Along Via del Guasto, an unassuming and potentially unappealing street between Via delle Belle Arti and Piazza Verdi, there are some unexpected surprises. What had a reputation as a drug-infested back alley in the past is trying to reclaim a safer yet still modern and edgy vibe. Guasto Village, which took place in the surrounding streets during the summer, was a way to give new life to the area. And while some complained and worried about noise and drink, others appreciated the Bologna Comune getting involved to improve the area. Being a university city, it all has a young vibe, but you don’t have to be a 20-something to appreciate the art on display.
This is a photo-heavy post, so I’ll keep the words short and let the art speak for itself. A picture’s worth a thousand words, so I’ve got quite a few thousand here! All of this is from just one stretch on each side of Via del Guasto. What’s your favorite work?
In Bologna, Via Majorana is a small side street technically within the historic city center. However, because of the proximity to the train station — a target in WWII — the buildings in the area tend to be post WWII. They still have portici and lovely colors in most cases, but some of the side streets are just as likely to be covered in graffiti rather than murals. Via Majorana, which has a large wall that serves to form a private courtyard off the back of some of the buildings on Via Mascarella, has often been the site of graffiti that ranged from little more than basic tags to more offensive words and sentiments.
This has been an issue in other neighborhoods, as well, so with the support of the city and Serendippo, a cultural civic organization, there have been attempts to change the walls into real works of art. In September of last year, artists were brought in — some from other countries in Europe, some local — to give Via Majorana a new look. At the same time, particularly as part of the Via Mascarella street party, some of the shop grates got a new look, as well.
Unfortunately, a few people complained, but in the end, the project went forward and everyone from residents to shop owners was happy with the final result. I was lucky to see some of the final work being done on the day of the Via Mascarella street festival. There’s a zen-like quality to the repeating patterns of the mural, as well as watching the artists at work. The flowing wave-like effect of the final work of art is both soothing and soaring. It’s definitely a positive addition to the neighborhood.
Mural, street art, graffiti, or simply art, no matter what you call it, I think it’s a great addition to a rebuilt section of an ancient city.
Check out my Instagram account for four more of the artworks being created on the shop gratings on the opposite side of the street from this mural. There are some really beautiful pieces.
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.
This probably applies to a lot of Italian cities, to be honest, but one of my favorite things is to walk down a narrow street and spot a fantastic building at the end. Graffiti and posters on each side of you and straight ahead, a rather grand building. And are those papal symbols I see on it with the triple crown and keys?
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.
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.
Here are a few random other shots of street artists at work in Bologna.
Years ago, when I was first taking Italian lessons, I would rent Italian films for practice. One of my favorites was Johnny Stecchino, starring Roberto Benigni. It was fun and silly — though not without some social commentary — although with the speed and accents, it wasn’t always the easiest to follow. Still, that’s what the subtitles were for!
In one of the scenes toward the end, he’s seen leading a group of mafia thugs on a song about the sounds animals make.
There’s a street just off the Piazza Maggiore in the Quadrilatero that has some wonderful animal paintings on the protective grills when the shops are closed. That inspired me to add updating the animals sounds to my current Italian lessons. After all, animals in different countries speak different languages, too! Charlie, my Dutch dog, may not know “drop it” in English, but he does seem to know the equivalent in Dutch. (He wasn’t happy when I finally found the right Dutch term recently.)
So, I present to you the Italian names and sounds of a few animals.
Horses are i cavalli and when they neigh, they say “hiiiiii”
The cow — la mucca — goes “muuuuuu”
The rooster — il gallo — says “chicchirichí [keekeereekee]”
Pop Quiz! What sounds do these animals make?
If you’re thinking that I didn’t tell you what sound the bull (il toro) makes, well, it turns out they make the same sounds as cows. #muuuuuuuu
I hope you enjoyed this illustrated Italian lesson. If you want to learn more, you can find more sounds here. So from me, it’s “ciao” and from Charlie, it’s “bau bau”!
A question for the ages. What is art? Sure, there are fairly obvious answers — Michelangelo’s David, Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, Masaccio’s Tribute Money, etc. Yet when it comes to modern art, things are a little less set in stone … or oil paints, or plaster, for that matter. Graffiti is one of those areas that divides people, and even for those like myself who do think of it as art, there are often debates as to what counts and what doesn’t. I like street art, but I don’t like random squiggles that are little more than a spray-painted signature. Or maybe I just don’t like the randomness of much of it. See? Even I can’t make up my mind completely as to what is art.
As I’ve said before, Bologna is full of what I consider street art and what I also consider to be just ugly squirts of paint. Some is purely words, but poetry is art, and if those words make you think, then should they not also be considered art? So, here are a few more bits and bobs I’ve spotted around town. You can make up your own mind whether they’re art.
In this case, which is “better” art? The photo with the man or without the man? I like both, so you get both. More chances to think about whether the revolution will happen.