Foto Friday: Goodbye March

I know it’s Saturday. Pretend I posted this yesterday.

san petronio meridian line bologna

This is part of the meridian line in the Basilica di San Petronio. I snuck a quick snap of it on my birthday (which is in March). I was amused to see that the spelling looked more Dutch with the ij, even though the contemporary Dutch word for March is maart. (For the record, the Italian for March is marzo.) As for the meridian line itself, it’s the longest indoor meridian line in the world. More about that and the basilica itself in future posts.

Wordless Wednesday: Not Your Average Column

rams head column architectural detail

Dragons on the Wall

I am particularly fond of this bit of graffiti street art, in large part because of the dragon figure on the right. Well, I assume it’s a dragon. Perhaps it is St. George (on the left) and the dragon? After all, the flag of Bologna is the cross of St. George.

dragon street art graffiti bologna

Maybe it’s just a Rorschach test of some sort and people see different things. It’s easy to see humor, magic, and love in this work of art, both in form and interpretation. That’s the thing about street art. If you stop to really look and think, it can be so much more than what gets lumped under “graffiti”. What do you see when you look more closely?

Bologna Cycling: Not Necessarily for Novices

Cycling in Bologna is being taken more seriously than in decades past as there are now more cycling paths, not to mention the Dynamo Velostazione, where you can rent, store, and repair all sorts of bikes, particularly helpful if part of your commute is by train. But that doesn’t mean Bologna cycling is a piece of cake. While out the other day, I saw a couple of instances where Bologna cycling looked more like an introduction to extreme sports.

cycling in bologna cycling bicycles

First off was the combination walking and cycling path next to a relatively busy road. These are fairly common in the Netherlands in park areas and large bridges, though not so common along regular roads, where the bicycles tend to have their own lane and pedestrians have a full sidewalk. Here in Bologna I’ve seen a few of these combo paths where the pedestrians are farthest from the street and the cyclists are next to the street. They’re essentially normal sidewalks that have been divided to serve double duty. The result is that the cycle path is often unbelievably narrow. Yet people do use them.

cycling in bologna

narrow lane cycling in bologna cycling

narrow lane cycling in bologna cycling italy shared path

In another instance, the cyclists do finally have their own segregated lanes away from traffic, though what would typically be one lane in the Netherlands is two lanes here, for cycle traffic in both directions. Challenging, but not that bad, as the bike traffic isn’t heavy. The real challenge in one spot comes from the lamp poles. This is not a one-off, either. They tend to ignore obstacles that might impede bicycles. Think of it as a good reason not to text and bike; you definitely need to be paying attention!

cycling in bologna cycling bike path

I do see people cycling around town almost every time I’m out, although nowhere near the volume that I saw in the Netherlands, of course. There is obviously interest, and people willing to use whatever infrastructure there is. As the old Kevin Costner film said, “If you build it, they will come.” If Bologna continues to make more of an effort in creating truly useful, cycle-friendly infrastructure that is consistent — another key issue — I think you could find even more people cycling. There’s certainly no shortage of bike shops in the city center. I can think of three or four just in my immediate neighborhood. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s good to see some effort.

cycling in bologna cycling bike rack

At Bologna Bus Station. Next Stop Marrakech.

It’s pretty impressive the places you can get to from the Bologna bus station. When we moved here, we drove from Utrecht to Bologna, splitting the ride into two days, particularly as we were traveling with two cats and a dog that gets carsick. The second day felt particularly long thanks to some less-than-ideal driving conditions in Switzerland and a stationary traffic jam due to an accident outside Milan. But it could have been worse. It could have been a bus ride from Bologna to Marrakech. According to Google, in a regular car, that’s a 29 hour drive covering almost 3000 km or around 1800 miles.

bologna bus station marrakech

It might not sound enjoyable, but it is a travel option. We walk through the Bologna bus station occasionally since it’s behind the park where we take Charlie and an easy way to get to Dynamo, where The Garage urban market is held. It’s always interesting to see some of the destinations available. Some are obvious enough, such as Rome, but others are much more far flung and I can’t help but feel for the people having to endure some of the rides that obviously take days. In a bus. Although there’s probably a bit more room than in most of today’s economy-class planes.

Yet for all the tedium involved, there’s still something of a thrill at the thought of hopping on a bus for some far-off land. Would you go?

Bologna bus station

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Wall Art and Words in Bologna

I thought I’d share a few photos of some of the wall art/graffiti I’ve stumbled across recently, which amused me, one way or another. (FYI, there’s some language in the first one, though you could claim it says “puck”). When words are involved, it’s always interesting to see the different thoughts being expressed. In this batch, we see one extreme to another.

First off, I took this photo mainly as a joke. As a southerner and an editor, I believe this should say “y’all”, not “ya”. Bene ma non benissimo. But that’s just me.

graffiti bologna wall art

This next one is a bit more positive. After all, don’t we all just need a hug?

graffiti bologna wall art

Finally, just because I like it, a bit of political propaganda of the vulpine sort, with bonus faces.

graffiti bologna wall art

Learning Italian: The Nightly News Edition

First off, languages are not my strong point. At least not foreign languages. I mean, I’ve made a career out of English, but perhaps all of my language proficiency went into that one language. I studied French for four years in high school and then thought I’d try something more exotic when I went to university. Bad idea. After failingbumbling my way through Russian and Latin (Latin didn’t have a spoken requirement), I eventually went back to French in order to fulfill my language requirements. Learning Italian was not really an option while I finished my undergrad degree, even though it would have come in handy with my Italian Renaissance art history studies.

Traumatized or just burnt out from my language learning issues — along with a lack of a clear idea what I wanted to do — I didn’t go on for a master’s degree and instead joined the work force. Teaching art history at a community college was a decent job, but it didn’t really pay the bills, so I ended up becoming an obituary writer for the local newspaper. That meant my mornings were free. I ended up using that convenient schedule to begin taking Italian 101 at one of the local universities.

After struggling with various languages, it may seem weird to want to start learning Italian. However, I knew that if I were ever to return to academia, at least in the art history field, I was going to need to know the language. Might as well give it a try when it didn’t really matter in terms of grades and scholarships. Perhaps that lack of pressure helped. Perhaps all those years of French helped. Perhaps I just had a good teacher and a textbook and lesson design that worked for me. The point is that I ended up doing quite well in that class and picked up a decent foundation in the language and actually enjoyed it.

Scheduling issues prevented me from taking Italian 102, but regular emails with an Italian pen pal helped me keep up with what I had learned. I also started listening to some Italian music, reading Italian newspapers, and sometimes watching TG1, one of the Italian nightly news programs, which occasionally showed up on one of the random cable channels late at night.

Oddly enough, it was when G and I got together that I stopped using Italian as often. Go figure. I heard it often enough from him, and we’d use it occasionally, but there was no concerted effort on my part to continue learning. Moving to the Netherlands didn’t help. I had a new language to bumble through.

learning italian in italiano bookSo, here I am. Now living in Italy and really wishing I’d kept up with my Italian studies. Still, I do understand more than I ever understood of Dutch, despite my best efforts. Right now I’m using my old textbook and Babbel to review and brush off the rust. In terms of the European language levels (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2), I’m somewhere in the Bs, I think. I’m reviewing A2 level stuff right now and it’s pretty basic. I know I went much further than this in my studies. Still, the review does come in handy, because it’s easy to make mistakes, even when you know better. All that gender agreement! It feels more like a war of the sexes!

[I didn’t originally plan on that whole language backstory. This next bit is all I really was going to blog about. Obviously, I have language issues that need to be worked out.]

We don’t watch a lot of TV, but we watch L’eredità (a quiz show) sometimes, followed by a bit of TG1, the evening news that I used to watch many years ago. The news is hard to follow, particularly because of the speed of it all. There’s a lot to cover in 30 minutes, so catching much of it can be challenging. However, it wasn’t the speed that confused me recently.

In between each main news story, the anchor will introduce the next topic, as is typical. One thing I kept noticing each night — sometimes once, sometimes twice — was that the anchor would seem to say, “Grazie, grazie a Lei” right before the start of some of the segments. You see, it sounded like they were saying thank you in an odd, formal, but wrong way. It was particularly odd that it was only before some stories and not others. Why?! I kept meaning to ask about it, but didn’t want to interrupt and then would forget about it. Finally, though, I had a chance to ask.

G was confused at first and rightly so. Then it dawned on him what I was talking about. It turns out the anchor was introducing the name of the reporter covering the story: Grazia Graziadei. Because of course that’s her name. I think I can be excused for making such a mistake. It’s right up there with the footballer whose last name is Immobile. Ah, the joys and confusion of life in another language.

Well, that’s enough of my language travails for now. Time to get back to learning Italian. Grazie. Grazie a Lei for reading. 😉

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Spring in Bologna

spring in bologna via degli orefici

In honor of today being my mother’s birthday, as well as the first day of spring in Bologna and everywhere in the northern hemisphere, I thought I’d share this spring-inspired photo. I took it the other evening along Via degli Orefici, which is one of those charming little streets littered with shops and restaurants with cozy terraces for sitting outside and enjoying the spring-like weather we’ve been having for a while now.

Every time I’ve walked down the street in the past few weeks, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the beautiful blossoms on the trees. (Despite my mother’s best efforts, I am clueless about the names of most plants of any sort.) There aren’t a lot of trees in the city center, at least not in my general wandering area so far, so it was nice to see that bit of nature in the heart of the city. I love how the blossoms seem to almost glow, even in the evening light. They look like their own bit of light art and add to the convivial atmosphere of the street.

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Sunday in Piazza Maggiore (Wordless Wednesday)

Piazza Maggiore Bologna

Big Pope Is Watching You at Palazzo Comunale

No, I haven’t been rereading 1984, but it really can sometimes feel like the statue of the pope is watching you when you’re standing over by the grand entrance to the Palazzo d’Accursio, better known as Palazzo Comunale in the Piazza Maggiore.

palazzo comunale palazzo d'accursio bologna

Originally the home of Accursio, a law teacher at the Bologna University, over the years his home was joined with other buildings until in 1336, it became the residence of the Elders, the highest judiciary in the city and the seat of city government. In fact, it retained some of its function as the town hall until November 2008.

From my first visit to Bologna, the Palazzo Comunale and the statue over the door made an impression on me and was one of the buildings I remembered specifically. It turns out the building has undergone quite a few changes over the centuries, particularly in the first half of the 15th century. That was when the clock tower was added. It even had a wooden automata that included the Madonna and child and Magi, which remained until 1796.

palazzo comunale palazzo d'accursio bologna

The grand entrance portal was added in the mid 1500s by architect Galeazzo Alessi. In 1580, a statue of Pope Gregory XIII (January 1502 – 10 April 1585), sculpted by Alexander Menganti, was included. As well as being from Bologna and encouraging cultural patronage, Pope Gregory XIII is best known as the pope who commissioned the Gregorian calendar (named for him), which we still use today.

palazzo comunale bologna pope gregory xiii

The building may no longer be the town hall, but it does still fly the flags of Italy, the European Union, and Bologna. And yes, the Bologna flag with the red cross on the white background does look an awful lot like the English flag. The cross of St. George is a popular one in Italy.

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