I’d only been in red-bricked Bologna a few hours when I had the feeling my original calling here could be a spurious one.
Over the “oohs” and “ahs” of the flavoursome discoveries of the famed ragu, I’d spent my first evening there talking with Judy, an inspirational Canadian lady who’s been travelling Europe since May.
Judy, with her top coaching qualities, has a 115-strong “I am going to do this” list. The idea being that if you commit something to paper, you’re more likely to then make it happen.
Why 115? If you aim for 100 you’ll only think of 90 and then get stuck.
Egged on by the memory of Judy’s words and being the keen “do-er” that I am, the first 25 items of my own “115 list” were committed to hard-drive the following evening.
Number 25 – motivated by numerous occasions when I’ve delayed acting on my gut feel – is this:
Have the courage to follow and act on my gut feel earlier and not succumb to some British “being polite and nice” thing I seem to do, even when there’s no need. This doesn’t mean be rude to people, rather that I don’t have to extend the hand of friendship to people whose actions deserve only civility.
Little did I know I’d be putting it into practice only two days later.
The original calling
I confess, I’d had an ulterior motive for wanting to visit Bologna. Sure, the leftist red-bricked city had been on my Italian wish-list for all the reasons I’ve long loved Italy – culture, food, wine, ice-cream, architecture, people. But that was only 80% of it.
The other 20% came in the form of 6 foot 2 Italian hot-ness by the name of Giovanni. A Bologna resident, I met Giovanni in Rome last year when he approached me in a bar to say he “knew me from Scarborough” (my home town). I was floored.
Several thoughts ran through my head, chief of which was: “I’m pretty damned sure I’d have remembered YOU in Scarborough!”
So after one night of merriment between our respective groups of friends that ended with a very chaste peck on the cheek and an exchange of numbers at 2am; and having turned down at least three previous invitations, I arrived in Bologna some eighteen months later, as part of my month-long trip from Budapest to Athens.
The plan? To do my own thing sightseeing, and to catch up with Giovanni on the Tuesday evening I was in town.
Fast forward two days. Tuesday, 8.40pm
I’m stood inside Palazzo Gnudi with Giovanni and his friends. A frescoed ceiling is above me, girls in dresses and high heels are all around me. I’m not exactly in scruffs, but I feel decidedly under-dressed. This is a super-trendy bar that’s a million miles away from Bologna’s marginally casual – by Italian standards – leftist vibe. My numerous pairs of suitable heels are three countries north-west.
I feel decidedly like I’m an afterthought. A hungry afterthought at that.
A combination of factors have led me to this conclusion. His vagueness about arrangements and lack of mention of the bar/dressy factor, being half an hour late without apology, lack of desire to tell me anything about places I should see whilst I’m in town, lack of offering me a drink when he was buying a round.
I have a flashback to number 25.
Have the courage to follow and act on my gut feel earlier and not succumb to some British “being polite and nice” thing that I seem to do, even when there’s no need.
I don’t really know Giovanni from Adam; I don’t owe him anything.
My mind is made up.
I scan the bar with a cursory 360, check he and his friends are out of view, find the stairway, and leave; replying to his “where are you?” message ten minutes later with a text that is far more polite than necessary.
I seek out the local pasta speciality of tagliatelle al ragu – it’s more sumptuous than any hot Italian could ever be. Thanks Judy, I feel illuminated.