Saturday, December 7, 2013

Day 12: Driving to Bologna early morning, Autogrill, and a surprisingly good lunch at Ristorante Colombina

Day 12: Driving to Bologna early morning, Autogrill and a surprisingly good lunch at Ristorante Colombina

The food products people can get in Autogrill in Italy. Wow...

Restaurants visited:

Ristorante Colombina, Bologna: 5 star. Surprisingly delicious food and great wine. Friendly service.

Early morning drive to Bologna and my first visit to Autogrill

I wanted to check out Bologna's farmers market and it's only on Saturday morning, so I got up really early, had a quick breakfast with Caterina at 9 Muse B&B, and I was on my way. I was the only person that morning, but Caterina still prepared many different cakes/cookies and different types of drink for my breakfast. The one in the photo, she told me it is called "grandma's cake" in Italy. What a luxurious morning. Thanks, Caterina! Before I left the place, I snapped a shot of all the recognitions that she has gotten. When I come back again to this area to dine at Dal Pescatore, I will definitely stay here again.

The drive from 9 Muse B&B to Bologna is about 2.5 hours. I decided to stop by an Autogrill and check out what it is all about. Remember that I mentioned about the toll check-in/check-out ticket system in Italy? Apparently, people still speed, but they stop by Autogrill to take a break. With that additional time, speeding tickets are no longer a concern!

There are so many food products in Autogrill stores that I really felt that I was in a mini supermarket. They also designed the store layout in a way that I had to walk pass the entire mini market before I could exit. Talking about store design that push for impulse buying!

They even have shower facility in Autogrill! I mean, I didn't use it... but... Wow.

Arriving in Bologna and a great lunch at Ristorante Colombina

Up until this point, I have been somewhat frustrated by my inability to speak/read Italian, but when I arrived in Bologna, this inability of mine pushed my frustration to a new height...

Most towns and cities in Italy have a special traffic limit zone in the city center that people cannot enter by car without a permit. The sign is a white circle with a thick red outline around it. There are usually cameras installed nearby and if I enter these zones, I will get a ticket. The problem is, this white circle with red outline sign is used in two situations. One is to indicate the border of this traffic limit zone, meaning that I cannot enter, and the other is to inform me of the existence of this zone in the city ahead, meaning that I can still enter here. The only difference between these two are explained on a white metal board below the white circle sign, and it is in Italian. Not only I didn't understand Italian, I was also driving and we all know how well we read when we are in motion.

This resulted in me avoiding moving ahead every time I saw this sign, regardless whether I could enter or not. Google navigation doesn't take this into consideration. So as I kept making turns to avoid these signs, Google navigation kept re-routing. This morning, I ended up circling around Bologna 4 times while trying to figure out what I should do. I ended up parking my car at the far end up north and walked to the city center. Thankfully, Bologna isn't a huge city and it was just about 20 minutes before I walked to the city center. However, by the time I got there, the market has already closed.

Oh well... I guess this means that I will have to come back again! Might not be a bad thing after all.

Confusion leads to stress, and stress leads to hunger. And this hunger lead me to Ristorante Colombina in the city center of Bologna. I was using TripAdvisor iPhone app and it showed "Ristorante Colombina" as one of the top choices nearby. I read the reviews and it seemed like a great choice where many local Italians also frequent. I arrived at 12:30pm when the restaurant opened and I was the first. Warm and friendly greeting from the staff made me feel comfortable right away.

For Appetizer, I got their potatoes and mortadella soufflé with parmesan cheese sauce. It was really delicious! So fluffy and light, yet full of flavor. Absolutely divine. Must order if you come here.

For the main course, I ordered the specialty dish in Bologna, Tortellini in chicken broth. It was perfectly cooked. The pasta skin stayed al dante for a long time. The chicken broth was flavorful and the meaty stuffing in the tortellini was just delicious. Perfect for a cold day like this.

With appetizer and main course being so good, I had to try their dessert. I went with "Panna cotta al forgo bel caramel": Baked cream (without gelatin) with caramel sauce. I had high expectation, so I was a little disappointed with this dish. Without gelatin, I find it too firm and too dense. I like the panna cotta of Ristorante Consorzio better back in Turin.

Overall, I really like this restaurant and the price was really good compared to other restaurants that I've been to so far. The service was great and they speak English pretty well. I would definitely come back again next time I'm in Bologna. All in all, an unexpected great meal!

A quick walk-about around the food market area and checked-in at

Since I woke up really early this morning and drove a long distance, and then got really stressed out over the traffic limit zone situation, I decided to check out just the food market area really quick and drive to my Air-BnB vacation rental to check in and rest.

I've heard many times that Bologna is the most liberal and progressive city in Italy. I witnessed it in person when I walked back to the parking lot when a group of people marched down the street protesting and there were many policemen everywhere.

The Air-BnB place is about 10 minutes outside of Bologna. The owner, Paolo was at home when I arrived and he gave me a quick tour of the house. The place is clean, modern and very comfortable. I unloaded my luggage to this place where I'll call home for the next 5 days. After a quick shower, I went to bed early. I'll head back into Bologna again tomorrow and tour the city a bit more.

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