Walking and Eating in Bologna

Our five days in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy went something like this – explore, culture, lunch, walk, culture, relax, supper, sleep, on repeat. It was wonderful. The days were bright and sunny and I could almost smell summer…..almost. We covered a distance, on foot, of 10 miles a day, which meant we could completely enjoy the food without any guilt of being a little bit piggy. We used Bologna as our base and then did day trips to Modena, Parma and Verona – all under an hours train ride away.

I chose a fabulous Airbnb in the old part of the city, which is where you will find the oldest university in the world. It had a wonderful little roof terrance with vistas across the whole of the city.

A stones throw from the apartment is the University Library of Bologna, which was founded by Luigi Ferdinando Marsili, a noble of Bologna, in 1712 as an Institute of Sciences. He endowed it with his own scientific collections, 900 oriental manuscripts and 120 manuscripts relating to his work. It was later enlarged in 1755 by Pope Benedict XIV with 25,000 printed volumes and 450 manuscripts. In the same year a copy of every printed work was ordered and the following year the library opened to the public. We were given a free private tour by a very enthusiastic undergraduate who was able to tell us all about the history of the beautiful library. I think they get few visitors so you will be treated royally if you visit.

Within 10 minutes of the apartment is a ‘quadrilateral’ of ancient narrow streets east of Piazza Maggiore, which is bursting with meat, cheese and produce sellers. It’s the type of place that makes your heart beat faster with excitement and your stomach begin to moan with hunger, even if you’ve just had breakfast!

Amongst these streets you will find a covered market – ‘Mercato di Mezzo’, where you can eat and drink local produce. It’s open every day and stays open until midnight.

This area is as close as you will come to experiencing Bologna street food, so is definitely worth seeking out. We had lunch there on more than one occasion.

We particularly loved Salumeria Simoni – I recommend ordering a charcuterie of delicious hams, salami and cheese washed down with a glass of chianti.

What better way to walk off lunch than by walking along the Portico di San Luca, which is one of the longest covered walkways in the world, numbering 666 arches and gaining 215 meters. It was built between 1674-1793 and is 3.8 km long connecting Porta Saragozza to the Santuario di Madonna di San Luca.

The portico walkway starts off nice and flat, which eases you in, but when you reach Meloncello Arch it begins to steepen. I won’t spoil the surprise, but lets just say the locals don’t need to join a gym if they complete this walk a couple of times a week. There are 15 chapels along its path so you can chapel crawl if you are so inclined. The view from the top is pretty spectacular and the light breeze was most refreshing.

After making it back into town we rewarded ourselves with a gelato – I opted for my favourite flavour ‘bacio’. Ridiculously good.

Refreshed and eager to see more of what Bologna has to offer consider climbing one of the medieval towers in town to get the best vistas of the city from the centre of the city. Bologna used to have hundreds of towers – a sign of its prosperity, today however only twenty are still standing. The most famous are ‘Le due Torri’ – the ‘Two Towers’ Torre Degli Asinelli and the Torre della Garisenda. For five euros you can climb the highest one, the Asinelli Tower.

It’s not for the fainthearted or unfit but the trek up is so worth it for the beautiful views.

On the hill in the far distance you can see Santuario di Madonna di San Luca. Thats a pretty good hike there and back before dinner. You’ve got to work up an appetite after all right?

Before heading out for supper you may want to have an aperitivo at Le Stanze. The location itself is worthy of a drink don’t you think?

We ate in a number of lovely places in Bologna. One of our favourites was definitely Cesari on Via De Carbonesi, 8. It is a family run restaurant with a relaxed and informal vibe with a good mix of locals and tourists. The food was excellent and as we were there out of season and arrived promptly after opening, we didn’t need a reservation. I would suggest however, that you book ahead if you can. What we often tend to do in a new city is scope out a place for dinner in the day and then make the reservation, but it’s up to you.

For pizza, Trattoria Belle Arti was perfect. In fact, their pasta dishes are also worthy of a mention. Whilst it may not win prizes for decor, it became our local as our apartment was virtually next door. They serve all the traditional dishes too – their brodo (tortellini in stock broth) was excellent as was there pasta bolognese and carbonara. It’s relaxed and informal and was always busy.

For super low key – sawdust on the floor kind of place (almost, but not really) is the Osteria Dell’Orsa. It’s basic, has all the obvious local dishes, communal wooden tables and is probably a good place to go if you are a small group or not wanting to splash out too much.

My sources also recommend the following for memorable meals:

Trattoria di Via Serra.

and

Osteria Bottega

After all this eating don’t forget to visit all the beautiful churches and Duomo and the fascinating 17th century anatomical theatre carved from spruce.


The Allure of Ancient Jaffa in Tel Aviv

I’d not been to Tel Aviv before, so deciding which area to stay in required a bit of research. Friends had recommend a range of areas but in the end we opted for Jaffa, which is the southern and oldest part of Tel Aviv. It is an ancient port city that is steeped in history with a natural harbour that has been in use since the bronze age. It also offers great vistas of the whole of Tel Aviv as you can see.

The area is predominantly Muslim and home to winding alleys with shops and art galleries, as well as the lively Flea Market, which was a stones throw away from our apartment. The area is filled with cool eateries and hip bars and whilst our Airbnb apartment was in the thick of it, the noise level was low and we slept like logs.  We were also lucky to only be 5 minutes walk from the sea.

The stone staircase leading to the door of our apartment were the most ancient we had ever climbed; it really did feel as if we were stepping back in time with every step. You can see what I mean if you look on my instagram under my instatories under ‘Israel’.

The food in Jaffa is seriously good and a place to head for lunch if you are staying in Jaffa – or indeed another part of Tel Aviv – is Abu Hassan. It’s one of the oldest and most loved hummus restaurants located on Dolphin Street. It attracts locals – Jews and Arabs, as well as tourists and labourers. The concept is simple – there are four dishes (no written menu – only the dishes presented in writing on the wall) – hummus, masabacha, brown beans and labna. To accompany the dishes you are served warm pitas, fresh onions, chilli in lemon water and falafel. It is masabacha that I have tried to replicate in a recipe for you today.

The main difference between masabacha and hummus is the texture. Whilst hummus is smooth, masabacha keeps some of the chickpeas whole. It is also eaten warm – although it is also equally delicious eaten at room temperature. To top the masabacha some chickpeas are added on top in a little water and lemon juice with a little cumin powder or smoked paprika and some freshly chopped parsley. This is my recipe. It is pretty straightforward once you have soaked the chickpeas for 24 hours in cold water.

 

 Masabacha 

Serves 4

8 garlic cloves, unpeeled

255g dried chickpeas

1 tbsp baking powder

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80ml chickpea cooking water

3 tbsp chickpeas

125ml reserved chickpea stock

1/4 tsp cumin powder

4 tbsp tahini

125ml olive oil

5 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt

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chickpea juice

2 tbsp chickpea juice

3 tbsp tahini

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 garlic clove

1 pinch of salt

 

 

  1. Place the dried chickpeas in a bowl and cover with cold water. Add the baking soda and stir. Refrigerate the chickpeas overnight.
  2. Drain the chickpeas the following morning and place in a pan along with the unpeeled garlic cloves. Cover with fresh cold water so that it covers the chickpeas completely. Simmer for 40 minutes, by which time the chickpeas will have softened. Remove the scum that will form whilst cooking and add more water if it looks to be getting dry.
  3. Strain the chickpeas, keeping all the water and place to one side. Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly. Remove 3 tbsp of chickpeas and place to one side.
  4. Place the chickpeas, all the garlic (except one which you will use later) – with the skins now peeled, 80ml of reserved chickpea cooking water and cumin powder in a blender and whizz. Gradually add the olive oil and tahini so that you end up with a very creamy, smooth hummus. Add salt to taste. Place in a medium sized, shallow serving bowl.
  5. In a separate small bowl mix the chickpea juice ingredients.
  6. To serve make a slight well in the centre of the hummus and scatter the remaining whole chickpeas on top.  Spoon in the tahini-lemon mixture – you may find you won’t need to add it all so spoon it in gradually. Sprinkle with cumin and/or paprika powder and garnish the parsley. Serve with pita bread.

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After lunch it is worth spending time walking around the beautiful narrow streets of old Jaffa. Whilst it might be very hot, if you are visiting in summer, the narrow streets do offer some shade and being near to the sea a gentle breeze is a welcome respite.

A meander around the famous Jaffa Flea market is an absolute must – it sells a range of trinkets, bags from Afghanistan, evil eye pendents, jewellery and clothes, as well as a host of interesting antiques. Being so close to our apartment I spent a fair amount of time nosing around this market as you can imagine.

There are also a number of interesting shops surrounding the market and neighbouring streets. My favourite without a doubt was this little gem. Erez Zielinski Rozen Perfumery.

If you like brands like Aesop and Le Labo then this is really going to appeal. The good news is that the price tag does not equal the other two brands, thankfully. The smells were divine and the packaging and branding were elegant and understated. You can’t buy it in the UK so it feels deliciously unique and original. A few bottles of perfume and hand made soap may have found their way home in my luggage.

If a food market is what you are after then a short taxi ride (I think the taxi drivers were the nicest I’ve experienced – not trying to rip you off and pleasant to talk to) will deliver you to the Carmel Market (in Hebrew it is known as ‘Shuk HaCarmel’ so use that name if riding in a cab).

First opened in 1920, 11 years after the establishment of the city, the market or ‘shuk’ occupies one street, which runs south from the junction of King George Street, Allenby, and Sheinkin Street to the Carmelit Bus depot in the south. The lower part of the market (nearer the sea) is the place to head where food stalls and fresh produce are on offer.

If you are feeling peckish, then head to THIS guy below.

…..he is located on the right hand side – if the sea is behind you – in the food section of the market –  for an egg, potato or a mix of both, or lamb burika.  He is a real entertainer and is pretty mesmerising to watch as he prepares his tasty treats. Burika is basically a paper thin pastry dough that is smeared with herbed mashed potato that is folded and dunked in boiling oil, then an egg is wrapped in it. It comes out crisp and is then popped into a pita bread along with hot sauce (harissa I guess), fresh tomatoes, cabbage, onion and then presented in a little paper bag. Order one to share as they are filling.

Whilst munching on your burika you can stroll through the market taking in the smells, sounds and general buzz of the market.

As the sun sets head back to the harbour by Jaffa to watch the setting sun.

Then grab a pew and wait to be entertained by the whirling dervish waiters at ‘Old Man and the Sea’ 

Sit outside and soak up the ambiance of the locals and tourists promenading around the harbour, whilst you devour your feast.