Aaaand I'm back from the Winter break! 

After a glorious 3 weeks, split between home #1 (Margate), home #2 (Milan) and the wonderful city of Budapest, I am back at home #3 (Exeter). And I'm surprisingly happy to be here, considering I am now facing a rather full-on 12 weeks of teaching, conferencing, volunteer group co-ordinating and (somewhere in the middle) PhD-ing. It may have something to do with the fact that Michele and I behaved like absolute skanks in Budapest and, after forgetting to pack travel-size shampoo and toothpaste, went an entire three days without washing our hair or brushing our teeth. (Well, we rinsed both teeth and hair regularly... and he reckons that toothpaste is useless anyway. A quick Google suggests that this may be true. Which makes me feel a little better. But anyway. I was very happy to return to my well stocked bathroom to say the least.)

Seeing as most of my photos of Budapest are currently on a memory card about 1000km away (having thoroughly abused my last camera, it has understandably given up on me and I am now relying on the odd mix of old trips I never blogged about, iPhone pics and borrowing Michele's marvellous Canon 5D), I'm going to have to save our Hungarian jaunt for next month when I am reunited with my love. But never mind! I have Bologna to talk about first.

Bologna is a perfect city for wandering around without a plan. Which is exactly what we did last week when we went to visit Martina and Andrea for a quick, 24-hour break in Bologna. We'd visited the red city before (again, for an aimless, no-plan break) but this time we had our two lovely friends to show us their favourite spots! I really love being shown around a city by friends, it's great to see old places with a fresh pair of eyes (not that I can really call Bologna an "old" place after one previous visit!) 

After being dragged away from the city centre for a deliciously indulgent lunch at Trattoria da Vito, we quickly marched back to have a look at the city of towers and arches. At its height (no pun intended), Bologna was home to up to 180 colossally high towers. It's also famous for its long porticoes, which cover many of the pavements in arched walkways. Perfect for winter trips! Luckily for us, we didn't have to shelter from the rain at all and were treated to wonderful winter sun for the entirety of our stay (although it did leave me seriously wishing I'd remembered to pack my sunglasses - I always forget this about winter in Italy!)

The historical centre has survived incredibly well from medieval times and is very compact, making it a brilliant destination to get around by on foot. One of the most striking things about the city is its colour palette of warm reds, golds and ochres - in fact, one of the city's nicknames is La Rossa or The Red One. So many cities seem to be composed of so many shades of grey so Bologna is a really welcome change. Although this did mean that I was basically abandoned by the others as I took photos of every single tiny thing! I'm currently in between cameras (i.e., I broke my last one and have to rely on my iPhone) but luckily Michele has a Canon 5D which I'm still trying to get to grips with. Again, ISO is not my friend (nor is RAW when you don't have a computer that can handle those files properly, sigh) but I think I might get there eventually...

On our way to the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, where the famous two towers of Bologna stand, we dipped into the Parocchia Santi Bartolomeo e Gaetano. This is well worth a visit when strolling around Bologna with incredible paintings covering every inch of wall and ceiling. A church dedicated to San Bartolomeo has stood on that spot since the 5th century, although they think that this was built on top of an even older church! The mind boggles. Bologna also has a fairly good claim to being home to the world's oldest university which should give you an idea as to just how well preserved this historical city is.

(Last time we were stood in this very spot, Michele got absolutely bombarded by bird shit just as I tried to take a photo of the towers from below. I can't even describe how hard I tried not to laugh. I had to walk behind him so he wouldn't see me desperately fighting a losing battle with the mirth. Luckily he escaped this time!)

By this time, the light was beginning to fade in the city and evening was quickly catching up with us. But before we turned in for the day, Martina and Andrea had a couple more places up their sleeve to show us, places we'd never seen before and probably wouldn't have thought to visit if we'd been there on our own! But I'll post all those pictures another day - me being me, I managed to take hundreds in a single day. Me being me again, I couldn't bear to narrow them down any more as every corner of Bologna was so beautiful! Part II of our trip to Bologna is coming right up...