I’ve been thinking about doing a theme this week of some of the Bologna street art. As I’ve said before, there’s plenty of your standard graffiti, but there’s also a lot of really amazing street art. I’ve seen some in recent weeks that takes my breath away and really makes me think — and want to create.
However, this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is “weathered” and while going through some of my photos, I came across a picture that combines weathered and wall art. I thought this might be a good way to start the week. On Via Zamboni, along the side of the church of S. Giacomo Maggiore, there’s a beautiful portico that happens to lead to the entrance of the Oratorio di Santa Cecilia. There are some grand Renaissance frescoes inside, but I’ve yet to see them as I always have Charlie with me and I’m not sure he’s welcome. Though he may be, as I’m pretty sure I saw a small dog enter once.
Anyway, as I said, the portico itself is quite grand, yet weathered; a few signs of wear and tear, with a few columns that have lost some of their detail and wall art that has seen better days, but the inherent beauty and style is still obvious in the rhythm of the arches and curves and lines of the groin vault ceiling.
The portico, which is also technically part of the Basilica di San Giacomo Maggiore, dates to the 13th century and is attributed to Tommaso Filippi and has 36 columns. Along part of the portico are what were originally 16th century sepulchral burial arches, which often housed frescoes. Eventually, to protect the frescoes, they were moved indoors. However, the open arches became an issue, as well, and to prevent litter (and people) from accumulating within the recessed arches, reproductions of the frescoes now fill most of the spots. These bits of contemporary Bologna street art are getting a bit weathered themselves, though, and some have been removed and simply filled in with plain material. Works in progress, I suppose.
Still, on a drizzly Sunday morning when I’m feeling a bit weathered myself, the portico is a wonderful place to take a leisurely walk for a few minutes and enjoy the architectural geometry that is still beautiful, even when worn down slightly after more than a few centuries.
Ok, so technically the #DolceVitaBloggers theme for January is your favorite Italian city. Singular. But how do you choose? Even if you’ve only been to a handful? Before living here, I would have probably said Florence. As someone who studied art history and fell in love with the Italian Renaissance, it’s kind of hard not to love Florence. It was such an important city during the period. Plus, it’s home to my beloved Palazzo Strozzi. It’s also the first city I visited in Italy.
But on later visits, I found more places to love. Ravenna, Mantova, Venice, and of course, Bologna. I’ve been to Milan, but for various reasons, it’s not a favorite. I have mixed emotions based on mixed memories. And for the purposes of this post, which is going to be photo heavy, I can only find two photos from Milan: the Galleria and La Scala. Not even the Duomo! So just as well that Milan doesn’t make my list. Although I will always fondly remember one of the guards in the Pinacoteca there pointing out to me the best place to stand to view one of the Caravaggio paintings on display. Mega points for that!
But that’s part of my reason for loving different cities. It’s the art and particularly the architecture that I go to see specifically. So it’s not necessarily choosing my favorite cities; it’s choosing my favorite architectural gems. And that’s nearly impossible. But inevitably, when you visit a city, for whatever reason, it’s hard not to come away with special memories. And while they may be private jokes or just an overall sense of gezelligheid that you’re left with after the trip, each city becomes special in its own way. So in trying to limit it all, here are my top three. Technically, I blogged a bit about Venice yesterday, so I won’t repeat myself, even though Venice is definitely way up there!
Bologna (My new favorite Italian city)
At this point, Bologna probably is my favorite city, in part because it’s where I call home and it’s starting to feel more like home, but also because it’s just a really beautiful city. I took a two-hour walk this morning with Charlie, going in a few new directions and discovering new wonders. Even on a dreary day, the colors may be a bit muted, and the portici may be more necessary, but it’s hard to walk far and not find yourself whispering “ma che bello” as you see some stunning colonnade, architectural gem, fantastic street art, or a color that defies the grey of the sky. I really do recommend looking through more of my blog or Instagram to see more photos of just how beautiful this city really is. These following three barely scratch the surface.
As I said, Florence was my first stop in Italy (a long time ago so all of my photos are from film so they’re mostly photos of photos at this point, so excuse the quality). I loved Florence from the start and it was particularly exciting to see all of these buildings that I’d studied in detail. And here they were! Everywhere! Because I hate looking like a tourist, but I also had a somewhat decent concept of the city layout from my studies, I’d often set off in a general direction and usually found what I was looking for. My friend Cathy who bravely accompanied me on this journey might disagree or at least suggest that there was a lot of extra, unnecessary wandering. Sometimes I just stumbled across stuff unexpectedly, like the Palazzo Medici. Some stuff we never did find, like the Boboli Gardens, but that turned into a joke about there being dragons on that side of the river.
But my main goal was to see the Palazzo Strozzi and the Palazzo Vecchio and of course the Duomo, Baptistry, and Campanile. Il Cronaca! Brunelleschi! Giotto! Oh my!
I could really keep adding cities, but I’m going to limit myself to just one more, Mantova (Mantua). I went specifically to see the Palazzo Te, but while there, I stumbled across Alberti’s Basilica di Sant’Andrea (and my reaction to seeing it unexpectedly has become a running joke with G and me). We saw the outside of the Palazzo Ducale and the St. George Castle, but mainly just wandered around and enjoyed how pretty the city is. As I said, I went specifically for Palazzo Te because it’s stunning, but also because one of my favorite professors had studied it fairly extensively and written about it, so we benefited from his extra knowledge.
So I’ll leave you for now with some photos taken at the Palazzo Te. If you want to see the favorite Italian city of other Italy-loving bloggers, check out the #DolceVitaBloggers via Kelly at Italian at Heart, Jasmine at Questa Dolce Vita, and Kristie at Mammaprada. Every month, they invite bloggers to post on the seventh of each month on a particular topic. Follow their blogs and/or social media to keep up to date with reading and participating.
While visiting Florence the other week, the weather was warm, the sun was shining down, and we were miserable. Well, not miserable, but seriously, y’all, it was hot! I know plenty of people who love warm weather, but that’s not G and me. We arrived at the consulate early, and while it was next to the Arno, the sun was beating down on us, with no immediate shade on that side of the river. Plus, as a result of security, I had to wait to go into the building until it was my appointment time, so there was at least a half hour spent in the sun.
After the appointment, I ended up doing a few laps along the river looking for G who had to wait outside. I was going to call him when I was done, but having had to turn off my phone before entering the consulate, I realized that I didn’t have the SIM number memorized to unlock it. Doh! Fortunately, after just a bit of panicking and walking back and forth, I spotted him in a shady area behind the consulate. The shade — and the sight of a couple of cats — had lured him back there. While I cooled off, we made plans to find a small bar to have a quick lunch before going to the Palazzo Strozzi.
After walking in the sun for a few minutes, we decided to take our chances and head to more shadowed streets heading in the general direction we needed to go. The Arno side, though direct enough, was too hot. Fortunately, we ended up finding a cooler street that had a number of restaurants. While most were maybe a bit more touristic and heavier than we wanted, we ended up finding an attractive little bar with some tasty panini and a nice cross breeze.
Sated, we were once again on our way to the Palazzo Strozzi. Most of the streets at that point were narrow and shadowed. One of the joys of ancient city centers! Still, the roads and walkways are often a bit uneven, with many narrow sidewalks cobbled. By the end of the day, after also wandering around the Palazzo Strozzi and then heading to the Piazza Repubblica, our feet were feeling the effect of those uneven paths.
Does it sound like I’m complaining a lot? I know! I sound like one of those expats/tourists. I hate those people! I promise, I didn’t complain about any of it the first time I went to Florence (although it was much cooler then). This time, I was there mainly for a bit of bureaucratic paperwork that was making me feel a bit stressed and the heat wasn’t helping my anxiety. Plus, by the end, my feet were really hurting, and just about everyone knows that foot pain will turn the sunniest personality into a grump. Blah blah blah excuses …
Mainly, all this over-the-top complaining is to explain why G and I were joking about how much more civilized Bologna is compared to other cities, thanks to the wonderful portici that offer shade from the sun, protection from the rain, and have smooth, even paths beneath them that don’t try to turn your ankle every two steps. The Bologna portici, which cover a huge part of the city, may be pedestrian walkways, but they are anything but pedestrian in their form and function. Many have beautiful marble walkways and some stunning arches and vaulting. And since this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is “pedestrian”, I thought I’d share some of these civilized Bologna portici that came in handy on a recent rainy Sunday morning.
In Utrecht, we’d joke about people wearing bicycle helmets being tourists, as locals almost never wear them. In this case, part of me wants to joke that these are tourists who don’t automatically appreciate the benefits of the portici. And is that someone walking in a bike lane?! Tourists!*
*All tourist teasing and Florence complaining is purely tongue-in-cheek.
I took Charlie over to the Parco della Montagnola this morning, and while we skipped the dog run area, we did head to my favorite section of the park. Even a quick stop has me waxing poetic.
On the far left of the park are the Scalinata del Pincio, grand and ornate stairs rising up on multiple levels. Dotted along the ledges and stairs are the evocative turn-of-the-century lamps. From there, you get a view down on Via Indipendenza, with the grand portici occasionally releasing people out onto the street. Then there are the actual buildings across from the park on Via Indipendenza that always look amazing in the morning light with the many shades of ochre from sunkissed yellow to well-aged orange. Even the windows of these buildings make a statement with their beautiful curved and arched pediments and the shutters that provide some contrast to the bright colors.
And that’s before you even get to the view of the Porta Galliera in the background.
Did I mention there’s also a grand sculpture at the front entrance of the park? Charlie wanted a closer look.
Think of Domenica Details as an occasional Sunday blog category where I take a quick look at a particular detail of something. In this case, I wanted to point out something about the porticoes of Bologna that I mentioned in my last post. As I said, they are a major feature of Bologna and they come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. From one building to the next, you can see major or minor changes. For example, in this case, you can see the change in style of the columns, from the ornate Corinthian column in the front, to the multi-colored square columns further on. The shapes of the arches change, as well, from high, round arches to more squared-off arches.
And yes, you’ll see all kinds of floors, as well, including some highly decorative ones, but I’ll save those for another day.