This weekend was supposed to be our trip to Firenze (Florence), but because Brittany’s Thursday class was canceled and rescheduled to Saturday (weird…I know), we had to alter our plans a bit. Instead of Florence we went to the haven of European living – IKEA.
For those of you who have never been to an IKEA, here’s the layout. When you enter you are instantly in Displayland. Every square footage, with the exception of the yellow brick road* that guides you through this magical land, is set up to look like your dream kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, etc. and when you see something you want…or NEED…you grab a sheet from the provided notepad and a handy dandy little pencil to write down its item number or item numbers (* said path is neither yellow nor brick). After leaving Displayland, you enter the less magical, but more useful, Individually-Packed-Items-Land, where each item you passed and many, many, many (times infinity) more items are available for purchase.
It’s really an interesting adventure, especially here in Bologna, because so many people go to IKEA to get their basic supplies, which means the aisles are packed full of people. We needed a blanket (check), a coffee maker (check), a kettle (check), towels (check), and a few other non-essential items (all check), but couldn’t help adding a few things to our shopping bag as we went along. All in all it was a successful trip.
However, this story is not about shopping at IKEA, it’s the story of how we had to get to IKEA. If anything, I hope this post serves as a guide to future Bologna tourists who are trying to get to the magical land of stuff. Our story begins as many of our Bologna trips have…we tried to do some research…
After we decided we needed a few goods and IKEA would be our best place to get them all, we started researching how to get to IKEA. Since we have slowly gotten acclimated to walking everywhere we go, my first thought was to just walk there. In hindsight, I’m really glad Brittany talked me out of that. Our second idea was taking the bus. This seemed like the best solution since all of the information we found about getting to the Bologna IKEA revolved around taking the bus…it even has its own bus dedicated to transferring people back and forth. Ahh…it sounded so easy. We kept looking online a the different Bologna bus sights, but 1) it was all in Italian and 2) none of them seemed to say anything about the IKEA bus. We finally managed to figure out that the bus we were looking for apparently stops in three different places in Bologna before heading to IKEA. First stop, near the train station. Second stop, in front of the Honda dealership. Third stop, near the Basilica di Saint Francesco. We knew where all three of these places were, but since the train station was closest to our flat, we decided that would be the one we went to.
How to describe the train station area? It is on the outer edge of the main section of town, the area that once contained the walls and porte, so it has a larger road in front of it. In fact, it is almost directly in front of the Porta Galleria. On one side of the street you have an area set up for tourists just getting off the bus…lots of markets, food places, etc. And down this strip there are red poles every so often. Each of these red poles are a stopping point for a different bus route (so if the first red pole is stop 1 it might have routes 1, 7, 13, and 24…next pole is stop 2 and it has routes 3, 5, 15, and 37…etc), but each of these routes intertwine and intersect to the point that I couldn’t figure out any of their actual paths. And none of them said IKEA. Across the street is the actual train station, but in front of the station is a horseshoe shaped area with more stops, and those stops didn’t even have road maps with destinations, they just had route numbers! Again, we had done research for our trip and we knew that a bus would stop at this location at 2:30 to take us to IKEA, but all it said was that the stop was in front of the train station…and time was quickly skipping its way to 2:30.
We circled the perimeter looking for any sign saying IKEA, but found none. We had arrived thirty minutes early just to accommodate such a situation, but with so little time to spare we might not have come early enough. And the IKEA shuttle only runs every hour, so if we missed this bus we would have to wait an hour for the next one…and what if we still couldn’t find the bus’ landing zone. Panic began to ease its way into our thoughts. There were suggestions of trying to run to one of the other, much smaller, areas, but with so little time to spare, we knew the likelihood of us making it was little to none. Because we thought the bus had to be going through town to reach its other two stops, we positioned ourselves across the street from the train station and began trying to read the LED sign on each bus that passed, which is not easy because of all the portici and because all the titles are in Italian. Then Brittany had a brilliant thought…if the IKEA shuttle is not part of the actual Bologna bus system, it probably won’t be the same color as all the other buses, which is red. Brilliant…at least now we could start narrowing our search down. Orange bus…not our bus. Silver bus…not our bus. White bus…
Brittany watched the small, white bus pass because there was no LED sign indicating its destination, but I saw one word…SACA. It was like a light bulb being blasted on in a pitch black room. I had seen that word in our IKEA research. Without thought I yelled at Brittany to follow and we took off chasing the bus. We passed all of the red pole bus stops and I began to think that we were chasing a delivery truck of some kind, but just as the strip ended the bus stopped. But we were still giving chase. There were so many people trying to get to the train station or to this bus stop or that bus stop, and so many of those people had luggage taking up precious sidewalk space that we were forced to bob and weave, zig and zag, but we finally managed to reach the bus. There, a small, nondescript sign stood, with a word on only one side…the side we wouldn’t have seen when walking by it…was the word IKEA…at last we had found it. I felt like Samwise to Brittany’s Frodo and we had found the path to Mordor. (FYI…I knew this would happen, but as Brittany read this blog to make edits, she questioned why I got to be Samwise and she was stuck as Frodo. So…I felt like Gimli to Brittany’s Legolas…better Brittany? Ok. We move on.) Granted, maybe it wasn’t as bad as all that, I mean, IKEA is definitely not Mordor, but when you’re in a foreign place trying to do simple things, like boarding a bus, takes on an adventure-like quality. And sometimes having a little bit more information to help you out goes a long, long way.
So travelers, grab your towels, and listen to the end of our little tale.
If you’re in Bologna trying to visit the IKEA:
- From Viale Pietro Pietramellara (across from the train station):
- Go to the literal corner of Viale Pietro Pietramellara and Piazza XX Settembre
- Look for the SACA sign in front of the Tabbaccheria on the Pietramellara side of the corner
- The bus was very close to being there exactly when it said it would be (for us anyway). Look for a white, medium sized bus marked SACA.
- Pay the bus driver when getting on the bus. (€3 for a one way trip or €4 for a round trip) He/she will give you a business card sized paper with the date written on it. Be sure to keep up with this.
- From Via Guglielmo Marconi (in front of the Honda dealership):
- I can’t tell you exactly where the SACA sign is since I was on the bus at that point, but we stopped directly in between the Cassa di Risparmio di Cesena shop and the G.I. Store
- Follow previous steps C and D
- From Piazza Malpighi (near Basilica di Saint Francesco)
- Same as before, I can’t tell you exactly, but we stopped just past the statue that stands in the middle of Piazza Malpighi (the same street as Via Guglielmo Marconi)
- Follow previous steps C and D
- You will ride a way crossing, and then getting on, the highway. The bus will drop you off in front of IKEA.
- Remember to try and time your checkout with the bus’ return route, and make sure you have you return trip card. We had a couple of fairly large bags full of goods that fit on the bus, but it looked like some people were putting larger items under the bus…can’t guarantee that though.
And as always…
Italian word(s) of the day: letto – bed (because after a long adventure to Mordor…I mean…IKEA…you need a good rest)
And now you know…