We Rock’n’Roll our way off the highspeed train 22% more buzzed then when we got on in Florence. Ok, we’re in Bologna. “Forgot to book a hostel but it looks like most things are due South.” “Alrighty. To the centro, take a left at the first church?” “Yep. That usually works too.”
We start marching South through the streets of a pleasantly clean and modern Italian city. A few blocks in and it’s zero tourists so far. The sidewalks are now all completely covered in high archways. They run the length of the whole block and then continue on the next one. “Well this is nice.” “I wonder if it rains here a lot or something.” “Dunno. Looks classy though.”
We follow some digileads to a place called Dopa Hostel. We make our way up some stairs to a door that opens into a small communal area. Soft lighting, some ambient house tunes are playing. Chill place. “This does look dope.”
We talk to a girl at a little desk in the room and she says they are all booked but she’ll call over to another one down the road. She holds her hand over the receiver, “Private ok?” “Yep” “Ok, you are in. Just downstairs, go left. Right on Via dell Pallone. Albergo Pallone. Got it?” “We’re on it. Thanks!” “It’s nothing.”
We follow her directions and find the place no problem. “Looks like an old hospital.” “Barracks? Maybe a mental institute?” “Sized us up that quick, did she?” “Well.. she’s not wrong.”
We get buzzed in the gate and follow signs to the reception.
“Yep. Definitely the right place.” “Hey, let me see your passport real quick.” “Ha, no. We won’t be doing that.”
We get to the gigantic front reception desk and the guy there takes our passports and gets us checked in. Comes with a free breakfast.
“You are one floor up, room 204. You can take the lift here or there is the stairs.” “One floor? We’ll take the stairs.” “Yes. You are very Canadian.” His tone’s a little flat. “For taking the stairs?” “American’s don’t take the stairs.” “Oh really?” “No. Too fat.” His delivery is so dry I can’t tell if he’s joking or not. Funny either way. “Whooaaa daaaaamn. This guy. Look out.” He finally cracks a smile.
We chuckle going up and find our room. Fairly basic hospital-style room with two beds in it. All we need.
My phone buzzes. “It’s the informant.” “What’s it say?” “Neptune’s Fountain. 715.” “We’re on the case…”
We get cleaned up from our slightly rainy Florence expedition and look up where this Neptune’s Fountain is. Ten minute walk straight down the street. We take off a bit early because we read too many Robert Ludlum books growing up and know how important it’ll be to scope out the area before the informant arrives.
We continue south under more covered archways and we’re soon at a large open square. There’s an old medieval fort and a Renaissance-y clock tower. The soft yellow lighting is nice. Everything is pristine. Seems to be a somewhat younger crowd. Maybe a university town? Slightly cooler temp again too.
“So Bologna is super nice, isn’t it?” “It is. May have found an adventure detective gem here.”
We get passed this area and behind it there is what looks like a half-finished cathedral on the other side of another large square. It’s a huge, long complex. This is the Basilica di San Petronio built in 1390.
“Somehow missed the fountain?” “Ya it’s back this way by the fort.”
We backtrack to the fountain which we’d originally missed due to the large crowd gathered near it. There’s ol’ Neptune, pointing the way.
“Judging by the flags.. pro Chilean rally?” “Probably in support of the riots down there, ya. Living expenses and inequality.” “The communist flags are an interesting touch.” “Commies jumping on that train for sure. Down with capitalism and all that. Trying to curry favor with the young, impressionable university students maybe.” “These flags are making me uncomfortable.” “Is this why your buddy wanted to meet here? He a fucking commie?! hahah.” “Oh shit. Ya maybe. And crowds like this make for a good escape route…”
Bar Vittorio Emanuele
Just around the corner from Neptune is a place called Bar Vittorio Emanuele with seats slung out into the square. We find a table with the fountain in sight so we’ll know when the informant arrives.
A server comes right over. “Ciao. Food? Drinks?” “Some gin I think.” “Any kind?” “Hendricks please. Doubles.” “Ahh here in Italy we do not do single e double. Just one side, you will like.” “Alright sure.” “You want food? We have spaghetti, lasagna…” “Oh yeah, lasagna.” “Oh ok. Sorry, we have no lasagna tonight, but there is taglietti.” “Taglietti? Sure.” “Olives?” “That’d be great. Thanks.”
The server brings us the drinks and a basket of bread. “Some bread, ah. Here in Italy it is tradition. Clean well your plate, ah?” “Oh nice. Will do.”
He comes back with the taglietti. Looks simple enough.
It does taste great with the bread and the plates get cleaned as promised.
Soon into our second round of one-sided gin stiffies, a familiar figure comes strutting passed Neptune’s trident. It’s Captain Vegbro (aka Simon), the Agencies field operative here in Bologna and the informant we’ve avoided sniper sight lines to meet.
He’s looking more dapper than I remember and is sporting a rather mature looking, clean-cut, reddish beard with just a hint of silver sizzle on the chin. His eyes perk up and a smile forms when he spots us across the way. His pace quickens to the table.
“Ahh there you are. Welcome to Bologna!” We get up for man hugs and introductions. “Simon, James. James, Simon.” “Hey man, I’ve heard a lot about you. What are we drinking?” “Gin and tonic.” “Time for another?” “Ya man, we’ve got no plans.”
We get another drink going, do some catching up, and fill Simon in on the travels thus far. I’ve known this guy since high school and it takes less than a minute to swing right back into it. He’s got a more collected and put together demeanor nowadays, though that’s not hard to imagine given the anarchic zaniness of years passed. Maybe Italy has left him wizened and worldly. Whatever it is, he’s comfortable in it and eager to get things rolling tonight.
“Well what do you guys wanna do?” “I dunno. Haven’t really looked into anything here. Game for whatever.” “Sure. Cheryl wants to see you too. We could go to this super old pub and meet her?” “Sounds good to me.” “Great. And I can also show you the seven secrets of Bologna.” “Seven secrets of Bologna? Sounds intriguing.” “Ya, some local folklore. Like, Neptune over there.. actually we can get to that one later. But ya, seven secrets. We’ll see how many we can find.” “Fucking secret mission! I love it. Dude, I haven’t seen you forever. Let’s get a pic.” “Oh definitely.”
We finish up at Vittorio Emanuele and take off following Captain Vegbro’s lead. Seven secrets of Bologna? That’s good intel.