Postcard from Bergamo, Italy: An unmerciful alarmclock

It went off every morning. Only one rooftop away from our fifth floor window in the apartment we rented in Bergamo, Italy, this past summer. There was no way to be lazy and sleep through the clanging bell because it sounded as though it was next to us in bed. Fortunately, it waited until daylight and didn’t feel compelled to let us know as each hour passed during the night.

A block away, the bell hanging in the 11th-century Torre del Campanone tolls 100 times at 10 p.m., a reminder of the strict curfew imposed by Germans in the town during World War II. But then, until morning, all is quiet.

The alarm clock is among the eccentricities encountered renting apartments versus staying in hotels. This rental was located on the fifth floor directly over the main pedestrian street passing through the Alta Citta. Restaurants were only a few steps away.

But on weekends or if tour buses had just unloaded passengers downhill, we had to be careful stepping into the street from our doorway so as not to get run over by the herd jamming the narrow street, much like the crowds on the River Walk at home. One of those play-me pianos below echoed of “Chopsticks” way too often but, sometimes, would attract really talented pianists to sit down for a spell.

The window provided a daily weather report, and the landscape seen from the windows on the flights of stairs at the rear made the climb easier. We also enjoyed birds-eye views of parishioners bearing saints on parade or wedding parties headed to or from one of the numerous churches. And the street was so narrow, we even made an Italian friend on the fifth floor across the street who traded blues guitar licks with the Mister one afternoon.

Love this inexpensive way of slowed-down travel….


Postcard from Bologna, Italy: Hard to keep a camera in a pocket

The last batch of postcards from our month wandering the streets of Bologna finally arrived.

… a city beckoning all to assume the role of flaneur.

Postcard from Bologna, Italy: We did eat at more than one restaurant

Rightfully, Bologna is renowned for its food. And, although this postcard is a bit belated, I’d hate to leave one with the impression our only recommendation for those traveling there is E’ Cucina Leopardi. We truly did venture away from our favorite spot… sometimes.

The lack of pretension accompanied by a comfortable, casual hospitality made the small farm-to-table Osteria Marsalino a favorite. Bruschetta and daily pastas were ever-changing based on what was fresh and the chef’s mood. Our food always was perfect, and the complimentary aperitif at the end of the meal contributed to our loyalty.

Fresh organic products are stressed at the always bustling Alce Nero Berbere. One lunchtime option is to order the daily vegetable assortment, consisting of five or six separate small plates of varying salads, greens, beans and/or roasted seasonal fare. There is a movement afoot among chefs in Italy, which we first encountered at Borgo 20 in Parma, to fret about digesting pizza dough. Although we never have noticed this to be a problem, we certainly again enjoyed the results at Berbere.

This is Berbere’s complex explanation of what makes the restaurant’s pizzas so “light” and good:

One of the principal characteristics of Berberè pizza is the substitution of leavening with natural maturation: we don’t use chemical yeast, but rather living sourdough. This maturation process lasts at least 24 hours at room temperature and not in the refrigerator (hence it is “slow” pizza). Thanks to the skill of our pizzaioli and their passion for what they do, the quality of the base dough obtained with the starter and semi-whole grain stone-ground flours guarantees a high digestibility and a distinctive flavor, while the selection and mixture of flours other than wheat (spelt, enkir, kamut) offers alternatives that are interesting and diverse from an organoleptic point of view. Berberè’s pizza is therefore lighter, healthier, and better. And to optimize the digestibility of the pizza, the chefs at Berberè have successfully experimented with an innovative fermentation method, completely free of yeast, based on the physical process of starch hydrolysis.

We followed a herd of locals to get the prosciutto in which residents of Emilia-Romagna take such pride. After ordering an appetizer plate laden with the thinly sliced ham, we ordered what we thought was a plate of grilled vegetables at Pane Vino e San Daniele. What we didn’t realize is that bountiful servings of prosciutto cover everything on almost every dish, including the vegetables.

Of course, we enjoyed many pizzas, grilled vegetables, pastas, risottos and panini elsewhere in our wanderings throughout our month-long stay. But, not to offend the Bolognese, we did break away from the regional cuisine several times. For Indian food. Ristorante Indiano Taj Mahal rewarded us well for it. The Indian dishes were much better than what we have encountered in San Antonio and, as a bonus, represented an incredible bargain. And the owner was so friendly and gracious for our patronage.

Jumping back now to our task at hand, figuring out where we want to eat lunch in Campeche. A whole different world.