Bologna, Sights and Scenes–final

Italy 2012, continued

I thought these lights looked like hanging prom dresses.

Waiting for Dave, back in the hotel, I caught up on journaling and thought about the woman I’d sat next to at dinner the last night in Carpi.  I’d met her at the vinegaria farm and as we exchanged pleasantries outside, she dropped into the conversation that she was a widow . . . of six months.  She’d come back because her husband was prominent in the Collegium Ramazzini and they were doing a memorial for him that night at the final session.  I didn’t attend the meeting, but as happenstance would have it, we sat next to each other that night at dinner in the large, noisy banquet hall, filled with not only our group of nearly 100, but also a younger, noisier group.  I could hardly hear her when she did converse with me, as she spent most of her time talking to someone she knew beside–and across from–her.

I thought of my sister who has gone through this experience, and from watching her and from a lot of reading for my graduate fiction novel learned that many widows considered the first year after their husband’s death to be the time they felt like they were living in a bizarre world. I felt sad for her–here she was in a foreign country, stuck next to some scientist’s wife at some noisy dinner and with whom probably had neither the inclination nor the energy to carry on a conversation. Although out of politeness, she tried.

Back home, if I met someone like her at church, I would probably know what to say, and we would have the luxury of a long-term relationship to carry us over the rough spots.  But when traveling, the rough spots glare a little more, and although she was cordial, she wore her sorrow like a cloak.  I sat next to her seatmate the next day at our final lunch in Carpi and found our more about her, but it only confirmed those early impressions.  I wish we could have visited in other circumstances, for like my sister, she is a studio artist who has mounted several independent shows.  For some reason, either because I was in Italy, or just the crazy conversions of my brain, thinking of the juxtaposition of her husband’s recent death and the art show that he never lived to see, reminded me of that oft-quoted Latin phrase:  Ars long, vita brevis.  Life is short, art eternal.

The key turns in the lock, pulling me out of my journal–Dave’s back and now my universe can turn in its ordered path once more.  Where had he gone?  Up into the university area, strolling the streets and taking photos, like the one above, and the pictures below, with fragments of the setting sun painted onto the buildings:

Neptune fountain from the front.

Detail.  (Couldn’t resist)

Hand in hand, we head out for a walk together.

These candied fruits were like jewels in the window.

I splurge and buy one of a clementine, a pear, and a couple of others.

I expected them to taste differently, but later, in the hotel room that night we ate a piece of each and while they look so divine, they were just gooey candied fruit, like the fruit in fruitcakes, Dave says. But I don’t regret trying them.

We are amazed by the salumerias that we pass by.  Here’s view A (above) and view B (below).

The Bolognians don’t buy regular meats in these shops–they are just for cured meats and some cheeses (in the deli cases below).

We were on the hunt for a vinegar stopper like the ones I’d seen at the vinegaria, for my new bottle of vinegar.  One man told us the name of the device was a “tappo salva soccia,” or “top catches drips.”  Sounds right to me.  We found one in a hardware store.

I wished I could have bought some spiffy sneakers with studs in them, but we figured out (after never seeing a price tag, nor the item in the shops),that these were for display only.  Still . . .

When walking in the evening, the window displays show to their best advantage without the glare of the daylight on the glass.  Couldn’t decide if this display was in sympathy with the American holiday of Halloween, or the European-Catholic holidays of All Souls Day/All Saints Day.  We walked back home to eat dinner near our hotel, and on the way, Dave noticed a purse in the window of a shop.  Yes, we bought it.  I had kind of given up hope of that kind of a souvenir.  I’ve found the best policy is to not to have a pre-determined specific idea of what you want to take home, as you’re likely to be disappointed.  I was happily surprised at this outcome.  (I love my purse!)

We walked back home by way of another fabric shop he’d seen that afternoon (didn’t buy anything, but admired Dave for his fabric-shop-finding skills), and I had him pose by the shadow of Neptune on his fountain.  That’s Dave there, against the wall under Neptune’s knee.  We had dinner at a restaurant across the street, Osteria Le Mura, then went home and ended the day.

The next morning at breakfast, we try to figure out what kind of tree this is outside the breakfast room window, guessing at different things and finally wondering if it were a fruit germaine only to the local area.  I ask the waiter for more information.

He says it’s a “pursey-man” tree.  Pursey-man?

When the lady behind the counter brings out this dish, I understand immediately: persimmon tree.  I hadn’t seen them ever as golden pieces of fruit.  (And now Dave and I refer to them only as pursey-man fruits.  The influence of travel is broadening.)

In talking to some other tourists at breakfast, we find out about a short walk to a lovely church and a viewpoint, so we head out, passing these rows of brilliantly colored trees on our way to San Michele in Bosco (the name of the church).

This is the view of Cathedral St. Petrionous in the center of the city (zoomed in).  You saw our shot of the two towers (complete with satellite tower on top) in the previous post.  It’s a lovely panorama and a fitting way to remember the city.

We head up the hill to the church.

The insignia, inside the church on one of the chapel gates.

The interior is divided into two parts: an upper and a lower, with this saint guarding the stairway.  We tread quietly, as a man is kneeling silently in the first pew.

Around the corner in the sacristy (?), a woman is tending a rack of postcards, in the ubiquitous “gift shop.”  We inquire in our best raised-eyebrow-fake-Italian if there is a cloister.  The torrent of words in reply didn’t help. I find a postcard and point and then there are smiles and lots of pointing, with her hand going this way, then that way.  We pay for a postcard (any one will do) and try to find out where this cloister is.

We walk out the door on the upper left of the church into a long hallway, which used to be part of the church, but is now a hospital.  This ancient fresco clock is high up on the wall.

We focus initially on this wonderful ceiling in a play of light and shadow.  Then I happen to glance down at my feet.

Dave!  It’s a meridian line!  I’d seen it in another one of the churches yesterday, but theirs had Plexiglas over it, so we wouldn’t walk on it (it was in that church that didn’t allow photos), and here this was, just laid out in the hallway where anyone could walk on it.

Linea Meridiana.

We try to follow the directions given to us, but realize that we need to get back to catch our train, so leave the cloister for another day.  I saw later that it was a unique octagonal garden cloister.  Bless the web.  And curse it, for showing me what I could not see.

The train we’ve chosen is just like this one: sleek and shiny and looking like a stalled slithering snake, there on the tracks.  We’d grabbed a snack for lunch, then found our seats, and enjoyed the hour-long (about) ride to Padua.

Because we were in first class, a woman brought around a little cart with snacks, just like an airplane.  Only our flight attendants don’t wear surgical gloves when they pass out the pretzels.

We sat next to a British man who was the registrar for a large university in England, and he said he was pretty worn out by the last round of admissions, so was taking a holiday–first to Rome, then to Venice.  We chatted with him on how the system worked in England, and he told us about the change-over from a government-financed education for the students, to one where they paid for it themselves (with government loans). After talking to him for the entire ride, we agreed that he needed a holiday.  Academics will find each other wherever they go?  We said our good-byes and got off the train in Padua.

Next post: Padua.

Bologna, Sights and Scenes, II

Italy 2012, continued

For some reason, I am quite enamored of these slat-seat metal chairs in photos and have taken pictures of them in New York, San Francisco and now Bologna, although this is the first time I’ve seen them in orange. This was outside a noted coffee shop where folks stop for a bit of refreshment, but we’re on the move.  No stopping allowed.

The old Bologna Town Hall.

And inside, a beautiful ceiling and light.

Across the square I see this stately building.  Wait. Is that what I think it is?  I zoom in for a closer look.

Yes! A fabric shop.  This one carries high-end fabrics meant for suits and expensive dresses, for tailors and dressmakers.  I’m in heaven.

I’ll take a half of a meter, please. It’s a gorgeous piece of wool challis, bound for a scarf.  Or something.

Later that night when we passed by their window, we snapped a picture of their display.  Everything was very close and all sights in the downtown Old Bologna were within in walking distance of each other.  So as a result, we saw some things twice, as we looped around.  Still, I would love to come here in more temperate weather, when the sun makes every building glow all day long.

Old door. Dave had stepped inside this area to photograph the gate leading into the inner courtyard.  He’d become very adept at finding beautiful filigree gates to photograph as the following pictures can testify:

These gates hint at the inner life of these buildings, and Dave said he nearly got hit by a car while trying to get a good angle on a gate.  I guess it was opening out by remote control and the car was behind him, but no worries.  He’s nimble.

One hallmark of Bologna are their passageways, their covered walkways with elegant arches.

This is near the University of Bologna, where Dave went for his walkaround in the afternoon when we split up.  That university is apparently the oldest in the world, according to Wikipedia, and was founded in 1088.  As they note: “it was the first to use the term universitas for the corporations of students and masters which came to define the institution.”

The lady who checked us into our hotel gave us some huge number of miles of covered walkways (or porticoes) something like 66,000 kilometers, but we thought that sounded erroneous. I read later that it’s about 40 kilometers, which is still a lot.  They did shield us from the rain, but they are not always contiguous, or continuous.

We thought of Chad when we saw this, as he runs a bike shop out of his garage, unofficially, though.

This is a close-up of the top balcony, as I was interested in the woodwork at the top.

Poetry Way.  I loved it.

We knew we were on the right track to San Stefano, when this guy poked out his head and yelled, “It’s straight ahead!”

His wife agreed, although she could have been disappointed with my fashion statement of tourist sneakers.  I was amazed that there was a whole chorus of heads about them, all along the eaves of this building.

One thing Italians do well, is set up the shot, or angle by which you approach something.  The building with the heads is the far one on the left.  Behind us is the church.

The points of these walkways converge to the front door, and that door is also framed by side walkways, more colonnaded porticoes.

We head in. (No, that’s not us.)

This is a map of the complex, and the big door is on Church #1-3. Chiesa del Crocifisso. The only info I could find was in Italian, but it is an old-style church, with the #3 room above the #2 Crypt.  No photos were allowed in this area (but it might have been no flash–I don’t know).

We walked to the attached church, which is the octagonal Basilica del Sepolcro, where Petrionius, a Bishop from the 5th century (and who built this complex on top of one where a temple to Isis stood) was buried under a large altar (his tomb is just inside the gated door, in the lit area). Or so one guidebook told us. Of course, I am familiar with the name because of the Petronas Charm spell from the Harry Potter novels.  Ah, the usefulness of popular culture.

Then into the Basilica dei SS. Vitale e Agricola, a dark church with slices of stone for window panes.

We made our way back to #6–the Courtyard of Pilate.  Some say that the large urn was the same one where Pontius Pilate washed his hands of Christ, but that has been disproven. But it was a delightful place, with lots of intricate brickwork in the design of — I’m convinced — thirteenth century quilt block patterns.  Then next door to The Cloisters (#8), back through the Church of the Martyrdom (#7), and we never made it into the other church/museum area (#9-12).

But we did enjoy this courtyard and the cloisters.  All told, the construction on these series of churches stretched from the 5th century through to the 14th century, a range of styles and decor from austere and bone-chilling, to intricate and intriguing.

Yeah, okay.  I love these designs.  Who was it in the 8th century who thought of these?  Who gave permission for such frivolity on basically a very austere church?  I assume that only those who preached and worked there might see this, so was this to balance out the rest?

Looking into the cloister area.

At the top of this small column in this ancient window is a small sculpture of a snail.

This is a fourteenth century sculpture of a rooster, called the Rooster of St. Peter.  For obvious reasons (read that section where Peter had denied the Christ three times before the rooster crowed that morning). I had Dave take the photo because it reminded me of several items in my daughter’s kitchen, when roosters were popular decorating items.  Even though Dave and I traveled as a couple, in one way or another, we brought along all our children in our hearts and minds, finding things that reminded us of them.  They are such a part of our lives that we cannot leave them behind, no matter where we go or what we see.

The Tomb of Somebody Important.  The fact that I don’t know the complete and exact history of this particular little chapel (perhaps if I read Italian?), didn’t obscure the fact that I loved the whole scene — the floor, the wavy lines on the tomb, the peeling ochre paint as a stage set.

Back outside, the colors glow in the sun.

We’ve only hit a few of the things on our list, but we MUST stop for lunch.  It was like some invisible alarm went off and all of sudden the restaurants were full to overflowing, packed, even.  We survey a few, then find our way upstairs to a little place inside Eataly where they serve lunch.  We only have to wait 10 minutes for a table and with some relief sit down.

Eataly began in New York City, but they’ve since opened places in Italy.  How poetic!  But our lunch was delicious and wonderful.  After lunch, I wander aimlessly around the store, feeling the pressure of souvenir shopping for the folks at home.  I’d contemplated giving it up after the last trip, but old habits die hard.  After some discussion about shopping (yes, I need to do some shopping and you’re not helping me), we opt for some individual walking around time.  I expect to find relief in being by myself to get some serious buying done (Dave will admit to being shopping-adverse), but as soon as he walks out the door and disappears into the street, I regret our separation.

I follow where I think he’s gone, but I can’t see him.  I feel so alone, but figure he could probably use the time away from me more than I from him, so I let it be.

Touristing can be a hard business.  The fountain of Neptune, as seen through a passageway.

This is the center of Bologna, the Piazza del Maggiore, which you saw in rain-streaked photos at the beginning of our time here.  It’s much more glorious in the day.

I wander in and out of the Basilican of St. Petronio, but since they don’t allow photos, it is misty in my aging memory.  The outside was monumental, however unfinished (note the ragged brickwork at the top). 

I would have taken photos from the front, from the plaza, but the basilica was draped in reconstruction plastic and it looked like a wide white plastic wall, with cut-outs for doorways.

I went back to Eataly and purchased some balsamic vinegar, an apron and at the tourist office in the Plaza San Maggiore, picked up some more souvenirs.  I had purchased a purse when we’d gone to Florence, and so wanted another from this trip to Italy.  The lady in the tourist office (“So glad you came to me.  I love shopping.”) directed me to one shop in Piazza Cavour, where I found this statue of a musician? professor?  Again, if I read Italian, I could help you out with the history and importance, but I can’t.  I decided to enjoy it on its artistic merits, surrounded by glowing Bolognian buildings.

I did find out that this is a statue of a famous politician, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour.  Figured.  Who’d ever build a statue to a teacher?  Or a musician?

The only flaw in my plan to do some serious solo shopping was the fact that most all of the stores close between 1 and 3:30 p.m.  So I didn’t buy a purse, nor many souvenirs, but instead walked around (the new Town Hall, above), bought some chocolate, then headed home to wait for Dave.

It was thoughtful of the electrician to run those wires AROUND these corner statues, wasn’t it?

Next post: What Dave did, and the end of our time in Bologna.

Bologna Sights and Scenes, I

Italy 2012, continued

First, one last picture from Carpi. This is the meeting room of the Collegium Ramazzini, with its decorated ceilings.  Certainly not all Ramazzians come every year.  The number of members in the group is capped at 180, because at the time there were 180 Cardinals in the Catholic church and THEY were able to cover the whole earth, so that’s how they decided how many scientists there should be in the collegium.

Through a lovely fluke, the people in the car with us (from Carpi to Bologna) were also going to the same hotel, so the driver dropped us both off.

Since we had just come from a modern, more austere hotel-type lodging, I found this warm creamy yellow interior of this hotel lobby a perfect antidote to the rain outside.Scenes from our hotel.  It’s really a conglomerate of about 5 houses, joined by two courtyards and a breakfast room, so it doesn’t feel like a “hotel.” That little “cottage” on the upper left is one of their rooms, but apparently it’s in great demand.  While we had stairs to our room, the first building has an elevator.

Our bedroom and bath.  I loved the sink with its graceful shape.

These flowers were just outside the breakfast room, near the cottage.  Because of the rain, the internet was spotty, so after taking a bit of a break (we still hadn’t recovered totally from jetlag), we decided to get some dinner at a place the front desk recommended, Da Nello, downtown near the main square.  See the Menu post for more info (it’s coming, it’s coming!).

We walked out on the rainy streets.  Daylight savings time had already come to Italy, so it was dark earlier on the clock. The first picture is right across from our restaurant on a main pedestrian drag.  The second is the main plaza, Piazza de Maggiore.  We walked home and called it a day, praying that the forecasts for a let-up in the rain were accurate.

After a sumptuous breakfast with homemade coffee cakes, we headed out to the first of a few churches we saw.  If you’ve been traveling, sometimes you begin to get church-sights-fatigue, as I did later on in this day.  And as an armchair traveler, sometimes it’s easy to feel the same, as seeing it pictures, flat and in 2D is not the same as experiencing the huge spaces, or a stone angel tucked way up high over the altar, or the glint of the sun through a window,  breaking through after three days of constant rain bringing soggy tourists some relief.

But first, I loved the idea that these grand cathedrals will always need a fix-it man, hanging around to oil the hinges on massive wooden doors, as he did.

In the center it’s a pristine, and light and airy church, with minimal dark wood.

But it had an occasional dark side chapel, with only the light on the Virgin Mary centerpiece, a dim cast from a side window, and a rose of glowing red votives.

The Murano glass chandeliers were simple and beautiful.  Dave and I both took photos of this large “rosette” on the wall, interested in the swirls of rigid cloth and leaning figures, frozen in space.

Every Catholic church has the Stations of the Cross, and theirs were a tableau setting, draped with heavy scarlet damask cloth.

The Magi come to adore the Christ Child: Adorazione.

This checkerboard tomb (?) was in a side chapel.  I like that with all this space, this huge and soaring church, they still have a hard time finding space to store things, so tuck them in a side chapel. (Just a guess.)

The organ and the Murano chandeliers.  This reminded me a little of the church in Munich that is all in white.  Of course, I can remember both of these churches because photos were allowed, although Dave said the fix-it man came and scolded him for taking photos. In many churches we went into there was a sign posted, although it was unclear if it meant no photos. . . or merely no flash.

Around the corner from the altar was this side chapel, a rosette on its ceiling, and if you dropped your 50-cent Euro coin in the turnstile, you were permitted to advance.  If only going to heaven was so cheap or easy.

First up, the choir seats, where dignitaries or singers sit with intricately inlaid scenes at their backs, made of different veneered woods.

And then out into the cloisters, with hedged criss-cross rows subdividing the courtyard with a giant X.  Sunshine is promised.  We can almost feel it.

This almost makes you want to redesign your yard and outdoor patio, doesn’t it?

We were the only tourists in the cloisters.

Backside of the church.

Bell tower.

The sun is out!  We are amazed to see this side of the cloisters start to glow like it was lit from within, until we figured out why: it was laid with red carpet.  Still, I loved the effect.

Obviously NOT on the red-carpet aisle, but it was still lovely.

An unusual sculpture in one of the hallways on the way out.  It reminded us of the sculpture we saw in the courtyard at the Vatican, and which Matthew had on his family blog.

We came full circle back out to the space in front of the church and the sky had darkened up a bit, throwing this statue of Saint Domenic into relief.

Sun again!  I sound like a nut, but really, it’s so nice to see things without holding an umbrella over your head.

St. Domenic’s tomb, I believe. Now I’ve really got to redo the backyard.

With the sun out, the colors of Bologna start to come alive, with ochres, reds, golden yellows.  It really is a beautiful city.

Here’s the men-door-keyholes, similar to what I saw in Carpi, but these are in much better shape. Love the door handles.

Dave took this one.  I stopped to try and photograph the dog, and he was looking right at me, but the windows were all misty, so this is the better shot. Over and over it was reinforced that this was a city, not of tourists, although there were certainly accomodations for us, but a city of working and shopping and normal people.

Here are the two towers, from a shot Dave took later in the day.  In the morning, we were coming at these towers from the other side.  They have names: Torre Garisenda and Torre degli Asinelli.  The shorter one used to be as tall as the one you see looming over the city, but was demed unsafe some years ago because of the leaning, and was lopped off.  The taller one can be climbed.  It’s something like 60 stories.

This is how we saw them, dissected by power lines.

And the next morning, we saw them this way, having climbed a small mountain to get a view.  We laughed to see the radio/cell transmission equipment on the top, certainly not very visible from the ground.  A good use of a tall space, I suppose, but fairly incongruous. Okay, back to the streets.

We’re on our way to San Stefano, a collection of seven medieval churches. More coming in the next post.

Carpi, continued

Italy 2012 (continued)

I arose early and met other women for breakfast–one of the best breakfasts of the trip (see Menu post).  I was still full from last night, and not eager to start out the trip chowing down, so I restrained myself, indulging only in some hot chocolate–something I like to do while traveling.  Why were we up and at breakfast by 7 a.m., when it was still dark (and raining) outside?

Because every year these women, one from Egypt (named Waggida), one from Thailand (assistant to THE Princess) and one from Turkey, had walked past this market on their way to their meetings and had always wanted to see it.  I was not hopeful; I’d been to small town markets before, but we were off by 7:30 a.m.

Did I mention it was raining?  Egypt and Thailand zipped on ahead of us–those two women were professionals and didn’t mess around (nor buy anything, Egypt told me later).  Turkey looked in every stall.  Crystal and I browsed, looking at the more interesting stalls, but passed on the ones selling stockings, sweaters or bras.

We hurried back to our hotel, for we were going on the spouse’s tour to a very important abbey: Nonantola, pronounced No-NAHN-toh-la.  I also found out that the town where all our balsamic vinegar supposedly hails from — Modena —  is prounounced MOH-den-nah.  Not Mo-DAIN-uh, like we all say.

Two Nonantolans.  Hanging out.

The front door of the Abbey.  This was a very important sight for us to see, but we couldn’t go into the church (because of all the earthquake damage from last year).  In other words, we should see this, but we won’t.   Instead we went next door to the museum.

Where we learned about how they made books (stretched calf skin, above).  Apparently ages and ages ago those who inhabited this Abbey (monks) were big on making books, and they had developed many different fonts, which picture turned out blurry because I was sneaking photos with my cell phone before one of us tourists asked the inevitable question: “Are we allowed to take photographs?”  “No.”  (Don’t ask, don’t tell.)

Upstairs, this is the other of my contraband photos: This is one section of a pleated nightshirt that one of the important popes wore to bed.  One other woman and I spent a lot of time trying to decide if it was stitched into place (like smocking), or if it were pressed into place.  I voted for the pressed into place.  We spent some time discussing this and feeling sorry for the poor serving girl who spent her whole day pressing a nightgown, and we missed out on the spiel on the all important skull-within-a-skull reliquary box and the upright-bone-with-silver-hand reliquary box, among other treasures.  All the titles and descriptions were in Italian, but did find out from our tour guide that long ago the people believed that if they touched the reliquary, then the part that touched it–say, their finger–became holy, too.

One last contraband picture showing an illustrated Bible.  But not one that had been done here.  And not one that was as old as Nonatola, which near as I could make out had its genesis about the 10th century.

Apparently, we could go down into the crypt because it was all redone in the 1950s, and hadn’t been affected by the earthquake.  But it was done in the style of the early church, with some of the capitals on the columns original to that church.

I am a terrible tourist sometimes, focusing in on the visual, and listening to the history of everything with one ear.  I’m always looking at the shapes, the colors, the designs. . .

. . . and fascinated by old windows that have multiple shades of glass in them.

We went outside, in the misty rain, to see the Abbey.

The other side of that window.

I think that these churches must have been heroic to the inhabitants of this ancient town, with their soaring walls and brick designs.  By making this the largest and most imposing building in the town, the church would have asserted itself as the most important, and perhaps not only a protection for the town (I heard that part) but also a giver of laws, and an enforcer of the same.

Nonantola Abbey detail.

It’s raining more, now, so we dash to the mini-bus.

We drove for a while through the countryside and headed to an acetaia.  This is a farm that is in the business of making balsamic vinegar, so I suppose the English translation might be a vinegeria, or something.

Here we all are, standing out in the misty rain.  It wasn’t that bad, but I wish we could have seen this farm on a sunny day, as the grounds were beautiful.

Here’s the basic vinegar rules:  Take a slew of white grapes and crush in the crusher thing.  Take the juices and move them into this cooker thing, which heats the juices to 90 degrees centigrade for about a week.  The resulting brew is called a must.  And you should have heard the farm guide tour say that word.  Here’s a sample:

After this evaporates and sits around for a while (we liked the drunken wasps dive bombing this stuff), they transfer it to barrels.

The barrel has a hole in the top, which they cover with a cloth and the barrel cut-out, which has another hole in it.  This is to allow the vinegar bacteria to find the “must” and join in the party.  Or something.  Our bus tour guide kept translating the farm tour guide’s English into American English.

They tag each of the barrels.

They are organized into groups of six, in graduated sizes.

Most of them are in the attic, where it gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter.  This apparently makes for good balsamic vinegar.

Here’s how it works.  When it’s vinegar harvest time, they draw from barrel #1, the smallest, emptying it.  They refill barrel #1 with vinegar from barrel #2.  They refill #2, with vinegar from #3 and so on.  By the time they finish, barrel #6 is empty and they fill that with new must from the vat downstairs.  You never mix barrels as they are like their own little family.  Some barrels are made from cherry, or oak, or other woods.  This process takes about 12 years, and at that point, they run a little sample down to the local agricultural board (blind taste test) to see if it’s ready.  It might be. . . or not, in which case that batch continues the aging process.  So they say that good vinegar is between 12 and 25 years old.  We had some taste tests downstairs (at the gift shop, where else?) and it was very interesting how as the vinegar aged it took on almost a sweet quality.  I didn’t buy any (ran out of time), but did end up buying some of a less-aged type in the store Eataly in Bologna.  I am waiting to open it, because once it’s gone. . . I’ll have to pay an arm and a leg to get any more.

They got us back to Hotel Touring in time for lunch, which was a pasta dish, baked endive, amazing salad and for dessert: some of last night’s plus tiny fruit tarts.  Dave is chatting with Waggida (Egypt) about science.  She was headed from here to the airport to head to Philadelphia.  I kept thinking about her heading into the midst of Hurricane Sandy and the huge storm on the East Coast, and have wondered how she did.

After a break, Crystal and I head to the local Conad, a grocery store, because I’m on the trail for Italian candy to bring back to my class.

Found it–the empty spots, but there was enough for what I needed.

I always like looking in grocery stores and so did Crystal so we were a pair.

Bull dog food.

Relax for the skin, first thing in the morning.

Mannequins, ready for dressing.

I wanted to head in here, but really–when you have limited luggage space, just how will you get some of this home?

Our Ramazzini Days banner.  You can see a lot of metal fence barriers here, evidence that they are trying to recover from the earthquake from last year.

Door handles.

The door handles are men’s mouths, like ancient men.  I have a close-up of these in Bologna (this set is pretty beat up), which I’ll show you.  The colors are all so subdued because of the rain.


I had decided in the states that my souvenir from Italy would be a leather purse.  These, with Halloween decorations, were interesting, but not for me.  Since it was a few days before Halloween, I noticed that Carpi was celebrating the event, too.

By a bakery.

I think the city was sponsoring a Halloween-themed downtown event, and she was all made up–Italian version of a witch.  I found what I saw reminded me of my childhood Halloween celebrations: rather tame and innocent and certainly geared toward the children.  I sort of miss that type of celebration in the States.  We have become much more about the gore and blood and vampires and while I’m not clueless enough to think that Italy doesn’t know about vampires, it doesn’t seem to be celebrated in this little town.

The children ran from shop to shop, asking for–and receiving–treats.

Mother has gotten into the action, too.

Now the rain had let up, and we even saw some sun rays poking through the afternoon cloud cover.

We duck into the Palazzo del Pio, which either didn’t have too much damage, or they’ve repaired it.  I do know that the old building attached to the side of this “Honor Courtyard” was where the Collegium Ramazzini used to meet and it was now declared unsafe.

Classically designed rain gutter in the couryard.

I show you these two photographs side by side, as they demonstrate how all the colors just come alive (upper) when the sun is peeking through the clouds.  Yes, some of it can be explained by lens and light exposure, but it was quite dramatic the difference the sun’s light made.  We found the same phenomena in Bologna.

The open door led to a smaller courtyard with even older-looking walls and buttresses.

I was teasing Crystal about her “smile” for photographs–a sort of a daguerreotype posing.  I like this smile much better.

I assume that the tall tower on the left (this is a view from the Piazza del Martiri) is the frontside of what I was seeing inside.  I hope someday to tour it all–I hear there are frescoes in there somewhere.

The Municipal Theater. With barriers.  The slice of building on the left side of the picture is where Ramazzinians used to meet.  Bits and parts of the steeple were in pieces on the ground (behind barriers).

One of the charming things about Italy is how they blend the old with the new.  New plaster everywhere, with the old parts exposed.

This grand plaza–Piazza del Martiri (no translation)–is what we saw when we came out of the Palazzo del Pio.  And it was coming to life with teenagers and more costumed goblins and witches and in the orange tent, the radio station was playing music. Crystal and I meandered back to our hotel to get ready for dinner.

Dave was there with his Ramazzini medallion.  I made him put it on (below):

Congratulations, Dr. Dave!!

Dave went off to a lecture, and I dawdled around, taking my time to get ready for dinner and answering emails (good internet here!).  I went down at 7:45 and walked over to the bus; the meeting was 30 minutes late getting out.  Turns out the mayor is a true politician and likes to hear himself give speeches.  Our dinner was in a banquet hall at the top of a local restaurant.  When I get the Menu post going, I’ll link over.

The next morning, Dave went off to meetings again and Crystal wanted to walk some more.

Requisite graffiti.  It is interesting how different the style of street art can be from country to county.

Because of the damage to their usual meeting place, the Ramazzites had moved their meeting to the San Rocco buildings–a former monastery converted to music school.  This interesting leaning structure was in the garden.

This hallway looks very much like Palazzo del Pio’s hallway, but there are some differences.  We head upstairs to find the group was on their break.

I take a picture of Dave next to his poster.  We babied carried that thing through three airports and across an ocean and a continent, so it was great to see it intact.  (We later left it by accident in one of our hotels.  Ooops.)

Door in San Rocco.

Our classroom doors look nothing like this.

We walked back to the hotel, where they feted us with lunch.  We had packed that morning, so were ready to leave directly from lunch to be taken to Bologna, which will be in the next post.

There are lots of journeys on this blog, so for this trip, look for Italy 2012 at the top of the post.

Carpi, Italy–Arrival

October 2012

No, that’s not Capri.  I spelled it correctly.  Some time ago Dave was nominated for membership in the Collegium Ramazzini, a collection of scientists who work in the field of public health.  He was honored to accept their nomination (and pay their annual fee) and we made plans to head to Italy.



One of the interesting things about travel is that you lay out for yourself an itinerary of hotels and sights to see, but somehow, even without wanting to, you also lay out an itinerary of the heart, especially if you are feeling exhausted or tired before you go.  When I’m in (fill in the blank), you say, I’ll always have nice meals and get to bed at a reasonable hour.  When I see ________ , I will take time to really soak up the sight.  And too often we travel like we live: rushing from one item on the checklist to another.

But this trip, I’m sure, will be different.

What we see when we wander the myriad of hallways to escape the plane.  We’ve noticed that this is a constant: international flights have you take hallways and turns and escalators and stairs and more hallways and then a moving walkway to get out.

LAX to Frankfurt went well, and then we sit in some hallway and wait for them to post our gate. We head over there, wait a while (reading), meet up with Dave’s colleague Carl and his wife Crystal, and now head down two flights of stairs to a bus to go out to the airplane.  But they don’t let us off.  Instead they take us back to the terminal and we climb two sets of stairs to wait another hour.

On the flight from Frankfurt to Bologna, we had those new “thin” seats we’ve been reading about in the States.  Comfortable.  I wouldn’t mind them so much if I thought they were doing this to give us more leg room, but instead it’s so they can cram more passengers on the plane.

We’d been following the weather reports with all due diligence, and yes, it was raining in Bologna when we arrived.  We’re supposed to have a lot of rain this week.

We stood, obediently and jet-lagged, at our carousel, waiting for our luggage.  After about 40 minutes, two guys in orange jumpsuits jumped up on the carousel and started fiddling with the  emergency stop buttons.  Nothing.

Finally they routed us over to the side carousel where we picked up the luggage that had been sitting out in the rain for nearly an hour.  We went upstairs to join the others who had been waiting for us (sorry, guys, but welcome to Italy) and took an hour-long van ride out to Carpi, home of Collegium Ramazzini, or as they say amongst themselves, Welcome to Ramazzini Days. (I slept most of the way there.)

From our little balcony, I could hear the cars swooshing around. . . in the rain. We were on the fourth floor, which gave us a chance for some exercise every day.

I always love to see what hotels put out for their toiletries, and this, in a slotted wooden tray, was one of the nicer displays.

This plain, flat, horizontal surface looked better than I can adequately describe.  We immediately took our shoes off, and lay down to rest–for awhile, before we joined the other scientists and spouses at the 7:00 p.m.reception, where we felt like new kids at a birthday party.  I did manage to enjoy the food treats as we had not eaten since the morning meal on the plane.

We had dinner that night in the hotel’s restaurant, and it began at 8 p.m. which is I-Don’t-Know-What-Time in California time.  I’ve put all our meal items over in Menu posts (I and II), so check there.  Those will be an ongoing process as I hit each city.  Let me just say that although we staggered upstairs at 10:30 that night, we were happy and well-fed.  And talked-out.

The information about Hotel Touring, where we stayed and where I honestly doubt any American will stay unless they have a car and are touring around, is on the main map post of this trip, and on TripAdvisor, under the pen name of “Letterpress.”  It was a good hotel, and I can recommend it.