Sunny Italian Scenery for a Cloudy Day

When people think of Italy, they often picture sun-drenched scenery. That’s certainly been true for Bologna for much of this year. There’s been a distinct lack of rain, which has its pros and cons. Sometimes, that constant sunshine can be overwhelming and relentless. There are days when you just need a bit of grey to snuggle into. But when the sunshine starts to get to me, I try to focus on the glory of the colors of Bologna. One look at those red roof tiles and those charmingly colored streets and it’s hard not to appreciate this beautiful Italian scenery.

However, this week the weather has been decidedly more Dutch, with looming clouds and occasional bouts of much-needed rain. Monday was a national holiday, a day when lots of people were dusting off their grills and gathering with friends for a day of fun in the sun. There was plenty of sun, but there was also a midday shower to keep things interesting. The weather all week has kept us on our toes as we’ve tried to decide if it’s safe to grill. Will it rain just as we’re ready to start? Can we get the fire going before the rain gets too heavy? In a pinch, can we do the same meal on the stove?

We’re going to take our chances today and try to grill, despite the clouds and rain that have hovered over us most of the day. I do say most, because as soon as I started to write this post, the sun came out and the sky is looking like the blue of the Italian national team jerseys. Will it hold? Fingers crossed! In the meantime, I hope you’re happy with whatever the weather is like where you are. And if you’re dreaming of sun-drenched Italian scenery, here are a few colorful streets and buildings to brighten your day.

Italian scenery bologna colors

Italian scenery bologna colors

Italian scenery bologna colors

Italian scenery bologna colors

Italian scenery bologna colors

Italian scenery bologna colors

Italian scenery bologna colors

Photographing Bologna, Then and Now

The first time I came to Bologna was December 2001. It was my third trip to Italy, but my first to Bologna. But yeah, 2001. It’s been a while since that first visit. Today I ended up looking through some of my old photos from that visit. Photographing Bologna was fun then and it’s still fun now, though a drastically different experience in some way. That first trip was so long ago that I was still using film, and not in a fancy way. I mean in a standard point-and-shoot kind of way. I think we got our first digital camera the next year.

Anyway, being film, and being winter and low light, it means I had a lot of blurry photos. A lot. I didn’t have the knowledge or full control to do a better job, though I’ve learned a lot more over the years. Plus, it really does come in handy with digital cameras to be able to see the shot you made and know if you need to redo it. I doubt I had any idea of just how blurry so many of those photos were when I took them. Still, I like to think of some of those photos as “Impressionistic”. They have their own charm.

In looking through the photos, it was fun being able to recognize some of the places and have new memories to go with them, not to mention better pictures (sometimes). It was also a good reminder of places I need to still revisit. Some photos I have no idea where they were taken, but that’s not a surprise, as I’m still getting vaguely lost on a regular basis. I try to head in a basic direction and have a few landmarks to help me orient myself. The rest is just fun wandering, even if it does take me longer to get to places than it probably should.

Some Things Never Change

Not all of the photos I took in 2001 are of specific places, just streets and colors that I found attractive. The same things that I loved about photographing Bologna then are things I still love. In fact, there was at least one spot that I photographed just for the colors back in 2001 that I know I photographed for the same reason this year. It was fun to see that particularly blurry photo and still be able to recognize the spot, even if I don’t actually know where it is or how to get there again.

As I said, I don’t know exactly where this spot is, but in 2001 I loved the variety of colors that included orange, purple, green, and gray, along with a few fun architectural details. Those same colors are still there. Even some of the shutters are still closed! It would be hard to tell that nearly 16 years have passed between photos. (Also, do you know how hard it is to take a photo of a blurry photo, since I don’t have a scanner? The photo of the photo may actually be even blurrier than the original!)

Somewhere in Bologna, December 2001.

photographing bologna colors

The same somewhere in Bologna, February 2017. Trust me.

photographing bolona colors

By the way, if you’re into that kind of thing, you can follow my blog with Bloglovin

Olé!

bologna street art

Another Flamingo in Bologna?

While Charlie and I were out walking this afternoon, he was sightseeing with his nose, and I was sightseeing with my eyes. Both of us had plenty to enjoy. As we were walking along Via Mascarella, I was admiring some of the artwork that adorns the grates that cover the restaurant and shop entrances when they’re closed. Some of those may be a post for tomorrow, along with a few others I’ve snapped recently. Then we got to a spot not far from Cinema Odeon and I may have let out a started, “Oh!” I’ve been known to do that quite loudly when coming across something unexpected but lovely. In this case, it was a flamingo! Well, a painted flamingo, but a  Bologna flamingo nonetheless! Obviously, I couldn’t resist snapping a few shots. And Charlie had to get in on the action, as well.

bologna flamingo moustache

It turns out that Moustache is a bar/restaurant that’s been open since around 2011. It seems to get solid reviews from both locals and tourists, so I might just have to give it a try soon! Their cocktails seems to be pretty popular, while the food is simple, genuine Italian dishes, I think particularly from Emilia. It all sounds good to me! Have you been to Moustache? What did you think?

Italian Architectural Styles and a Moment of Zen

Charlie and I went on a fairly short walk this morning, as we’d gotten up late and I had work still to finish. But even on a short walk, you can easily be amazed by all of the architectural styles and colors to be seen in Bologna. Even at one intersection, you can find art deco on one side and medieval/Moorish on the other. Walk a little further down the street and you’ll find a church that almost looks Mission style, but with a bell tower that reminds me of Venice. Add in a few balconies and all of the beautiful colors that Bologna architectural styles are known for using and you can’t help but end up with a smile on your face.

classic italian architectural styles bologna

italian architectural styles bologna deco medieval italian architectural styles bologna art deco

italian architectural styles bologna art deco

italian architectural styles bologna mission

italian architectural styles bologna mission venetian

 

And now your Charlie moment of Zen …

Charlie moment of zen dog wall art

Where to Buy Books in Bologna: Market Edition

Even in this age of ebooks, any bibliophile expat is going to be on the hunt for places to buy real books. Whether it’s a big-box store or a seasonal book market, that need to find out where to buy books is strong. My Utrecht blog had a couple of posts about places to buy books in Utrecht and those remain some of my most popular posts to this day.

While ebooks make it easier for people to find books in their language of choice when that’s not the local language, physical books are always nice to return to. There’s something comforting about buying a physical book that you can easily flip through, make notes in the margins, and add to your bookshelves, not to mention give a good sniff. In my various moves, the one thing that has made up the bulk of my moving boxes is my book collection.  We currently have a wall of bookshelves and not much free space left. And I left a LOT of books behind with each move. That’s one of the things I always regret once I’m settled.

Of course, if you’re learning the language of your new home, books are a great aid, not just the textbooks. Children’s books are a surprisingly fun way of practicing and as you advance in your linguistic learning, you can move up in the book age brackets. If you’re like me and enjoy art history, you may find yourself adding books in the new language to your library, such as my book on Italian palazzi, written in Dutch. That was more aspirational than actually at my language level, but I figured it was a fun way to learn some of the architectural terms in Dutch. In past visits to Italy, I’ve picked up books and pamphlets in Italian when visiting various museums.

where to buy books Bologna Book Market Fiera del Libro

There are big chain bookstores here in Bologna, including one of the big ones near the two towers, but I also like finding smaller bookstores and market stalls. While out with Charlie the other day, I came across a Bologna book market that made me very happy. After a bit of research online, I discovered that it’s the Fiera del Libro, which is held seasonally twice a year in the Piazza XX Settembre (over by the bus and train stations). Set up under a tent, this 120-square-meter market sells books, prints, posters, comics, and more, both new and used.

The current spring edition started in March and ends May 1, so I need to go back soon with some cash in hand. When I stopped by the other day, I only had keys and dog biscuits filling my pockets. However, during my quick tour through it, I noticed at least one section selling books in English, with an option of one book for €5 or three books for €10.

The Bologna book market returns again in October and runs through late November. Best of all,  it runs daily, from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. I love leisurely working my way through stacks and shelves of books, almost as much as I love reading books. I could easily spend a whole morning working my way through the whole market. I can’t wait!

where to buy books Bologna Book Market Fiera del Libro

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A Snapshot of Bologna

bologna italy street photography

This is not the best photo I’ve ever taken — Charlie had had enough of standing around waiting for me to take yet another photo — but there’s something about it that really appeals to me. I love the moment-in-time aspect of it all. It really does feel like a snapshot of life in Bologna, behind the scenes of any touristy bits, even though it is smack in the middle of the Quadrilatero, if I remember correctly. The restaurant cook on the phone, perhaps placing a last-minute order. The woman cycling past that reminds me of Utrecht. The young couple perhaps making plans, and the older couple on their way somewhere, as the sun highlights the glorious colors of Bologna, while leaving other parts in cooler shadows.

All of this is just one more reason to love Bologna.

Good Friday in Bologna

Today certainly started off as a Good Friday, in the sense that I got to go out with Charlie for a three-hour walk around town. Admittedly, I hadn’t planned on it being a three-hour walk, but the weather was nice and we were having fun, so we just kept walking. Well, we did stop for a coffee in Piazza Maggiore and enjoyed a bit of people and dog watching, too.

Good Friday basilica di san petronio bologna Good Friday Piazza Maggiore Bologna

Along the way, we found ourselves strolling down Via Indipendenza, one of the major shopping streets. It’s also home to the city’s cathedral. Despite what you may think, the Basilica di San Petronio in Piazza Maggiore is not the cathedral. It’s certainly a big church, but it’s not the cathedral. I’ll save the semantics for another day. I took so many photos today that until G just reminded me, I had forgotten I had one of the cathedral (the building on the right) juxtaposed against some curvy Art Deco architecture.
Good Friday st peter cathedral bologna

Anyway, as we were walking along Via Indipendenza, we passed under the portico of the Palazzo del Monte di Pietà. This building, which dates back to the 1470s, was originally the residence of the cannons of the cathedral and was connected to the cathedral. However, I think since the 1500s, it has frequently had some sort of banking/loan history and is still the seat of a banking institution.

The pietà element of the name of the palazzo can be seen in the sculpture over the doorway. I suppose it’s appropriate for today, seeing as it’s Good Friday, the day Jesus is supposed to have died on the cross. This depicts more of a deposition with Nicodemus having taken Christ down from the cross, with Mary and two angels looking on.

Good Friday Charlie palazzo del monte di pieta bologna Good Friday deposition of christ palazzo del monte di pieta

(For what it’s worth, I’m not Catholic; I’m not even religious. But you can pick up a surprising amount of information when you focus on the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance at university. I’m drawn to this kind of stuff for that reason.)

So, whether you’re celebrating Easter, Passover, or hopefully at least a long weekend, enjoy yourselves! I hope you’re having a good Friday, too.

The Gates of Bologna: Porta San Donato

In the Middle Ages, much like many other cities, Bologna was protected by high walls with large gates built in at certain points for passage in and out. The walls of Bologna are largely gone now, though there are fragments that remain in various spots around the city, and you can still see the mark they left on the map of Bologna in the form of a ring road (or the viali as they’re known here) that surrounds the historic part of the city. In total there were at least 12 gates, though only 10 now remain. While much of the walls have been destroyed, you can still see at least parts of the old gates of Bologna.

gates of bologna porta san donato

One of the grand gates of Bologna is the Porta San Donato. Located on the northeast side of the city, it was built in the 1200s, on the road leading to Ferrara. The gate was part of a larger complex, including housing for guards, and even had a drawbridge over a moat in the mid 1300s. In 1428, the gate was closed and walled up for security reasons, but eventually reopened a few decades later.

The gate was clearly used for defensive purposes, as it has a machicolated (or piombatoio) tower. If you look closely between the corbels, inside the arches along the top of the tower, you’ll see that there are openings. This was where the guards could rain down all sorts of misery on invaders, such as stones, or the classic boiling water or boiling oil. Perhaps even the contents of a few chamber pots if defensive supplies ran low.

By the 20th century, the gate was proving more of a hindrance than a help. It sits on the intersection of the ring boulevard and Via San Donato, which leads into Via Irnerio, one of the major streets in town. As a result, it risked being torn down quite a few times, particularly in the 1950s as traffic became more and more of an issue. Eventually, only one meter of wall was torn down to help alleviate some of the traffic problems. As recently as 2008/2009, rather than try to tear the gate down, it underwent some restoration to perk it up and hopefully keep it around for a few more hundred years.

gates of bologna porta san donato

gates of bologna porta san donato

This post was inspired by recently passing this gate (as well as some others) and the Weekly Photo Challenge topic of security.

 

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La Fontana Vecchia in Bologna

Not all fountains are freestanding. La Fontana Vecchia (The Old Fountain) is built into the side of one of the walls of the Palazzo D’Accursio on Via Ugo Bassi. This is no simple fountain, though. In fact, it’s incredibly grand and impressive in its own rights, even though it was built originally more for the lower/working classes so that they wouldn’t befoul the water in the nearby Neptune Fountain washing their vegetables and who knows what else.

La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi

Cardinal Carlo Borromeo commissioned La Fontana Vecchia in 1563, with Tommaso Palermo Laureti chosen to create the fountain. The marble fountain was completed in 1565. A Sicilian painter, architect, and sculptor, Laureti worked and studied extensively in Bologna. However, having spent some time in Rome, the influence of Michelangelo worked its way into his artwork. As well as designing the Fontana Vecchia, Laureti’s drawings served as the foundation for the base and its figures of the Neptune Fountain, though the rest of the fountain was created by Giambologna. More about him and the Neptune Fountain in another post.

Plaques and bas-relief sculptures cover the fountain, including family coats of arms and the Papal crown and keys in the center in honor of Pope Pius IV. A member of the Medici, his coat of arms is displayed beneath the crown and keys. There are also other symbols displayed on the fountain, such as the word “Libertas”, which represents the city of Bologna. You’ll see the word in a variety of locations throughout the city.

Libertas La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi

On the weekends, or at least Sunday, Via Ugo Bassi is among the T Zone streets that are closed to traffic, making this the best time to see the fountain. It is tall enough that it can give you a crick in the neck if you stand close to it and look up. The center of the street gives you the best all-encompassing view. For what it’s worth, there’s still water in the fountain and as I stood there trying to get some photographs, I even saw someone dipping their hands in and possibly even splashing their face. I can’t help but love a fountain that is nearly 500 years old and still in use, in one way or another.

La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi

La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi medici papal coat of arms

La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi pope pius iv

La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi

La Fontana Vecchia Bologna Via Ugo Bassi

 

 

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