of his parents.  We tried to verify that particular history–it’s not in the scriptures–but a touching story nonetheless. And at either end are more frescoes, and in between are small paintings of the Allegories and Vices.

The English-speaking tour guide was giving it her go, loudly coughing (along with the rest of the group; they sounded like they belonged in an infirmary) and loudly narrated the cycle of frescoes.  Dave and I went quietly to the other end, located the beginning and I narrated for him what I had learned.  The older Joaquim took the virgin Anna for his bride, and unfortunately they remained childless.  Joaquim fled to the wilderness in grief, feeling like it was his age that contributed , and takes refuge with shepherds, falls asleep.

He has a dream where an angel visits him, and when he awakes, makes an offering to God.  I love the detail of the hand up in the sky, blessing his offering and accepting it.

He rushes back to the city where he meets Anna and they exchange a kiss–all is forgiven, as she is pregnant with Mary–having been visited by an angel announcing this turn of events.

Giotto was on the cusp of art that made room for the body in paintings, breaking from the tradition of stacking iconic saints up like fence posts in paintings.  His colors are rich and dramatic and he makes use of diagonals to draw the eye into the important parts of the fresco.  Dave and I work our way through the frescoes, working around the loud tour guide (bless her! bless her!) and her band of hacking tourists, and we work our way through Christ’s birth, his childhood, baptism.  A loud chime sounds, the voices raise, and Dave and I move off to the side.  The second guard comes in and says something, the tourists file out. He looks at us, nods with a hint of a smile while the next group files in.  We continue with this amazing work of art.  (There is a slide show of all the images after this post.)

Giotto made use of transparency in this fresco, showing Christ being baptized.  While the frescoes have been restored, many sections are still in disrepair.

We continued through the Betrayal, the Crucifixion, and when we got to this image, I fell quiet.

The diagonal begins in the upper right, leading the eye to the central figure of Jesus, cradled in his mother Mary’s arms.  John the Baptist, in the center, is distraught, his arms flung backward in disbelief over Christ’s death.  The artist rendered the horrific reality that the crucifixion did occur, that Mary and Mary Magdalene and John and apostles were all there, perhaps wondering how this could have happened, wondering what they would do now. It is all too much to take in.

And then Giotto’s skill comes forward with this little angel, hovering over the body, profound grief on his face.

There in that little chapel in  Italy, on a rainy, dark day, the story and impact of his sacrifice came full force to me, and I could not speak, nor hold back the tears.  Christ was slain, all was lost, all was gone.

But the story does not end there.  Christ returns, then ascends to His Father, like we all may do.  Dave and I stood quietly together, the voices whispering in Italian around us, which left us to our own thoughts and emotions.

We stood for a few long moments, and we noticed the breaking of the border of the canvas denoting another place, more space. Heaven.

We moved to the The Last Judgement at one end of the chapel, noting the different figures in different places, the writing souls in Hell, the whole scene as Giotto and his workshop must have imagined it.

And then our time was up.  The bell chimed.  We took one last look around, then walked out into the falling rain.