Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A perfect spot to bath the horses

Traversing Italy from north to south requires a few stops along the way, and one of the perfect stopovers is Bagnacavallo. A small town between Bologna and Rimini with loads of restaurants and very high, but still affordable culinary standards. A personal favourite is Osteria Malabocca, interpreted as Ma la Bocca to avoid suspicion of hurting the mouth.

During an exquisite meal here, the chef emerged to chat about the genteel aspirations of the name and speculations that modern day tourists may have been preceded by the great poet Dante.

- Do you know, the Romans used to come here to cross the river Senio, and they believed the water had a therapeutic effect on ailing horses? He asked with considerable reverence. In the high Middle Ages the place therefore became known as Bagnacavallo, because this was the place to bath the horses, and even today Ingredior rhoebus, cyllaros egredior meaning “It enters ill and comes out healthy” is inscribed in the city’s coat of arms.

The next day we went out to look for the miraculous waters, but found only farm land and signs to the near-by town Cotignola that was basically destroyed during the Battaglia del Senio between German and allied forces in april 1945.

I was reminded of my experiences in Bagnacavallo the other day, when reading biographical notes on Lord Byron. Apparently, the great Romantic poet left his illigitimate daugter Allegra at the Capuchin convent in Bagnacavallo, while he pursued his flamboyant interests elsewhere. In 1822 when Don Juan was being lived and writted the five-year-old died from fever surrounded by nuns at the convent.

It would appear that Bagnacavallo lost some of its health-bringing magic many years ago, but self-indulgence lives on in the menu degustazione and it can be highly refreshing.

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