So last time I left you, we were in Bologna.
And if I'm completely honest with you, that's where I wish I was right now. Or at least somewhere fun and pretty with amazing food and a good 1000km away from work, responsibility and real life. I'm feeling rather flat this evening.. I've been stressing out over Brexit for a while because I'm not sure what it means for a) my future as a researcher dependent on government and EU grants and b) mine and Michele's future as a Brit and an Italian wanting to get married and, y'know, to actually be allowed to live in the same country.
Then there's the little trip to the gynaecologist I had yesterday which wasn't fun. Sorry if it's too much info and if you're not a fan of medical details look away now but I found out that the pain I feel "downstairs" (as such) is due to my nerves sending pain signals when they should be sending touch or "fun" signals. Which means that sex is really, really painful a lot of the time. I was kind of expecting it as my doctor had floated the possibility with me before, but I thought it was more likely to be linked to my eczema and sensitive skin. And there's a big difference between expecting something and having it confirmed. I think I'll write about this in more detail in the future - apparently this is actually quite a common condition but I'd never heard of it until a couple of months ago. I think the word needs to be spread!
Plus, my Dad just sent me a photo - some idiot just wrote our little car off (and nearly killed my Dad - ok, slight exaggeration, the airbags saved him from even knocking his head, but still). Meaning my birthday plans, holiday plans, PhD research plans and chance-of-buying-a-cheap-car-off-my-parents plans are all..... gone.
So yes. I'm currently slumped in front of my computer with a cup of tea and wishing Michele were here to bring me hugs and cake and cook me pasta. Alas. We're currently on different sides of Europe.
SO ANYWAY. Back to Bologna. God knows I need a bit of sunshine in my mind right now.
Perhaps it's not the most famous of Italy's cities but most certainly a worthy destination for the foodie traveller! Nestled in the region of Emilia Romagna, the city is an absolute gem to explore.
We were there visiting our friends Martina and Andrea for a lovely wintry mini-break in the red city. One of the things I love most about visiting friends in their home cities is the opportunity to see a side to that city you might not have seen before.
Michele and I visited Bologna in 2015 but we didn't see some of the beautiful little corners that these two showed us, such as this piazza which apparently is their favourite in the whole city!
Tucked just around the corner from the Torre Asinelli, this wide, cobbled piazza is the epitome of old world charm.
We headed into the Chiesa di Santo Stefano at the head of the piazza, which led into a series of beautiful, old little courtyards.
In fact, calling it a "Chiesa" is a bit misleading - it's actually known in Bologna as the "sette chiese" (seven churches) for being a little cluster of religious buildings all together! All built in different ages and so, of course, completely different styles.
They really had to drag me away from this place - the light was fading fast and there was so much more to see!
As we made our way through another golden portico, the sunset was playing wonderful games with the Torre Asinelli behind us, making it almost disappear in the evening light.
And so evening began to take hold of Bologna.
Luckily it wasn't too, too cold (unlike Budapest the following weekend which was another kettle of fish entirely) so we carried on walking around the streets and just enjoying the architecture and colours and life of the city.
Of course, I was stopping every 5 seconds and battling with the 50 mm lens (when will I learn to take the adjustable one out when visiting places?!) so my companions ran off without me!
Another of their favourite spots on the tour was inside the public library.
I couldn't believe how cool this place was - there were so many amazing study spaces full of students sitting around, working in groups and taking advantage of this beautiful building.
Although I'm not 100% sure where all the books were...
By now, our stomachs were beginning to speak to us. Andrea is a fantastic vegan cook so we all put in our requests for our favourite dishes of his (seriously, he just makes stuff up all the time and it is always SO GOOD. I've tried to persuade him to do a blog but he can't be bothered, so sad!), headed to the supermarket to stock up on ingredients and marched back out to their apartment.
Back home, we had a hilarious evening full of food, prosecco, the best vegan chocolate mousse you will ever taste and games with their cat, Nacho (what a name, eh?)
It was such a fun couple of days and I can't wait to go back (if they'll have us!)