Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Quadrilatero Market in La Grassa Bologna, Italy

Bologna has a few nicknames: LA DOTTA (‘The Learned One’ because of its university, the oldest in the western world), LA GRASSA (‘The Fat One’ because of its cuisine) and LA ROSSA (‘The Red One’ because of its terracotta red buildings and roofs). I must say that you can really see and feel the presence of these nicknames when you set foot in the city.

Quadrilatero Market in Bologna.

Entering the Quadrilatero Market from Piazza Maggiore through Via Pescherie Vecchie.

This little trip to the province of Emilia-Romagna in Italy last spring was not only to see and experience a new city and be amazed at ancient architecture and learn about its history, but I also wanted, rather promised myself, to delight in some gastronomic indulgement. I love a savory snack and meal anytime. Whether it is plucking a local specialty from a street food vendor, going through the maze of stalls in the food market or dining with a view in a gorgeous restaurant, I welcome them all.

So whilst doing my due diligence online research, Google results told me I should be fine and well taken cared of in Bologna =)

One of the places I encountered during my foray into discovering Bologna - The Fat One was the Quadrilatero area behind Piazza Maggiore, the sight where the oldest market in the city is being run everyday until today. I first came across this area on my first evening in the city when I strolled into Via Pescherie Vecchie. Sights of ham legs and wheels of cheeses made my tastebuds salivate. The salumeria bars were calling my name and I do not think I am strong enough to resist them.

So yeah, I got stuck in this street and ordered my unplanned dinner at Salumeria Simoni, which turned out to be a very nice welcome to Bologna meal. I can tell you, there is sometimes good that comes out of an unexpected detour.

I have read that the streets, Via Pescherie Vecchie and Via Drapperie transforms into a festive outdoor market during the day. So having taken note of this I made sure to come back. I love food markets and they are sometimes the highlight in my trips.

Food markets really make me happy. It must have been the colours, the freshness of the produce, the cheerful ambiance? They all seem to convey life. It is like magnet. I am always drawn to them.

On Via Drapperie I found many shops – delicatessens selling pasta, cheeses and cured meats, there were age-old bakeries, butchers and artisan trade shops specialising in local crafts. The stores here are preserved in their historical facade and interior designs. They looked so elegant, classic and authentic. When you walk on this street, do pay attention to the architecture and design of the buildings.

Around the corner of Via Draperie and Via Clavature I found Mercato di Mezze, one of the 3 indoor food markets of the city. I have visited this market on my first night in the city but did not eat here. I however ate at the other food market which I will blog another time.

As I continued walking around the market, it dawned on me that I was actually expecting to see some fishmongers, but maybe I came on the day that they were off duty? I have not really seen them. I mainly saw stalls selling fruits and fresh produce. Maybe I just forgot to take a picture of them? To divert my mind from the subject, I contemplated on buying a small box of cherries, but helaas, I never got to doing it.

The Quadrilatero area is a great place to walk around and observe the locals. There are little old ladies lugging their shopping trolleys, surveying the fruit and produce displays, stall after stall. Then you have the constant flow of starry-eyed tourists (yup, just like me!) caught up in the market frenzy and snapping their cameras away like there is no tomorrow. Some even have their selfie sticks on the air! And I cannot forget the sharply dressed Italian men in intimidating designer suits and shiny leather shoes passing by as they hurriedly go to work. Yes, they all come and go.

By the way, do we call the locals, Bologneses? Ok, pun intended.

The salumerias on Via Pescherie Vecchie. It is always a delight to pass by here.

Your regular fruit and produce stall at the Quadrilatero Market. 

2 of my favourites: lemon and asparagus. I love using lemon to garnish my dishes, and I buy asparagus when they are in season (spring and summer).

Courgette flowers and vegetables. They are delicious.

Shops on Via Drapperie.

There are outdoor cafes in the side alleys from the market streets.

One of the distinguished and old stores in the Quadrilatero market, Paolo Atti & Figli. It is a pasta shop and bakery.

These are icing bowls. The post says - Make your summer sweet? Add into the icing bowl some ice cream, fruit salad or strawberries.

Travel Period: May 2016
Destination: Bologna (Emilia-Romagna), Italy

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bologna, Italy: Fountain of Neptune

Piazza e Fontana del Nettuno is one of the very important squares and fountains of Bologna.

Looking to the direction of Piazza dell Nettuno from Via dell' Independenzza.

The square and fountain is in a busy area of Bologna and is a popular public meeting place, not only for tourists but for locals as well. It is located adjacent to Piazza Maggiore. No one misses this when they are in the heart of the city. There are however lesser crowds here in the morning than during the rest of the day.

The fountain is from the work of Giambologna (Jean de Boulogne), a Flemish sculptor who moved to Italy. You can find most of his works in Florence where he was one of the Medici's exceptional court sculptors. He was not allowed to leave the city later on in his life and career, because the Medici's were afraid he might be pirated by other cities and kingdoms. That just shows how important he was as a sculptor during his time. Although if I was him I would have resented the Medici's. Freedom is priceless in my opinion.

Trivia: Did you know that the logo of Maserati was inspired from the Fountain of Neptune sculpture? Check out the trident of the sculpture.

Of course, as with every city, it has its own folklore luck story. If you notice young people (local students) walking counter clockwise around the fountain, they are hoping for some kind of good luck charm, a divine help intervention perhaps, for their upcoming exams.

It was told that Giambologna walked around the pedestal twice trying to figure out what sculpture he would create, and well, you know how the rest of the story goes. We are but humans, and some of us have a soft spot for superstitutions.

I also would like to add that there is something with Italy and Neptune. Neptune is the god of sea and water in Roman religion. His counterpart in Greek mythology is Poseidon. He represents strength, vigor, vitality and imagination. You can find similar statues of Neptune all over the country. The most popular one is the Fountain of Neptune statue in Florence where Giambologna was also partly involved in.

Think about these little nuggets of information when you visit Bologna and pass by Piazza del Nettuno =)

The Library of Salaborsa is one of the buildings flanking Piazza dell Nettuno.

Morandi Museum on the right and Enzo Palace on the left, sandwiching Piazza dell Nettuno.

Fountain of Neptune.

One of the 4 lactating maidens as pedestal pillars behind me =)

The marble stairs of Biblioteca Salaborsa.

Travel Period: May 2016
Destination: Bologna (Emilia Romagna), Italy

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Preveza, Greece: An Afternoon at the Barracuda Beach Bar in Kanali Beach

Introducing, the Dutchman’s favourite beach in this summer holiday – Kanali Beach in Preveza, mainland Greece.

Would you believe that I discovered Kanali Beach on Google Maps?

We have agreed to spend a day in Preveza and this meant that I would need to look for a beach nearby where we can spend our afternoon. The plan was to have lunch in Preveza, then go to the beach, and then go back to Preveza for dinner and spend the rest of the evening. Whilst checking out the map of Preveza on Google Maps, I widened my radius to about 20 kilometers. focusing on the coastal areas. This was when I found Kanali in the northern part. I then googled Kanali to see pictures and read reviews.

Aha, I hit jackpot! Kanali seems to be a huge and popular beach resort area.

The waiter at the restaurant where we had lunch at Preveza harbour confirmed that Kanali is indeed where the beach action is.

After surveying the long stretch of beach and the beach bars, we settled at the Barracuda Beach Bar in the southern part of the coastline. It is the beach bar before reaching Monolithi Camping. It is the first week of July, a week before peak season kicks in, which means the beaches are not that very busy yet.

We also found out that most of the beach bars in Kanali offer FREE SUNBEDS! Of course you will have to buy something, such drinks or snacks in order to use their sunbed and parasol. That is fine with us. We love all the free stuff but we know as well that there is really no such thing as free lunch. Somehow, someway, you have to pay it back. Well, we do not mind buying drinks.

Did we like Kanali beach? Well, yes!

We found Kanali to be very much to our liking. The beach here is sandy, and it is calm and warmer compared to the beaches in Lefkada island. The waters here are shallow as well and goes slowly deeply into the sea. Another plus point of Kanali is that the whole coast is facing south, which means beachgoers will have the last ray of sun and daylight here.

So aside from the free sunbeds, these are the reasons why Kanali is the Dutchman’s favourite beach.

We stayed until 20:00 here at the Barracuda Beach Bar before calling it a day and driving back to Preveza town for dinner.

A margarita cocktail at the beach.

This is our driving route:

From Nydri, our holiday base, we went to mainland Greece in Preveza, and then to up further north to Kanali.

The beach is not busy at all.

One of the best books I have read recently -- "I am Pilgrim".

This was taken past 7pm already.

Barracuda Beach Bar.

Travel Period: July 2016
Destination: Kanali, Preveza (Epirus), Greece

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Mainland Greece: Light and Refreshing Lunch at Preveza Harbour

We managed to escape Lefkada island and spent a day in mainland Greece in Preveza.

Lefkada island is served by Preveza airport. This means that we first landed in Preveza, mainland Greece before we were brought by the transfer bus to our hotel in Nydri, Lefkada.

Before the holiday, I made a pact with the Dutchman that we would spend a day in Preveza and its nearby surroundings. The drive takes about an hour from Nydri passing through an underwater tunnel which is served by a toll road.

The first thing we did in Preveza was to check out the town and search for a place to have lunch. The towns and cities in the Greek islands are usually dead in the afternoons because people are indoors having siesta or at the beach. The siesta thing is cultural which is very typical for mediterranean countries but it is understandable because it is just too hot! The shops and offices usually re-open between 16:00 and 17:00. Only the cafes and restaurants are open in the afternoon.

We settled at the restaurant on Venizelou street on the harbour promenade where there was a little bit of life. Because we have been ordering Greek Salad all the time, we decided to try a different kind of salad this time, the Mixed Green Salad and a serving of Baked Aubergine with melted cheese.

The Mixed Green Salad was a big hit. We all loved it!

The lunch was very light and refreshing, however, I had no vague idea of the name of the restaurant because it’s all Greek to me.

As we were paying, I asked the waiter where the nearest beach is in town. He said that if we walk further down the boulevard we will reach a curve which leads to a city beach. It is a popular beach that many locals go to.

Then I asked him about Kanali. You see, I did my research about Preveza and found out that there is a large stretch of beach in the north of the city called Kanali.

His face suddenly lighted up, and then he smiled and said, “I am going there myself after this shift.”

“It’s just 20 minutes drive from here.” He added.

Aha – now we know where to go after this lunch! I cannot stress this enough, but it is always a good idea to ask or confirm with the locals. They know better.

This is our driving route to Preveza from Nydri:

From Nydri, we drove to the north to Lefkada town and then crossed over to mainland Greece. Lefkada island is the only island connected by a bridge to mainland Greece. to Preveza in the region of Epirus in mainland Greece.

Here is our lunch at the harbour of Preveza:

The taverna on Venizelou street on the harbour promenade of Preveza. The restaurant is beside an ATM (Pireaus Bank)

Venizelou: Preveza harbour promenade.

This was a hit: Greek Mixed Green Salad. You've got some local spinach, beet roots, carrots, cabbage, lettuce greens, paprika, onions, tomatoes, spring onions and a lemon.

Baked aubergine with melted cheese on top.

Our lunch spread.

Dutch mother and moi, fully satisfied from our very refreshing lunch.

The sailboats moored along the Preveza harbour promenade.

Travel Period: July 2016
Destination: Preveza City (Epirus), Greece

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