Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

Alessandro greeted me with a huge smile. ” Hello! Welcome to al Bricco D’Oro.” I laughed and smiled back. “How did you know to speak to me in English? I asked. “From the way you look,” he said. “It is our business to know.”

I had arrived in Bologna just a few hours earlier, exhausted by 18 hours of travel from Thailand. All efforts at a nap had failed, and I finally gave up and headed out to see the sights and fill my belly. Instinctively, I headed for Piazza Maggiore, the main square and cultural heart of the city. Surprised by the lack of crowds, I wandered around the square, examining the Medieval palaces that surrounded it on three sides. Palazzo d’Accursio, a Renaissance wonder with a stately crenelated tower, is home to the Town Hall. A couple of tourist-filled cafes in Palazzo Podestá and Palazzo Banchi beckoned, but I passed by in search of a more local eatery.

Alessandro and Barbara, proud new owners of al Bricco D'Oro bar in Bologna, Italy

Alessandro and Barbara, proud new owners of al Bricco D’Oro bar in Bologna, Italy

A few blocks behind Piazza Maggiore, I found what I was looking for. An obviously local crowd sat around a handful of tables scattered on the sidewalk in front of al Bricco D’Oro. I peeked inside. As if paying tribute to its name, the interior was flooded with warm golden light and glass cases displayed delicious looking desserts and entrees. Alessandro and his girlfriend, Barbara, waved me in, helped me choose a vegetarian meal, and for the next couple of hours made me feel like I’d found a home away from home. Read More

Libreria Nanni open air bookstore under the porticoes of Bologna, Italy

The porticoes of Bologna, Italy, were built between the 11th and the 20th centuries. Like most Medieval cities, Bologna’s porticoes were built to shelter residents during inclement weather. The arched arcades were attached to the buildings on one side and supported by a row of massive columns on the street side. While porticoes gradually disappeared from most Medieval cities, they endured in Bologna because the city passed a law in 1288 that made their construction compulsory for all new building projects. Interestingly, the law is still in effect.  Read More

Skyline of Bologna, Italy, from rooftop terrace of the Basilica di San Petronio

The beautiful skyline of Bologna, Italy, is best viewed from the rooftop terrace of the Basilica di San Petronio. The Basilca is located in Piazza Maggiore, which sits at the heart of the city and is the most popular gathering place for locals and tourists alike. Most visitors tour the inside of the church, as it is the tenth largest in the world by volume and the largest in the world built of bricks. It also contains some notable works of art, including a 219-foot long Meridian Line inlaid in the floor. Designed by the astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, it was used to determine the length of the solar year and is one of the largest of its kind in the world. Read More

The ancient walls that surround Chiang Mai were constructed in the late 13th century to protect the city from attacks by Burmese invaders. Their defensive function has long since disappeared, however the walls and their five stately gates are still the cultural heart and soul of the city. And none are more integral to daily life than Chiang Mai Gate, the original southern entrance into the walled city.

Morning dawns over Chiang Mai Gate as customers begin arriving at the fresh market

Morning dawns over Chiang Mai Gate as customers begin arriving at the fresh market

Each morning, as first light blooms in the eastern sky, trucks and motorbike carts loaded with fresh produce begin arriving at Chiang Mai Gate. Luscious mangoes; bunches of finger bananas; star fruit; oranges; and slices of watermelon, pineapple, and papaya are heaped onto rickety wooden stands. Three-foot long string beans, huge heads of lettuce and cabbage, multi-colored peppers, chilies, green onions, broccoli, pumpkin, and a myriad of fresh herbs are draped across battered metal tables. By the time the day has dawned, the open air hall is crammed with shoppers. Read More

The Chiang Mai Parrot Man is something of an institution. For years, he has been riding around the northern Thailand city with his pet parrots and mynah birds on the front of his motorbike.He is most often spotted during the evening at Chiang Mai Gate Market

The Chiang Mai Parrot Man is something of an institution in Chiang Mai, Thailand. For years, he has been riding around the northern Thailand city with his pet parrots and mynah birds on the front of his motorbike. He is most often spotted during the evening hours at Chiang Mai Gate Market. He appears after dark and simply sits next to the food booths, attracting a crowd. As far as I can tell, he sells nothing, nor does he ask for money from people who want to pet or feed the birds. Read More

This woman at the Sunday night Walking Street Market in Chiang Mai is demonstrating the art of soap carving in Thailand

The Sunday night Walking Street Market in Chiang Mai, Thailand, focuses on locally produced arts and crafts. Products include clothing, lacquer ware, painting, wood carving, ceramics, pottery, hand made paper goods, lanterns, and paper umbrellas, to name a few. Like many of the artisans who offer their wares during the market, this woman is demonstrating the Thai art of soap carving. She methodically shaves off minute pieces from a bar of soap to create floral designs. While the Internet is rife with tutorials on the art of soap carving, the most beautiful, intricate, delicate carvings I have ever seen are in Thailand. Read More

WT-90697154