It reads almost like a movie script, set in Italy in a quaint abode of unique character. Italy, quaint, finding oneself… they almost always seem to go together. That being said, there’s something about this particular place that makes one feel, well, I can’t quite put my finger on it. I’ve stayed at high-end hotels, but this unassuming place on an unassuming street in an unassuming neighborhood places one in a feeling of, you might say, authentic Bologna.
For me, authentic is the operative word. Hotel Porta San Mamolo in Bologna, Italy oozes realism. The staff, their desire to assist, their words all emit a genuineness rarely experienced and once found is certainly valued by any traveler. You won’t hear pretentious words like “my pleasure” from any staff member. I think they realize that over use and insincerity comes from a rehearsed and reflexive response. You won’t find any affectation here. After-all, words are just words unless they are accompanied by actions and feelings, genuine feelings. What you will find is a truly unique personality and character. You can feel it is their pleasure to support your travels. That’s what you’ll get here. As my constant reiteration of being genuine suggests, this is one description that cannot be oversold.
Here, the staff is authentic people in the people business, a rare but great quality if you can find it. Here they are in the business of accommodating travelers, and they do it extremely well. This excellence in execution is no accident. The ownership knows what it takes.
Is it the Ritz? No, but can you have a glass of wine alfresco in a comfortable courtyard with the owner of the Ritz? How about wine from the owner’s family winery?
As for location, Porta San Mamolo is a ten minute stroll to Piazza Maggiori, the main square in Bologna. You’ll pass by one of the best, err, the best in my opinion, places to have lunch and dinner, Al Sangiovese. If you are religious, the Bascilica of San Dominico, the resting place of Saint Dominic, is within a five-minute walk.
For authentic Bologna and genuine people, this is one experience to place on your bucket list.
Cue the breakfast alfresco in the courtyard scene:
There’s coolness in the air at eight in the morning. The smells of coffee and baked goods loaded with chocolate waft into the air, carrying you down from your room bordering the courtyard. I am assuming you’ve opened the windows at this point as the song birds have shared some miraculous tunes with the sunrise. The flowers are in full bloom and the roses too. There’s something peaceful here, something soothing, something that is just a perfect start to the day. The staff offer up coffee of different makes; espresso, cappuccino, café Americano. Whatever your choice, the staff will put it together for you. Sit, enjoy, meditate, converse, and relish a good morning breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast, fruit, freshly baked pastries, yogurt, juice, meats, cheeses, breads, cereals, milk, and various forms of granola, plenty of options for even the most finicky.
Cue the lunch and dinner and lunch and dinner at Al Sangiovese scene:
Right out of the shoot, the front desk receptionist recommends a small thirty or so seat, with another fifteen or so outside, restaurant located a mere fifty to seventy-five feet from the door of the Porta San Mamolo. Dump your luggage and start walking with your appetite leading the way, out the front door to the right. Don’t be late, they close for the afternoon at 2:30 and reopen at 7:00. Once inside, Antonella or Rocco will greet you. They are the owners who make this place work like a charm.
Before I go on, here’s a little info to set the stage for my next comment. Bolognian’s pride themselves on their food, that’s a well-known fact, but until you live that fact it’s just words that sound nice. Very rarely do I make comments like what is about to be written, because usually I am the pessimist. If you tell me it’s good, that’s fine, but I’ll be the judge. With that said, this place blew the lid off my idea of great food. I can’t imagine how it could get any better. They have set the bar very high. You’ll think if this is the start of food in Bologna, then you’ll be headed to a tailor for some major clothing alterations and hope the seat belt extension won’t be needed for the plane flight home. Translation, the food, and Antonella’s and Rocco’s attention to us sometimes overly critical Americans is, expletive deleted, off the charts.
Cue the Conde Winery scene:
Nestled on the slopes of the hills just outside of Bologna, rests a vineyard. Not just any vineyard, but one that has been growing grapes in those hills for a thousand or so years. Controlled and managed by the older brother and his daughter and executed again with intent and precision, this family vineyard is completely remodeled and replanted by a new highly technological, well qualified agronomist. Along with the professionals, growing grapes and producing wines have been passed down through the generations in this family. Translation, they know what they are doing.
This lovely wine estate comes complete with first-rate and brand new villas available for your enjoyment. Spend the day learning about cultivating and making fine tasting wine, tour the facility, or even simply pamper yourself in their pools and spa. A visit to a local medieval town high upon a nearby mountain provides time to savor the many different flavors of wine tasted earlier in the day. Return to the first class restaurants with, if they aren’t already they should be, Michelin star chefs serving the likes of food never dreamed.
A visit to this winery involves all of your senses as the views are outstanding, the smells range from flowers to wines to fine foods, and your palette is ignited into a lively appreciation for something so pleasurably new.
Cue the big finish: