Torino to Bologna, Italy

12:13 Torino Porta Nuova train station, waiting for the 11:55 to Bologna to depart. My compartment mate is a very friendly young Italian man who unfortunately only has 25 minutes in Bologna to catch his connection to Rome.

Conversation turned to American politics (seems to be a popular topic among the Italians)(who are inevitably dissapointed that I can’t tell them the current mood of Americans, not having lived there for 6 years). My new friend does not care a bit for Bush or Condaleeza Rice, and made the surprising statement that he felt people like Rice were being manipulated by Bush. After my laughter died down I mentioned that aside from Rice being fairly intelligent in her own right, I found it hard to believe Bush was capable of manipulating a revolving door, much less Rice, Cheney, Rove, or anybody else.

I got a little sweaty under my backpack.
I got a little sweaty under my backpack.

I asked if he thought Americans were ready to elect a black person as president. He wasn’t sure, but the way he answered indicated to me that he doesn’t really understand the stupid importance of race in the US.

[later] While gazing out the window at the flat countryside I suddenly remembered an awful dream I had last night, and I have the feeling that I’ve had it before, too. (Annoyingly, I knew during the dream that a) it was a dream, b) I’d had it before, and c) I could just wake up and avoid the awfulness.) Apparently I was a spy of some kind, and I had worked very closely with a partner – a woman – for whom I had come to care for very deeply. At the end – mission accomplished or something, I’m not sure – we had to part ways. It wasn’t safe for us to stay together in that place.

I knew I would never see her again, in fact I had the feeling I didn’t know her real name. I felt, in the dream, that I had known her for a very long time – a lifetime – and now suddenly she was gone, forever, and it was crushing. I tried to leave a desperate message in a public place where she might see it, but I knew it was hopeless; she was gone. I had a deep feeling of immense loss, and it was one of those dreams where the feeling of sadness persists even after waking.

Unlike most of my dreams with this one I had no idea what prompted it. Usually there is something obvious in my life that triggers it, but this one is still a mystery.

18:03: having a glass of wine somewhere in Bologna. Got here ok, but don’t really feel comfy, not sure why. Hot as hell for one thing – forcast had said 35C and humid. Not sure what reality is, but busy paved downtowns without canals are sure to be hot.

19:58 “Hooked on Classics”, I shit you not, in Restaurant Donatello, proud Bolognese staple since 1903. At least the cheesy classical music (with a drum machine accompaniment, for those unfamiliar with the albums) is slightly more fitting for this old establishment than the Coldplay that was on when I came in. The sad thing is that I remember the order of the songs in the Hooked on Classics medley even though I haven’t heard it since it was my favorite tape 20+ years ago.

Dinner was ok, but after the awesome dinner the first night in Saluzzo, this doesn’t really compare. I had a fresh egg pasta with a white sauce (barely noticeable and very nice) and proscuitto, then for a secondi I had veal breaded with prosciutto, parmesan, and a cream sauce. In hindsight it was too much rich cream, but that was my fault not the restaurant’s. And a 1/2 L of house red wine… that’s one thing that sucks about traveling alone: it’s hardly ever economical to order a full bottle, and most places don’t stock 1/2 bottles, so I’m usually stuck with the house plonk.

I came in at 19:15 and there were three other tourists in the whole place. Now an hour later there are 22 total.

I originally had 1 compartment-mate on the train, then another, then eventually the cabin was full. Anyhow, the first guy (with the good, interesting conversation) got off with me in Bologna for his connection to Rome. I felt like saying farewell, and mentioned “oh, by the way, my name is Mark”. He did a double-take and stammered “…Mark? That’s my name too! I am also a Mark!”

20:22 Place is now over 33% full. Half liter of wine is now 85% empty.

Interesting (?) factoid. My Moleskine journals are not significantly cheaper in Italy (where they are made). The cheapest I’ve found so far is 10 euros, which is about 1.50 better than Amsterdam, but at $9.95, still worse than NYC.

I couldn’t decide on mascarpone, panna cotta, or tiramisu for dessert. Asked the waiter – just mentioned those three things with a questioning tone – and without hesitation he said “panna cotta!” so panna cotta it is!

I’m no expert, but I sense it is better than average, but not great. And it is covered in a chocolate sauce only a few steps up from Hershey’s, which does not improve it much.

Interesting! An older, grey-haired (oops, that doesn’t differentiate me) man in more business-like clothing ordered the same 1/2 liter of wine that I did, except he got a special glass (not the basic one already in the table setting that I had to drink out of) and the waiter poured it for him (I was left to figure it out on my own)(I managed).

20:53 Caffe espresso, then a grappa (sauvignon grape). Restaurant is pretty much packed. Hey! Just saw another panna cotta go by with red sauce… I didn’t have a choice! Clearly I am not the prefferred clientelle (but I am being treated very pleasantly nonetheless).

I’m not the only solo guy dining, and we all (4 of us) got the 1/2 carafe of wine and still mineral water (although I was dumbfounded when I heard “naturale” come out of my mouth instead of “frizzante” when I ordered – if I am going to pay for water I want bubbles in it! I think we all had the same first dish, too, except for 2 of us got it the balsamico sauce variety.

After all the wine and grappa I just wandered around the P. Maggiore taking pictures and listening to Subsonica on my iPod (a band who, the other Mark on the train explained, were from Torino!). Went back to the hotel for my tripod (if I’m going to lug that thing all over the planet I damn well better use it) and took it back to contemplate the two crazy towers of Bologna.