Each saint in the Catholic Church has his or her own special day dedicated to them. If you happen to be named after a saint — and lots of people are — then you sometimes get to celebrate your saint’s day. If you’re a city, you have your own patron saint. Bologna’s patron saint is San Petronio and his day of celebration is today, 4 October. San Petronio was the 8th bishop of the city, from 431 to 450 AD. And no, I’m not missing any “1s” from those dates.
For some, today is a holiday, though it seems that most of the regular shops are open. There are some special festivities to celebrate the day, though. There is a rally of some sort at the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana by the two towers, and later there is a religious procession from Piazza Maggiore to Piazza Nettuno. To be honest, that’s not exactly a long trek, as the two squares really just make up one big area in front of the basilica, particularly as the Neptune (Nettuno) statue is under renovation and the covering takes up a lot of the square.
The basilica is dedicated to San Petronio and is a pretty spectacular bit of architecture that was first started in 1390. It may seem a bit odd at first glance, as the upper half of the facade remains unfinished. However, inside it’s pretty impressive and not lacking in decoration or beautifully colored warm marble. There’s some interesting history and stories to go along with it, but that will have to wait for another post.
So, to all Bolognese, wherever you are, buona festa di San Petronio!
When I saw the topic of this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge was windows, I knew immediately what I would post, even if it varies slightly from their take on the theme. After my trip to Florence last week, I had an abundance of photos of Palazzo Strozzi windows, inside and out. Really, I could have done any number of photos of windows taken throughout Florence. There were some real beauties. But today, I’m going to keep it simple and focus on the windows in the courtyard of the Palazzo Strozzi and a few views looking out some of the exterior windows … at more windows!
First up is the courtyard. Having spent a semester studying this palazzo at university, I felt like I was in a familiar and happy spot, despite having never been inside the palazzo. The soft light that filters down is almost magical, well, at least for me. I could have stood or sat there forever. G would say that it felt like I was there forever as I kept taking photos and just drinking in the atmosphere and all the little familiar details that I was so happy to finally see in person.
I love how there are two sets of window styles, each facing each other, with one almost all glass, while the other retains the same shape, but uses less glass.
Upstairs, in the current art exhibit, most windows are covered, but a few of the beautiful bifore windows were exposed and offered some fascinating views of the surrounding buildings. It gets particularly meta when you start looking at windows through a window. It was lovely to see the progression of the windows on one of the opposite buildings, as they move from a flat lintel over the windows on the top, followed by the triangular pediment and then the curved pediment. It just goes to show that windows can be just as interesting as the views they offer.
Other than the seemingly nightly mentions on the TG1 evening news, it’s relatively easy to forget about the Catholic Church here in Bologna. That’s not to say that there aren’t churches everywhere and various church bells ringing throughout the day, and the city certainly has the impressive Basilica di San Petronio. Yet unless you actually practice the religion — and G and I are both non-believers — it’s easy enough to forget about the Church.
That is until this week. Today, specifically. You see, the Pope came to Bologna today. It’s been in the plans for ages so that the die-hards could get their tickets and passes for his appearances at Piazza Maggiore and at the stadium. There have been posters up over the past week and this weekend they started clearing out cars and bicycles from some of the streets closer to Piazza Maggiore and shutting down traffic on streets further out, in part to allow for the motorcade through part of the city.
This morning, despite a bit of drizzle, I thought I’d take Charlie out for a nice long walk. To be honest, I kind of liked the break from the unrelentingly bright sun. It was also early enough that fewer people were around. We took a turn we hadn’t taken before and ended up in some new-to-us areas, which included a nice little park area, as well as a walk along the impressive side of the Oratory of St. Cecilia. As we continued walking — in between stops for people to take Charlie’s photo or comment on how bello he is — we eventually managed to find ourselves on Via Zamboni, heading straight to the two towers.
That’s when I remembered the Bologna papal visit. The big giveaway was the crowds standing in the street beneath the towers. There are areas to stand and admire the views, but the street usually stays clear.
Out of curiosity, I thought I’d see how far we could get before we had to turn back, whether for lack of a pass or sheer density of the crowd. With a bit of weaving at times — and more stops for people to gush over Charlie — we actually made it all the way to Via Indipendenza. Along the way, we saw the usual crowds, as well as groups of nuns and even a monk/friar. [As a side note, we lived near a neighborhood of Utrecht called Wittevrouwen, literally meaning white women, but actually referring to the group of nuns who wear white that used to have a nunnery in the area. As I passed a group of them today, I may have found myself quietly exclaiming, “wittevrouwen!” when I saw them.]
We made it all the way to Via Indipendenza, which would have been an easy enough way for us to head home. Or, at least a way I knew how to get home. I still get turned around sometimes. I was actually surprised at how few people were on the one side of the street until I got to the cathedral that is also on that side of the street. That’s when I realized that I could go no further and was penned in, essentially. No traffic, foot or vehicle, was allowed past those barriers. Whooops!
Not really wanting to stay, particularly as I think there were still at least 45 minutes before anything would happen, Charlie and I turned around and headed back the way we came. Eventually we found a side street that wasn’t blocked and it happened to be one I was familiar with, so we didn’t even get lost and we finally made it back home, two hours after setting out.
So no, I didn’t see the pope. This is just a long-winded excuse to post some crowd photos. From what I read later, the Popemobile was setting a pretty fast pace today, so you had to be quick to get a view anyway.
If you want to see a bit more of the crowds and the general view walking down Via Rizzoli — and some scenes of Charlie in action — check out the blog’s Facebook page where I’ll post a video I took while walking down the street. Nuns, monks, Charlie and his admirers are all included in the video.
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.
A trip to the US Consulate tomorrow is the perfect excuse to go see an old friend: the Palazzo Strozzi. I haven’t seen her since the late ’90s, and back then she wasn’t big on visitors going inside. But now she’s quite open and even hosting an exhibit of some of the art of the Cinquecento, which is an added bonus.
On my last visit I made do with a great deal of gawking at her glorious exterior and caressing her beautiful rustication. We’d had a long-distance relationship for years before that, you see. I spent a semester at uni studying her history and personal style and those who helped make her the stunning palazzo she was destined to become.
It has been years, but my heart still thrills at the mere thought of seeing her.
I’m just barely (maybe) squeaking by on the Weekly Photo Challenge, despite the theme running for two weeks. The theme is waiting, and I thought I’d focus on the idea of a waiting dog, in particular, my dog who is always waiting for me to finish taking photos. I think of these as outtakes of my photo walks with Charlie. He’s surprisingly patient and has learned to sit and wait while I take my photos. Sometimes he does a bit of localized investigation on his own, but he never strays far. But don’t feel too bad for him. He tends to get a cookie if he’s been particularly patient.
This first one was taken the other week in the park. I thought he was just sniffing around, and he wasn’t in anyone’s way, so I let him be. While I was taking my photos for my last post, he finally gave up and sat down on his own to wait for me. I’m pretty sure there was a resigned sigh from him, though.
In this next one, his patience was wearing thin. He was ready to move on, but I was still fondling rustication and gazing in adoration at the architectural features in some of the surrounding buildings. Notice the stink-eye he’s giving me.
His patience sometimes gives out, especially when nature calls and posts need to be marked. But look at that beautifully rusticated grand doorway!
Fortunately, because he’s such a good boy, we can take him to all sorts of places. During the move, he hung out quietly in the hotel bar with us in Germany during our overnight stop. He’s sat peacefully at various cafés here in Bologna, as well. And if a few pieces of pastry happen to make their way to him, he’s not one to complain. Waiting has its benefits.
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.
So yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. In fact, it’s been so long that I forgot how to start a new post for a brief moment. Ooops! So yeah, life. Let’s leave it at that.
To be honest, I haven’t done much exploring, because I really don’t handle the heat well and it’s been stupid hot this summer. Think 40sC/100sF. But there was one day last month when the weather was nice and I was feeling a bit of cabin fever, so Charlie and I headed out early before the heat returned with a vengeance. It wasn’t the best of timing for photos — too many morning shadows blasted by streams of bright morning sunshine — but that didn’t stop me. It also didn’t stop others who were out and about that morning.
In fact, as I was stopping to admire one of the Bologna canals and thinking I should get a photo of Charlie by the canal, since he’s Dutch and all, a couple approached and started cooing and fawning over him. “Che bello!”
The next thing I know, they’re asking to take a photo of him, so I shift over to the side out of shot and let him become a model at a photo shoot.
Eventually his newest fans moved on and I tried to get a quick shot of my Dutch dog in front of a bicycle in front of a canal — a touch of Dutch in Bologna. He was growing weary of the cameras, though, so I only got one quick shot.
I’m still trying to get a good shot of one of the other canal views, so that will have to wait for another day. But yes, Bologna does have canals. In fact, it used to have canals everywhere! Most are still in existence, but they’ve been built over and hidden away, unfortunately. Still, at least a few are still visible!
Parco della Montagnola, Charlie’s go-to dog park, is the home of Sapori in Movimento, the Bologna Street Food Festival taking place this weekend. This three-day feast has a fun mix of foods on offer from vegetarian to full-on carnivore. There are also events for the kids during the day and the park itself is just a great place to hang out and chat with friends.
Friday, when the festival started, was unbelievably hot and I feel for everyone who had to be there, especially cooking! Saturday was considerably cooler, though we still waited to stop by in the evening. We’d already eaten, but we took a wander around the park, enjoyed a beer at Clandestino, the new seasonal beer garden, and then chatted with some dog-park acquaintances (their dog is our dog Charlie’s BFF). They also happen to be involved in the organization of the event and the promotion and betterment of the park in general. It was a nice evening out and despite having eaten, the smells permeating the park had me drooling. Charlie showed incredible restraint! He’s such a good boy.
Some of the food available to tempt an array of palates includes crepes, buffalo sausages, and zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and truffle. The line for Porcobrado, which serves up a special type of pig from Tuscany with its own DOP (protected designation of origin) status, was one of the longest lines we saw, though everyone seemed to be doing brisk business. Every sign I saw sounded tempting and, as I said, the aromas filling the park were mouth watering.
If you’re in town, you can still make it in time to enjoy the new Bologna street food festival. It runs until just before midnight tonight and is worth a visit. Go for an aperitivo, go for dinner, go for dessert, go for drinks. Go just to see the car converted into a grill. Just go!
Clandestino, the new beer garden that also serves food (and more than just beer). It remains through the summer.
Our Dutch dog wanted a biertje of his own. Sorry, Charlie!
Venice is a city of canals. And when you’ve got canals, you’ve got bridges. The most famous Venetian bridge, of course, is the Rialto Bridge, which has a long, storied history. It’s also just stunningly gorgeous.
As I mentioned in my previous Venice post, we visited the floating city in the first week of January 2002, which resulted in thinner crowds and better views. That doesn’t mean the bridge wasn’t bustling with tourists, but it was easier to walk along and take in the different shops that lined the bridge. I was lured into a stationery shop where I bought a beautiful letter opener. From a friend’s relatively recent visit, it seems that that shop may still be there.
While looking up some of the bridge’s history, I came across various facts and trivia bits that I thought were pretty interesting and thought I’d share them. So here goes, four fun facts about the Rialto Bridge in Venice.
Age and Beauty
The Rialto is the oldest of the four bridges that span the Grand Canal. The earliest form of bridge in that spot was built in 1181, although it was only a floating pontoon bridge.
Ups and Downs
By 1255, as the Rialto Market grew in importance, a more permanent wooden bridge was built. Unfortunately, over the centuries, it had its ups and downs, having to be rebuilt from time to time. It was partially burned during a revolt in 1310. It also collapsed a couple of times. In 1444, a wedding was being held for the Marquis Ferrara. As the wedding crowd took to the bridge to watch a passing boat parade, the bridge collapsed. It was rebuilt, but collapsed once again in 1524.
Marble and Michelangelo
Building the bridge in stone had been discussed as early as 1503, but it took most of the century to finally decide on a plan. Even some great artists and architects like Palladio and Michelangelo submitted ideas, but the final winner was Antonio da Ponte, who finally finished construction in 1591 after working on it for three years. The marble bridge follows the original wooden design fairly closely, with two inclined ramps leading up to a central portico. It’s single span arch and marble material had people placing bets on it collapsing, but it’s still standing!
Probably the second most famous bridge in Venice is the Bridge of Sighs, which connected the prison to the interrogation room in the Doge’s palace. The designer of the Bridge of Sighs was Antonio Contino, who was the nephew of Antonio da Ponte, the designer of the Rialto Bridge.
The Rialto was built across the narrowest stretch of the Grand Canal. It ended up connecting the districts of San Marco and San Polo. Marco and Polo. Marco Polo. Venetian explorer and the name of a popular water tag game. No one knows the origins of the name of the water tag game. Me? I like to imagine people in the two districts standing at each end of the bridge, shouting out their district’s name in a show of civic pride. Which district is better? Marco! Polo! Perhaps add in a bit of drunken rowdiness and someone ends up falling into the canal, still shouting their district’s name.
I particularly like the couple in the photo above seated on the steps down by the canal.
And one last view from the back of the shops on the bridge …