As I said, I wanted to go and see the bakery that carries the name of the Simili family, despite the fact that the Sorelle Simili have not been involved in it for years, and they told me not to bother looking in.
It is large, high-ceilinged and empty-feeling. Is it by some unfortunate coincidence or is it my imagination, that this bakery seems to attract Bologna's most petite residents? Everyone who enters, in their fur coats and berets, looks tiny in front of the high glass counter.
I have come at the end of the day, and there is next to nothing left in the display. A steady stream of customers comes in, each on asks for something the shop's already run out of, and most people leave empty-handed. I say 'ask', but to me it sounds like they demand, but this is just a cultural difference that I've not got over yet. Italians don't use as many 'please's and 'thank-you's as perhaps we do in English. Ordering a coffee, you say "a coffee", rather than what I say: "Please can I have a coffee, thank you very much" - I end up sounding excessively polite here.
The lady behind the counter manages to keep up an unbroken phone conversation for the hour that I'm there, despite all those pesky customers. When she finally rings off, it's time to close the blinds and shut up the shop for the long lunch-break. She shows me the bakery, which is long and low, with a small white-enameled oven at each end, and the ready-weighed flour sitting in the bowls of the mixers for tomorrow morning. The workshop also produces filled fresh pasta in the Bolognese tradition, and biscuits whose buttery perfume still lingers deliciously.
The shop itself looks like it's been gutted. I ask whether it was all sold today. "No, there's just no point in filling the shelves any more. Up to about three years ago, people would come here for their flour, oil, vanilla and baking powder as well as bread, but now there are three big supermarkets close-by and no point in even trying to keep up with them." She tells me that they're going to take out the empty shelves and put up big photos of the shop dating from when it was the booming family-run business it used to be. I wonder what the Sorelle Simili would think of this, let alone what purpose it would serve.