The Italian Connection #DolceVitaBloggers

The internet is a wonderful thing. Sure it has its downsides, but when you find yourself moving to a new city or country, it can become a wonderful resource and a way to make new friends and connections. In the end, it can also lead you to find that special someone in your life, as it did for me. Today, thanks to some of those online connections I’ve started to make here in Italy, I’ve been invited to take part in the first #DolceVitaBloggers link-up organized by Kelly, Jasmine, and Kristie. The first theme is the Italian Connection, how each blogger has found themselves with a connection to this fascinating country.

Italian Introduction

My connection started off purely academic. I was at university studying art history and had to take a course on Italian Renaissance art and architecture. At first, I wasn’t particularly excited, as my interest at the time lay in Gothic architecture. My expectation was a class full of pictures of naked little chubby baby angels fluttering about. Meh. Fortunately, I was oh so wrong!DolceVitaBloggers renaissance art

I ended up falling in love with the art of the Italian Renaissance. All of that symbolism, iconography, and those colors and forms! The faces full of drama and passion and pathos! I still get a thrill when I get to see a work in person that I remember studying. It’s like seeing an old friend you haven’t seen in ages! All of the emotions come rushing back.

I did also end up falling in love with the architecture. Give me some rustication, alternating curved and triangular pediments, columns, keystones, pilasters, decorated cornices, and quoins and I’m positively giddy. Probably a bit annoying, too, if you’re walking with me in any Italian city and having to stop constantly for me to admire some little architectural bit here and there or when I suddenly cry out, “Ohhh!” upon stumbling across a building I hadn’t been expecting. Not quite When Harry Met Sally levels of ecstasy, but you get the idea.

#DolceVitaBloggers alberti mantova church architecture
The unexpected joy of coming across Alberti’s Basilica di Sant’Andrea in Mantova.
Basilica di sant'andrea mantova alberti architecture
Look at that coffered ceiling in the entrance arch!

Sono Una Tifosa

Unfortunately, I’d come to my love of Italian art and architecture a bit late in my academic career and didn’t end up studying the Italian language at the time. But I was becoming a full-on Italophile, furthered by the Wold Cup taking place the year I graduated. I was cheering on Italy throughout the tournament and they went all the way to the finals! Then there was a penalty kick shoot-out that went horribly wrong and we won’t mention that any more.

Eventually, I started following Serie A, Italian calcio (soccer/football), thanks to the Internet and some international newspapers and magazines I could find at one of the big bookstores. I started trying to learn Italian on my own and could occasionally catch an episode of TG1 (evening news) on cable tv late at night. I eventually signed up to take Italian 101 at the local university, which was hugely helpful. I had also started exchanging emails with someone in Italy, so I was able to practice my Italian regularly.

By the time I finally organized my first trip to Italy, I was able to get by with the basics, had some fun conversations that were a mix of Italian and English, saw some works of art and architecture I’d been dying to see, and even got to go to an Inter-Milan derby at San Siro.

Love Connection

In 2000, I moved to New York City, when my job moved there. After some really lousy dates, I decided to give Internet dating a shot. It was new and a little weird, but hey, it couldn’t really be worse than some of the other dates I’d been on. In the end, I actually met a few really nice people. One, in particular, stood out, and he just happened to be Italian.#DolceVitaBloggers amore

Certainly, the fact that I knew something about Italy and knew a tiny bit of the language helped us connect, but we hit it off anyway, talking for more than five hours on our first date. I knew he was a keeper when he surprised me one day with the gift of a book. It was one of his favorites, Ocean Sea, by Alessandro Baricco (in English, though).

Sixteen years later, we’re still together and we’re now living in his hometown, Bologna. I get to indulge in my love of Italian architecture — and Bologna is particularly stunning with all of the portici. I’m also trying to remember and relearn all of the Italian that I once knew and have forgotten. I think official classes will be part of the plan in 2018. We spent nearly the last nine years in the Netherlands, so I’m currently speaking a mishmash of Italian and Dutch. I’m never quite sure what’s going to come out.

As well as learning the language, there are other adjustments to be made. But I’ve assimilated more than enough to now recoil in horror about the wrongness of spaghetti bolognese like a true native of Bologna!

trattoria serghei restaurants in bologna italy tagliatelle al ragu tortellini in brodo
Tagliatelle al ragĂș, as it should be!

Are you an Italophile or simply have your own Italian connection? Check out the other blogs being posted today and check out the #DolceVitaBloggers. There are seemingly endless types of pasta and surely just as many personal Italian connections.

 

Street Artists at Work

There’s a lot of random graffiti in Bologna, but there’s also some street art. In addition, the shutters that are used over the entrances to shops and restaurants when they’re closed are the perfect canvas. In the case of the shutters, the business usually invites an artist to create an eye-catching image. There are some fantastic works of art, some of which I’ve posted about before.

Sometimes, as happened last month, there’s an organized event with both local and foreign artists coming together to paint walls, shutters, and whatever else is available. Other times, you happen to catch a lone artist working early in the morning so the paint has time to dry before the shop opens. Regardless, I love seeing the variety of images and styles throughout the city. If you’re in town and taking an early walk before things really open, not only do you have the city to yourself, but you’ve got a great chance to see some of the fantastic artwork and you may just catch an artist or two at work.

All of that said, this might be my favorite bit of street art.

street art Charlie staffy staffy art shutter painting dog in art pitbull bologna

Here are a few random other shots of street artists at work in Bologna.

street art bologna architecture graffiti man on bike

street art in progress bologna

street art bologna mascarella shutters

 

The Feast of St. Martin

November 11 is the Feast of St. Martin of Tours. He was a Roman soldier who was baptized as an adult and went on to become a monk after having a dream. There are churches all over the place dedicated to him and it’s usually easy to tell by some of the imagery in or on the church. He’s best known for coming across a beggar in a snowstorm and cutting his military cloak in half to share with the poor man. That night, he dreamt that Jesus was wearing the cloak and singing Martin’s praises to the angels for clothing him. It’s the depiction of Martin sitting upon his horse, cutting his cloak, that is the most common depiction.

I’m not religious, but when you get an art history degree, especially if you focus on the Renaissance, you learn a LOT about various saints and their depictions. See a woman with a wheel (like a spinning wheel or even a ship’s captain’s steering wheel) and you’re most likely looking at St. Catherine. A woman with a pair of eyes on a tray? St. Lucy. A man tied up with a bunch of arrows in him? St. Stephen.

St. Martin in Utrecht

However, it wasn’t from my degree that I learned about St. Martin. It was from living in Utrecht, Netherlands. St. Martin (Sint Maarten) is the patron saint of Utrecht. He’s generally pretty popular in the Netherlands, and tonight, children are likely to go around door to door with little lanterns, singing songs about the saint, and hoping for some candy. Sort of the Dutch version of Halloween. Utrecht has also been hosting a special evening parade in recent years, usually the week before.

The cathedral in Utrecht is dedicated to St. Martin and even though most of the interior decoration was destroyed during the Reformation, there is a depiction of St. Martin above one of the doors leading into the cloistered courtyard next to the church.
Sint Maarten
First Section

St. Martin in Italy

From a quick Google search, it looks like Sicily might be more likely to celebrate today, rather than in other parts of Italy. But I could be wrong. However, you’ll still find the saint popping up in other cities in Italy. Bologna, in fact, has a church dedicated to the saint. It’s one that I find myself passing on a regular basis, even when I don’t mean to. I like to think that the cathedral in Utrecht became a bit of a homing location for me, because I could never resist stopping by the square where it’s located, so maybe my internal compass is currently tuned to St. Martin churches.

We passed the church in Bologna today, and as it’s St. Martin’s Day, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the sculpture above one of the side doors of the church.

St. Martin San Martino Sint Maarten church bologna sculpture bas relief horse cloak carving religious art
St. Martin San Martino Sint Maarten church bologna sculpture bas relief horse cloak carving religious art

While I was in Florence at the Palazzo Strozzi, I was lucky enough to see a Bernini sculpture of St. Martin and the beggar. Carved around 1598, it really is stunning and I was thrilled to finally see a Bernini in person. *fans self* I long to see more of his sculptures, many of which are in Rome. Must plan that trip! Kudos to the museum, which lit the piece — and much of the other work in the Cinquecento exhibit — so beautifully.

St. Martin Bernini sculpture palazzo strozzi cinquecento firenze

St. Martin Bernini sculpture palazzo strozzi cinquecento firenze

St. Martin Bernini sculpture palazzo strozzi cinquecento firenze

I find it fascinating to see the different-yet-similar depictions of the story, even from country to country. Bernini’s is stunning, but Utrecht gets points for the inclusion of a little dog.

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Foto Friday: Michelangelo Edition

I’ve spent a good portion of the day just looking through the photos I took yesterday in Florence. Most are of the inner courtyard and the exterior of the Palazzo Strozzi, which are as magnificent as I remembered, if not more so. I was a very happy art historian.

While we were there, we took in the new exhibit, The Cinquecento in Florence: “Modern Manner” and Counter-Reformation. I enjoyed getting to see a number of works in person and relatively up close that I’d only seen in my art books. Other pieces were new to me, but still quite familiar, due to the subject matter. As I joked with G yesterday, I can tell an Annunciation just from a quick passing glace out the corner of my eye. I’m not bragging; it’s simply if you focus on Italian Renaissance art as I did for my degree, you tend to recognize the symbolism and general themes.

I’m short on time and still need to do a bit of tweaking to my photos, not to mention the need to go through all 200+ and figure out which ones to use in various posts. The last time I was in Florence I was using a film camera rather than a digital one. In retrospect, it didn’t really stop me from taking a million photos then, either. I just kept buying more film rolls!

To give you a hint of what I saw at the exhibit, here’s the first thing you see upon entering: River God, by Michelangelo and Lamentation over the Dead Christ by Andrea del Sarto. The Michelangelo work isn’t marble, it’s clay, sand, fibers and other ingredients built up over a wire-frame interior. You still see the beautiful form of his figures, down to the folds of the flesh at the stomach as the river god rises and twists. Absolutely stunning. The whole exhibit is worth a visit if you have even a remote interest in art. The colors, the forms, and even some of the sense of humor (intentional or not) in certain works are a joy to see.

michelangelo cinquecento del sarto renaissance art palazzo strozzi

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