23 March 2013
I arrived at Aeroporto di Bologna-Guglielmo Marconi to be greeted with open arms – literally – by ALM, a Couchsurfer I initially wrote to stay with. He couldn’t host me as his parents were in town and were staying at his place, but he offered to pick me up at the airport and hang out with me instead. Yep, I was basically getting into a stranger’s car. Don’t try this at home, kids. But he has a lot of good references on his profile and he and I had been communicating for a month. I felt in my bones that he is good people.
I was right. ALM is friendly and easygoing; within minutes we were joking like old friends. Being a broadcast journalist on local tv (for real) and a resident of Bologna for eight years, he is a wealth of information. All the questions I threw at him, he had the answer for.
He found me some good grub
and delicious gelato,
I don’t usually like strawberry-flavoured ice cream but hey, this was artigianale, that is, handmade (I only ate gelato that was artigianale; sue me for being a gelato snob in ITALY) and made with real fruit. Also, I really just wanted to say “fragola” and actually pronounce it perfectly. Heh.
and took me to see the Asinelli Tower
The symbol of Bologna – the one in the back, that is. Why I don’t have a better pic of it, I don’t know.
and his favourite spots in the city where a few things caught my eye.
Just one second before I snapped this pic, a guy living in the top middle unit was sticking his head out the window. He saw me taking my camera out and quickly ran back inside.
We passed by a hotel where a large group of girls had gathered. For once, ALM had no clue what was going on, so he asked someone what the fuss was all about. “Justin Bieber!” came the answer. Justin Bieber had a concert that night and was staying at that hotel. The girls figured he had to leave the hotel at some point, so they were hoping to catch a glimpse of him. Neither ALM nor I were fans, but we waited for a little while, just to soak up the atmosphere and also secretly hoping to see Justin Bieber. That would have been funny. Alas, no such luck.
ALM dropped me off at a restaurant where Lightchaser was meeting me for dinner. Now, I’ve never mentioned this but Lightchaser studying in Bologna was what inspired me to go to Italy. Lightchaser and I have been blog friends for ages. We first met in person when she came to Singapore a couple of years ago. I figured I hadn’t seen her for too long and I had never been to Italy – so why not go?
Lightchaser and I parted ways after just a few hours as she had to study for her finals. No matter – we were going to meet in Rome the following week. Yay! ALM then drove me to meet my host, CM, who lives in Imola, a small town about 25 minutes away from Bologna. ALM is an angel. When he met my host they chatted a bit in Italian, and I managed to catch him saying, “Lei è tranquilla.” I busted out laughing. ALM smiled sheepishly. He knew exactly what I was laughing about. “I was just telling CM that you’re totally normal and not crazy and there’s nothing he needs to worry about.” HA! Thanks?
I put my things away and CM and I talked a little bit before taking me to a bar where we were meeting his friends. Unfortunately his friends spoke very little English and pretty much excluded me from their conversation. Oh well. I could barely keep my eyes open anyway. Seriously, I just wanted to go home and collapse. But I didn’t want to seem rude, plus it was only 11pm. Considering I had flown for nearly twenty hours my exhaustion was not unwarranted, but still. So I persevered. I think I jumped when CM said we were leaving!
His sofa bed was big, warm and comfortable. Not surprisingly, I slept like a baby that night.
24 March 2013
The next day both CM and ALM had prior engagements so I went to Bologna on my own. No bigs. I was quite proud to navigate the city on my own. ALM suggested I go to the newly opened Museum of the History of Bologna.
Spot the TFC!
ALM met me after, and rounded up CM to go to another town to find…yep, good grub. He wanted me to try typical Emilia-Romagna food made with incomparable balsamic vinegar. I ❤ balsamic vinegar so I was definitely game! Along the way ALM put on this song and together with CM, sang his heart out. I remember feeling outstandingly happy, so happy I was bursting at the seams. I silently thanked the universe for the existence of Couchsurfing. How else would I find myself in a car in Italy with two wonderful ragazzi I just met yesterday who didn’t know each other but were now singing loudly together in a language I hardly understand? And they had no ulterior motives except to take me out to eat! It was written in the stars. I will never forget it.
ALM ordered me a dish that he assumed was vegetarian but he didn’t check to make sure…you know where this is going. Everyone’s food arrived, I played tourist/food blogger and snapped away. I took one bite of mine and to my horror realised that I had bitten into meat, and not just any meat but the one associated with the Emilia-Romagna region, the very one I couldn’t have. Prosciutto. Oh. SHIT. I spat it out, not in a bitchy way, even – on a napkin, and calmly told ALM and CM about it. ALM felt extremely guilty but it was cool, it was accidental. It’s okay if it’s accidental. Really. We placed another order for me, a vegetarian version of it, much to the waiter’s exasperation – “But it’s not the same without ham!” No can do, dude.
My heart broke saying goodbye to ALM that night. I was leaving for Venice the next morning. CM is cool too, but because we didn’t spend too much time alone, I didn’t really get into him as I did ALM. He showed me a kindness I won’t forget. He is proof that sometimes people are simply good. We’ve been keeping in touch, throughout my trip up to now. Really great guy. I feel lucky to have met him and to have seen Bologna through his eyes.