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Venice OR Bologna?

Venice OR Bologna?

Old Feb 28, 18, 1:13 pm
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Venice OR Bologna?

I have 3 days available (mid April) to visit one or the other. I've been to Venice (1978!), but not Bologna. (I've made several trips to Florence and Rome, so no interest there for this trip).

I didn't care for Venice (but that was July 1978, I was backpacking, and 15 years old. Much has changed). I would be staying this time at the Gritti Palace.

All I know about Bologna is the (very detailed) description laid out by John Grisham in "The Broker", which I enjoyed. That planted the seed.

Assuming I can stay in a nice hotel in the city center.....any thoughts as to the merits of both places?

Thanks!

RRZ
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Old Mar 1, 18, 10:54 am
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Originally Posted by rrz518 View Post
I have 3 days available (mid April) to visit one or the other. I've been to Venice (1978!), but not Bologna. (I've made several trips to Florence and Rome, so no interest there for this trip).

I didn't care for Venice (but that was July 1978, I was backpacking, and 15 years old. Much has changed). I would be staying this time at the Gritti Palace.

All I know about Bologna is the (very detailed) description laid out by John Grisham in "The Broker", which I enjoyed. That planted the seed.

Assuming I can stay in a nice hotel in the city center.....any thoughts as to the merits of both places?

Thanks!

RRZ
It's certainly a matter of taste, but I'd say that if you were a 15 year old back paper in Venice over 45 years ago, you haven't really been there. Novelist have skills in describing a city for fantasy purposes, even though they probably just went there for a day to get a slight feel of it. Bologna is rarely visited by tourists. That's good, because you hear Italian, not English in the streets. Bars and restaurants are not crowded, and they are generally not expensive. It has a nice central part, Piazza Maggiore, and a couple of leaning towers, one leans more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but was just never pushed to be famous. The food is distinct. Some like it, some hate it. They can't grow olive oil there, so just about everything is meat centered, and cooked with lard. It's a very large city, probably the fifth largest in Italy, with about one million people, so it's very sprawling. It does have some nice sights, a few nice museums, a few quaint old neighborhoods. Knowing that it is not drawing many visitors, they are starting to invest in it. They are building some type of giant food exposition hall as a permanent tourist attraction, an amusement park, and an Eataly, to bring it a bit more up to date and to draw visitors. It's definite nice and wander able in the city center, and some nice hills to climb with great views. It's not much set up for tourist to find what they want to do, but I'm not knocking it. Much of Italy was communist, and anti-capitalist until not too long ago. Bologna was completely communist since WWII, was the largest communist city in Western Europe until the 1990's, and was considered the best run city in Italy because the communists kept it that way to show it off. Since communism there fell in 1992, Bologna has deteriorated, which is why they are building it back as an industrial city with a population approaching one million people. You'll have a good time there, but face it, you haven't seen Venice.

Venice is perhaps the most beautiful city in the world. It's on a different scale than Bologna. It has 50,000 people, not a million. The only thing you'll have to do is read up on how to enjoy. Your main task would be to get as far away from the Hoteal Gritti as possible when you go outside, and stay as far away as you can from San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, and any place between. Get off the street where the Gritti is located. Get into the back streets, as far as you can, and get as lost as you can. Take the back alleys. Don't head towards the train station. If you visit Venice correctly, you'll be lost 95% of the time, but will always be able to get back. The food is sublime, opposite of food from Bologna, and you need to make reservations at least a week in advance. You will only see beautiful Venice by getting lost into the back streets, especially of Castello and Dorsoduro. It has super great museums. You should see Rialto and Piazza San Marco, but get there early around 8 AM, or after 9PM, then find an alley, and keep walking. If you get tired, stop and have coffee and a pastry. Every time you turn a corner, you will see stunning beauty, and no crowds, if you stay away from those two places.

Seeing Bologna without seeing Venice would be an unusual choice.
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Old Mar 1, 18, 7:34 pm
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Very good answer by Perche, and here's my usual small correction: Bologna is considered by many Italians (not tourists, though!) to be the gastronomical centre of Italy; sort of what Lyon is for France.
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Old Mar 1, 18, 11:15 pm
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Originally Posted by KLouis View Post
Very good answer by Perche, and here's my usual small correction: Bologna is considered by many Italians (not tourists, though!) to be the gastronomical centre of Italy; sort of what Lyon is for France.
Well, that is if you want to eat sausage and lard, and have no access to fish!
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Old Mar 2, 18, 2:39 am
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I enjoyed the food in Bologna more than that in Venice (although that was good too).

Very different cities and experiences but in this case I would say go back to Venice. (Bologna will still be there in years to come).
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Old Mar 2, 18, 7:38 am
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Originally Posted by Perche View Post
Well, that is if you want to eat sausage and lard, and have no access to fish!
https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cucina_bolognese
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Old Mar 2, 18, 8:52 am
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You see, I was right. In bologna they just eat meat, sausage, and lard! Give me the healthy diet of Venice, that you find off of the beaten pathways in local, non-touristy neighborhoods, eating seafood that was just caught, with vegetables that were just picked on the island of Sant'Erasmo, an island in the lagoon right off of Venice, that just arrived in small motor boats driven by the farmer, who docks their boat around sunrise and brings the produce to the restaurant to be cooked that night. I'd rather eat like that than eat a slice of a giant cow leg that has been hanging from the ceiling for a few years and seen in the window at a typical Bolognese salumeria. People have different tastes, but when I had to be in Emilia-Romagna for a while (Modena, Bologna, Parma), I practically starved, because I cannot live on sausage, shavings of pig or cow leg, and lard alone.

Once at a small restaurant in Bologna, they were about to put a giant spoonful of lard in some soup that I ordered and I asked them, "Can you please to put that lard in my soup?" They said, "No, the soup must have lard." One time, they brought me something that looked like a huge chunk butter to put on something. I know they have butter in Bologna, but I was suspicious and just before I spread it on something, I became suspicious and I asked, "What the heck is this?" And the waiter said, "Pig lard, of course." They expected me to eat a piece of pig lard that was the same size as a stick of butter for an appetizer.

I'll take the fresh food of Venice, just don't eat near Piazza San Marco, or the Rialto Bridge.
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Old Mar 2, 18, 9:00 am
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If you're a serious foodie, pick Bologna (or Modena). Bologna has an interesting historic center and one of the oldest universities in the world. Venice is largely a big tourist trap with crowds and overpriced bad restaurants with bad service. It's especially bad in high season, which would be summer (and also hot, muggy, and somewhat smelly along some of the canals), but April might hit the school vacation period.
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Old Mar 2, 18, 10:10 am
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
If you're a serious foodie, pick Bologna (or Modena). Bologna has an interesting historic center and one of the oldest universities in the world. Venice is largely a big tourist trap with crowds and overpriced bad restaurants with bad service. It's especially bad in high season, which would be summer (and also hot, muggy, and somewhat smelly along some of the canals), but April might hit the school vacation period.
I guess you haven't been to Venice, except to follow the tourist crowds let off of the cruise ships who beeline to Piazza San Marco, and even stay near there. I spent a few weeks there last year. I was even there for Carnevale. Really, I hardly ever saw a tourist.

Venetian water is not smelly at all. I kayak all around it. Most of city (80%) doesn't have a sidewalk, so I get to go where no one else goes. Venice can have some serious tides, bringing water into the lagoon, bringing water out. It's like flushing the toilet bowl each and every day. Last night I was sitting in a bar in Marin County, in a town with one of the most expensive zip codes in California, right on the San Francisco Bay, just hanging out with the locals, and a tourist said, "Is there a problem with the toilets, there is a smell in here?" The bartender, who just retired from a career in the Coast Guard said, "Have you ever heard of low tide? That's what low tide smells like in San Francisco Bay." It's the same for Venice. A lagoon at low tide smells like a lagoon at low tide.

The summer is not high season. High season is Spring, Summer, and Fall. However, if you don't follow the conga line of tourists into San Marco and the Rialto Bridge, you won't see anybody but locals, even a 3 minute walk away from there. I can make a turn down two alleys off of San Marco and walk 100 yards during Carnevale, or high season, and there will be no tourists, the restaurants are excellent, and you can eat very well for 10-15 euros, including two glasses of wine. I can stand on the Rialto Bridge, walk for 2 minutes and there will be absolutely zero tourists, nothing but locals, and superb restaurants. And anyone can if they read up and prepare for their trip.

As has been said many times, all you have to do to experience the magic in Venice is stop and take a look at where the crowds are headed, and go in the opposite direction. As soon as you see a small alley, take it. If you see another one, take it too. In five minutes you will be hopelessly lost, but will come to some square where kids are playing soccer, mothers are strolling with carriages, the wine costs 2 euros, you can get a full meal for 6 euros, the people don't resent tourists because there aren't any, they show typical Italian hospitality, and the beauty will make you stop dead in your tracks.

Sometimes, I have to cross San Marco, and get through some of the tourist areas and it is hell, because I have an obligation in another part of the city and it is the shortest route. 95% of the 30,000 tourists per day, for some reason, want to cram themselves into 10% of the city of Venice, and then complain that it was too crowded and touristy.

All you have to do in Venice is to be like a salmon, swim upstream, and keep heading away from the tourists. Pretty soon, you will be in pure Venice. If you must see Piazza San Marco, and the Rialto Bridge, get there early in the morning. I recommend 7AM for Rialto. If you like to run, all you will find in Piazza San Marco and the streets around it at 8AM are other runners, and Venetians bringing that evenings food to the stores in a Venetian wheel barrel. And, you will never find your way back to your hotel if you do this, so don't stress out. It's basically an island, so if you get lost on your run, just stop and have a coffee. You will never be more than 20 minutes away

Everyone gets lost in Venice, if you do it right. I've gone on morning runs and on my way back to my apartment, all of a sudden the street I'm trying to run through has a few inches of water, because Aqua Alta is coming in. So I try to run around it, and encounter another flooded street. So I run the opposite way to try to get away to what I know is slightly higher ground and make a huge detour, such that I'm totally lost, but anyone can always find there way back, but here comes the high water even there. So I go into a bar, and the water is now starting to flood into the bar. I pick up my feet and put it on a chair, and ask for a glass of wine. The water comes in. Life goes on as normal. Venetians come in with their Wellies, or boots made for walking in high water, and stand at the bar and drink their coffee, as if nothing is happening. I'm in my Adidas, because my Wellies are in my apartment. An hour and two glasses of wine later, the water is gone, and I run the rest of the way home. Although it's not my neighborhood and I'm lost, you will always find it.

I never see tourist groups with a group with a leader carrying a flag, stopping at a monument, then giving an error-filled one minute lecture about it, using a microphone. You just have to stay away from San Marco. I was in Venice last February and July, and found the streets to be empty of tourists, because I was a ten minute walk away from Piazza San Marco. I'd sit outside and just watch the neighborhood kids kicking around a soccer ball.

Do these pictures look crowded and touristy? These were taken July 22-23, 2017. The big white boat was Steve Jobs boat. His wife was hanging out in Venice last Summer, enjoying it, knowing how to stay away from the tourist throngs. She wisely docked in the neighborhood of Castello, not San Marco.

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Last edited by Perche; Mar 2, 18 at 11:16 am
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Old Mar 2, 18, 12:43 pm
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Thanks. While I do LOVE sausage (and lard, in moderation), I am heading for Venice. Got an even better deal at the Danieli, so I'll not be in a hostel on this visit (actually in 1978....couldn't find accommodations then either, and we stayed in Treviso).
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Old Mar 2, 18, 2:01 pm
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Originally Posted by rrz518 View Post
Thanks. While I do LOVE sausage (and lard, in moderation), I am heading for Venice. Got an even better deal at the Danieli, so I'll not be in a hostel on this visit (actually in 1978....couldn't find accommodations then either, and we stayed in Treviso).
Tell Danieli not to put you in the new annex.
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Old Mar 2, 18, 6:20 pm
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Originally Posted by rrz518 View Post
Thanks. While I do LOVE sausage (and lard, in moderation), I am heading for Venice. Got an even better deal at the Danieli, so I'll not be in a hostel on this visit (actually in 1978....couldn't find accommodations then either, and we stayed in Treviso).
Also, Daniel is in a better location than Gritti. Gritti is a great hotel, on possibly the worse street in Venice for tourism. Daniel is in a touristy location, as you will notice as soon as you step out the door. However, all you have to do is not turn right towards San Marco, but turn left, and in 5-10 minutes you'll be out of the touristy area and into Castello. At night, or very early, you can step out and go right, and see Piazza San Marco three minutes away, before the crowds turn up.
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