Travel: Something To Declare

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The Independent Culture
True or false?

At the only place to eat for miles around Bologna's Basilica, you're bound to get ripped off

False. It's a long haul to the Basilica of San Luca from the centre of Bologna. Twenty minutes squashed on a bus. Then another 45 of calf-sapping toil as you labour uphill, beneath 666 (count 'em) medieval arches. The reward is a wonderful panorama of the city below. But who cares? After all that effort, it hardly compares to the sight of a good lunch and a piccolo of beer.

So it's off to the tiny village next door in search of refreshment. You see only one restaurant, the Pizzeria Coffee Shop San Vito. An eatery with a monopoly in a prime tourist location? The perfect recipe for a rip-off. Step inside and the beams are exposed. They're decorated with hoes, horseshoes and other agricultural implements. Uh-oh. It looks like a Harvester restaurant.

Don't worry; it doesn't taste like a Harvester. Bologna takes its food seriously. The city's appetite has earned it the nickname La Grossa - The Fat One. And the restaurateur at the San Vito refuses to compromise on quality. There are delicious pizzas that make a mockery of hunger. Giant, crispy salads which laugh in the face of limp lettuce. And all at prices that make you wonder whether Britain's pizza chains aren't having a collective chuckle at our expense.

To fend off the pangs, we feasted on hulks of rustic bruschetta drizzled with olive oil, and stuck a pin into the sprawling menu. We chanced upon the cheese-drenched gorgonzola and radicchio. It was a pongy delight. We twinned it with an asparagus and mushroom pizza. Not quite as whiffy or delicious, but still flavoursome and fresh.

And alongside? A marvellous salad of fennel, tuna, boiled eggs and borlotti beans. Even with a couple of Nastro Azzurro beers, the bill was only around a tenner each. We'll be back. Though maybe next time we'll go by taxi.

Trouble spots

European charter flights this summer

The cease-fire in the Balkans should help reduce delays on flights to holiday destinations this summer, but accounts reaching The Independent suggest that hold-ups are resulting from other causes. "A total shambles" is how this newspaper's theatre critic, David Benedict, describes his experience at the hands of Air 2000 on a flight from Menorca to Stansted last Monday. An 11-hour delay was blamed on "operational difficulties"; after the plane finally took off, no drinks were available; and the weary travellers faced a further wait at the Essex airport because of baggage problems.

Mr Benedict says staff at Menorca told him that delays on this route had been an almost weekly occurrence last season, and that holiday reps had drawn straws to avoid it. A spokeswoman for Air 2000 told The Independent that technical faults were to blame; the airline will not offer compensation to disgruntled passengers. She said the route had previously been operated by Leisure International (now part of Air 2000), and that Air 2000 had therefore not been involved in last summer's delays.

Air 2000's rivals have not had an entirely happy summer so far, either. On the first day of the season, 1 May, there was chaos at Gatwick's south terminal when Monarch switched to a new handling agent, British Midland. Flights were delayed and passengers lost luggage. And Britannia's flight from Antigua and St Lucia to Manchester this week was delayed by nearly five hours because of mechanical problems.

All the airlines are warning that, despite the peace moves in the Balkans, flights to the Eastern Mediterranean continue to be affected by military restrictions. Diverted planes will place extra pressure on alternative routes, which could result in increased congestion and delays on many European flights this summer.