Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Beneath Bologna

Bologna. Ambling up from the station, the town centre a target. Two friends embrace on a crossing, while a patient taxi driver waits — the amiable anarchy of Bologna. A middle aged man cycles by whistling accompanied by the staccato clack on heels on the marble floor as a woman rushes by — late for her train perhaps? Sound is all around. Conversations, melodic highs and lows, echoing beneath the high ceiling porticoes, dashed and splashed with the unsigned frescoes of the city’s artists. In the old city centre, Osteria del Sole — bring your own Mortadella and bread and cheese and order a glass of Theresianer Pils and listen to people talk: students discuss ways in which the world can be saved; couples pick at each others’ lunches, the intimacy of familiarity; the Goth/rock chick barmaid hands out a chopping board and knife; original artworks by patrons can be seen rolled out on the walls; the chatter, the clink of the glasses, the debates, the integration, the deliberation, the lack of the iPad.

Later that day, a stroll out of the centre into the Birroteca La Tana del Luppolo (which apparently translates as Lair of Hops), small, a shop that is now a bar, to be found in a precinct like area. Above the wooden bar, the chiselled, hewed, carved, birthed from the earth wooden bar, an empty barrel hangs, its fangs forever drawn, a signifier that beer is the diet here. Two dogs engage in the corner, a small funny bundle of pup fur and a Dachshund cross. Blanche des Neiges, Birrifico Italiano Cinnamon Bitter and La Rulles Estivale on draught while lots of bottles hover in the fridges. Big open window, the street passes by and I’m told it was a home brew shop before it went into selling beer at the bar. And to come there is a story that includes BrewDog, Flying Dog, La Senne, St Feuillien, Rochefort, Thornbridge and Brewfist who have been or will be turning up and the following night Agostino from Birrifico Italiano will be there as well. And then sitting there with my glass of Cinnamon Bitter I’m thinking about how during the day I visited the place where the canal that was part of the network that used to vein its way through Bologna emerges into daylight on Via Malcontenti, a hidden part of the city, a place where fast flowing waters cut through a frayed, crumbling, naked part of old Bologna before vanishing beneath another street and no one knows of its existence — and I think how like this subterranean network the beer culture of Bologna is. And I like that.