The Gondolas of Venice

On a hot summer day, what better way to cool off than to revisit some old photos of the Venice gondolas one bright winter morning.

Well, I can think of plenty of more effective ways of cooling off, but they don’t make for interesting blog posts about Italy.

So yes, it’s been pretty warm recently, and despite my Florida heritage, this flamingo does not like the heat. The animals and I are slowly melting. Even my cats who love the heat are looking a bit more limp and lethargic. We do have a portable air conditioner, which helps a little, but on days like today when it’s 35C/95F, there’s only so much it can do.

venice venezia harbor st marks gondolas

Since this blog is about Italy, not just Bologna, and because I haven’t been out much to explore due to the heat and work, I thought I’d go through some of my old photos taken during my one day-trip to Venice one January many years ago. We happened to be there on an actual holiday, so we lucked out even more with the smaller crowds. On the downside, being a holiday, the restaurant we wanted to go to wasn’t open. Still, Venice in the off season is absolutely worth a visit and it’s a relatively short train ride from Bologna.

I joke that it’s nearly impossible to take bad photos in Venice and going through my many many photos taken that day, I’m really surprised by how many turned out well, even with my old point-and-shoot film camera I was using. I must have gone through quite a few rolls of film, though! But how can you not with such beautiful scenery everywhere you look.

The architecture of Venice was a huge draw for me, but I also found myself photographing the boats moored up or floating by. And of course I couldn’t resist taking photos of the famous gondolas of Venice! We didn’t ride one — it seemed extra touristy and probably pretty cold that close to the water in early January — but I loved getting some of the photos that day. There’s one with a rainbow reflection off the water that is one of my favorites.

So here are a handful of gondola photos from my visit to Venice. Have you been? Did you take a gondola ride? Is it hell on earth during the summer season with all of the tourists?

venetian gondolas venice

venice gondolas venezia rainbow reflection

venice gondola venezia

venice gondola canal boats

venice gondolas venezia

And a few gondoliers hanging out …

venice gondoliers gondolas venezia

 

One of those days …

When you’re just having one of those days …

bologna urban street art vino wine

bologna urban street art vino wine prosecco

Celebrating the Festa della Repubblica

Today is a national holiday in Italy. It’s the Festa della Repubblica, the day in which Italians celebrate becoming a republic. On this day in 1946, Italians went to the polls to vote whether to remain a monarchy or become a republic. They chose republic, which isn’t that much of a surprise considering the behavior of the last king of Italy, from the Savoy family, who appointed Mussolini and then ran away during WWII. That said, the numbers were fairly close. Still, over the years, I’ve heard many an Italian speak negatively of monarchies, particularly the Savoy family that last reigned over Italy.

So, a republic it is! This is one of the few days when you’re likely to see Italian flags hung about and there are parades and special presentations and events to celebrate, at least in Rome. I’m not really sure what’s going on in Bologna today. It’s too hot and I’m too busy working — not a holiday for me; mine was Monday — so I’m afraid you get the abbreviated story today. You also get a random photo that happens to include the Italian flag and the flag of Bologna.

Festa della Repubblica

Wordless Wednesday: Let’s Take the Stairs

parco della montagnola pincio bologna stairs

Farm Animal Italian Lessons

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”
Italian lessons animal sounds

The cow — la mucca — goes “muuuuuu”
Italian lessons animal sounds cow painting

The rooster — il gallo — says “chicchirichí [keekeereekee]”
Italian lessons animal sounds street art

Pop Quiz! What sounds do these animals make?
Italian lessons animal sounds street art

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”!

Save

Sunset Glow over Piazza Maggiore

If you come to Bologna, you’re going to end up spending time in and around Piazza Maggiore. As the name implies, it is a major square in the heart of Bologna. Day or night, it’s a fun and attractive place to be. There’s always plenty of people and dog watching to enjoy, and there are even cafés with tables set outside to enjoy the good weather. Charlie and I lingered over a coffee there one Sunday morning, sitting back and enjoying the variety of people passing by, from far-off tourists to local umarells (I’m sure they have opinions on the Neptune being restored).

While we were there one evening as dusk was approaching, I couldn’t help but be transfixed by the glow ignited by the setting sun on parts of the surrounding buildings. At first, there’s the glow on the dome of the Santa Maria della Vita rising up over the Palazzo dei Banchi and the Pavaglione portico that runs along the front.

To the right is the Basilica di San Petronio, a beautiful church with an interesting and entertaining history. The sun hitting the top portion that runs along the nave, turning it a vivid orange, was particularly spectacular in person.

Even on the left, the Palazzo del Podestà catches some of the light on its tower, but adds its own small light show in the evenings. Behind me, as I took all of these pictures was the Palazzo d’Accursio, which I’ve written about previously.

Museums, tourism offices, open markets, nice shops, great views, and even a whispering groin vault are some of the many sights to take in among these buildings … and so much more. Visitor or local alike, it’s hard not to be taken in by all that Piazza Maggiore offers.

Santa Maria della Vita Dome
piazza maggiore palazzo dei banchi

Basilica di San Petronio
piazza maggiore bologna

Piazza Maggiore
piazza maggiore bologna

Where the malcontent and the hyperpolyglot meet

italian language via malcontenti bologna

I recently watched a whole night of Italian language TV and felt pretty good that I’d followed more than enough of it to know what was going on. While I might not have understood word for word, I wasn’t struggling and really having to listen intently to it all.

My Dutch never got to that level, though I can read Dutch better than I can understand it being spoken. And I can’t speak either language all that easily at the moment. I get tongue tied and stumble and come out with endings and conjugations that I know are wrong as soon as they come out of my mouth. I also find myself speaking a hybrid of Dutch and Italian sometimes, especially when chatting to my dog, Charlie. He’s Dutch, after all, and knows his commands in Dutch, so I’m obliged to still speak some Dutch.

All of this is my way of saying that while I’m making some headway again with the Italian language, I will never be a strong polyglot. I definitely won’t be a hyperpolyglot like Giuseppe Mezzofanti.

A Way With Words

Mezzofanti (1774 – 1849) was born here in Bologna to a family of humble origins. He became a cardinal, but was perhaps best known for being a hyperpolyglot, in that he was said to have spoken around 38 languages fluently and had a basic knowledge of dozens more.

In 1797, he became a professor of Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, and Asian languages at the University of Bologna, and in 1803 he was appointed assistant librarian of the Institute of Bologna. Not bad for a carpenter’s son.

Misfits and Malcontents

It does seem that there is some disagreement nowadays that Mezzofanti would have truly been fluent in so many languages. There is talk that the requirements were primarily in reading and writing, and that his ability and need to speak was typically limited to basic chit chat. No matter what the actual story may be, he seems to have been truly gifted when it came to languages. I remember only a little from the five and a half years of French I studied at school — though it has helped me some with Italian — and my attempts at learning Russian were a complete disaster. Even if Mezzofanti could only hold the most basic of conversations in 38 languages, I’m still impressed!

So how did I learn about this linguistic dynamo? I was wandering around town and found myself on Via Malcontenti. I’m easily amused and I couldn’t help but wonder about the malcontents that gave the street its name. In pausing to photograph the street name I happened to spot a memorial plaque, though I couldn’t really read it clearly at the time. Thank goodness for zoom lenses!

italian language via malcontenti bologna

With a bit of zooming and Googling, I learned about Giuseppe Mezzofanti and the fact that he was born and raised there on Via Malcontenti. There’s more to his story, including becoming the Custodian-in-Chief at the Vatican Library. You should check out this site if you’d like to learn more.

It’s amazing the bits of history you can stumble across, just by taking a few extra photos while wandering around a city. Even if you don’t understand the Italian language — or the language of whatever country you’re in — take a few extra zoom shots of these kinds of markers and then go back and get what you can from Google and Google Translate (or your search/translator of preference). Sometimes they’re older plaques like this and sometimes they’re modern ones with more information. Either way, it’s a fun way to expand your knowledge. I’m sure Mezzofanti would approve of that.

italian language via malcontenti bologna

italian language via malcontenti bologna

But is it art?

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.

bologna street art is it art what is art

bologna street art is it art what is art

bologna street art is it art what is art

bologna street art is it art what is 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.

bologna street art is it art what is art

bologna street art is it art what is art

 

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

%d bloggers like this: