Basta Pasta!!

In publishing there are four major trade shows for the bulk of American publishers. These include the Frankfurt Book Fair, the London Book Fair, Book Expo America and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. It is the latter which is renowned for being a fantastic experience. A lot of that positive experience comes down to the locale and its amazing food and medieval character. This past week I attended my first Bologna and was lucky enough to take along a notable photographer and fellow reveller.

The schedule was for Jim and I to head out last Friday. We would have the weekend for travel, recovery and play. Sunday night the week kicked off with the annual Random House Cocktail Party. My colleague and co-conspirator, Wayne, would join us Sunday night for the first of many dinners. Monday morning the fair began. We had a packed schedule with appointments running through the day from 9 to 5 most of the three days we would be there.

Bologna is a smallish city with many very old buildings, cobblestone streets. Landing at the airport it was easy to see that Spring was more advanced there than at home. The grass and trees were greening. The air was still quite chilly and the weather would prove to be uniformly grey and rainy throughout the week. Walking the streets of Bologna in the rain, the cobblestones gleamed with moisture and the streetlights and store signs glittered in the wet air. It made for an even more romantic picture of this very old city. The rain was never a downpour so it was perfectly easy to walk around and see the sights. Umbrellas were necessary equipment and because the city was so small, the best way to get anywhere was to walk. All that walking was just as well as the food was unbelievable and it would have been criminal to abstain from the Primi Piatti–and I promise you neither Jim nor I abstained.

Saturday we were pretty wiped. The flight overnight was fairly comfortable but that first day is always rough. We had a three hour layover in Paris.

Fatigued knitter at Charles De Gaulle Airport

Fatigued knitter at Charles De Gaulle Airport

Post-knitting nap

Post-knitting nap

An amazing view through the window as we flew over the Pyrenees.

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Armed with restaurant recommendations from an experienced colleague, the eating festival began Saturday night with dinner in a unabashedly charming and fabulous restaurant called Da Cesari.

Da Cesare

Da Cesare

Stepping into the restaurant from the dark and rainy streets was both a little intimidating and a transformative experience. At this point in the week we had not yet put our feedbags on and we did not try to pace the couples on either side of us. They were both working their way through the five-course meal with paired wines like indomitable pros. We limped through the appetizer and primi piatti and felt that was the worst we could do. It was all delicious and we shared tastes and took our time. The local Sangiovese wine was amazing.

I pine for you!

I pine for you!

Sunday we were back in form and began to explore the city. This included lots of walking around as well as a climb up the Ansinelli Tower. One of the two most prominent towers punctuating the central, old city, this is the only tower open to the public.

The Ansinelli Tower

The Ansinelli Tower

A very narrow staircase runs around the perimeter of the tower. Extremely narrow in places, traffic travels up and down the staircase and people must hug the walls to make way for traffic in the other direction. Besides the upward and downward struggle, the effect is very much one of entering a deep mine shaft as the incredibly thick walls of the hundreds year old tower seem to close in. In moments of claustrophobia, you can only remember that the tower has been standing for seven hundred odd years, it is unlikely to fall down with you in it.

Don't look down--or up!

Don’t look down–or up!

It may have been strenuous, but there was a payoff.

The red tile rooftops of Bologna

The red tile rooftops of Bologna

Wandering the city we saw many remarkable old stone buildings, piazzas with charming restaurants, vegetable and fruit stores bursting with fresh offerings.

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Winding narrow streets.

Winding narrow streets.

The produce looked outstanding.

The produce looked outstanding.

How old could these stones be?

How old could these stones be?

The grey and rain couldn’t possibly dampen our spirits.

Jim's selfie with spouse.

Jim’s selfie with spouse.

Thus the rhythm for the week was established. We had days packed with meetings from 9 to 5. All day Wayne and I met with publishers and presented Storia or built upon existing relationships to acquire more content. Our meetings were great but tiring. Jim would explore the city and have his own adventures. After the day’s work and a brief nap, it was time for another mind-blowing dinner.

As the week progressed, we moved towards the entire five course extravaganza. Walking to and from dinner and pretty much everywhere else became our only salvation. Each evening was a tremendous combination of outrageous food, delightful restauranteurs, charming settings and good companionship.

Monday night at La Drogherie della Rose with our hosts from Little Tiger.

Monday night at La Drogherie della Rosa with our hosts from Little Tiger.

When Thursday dawned it was time to head home. It seemed like we had been away forever, but it was the perfect combination of work and play. It felt like a vacation and yet, at the end of the week, I was pretty tired. It was my first Bologna. I hope there will be many more. It was even better because Jim was there to share so much of it.

Dining with my best friend.

Dining with my best friend.

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One Comment to “Basta Pasta!!”

  1. Molte bene.

    Sent from my iPad

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