I Go to Pieces — An Italy Trip Report

Old Mar 24th, 2014, 12:11 PM
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Fascinating! Can't wait to hear about your class.
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Old Mar 24th, 2014, 12:13 PM
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Now I'm hungry for evil rendered animal fat. How do you say that in Italian?
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Old Mar 24th, 2014, 12:20 PM
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Mmmmmmm sounds delish!!
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Old Mar 24th, 2014, 12:44 PM
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I will follow this with interest, partly because it is so well written, and partly because I want to see how the class goes. My wife took a fused glass class in a small town in Italy two years ago in the Summer. There was no air conditioning in the village, and it reached 104 degrees F(40 Celsius) most days; much higher in the glass studio. I hope your studio proved to be more comfortable.
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Old Mar 25th, 2014, 04:48 AM
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DAY 2: Friday, 28 February 2014 — Bologna

The breakfast room is on the second floor, with windows that look out on the sidewalk under the portici. I lingered over breakfast, enjoying the sun creeping in under the arches. The breakfast buffet was comprehensive, with all the usual suspects (pastries, juices, toast, yogurt, fresh fruit), but also a wide selection of cold meats and cheeses, as well as bacon and eggs. For me, breakfast is a cappuccino and a cornetto, but I was lured in by the tangerines and yogurt as well.

I haven’t planned much for the morning because I must be back at the hotel a 1:00 pm to meet my children . . . or rather my adopted children. In 2012 when I was waiting to board my flight home to New York at Marco Polo Airport in Venice, a group of four college students from Mestre also on the flight were sitting next to me. One fellow, Gian, was reviewing his eight-day plan for New York City and asking those New Yorkers near him for comments on his plan. I gave him some suggestions, and then he asked, “Do you know a church in New York with gospel choir?” I said, “MY church has a gospel choir.” I wrote the information on his itinerary, and the following Sunday the four of them came to my church. I was quite surprised, and they were also surprised by what they saw. “The priest is a woman?!?” My church is very loud, enthusiastic, and friendly, so they had a great time. They all friended me on Facebook and once in a while we send messages.

Almost a year later, Gian wrote on Facebook, “We miss NY. It’s been almost a year.” I wrote back that I would be in Venice soon, and he insisted they would pick me up from the airport. Not really a convenient idea, but Gian, his sister Rita, and their friend did meet me for an afternoon in Venice of sitting in a café in Campo Santa Margherita, sipping spritzes and snacking on bar nibbles.

When we discussed college and the differences between Italy and the U.S. systems, and I remarked that when I was in college so long ago . . . “Yes!” Rita said. “We were wondering how old you are.” When I told them, Rita and Gian said in perfect unison, “Just like our mother!” Her photos of our afternoon posted on Facebook are labeled “with our American mum.” Rita commented that it was destiny that we met. When they found out I would be in Bologna, Rita immediately suggested they stop by one day for lunch.

So this morning I thought I’d just wander around the center of town, enjoying the sunny day, and then head back to the hotel to wait. I also needed to start hitting ATMs in order to amass the cash to pay for the mosaic workshop. The email about payment had stated: “The payment can be made any day of the class, at your best convenience.” I reread the sentence three times, and still always came back with the idea that I could take the class for a few days and then disappear without paying.
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Old Mar 25th, 2014, 07:49 AM
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We also did a Delta/Alitalia combo and DH walked from one counter to the other going and coming! No shared computer or flight ID number between the two. Partners, my eye. Of course, landing 40 minutes early is amazing! At your mention of the shower stall size, I decided we must have been in the same hotel in Venice! LOL at that and Neptune!

Super to make young friends. Looking forward to lunch and school!
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Old Mar 25th, 2014, 08:01 AM
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Enjoying your report. Looking forward to your class...sounds like a lot of fun.
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Old Mar 25th, 2014, 11:44 AM
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Awww - love that experience with your "children".
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Old Mar 25th, 2014, 12:25 PM
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Enjoying your trip report so much, especially as I'm thinking of including Bologna and Ravenna in a trip this summer. Looking forward to the next installment.
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Old Mar 25th, 2014, 01:41 PM
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ellenem - what a lovely story about your italian "family".

They sound delightful.
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Old Mar 25th, 2014, 03:17 PM
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We leave mid-April for our 7th trip to Italy, but our first trip to Bologna and Ravenna. Your report is delightful and has me eagerly anticipating our time in these places.
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Old Mar 25th, 2014, 08:46 PM
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ellen, I'm not surprised at all that you made friends in the airport!

SO looking forward to the rest of your report, especially about the class.

I'm heading off in a couple of weeks, but will be in Venice, Milan and Florence. I've decided to save Bologna for my next trip and take a day trip to Siena instead.

So, I'll be bookmarking this for next year!

Can't wait for more!

Paula
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Old Mar 26th, 2014, 04:48 AM
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DAY 2: Friday, 28 February 2014 — Bologna (continued)

This morning as I walked past the venue for the Vermeer exhibit, the group and individual lines for people holding timed tickets were beginning to fill. At Piazza Maggiore, Nettuno glistened atop his fountain while a class of school children chased pigeons on this beautiful sunny morning. Wrapped in winter coats, people slouched at café tables on the sunny side of the piazza. The only disappointment was the façade of the Basilica of San Petronio, totally under wraps for restoration.

I walked the perimeter of the piazza, peeking into the comune, exploring the shops under the portici, and following the sounds of music. It seemed at every turn I would hear yet another group of musicians playing jazz or classical or traditional Italian music. Following some music, I turned and stumbled upon the area of the Quadrilateral devoted to food shops. I spotted a window display of the most beautiful cured meats and cheeses, and thought, “Tamburini must be near here.” Then I looked up and saw that this WAS Tamburini, the most famous of Bologna food shops.

All along Via Drapperie and the surrounding side streets, I browsed the wonderful food displays. In reviewing my photos, I snapped an inordinate number of photos of parmigiano cheese wedges arranged like rows of teepees. At this hour, one street was completely taken over by a series of fruit and vegetable stands displaying the most beautiful produce in the most luxurious and abundant way. Plenty of photos of these as well to create my calendar for next year. I particularly enjoyed the display in front of one fishmonger, where solemn shoppers watched the drama of the transactions until their moment to perform.

I popped into the church of Santa Maria della Vita for no special reason, only to discover an intriguing work of art tucked into a corner, the “Compianto sul Cristo Morto.” I’d seen many nativity scenes (presepe), but this was a group of virtually life-size terracotta figures mourning over the dead Christ. I reference the nativity scenes because I saw another compianto in another church in Bologna, so this was new to me but may be typical. “Compianto” can mean “mourning” or “sorrow,” but the same root can mean “lament” and these figures by Niccolò dell’Arca, especially Mary Magdalene, were lamenting, anguished — no quiet mourning here.

I also stepped into the Basilica di San Petronio in search of the meridian in the floor. A pinpoint of sunlight shines through hole in the roof, meeting the meridian on the floor at noon to indicate the date. Unfortunately it was too early to see the time marked. Instead, I concentrated on the display of architectural drawings and models of the basilica in the sacristy.

When Rita and Gian found me in my hotel lobby, we shared two kisses and Gian immediately exclaimed at the tablet I was using as they arrived. He is a gadget-happy kind of guy, constantly checking information on his iPhone. I explained it was just the simplest Kindle Fire, just for books, internet, games, documents, no camera, very simple. Rita and Gian commented that it would be perfect for their mother. She and I must be a pair.

We set out to walk to Piazza Maggiore, since Gian had never been to Bologna before and Rita only once before. Gian also mentioned that he has never been to Rome, where I was headed the following week. “So, no Bologna. No Rome,” I observed. “But you’ve spent a week in New York.” “Yes,” he replied, “but New York is wonderful!” Rita found my information about the frighteningly sexy Nettuno statue very amusing as we posed for photos, then she led the way to someplace they wanted to take me for lunch.

Caffe Zamboni is on Via Zamboni close to the Due Torri. It is one of those simple places with drinks, panini, and simple food. The key for Rita was that it was a bargain since they insisted on treating me. There is an expansive buffet lunch for a set price (10 euro, I think), but there is a different simple buffet of cheeses, cured meats, olives, and breads that is free to anyone who orders an apertivo. So for perhaps 5 euro you can eat all the tidbits you’d like. We grabbed a table and settled in for a nice chat, sharing different food from the buffet and some panini. I choose a panino of prosciutto, rucola, and stracchino to go with my spritz. Lots of chatting about university and the differences between America and Italy (the high cost; living away from home), their plans for their studies and future jobs, and a lot of me answering questions about English words.

With just the three of us, I got to see more of their brother/sister relationship, which was very illuminating. My children also presented me with a gift of frappe, a traditional treat of Carnevale — strips of fried dough generously dusted with powdered sugar. I’d seen them in some of the shop windows this morning. We walked back to the train station by a different route, skirting the university area. As we hugged goodbye, and they walked toward their train, I thought I should probably send their mother a thank-you note for raising such nice young adults.

With that Bejeweled Girl staring at me from a poster on every corner, I decided to check on the exhibit and tickets. The number of people in the queue seemed ominous, but it was the number of people attempting to retrieve their coats from the guardaroba that convinced me I wasn’t that interested, though I did consider purchasing a souvenir Girl with the Pearl Earring eyeglass cleaning cloth. Useful and silly. Instead, it’s time for my first gelato. At Gelateria Gianni I have a cup of two scoops: pistacchio and Senzo Futura (chocolate, Lindor chocolate, and cinnamon).

My vacation habit is to relax at the hotel for an hour or two before going out to dinner again. Tonight I was emailing with Dani at my B&B to confirm the time I will arrive in Ravenna on Sunday. I flipped on the TV and noted that later I might watch the following movies dubbed into Ittalian: “Harry Potter e il Principe Mezzosangue,” “The Godfather,” or “Yentyl.”

For dinner it’s a short walk to a Fodorite favorite that I wanted to be sure to try, Trattoria Dal Biassanot. Again, I squeak in without a reservation on the 90-minute plan. The pleasant staff and homey room are warm and welcoming. Not here, not anywhere did I ever feel treated differently for being a single diner. Perhaps because I was usually one of the first diners I felt as if I received extra attention because the staff had the time.

Because I am in Bologna, I choose Tortelloni de la casa for my first course. The waitress (who might have been an owner) asked if I wanted “bianco o rosso.” I chose bianco and received a plate of fat, fresh-as-can-be homemade tortelloni in classic butter and sage, always a favorite of mine. I could never be a vegetarian because I enjoy pork products too much, though I don’t require meat with every meal. However, I am fond of game so when I see rabbit or wild boar on a menu . . . Cinghiale in agrodolce con polenta was my second course a sweet and sour stew on soft polenta. With a glass of Sangiovese and a bottle of water, I think the bill was about 30 euro.

When eating alone, I bring my Kindle and read. For this trip, I had loaded a variety of books. As I enjoyed this meal, I was dining with Inspector Montalbano who was 1,000 km away in Sicily. He chose the fish for his secondo.
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Old Mar 26th, 2014, 07:53 AM
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ellen, what a sweet rendezvous with your Italian friends!

I'm sorry you didn't get to see the Vermeer exhibit. My main reason for going to Milan is to see The Last Supper!

Simple food sounds so delightful. And I'm with you- there are many days I think I could be a vegetarian, but pork always would pull me back to reality! haha

I'm also glad that you seem to be enjoying your Kindle. Are you happy with it? Does it work as well as I marketed it?

Can't wait to keep reading! Thanks for sharing!
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Old Mar 26th, 2014, 09:46 AM
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Wow - so beautifully written, I feel I am there!
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Old Mar 26th, 2014, 11:51 AM
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I'm really enjoying your report, and can't wait to get to the mosaic workshop.

I had an almost identical experience with a boarding pass at one of the NY area airports, I'm not sure which. In my case I had a boarding pass issued at Indiana International airport, which was rejected at security. I was rather annoyed, since I had already waited quite a while at security, then had to wait to exchange it, and then another long wait at security. I've never had this happen anywhere else in the world. I wonder what the story is.

We had a very mild February this year, and many fruit trees bloomed, but we're having a rather chilly February. Yesterday and today there was snow on the mountains nearest our home, which are not very high mountains.

The almond trees are always the earliest to bloom, and they are often in flower in February. This February, our nectarine tree was in bloom, almost a month earlier than normally, and we were afraid a late frost might prevent it from developing fruit.

It's true that from a certain angle the left thumb of the outstretched hand of Nettuno looks like a different outstretched appendage. Here is a photo, which you should refrain from looking at if you're liable to faint.

http://gastonemariotti.com/wp-conten...0/02/bo9bb.jpg

I heard that the sculptor wanted to make the statue anatomically accurate, but that the church insisted that all nude statues had to be decidedly under-endowed. So he got back at them with this thumb.

The meridian lines weren't used to determine the date; people knew the date, but with the very inaccurate timepieces of those days, they didn't know when noon was. These lines were always in churches, and when the sun hit the meridian line, the church bells would be rung so that all the citizens of the town could set their timepieces. In Rome, the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri has a meridian line that was used to mark noon until sometime in the 19th century, when a cannon fired from the Janiculum Hill was substituted; this cannon is still fired every day at noon.
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Old Mar 26th, 2014, 11:57 AM
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Gulp, bvlenci!
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Old Mar 26th, 2014, 02:39 PM
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well, bvl, perhaps the sculptor just wanted it to look as if he was very pleased to see everyone who was looking at him.

ellen- Bologna is a place I have yet to visit but it's heading up my list fast. I am particularly interested in the compianti you mention as i am very fond of presepi, and had a wonderful time recently in Naples in the street which is devoted entirely to them. What a treat!

Thank you for sharing your lunch with your italian "family" with us, and keep it coming.
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Old Mar 27th, 2014, 04:28 AM
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Thanks for the clarification on the meridian. I'm not sorry I didn't see the Vermeer. It was in New York before it was in Bologna and I skipped the craziness there.

More to come tonight . . .
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Old Mar 27th, 2014, 06:26 PM
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Great report. Waiting for the mosaic workshop.
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