“Nothing good happens after 2.am” – Ted Mosby
In the long running tv series “How I Met Your Mother”, this mantra which was passed down to Ted by his mother is something which I will forever refuse to believe…well at least in Bologna. Ted’s character is adorable, loveable, vulnerable, romantic albeit perpetually heartbroken yet I refuse to believe that in New York; the city which never sleeps, he couldn’t find something good going on after 2.a.m…..even if he did make a fool of himself along the way. In Bologna on the other hand, everything good happens after 2 a.m. By this time it is possible that you’ve had a birra or two, you may feel tired, you may feel emotional but in Bologna you can never feel as though anything can go wrong in the twilight hours. If anything that’s when the night is just beginning.
By day Bologna is a beautiful city. It’s “La Rossa” (The red one) ; a stunning yet unassuming agglomeration of russet and terracotta buildings; a scarlet heart pulsating with culture. By night it is ever more beautiful. Shades of red fade to hazy yellows and burnt oranges as the glow of street lamps illuminates the alleyways and piazzas. I have spent four months in Bologna now yet everytime I set foot in Piazza Maggiore under a starry sky I count myself lucky. Everything from the facade of San Petronio cathedral to the bronze sculpture of a coquettish lady in the adjoining via IV novembre seems like a painting. I sometimes imagine that if I poured some water on the scene it would vanish and the colours would just wash away like paint on the canvas of my own imagination. When I walk around the cobbled streets of Bologna with friends I often feel as though I am in some kind of magical dream world. Around every corner there is an interesting character. From the gummy African man who happily plays a chalice and spoon outside the kebab shop on Via del Pratello, to the Aussie busker who plays the guitar by the Due Torri accompanied by his chihuahua, tunelessly howling along in accompaniment.
By 3am when our friend Conor unusally finishes his shift at The Irish Times pub in Via del Paradiso there is only one place we can go; Osteria dello Scorpione. A pub which I have likened to Narnia. It can only be found when you’re not looking for it. When you really need a drink. When you aimlessly wander through random streets where there are seemingly no signs of life. But beyond rows of terraced houses and a prison on Via Santa Caterina you will find a mystical oasis. It’s not closed. You just need to duck under that half pulled shutter and walk on in. Here we can stay until 6am. The bar and kitchen are always open. Ordering a Pizza at 4am is not a ludicrous idea. Those scorpions in the tank are perhaps dead but is any of this real anyway? There are books about starsigns (including Scorpio), a dwarf sized version of jenga which the proprietor who resembles Doc from back to the future possibly hand carved and then let’s not forget the poster of Sting. That’s just pure, unadulterated genius. Here it is possible to wile away the hours by philosophising, playing cards (or jenga), meeting interesting people and eating those pumpkin seeds which come from the seemingly bottomless tin bucket by the bar.
When 6am strikes Doc gets touchy. He wants us to leave. The dream is over for another night. The sun is about to rise. So I charge my bike with 1.21 gigawatts of magic and cycle home through the cobbled streets as a realist dawn slowly comes into focus. I’m tired, I’m weary but no less in love with the mysticism of a night out in Bologna. You were wrong Ted Mosby. Everything Good Happens after 2am.