The last town we visited before starting school was a town called Imola which turned out to be a big surprise. We hadn’t expected much and were a bit worried as we knew nothing about the small city. We had booked an Airbnb there simply as a base to explore Bologna, Ravenna, Ferrara and Verona, some of the towns we had wanted to visit. We weren’t finding any accommodations in Bologna within our budget so we moved our search to Imola and found a great apartment there. Well our apartment turned out to be fantastic and the town even more so!
We had about a 20 minute walk from the train station and found our apartment right in the middle of the historic center, just around the corner was the Sforza Castle and the Imola Cathedral was in our backyard. In our front yard there was a large open air market three times a week in the morning where you could find anything, as well there was an indoor market with meat, fish, vegetable, fruit and cheese vendors. It was so fun just buying groceries and exploring in another language. Also across the street from our apartment was a small outdoor theater that happened to have entertainment going on everyday for the 5 days we were there, something that was part of the holiday season that ended just after epiphany on January 8th. In the center was a stage that had kids/family entertainment throughout the day and music with a beer garden in the evenings for the adults. Rock & Roll, Italian, Pop and Reggae music was belted out till about 1 in the morning each night by various bands. Surrounding the stage were vendors dishing out Italian street food, goodies and our fav- Vin Brule on a cold evening. We couldn’t have found a better location and the apartment was awesome, once again we totally lucked out or our preplanning had paid off!
Imola is considered the western gateway to the Emilia-Romagna region, just two train stops away from Bologna and a few more to Modena (famous for Balsamic Vinegar) or Parma (famous for the cheese). We made a day trip from here to see the fabulous renaissance city of Bologna but didn’t make any others as we were so enjoying lazing our days away around Imola. We had a few favorite cafes that we visited daily part of our daily rhythm in Imola and we really felt at home here.
Funny story: we went to a small knick-knack store to find an alarm clock as Janet was worried about getting up in the mornings for school and my phone wasn’t working. We had bought one at the train station in Milan but it didn’t work so we wanted to make sure we didn’t buy another dud. This little corner store had one in the window so we asked about it and the owner was trying to explain in Italian how it worked and we were trying to ask about how to set the alarm without knowing the Italian words. She demo’d everything but what we wanted to know and we couldn’t figure out was how to set it. Well, we were a bit dense about it and she quickly got irritated trying to explain it. She’d pull up the button to turn on the alarm and she’d point to it saying ‘ding,ding,ding’ and then she’d repeat it few times. We understood the ‘ding,ding,ding’ which we told her irritatingly; ‘capisiamo ding, ding, ding but how ‘ to set’ l’ora a sveliamo’!!!!! As Janet was turning the dial it fell off so she wanted to look at a different one. The clerk didn’t want us looking at another, she stuck the dial back on and shoved it towards us motioning to’ buy it or get the hell out of her store’! We thought we better buy it for the $8 euros after all the commotion so we paid for it, she gave us the change with a disgusted look on her face and practically threw the bag at us. It was comical and we had a good laugh about it. As soon as we took it out of the bag to look we figured out how to set the alarm…..dah! However ‘the customer is always right’, is not a thing here in Italy!
Something else the town is famous for is Formula One Racing, it is home to the Enzo and Dino Ferrari Autodroma which I tripped upon close to our apartment one evening. Nothing was happening over the holidays but they do have a small museum that I was able to tour for free and imagine some of the excitement that happens here on race days.
The old historic center in Imola is typical of many Italian towns but has so much character. Many cafes and shops can be found throughout the labyrinth of historic buildings and it becomes quite lively during the shopping hours while almost a desert when things are closed. Over the holiday’s, the town had a skating rink in the center that was popular with families and teens, music pumping from the loud speakers made for a festive vibe. We’d walk past it then stop at the nut vendors to buy some candied almonds or roasted cashews, then a pit stop at the café for a caffeine fix and some Italian cookies and occasionally some roasted chestnuts from a vendor outside the café. Surrounding the town is a great park system which many of the locals circumnavigate on bicycle as the town has a strong biking culture, you can rent bikes at many of the automated kiosks throughout the town if you don’t have a bike of your own.
Imola has lots to offer and it just had such a lovely vibe that made for a very enjoyable stay, we’d love to go back some day. It’s well situated as a base to explore the western side of Emilia-Romagna where you could easily hop on the train for Bologna, Ravenna, Ferarra, Verona and many other well know cities in this region of Italy.