Thursday, November 5, 2015

Top 5 Overlooked Treasures in Bologna

Bologna is beloved for various reasons, some of its most obvious attributes fall under the three categories or nicknames that have been given to the city that any Bolognese can recite by heart; la dotta, la rossa, la grassa. Meaning Bologna is the learned, the red and the fat. Nicknames that clearly come from some of Bologna's most famous characteristics, the learned originates from Bologna being the esteemed birthplace of Europe's first college in 1088, Universita di Bologna, Alma Mater Studiorum. Bologna was given the title the red most obviously because of the bright colored terracotta roofs and red painted walls that give the city a bright hue of red and secondarily name the red because of it's historic connotation as being politically far left. And finally, the fat - I'm sure you can all guess why Bologna is named that? You're right, it might have something to do with being the food capital of Italy, being the home of mortadella, prosciutto, tortellini, and many other famous Italian delicacies. While these three Bolognese characteristics help solidify Bologna as one of the greatest Italian cities, Bologna is also home to many other treasures that often get overshadowed by "La Dotta, La Rossa e La Grassa".

When you have limited time in Bologna, it only makes sense to run from Enoteca to Osteria to Pasticceria to Gelateria while fitting in some churches, the university and views of the red roof tops. But if you look all around you and really soak in your Bolognese surroundings in between your last bite of lasagna and your first lick of gelato, Bologna will transform into something else completely!

#1: Le Serrande | Shutters

If you're strolling though the streets of Bologna on a Thursday afternoon*, late at night or during a closing for pausa you may notice that there is a whole lot of crafty art on various store fronts. Many stores have artfully painted or grafiti-ed, if you will, their metal store front shutters (also known as serrande) that they use when shop is closed. One could spend days walking the streets looking at the various designs and illustrations on the doors. It's not quite determined why so many stores actually commission these pieces of artwork on their storefronts, but many believe they are painted to deter vandalization. So keep your eyes peeled and pick your favorite design when strolling the Bolognese streets!

*Why Thursday Afternoon? Few tourists know that Thursday is Bologna's day of weekly closure for many stores!

#2: Le Cassette | Mailboxes

This may just be a treasure to those who are used to seeing oversized American mailboxes with little intrigue, but the mailboxes built into the sides of medieval buildings with intricate crests and Italian engravings are not to be over looked. These are not extremely common in Bologna so keep your eyes peeled. You'll find that stealing a quick glimpse at the iron work and reading the word Cassetta can make your day.

#3: Il Batacchio | Door Knocker

Depending on your height, this third overlooked treasure may be easier or harder to overlook. Door knockers in Bologna have some insane street appeal. With the grandness of some entry ways and doors opening up the grand Bolognese palazzi, you might find yourself staring at some pretty intense artwork adorning the key holes or taking place of a doorbell. Door knockers in Bologna are intricate and entertaining and there are a multitude of varieties to be found, so keep your eyes trained on the doors as you walk the porticos of Bologna.

#4: Le Lanterne | Lanterns

Lanterns light up every portico of Bologna and they aren't just your normal street lamps. Massive, intricate iron lanterns hang from the ceilings providing light and a little piece of art to admire. While the lanterns that line the porticos are beautiful, you might find some really extraordinary and unique lanterns at various street corners, like the one pictured above by the farmacia. These are the real street treat!

#5: Modanatura | Moldings

If you have a bad neck, refrain from seeking out the fifth overlooked treasure of Bologna. Many of Bologna's palazzi have very intricate moldings a stone work throughout their facades. When you find an even walking surface, don't be afraid to look up and scan the sides of buildings, they won't disappoint. And if you find yourself in Piazza delle Sette Chiese or Santo Stefano, make sure you let your eyes wander here! As you arrive in the piazza the facades above the porticos are topped with beautifully adorned heads. Not to miss!

Bologna is full of detail, so enjoy the little things it has to offer! (As well as the parmigiana!)

Monday, September 28, 2015

A two bedroom apartment, a vecchierella, a vecchietto, 8 giovani & two Italian rental cars

The fun wasn't over yet!  After waking up early to defend my thesis in Italian (what an accomplishment), running back and forth across Bologna to have the right cappuccinos and eat lunch, attend the graduation proclamation, climb the torre asinelli and celebrate with my friends and family at a lovely aperitivo at La Sartoria in Piazza Aldrovandi, we were pooped. Sleeping that night in 90 degree weather never felt so good. My emotions were all over the place, my family and loved onces had come to see me accomplish one of my greatest feats of my life and not even 24 hours later I had leave the city I grew to love and call home. It was a bittersweet affair, and luckily I had friends and family there to support me and whisk me off quickly like tearing a band-aid off. And I had the saving grace of returning for a few days to run the half marathon before I departed Italy with intention of establishing a job and life at home in Boston.

That also means I had to pack and move my apartment.

Dottoressa D'Ambrosio ;)
We were up and at 'em the next morning despite being dead tired. Toni perked the Moka and issues cappuccino's for all, for the last time on my tiny Via Solferino stove. I fortunately had packed up most of my small belongings and things that I had brought from home or purchased over my time there, the only thing left for those items was fitting them into the car. Further, I found out at the last minute that my landlord was going to be gutting the apartment and wouldn't use most of the kitchen items or anything else for that matter so that left us in the position to take what we wanted which would be especially useful since we'd have to furnish the house we had been renovating. The only problem that posed, was an issue of space that maybe the photo below can do a good job explaining without any extra explanation.

But, comunque, the other request from my landlord was that I remove the extra bed that had been purchased for the second bedroom. My options were to disassemble it and leave it on the side of the road, or disassemble it and give it to my good friend Alonso who had expressed interest in the bed. Since we D'Ambrosio/Serafinis do not waste, we opted to give the bed to Alonso if he promised to be at my apartment by 8:30am to help disassemble it and show my brother the way to his apartment to relocate it.  Surprinsgly, Alonso was prompt, but our disassembling methods were not. Three sweaty 15 minute round trips by foot to the hardware store happened in order to secure the Allen wrench that would fit the screw size on the Ikea bed. Alex seemed a little frustrated with the process, but Alonso was pretty happy to switch from a twin bed to a matrimoniale. After the mattress was safely in Alonso's apartment, Alex returned with the car and we began to load up the rest of my two years in Via Solferino. I was shocked with the amount of stuff that had accumulated, especially since I had begun sending things home with my parents whenever I had the chance. Since we also had a home to furnish that we were in the process of renovating (Zeppone) we also took the liberty to pack the car with kitchen things that my landlord had said was free game to take since he planned on renovating and moving into my apartment after I vacated it. Bittersweet day to say the least. By 10:00am we had the car packed with everything, including Mokas, espresso cups, pots & pans, chairs, suitcases and a basil plant. We were off to the Muto and just like that Bologna was no longer my home. That sentence literally hurt my heart to write! (Have missed it everyday since, even when I was there this August I missed it) So off to Muto squished between a chair, my aunt & Tim, sitting on top of layers of sheets and towels. What a drive! And the Nonni didn't have it any better.

Nonna, Nonno, Mom, Dad, Marana, Alex, Michael, Tim, Toni and I shoved with my two years of life in Bologna into two tiny Italian rental cars to make the 6-7 hour drive home to Muto.  What a crazy and emotional couple of days in Bologna and what a perfect end to my Italian sojourn in Bologna. If I hadn't had everyone with me, I don't know if I could've ever left Via Solferino alone!
The best part was, I had the rest of the summer ahead of me to spend in Italy with the people I love. The adventure was no where near over and who am I kidding, Bologna was certainly already built into my future's plans!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dottore, Dottore, Dottore...

Me, My coronocina and my Torre :)
I'll let you finish the saying that I started in the title if you know it...And if you don't, maybe you'll learn it by the end of this blog post, maybe ;)

Any tourist, visitor, or inhabitant of Bologna has witnessed the weeks of graduation ceremonies that occur throughout the year in the city center and might identify the laurel graduate crown, students dressed in costumes and loud Italian chanting as the symbol of Bologna instead of Piazza Maggiore, Le Due Torri, Mortadella and tortellini.  And right they are, the laurea is a key aspect of the Bolognese lifestyle, an enriching part of the city's identity and one of the main reasons why many of Bologna's inhabitants have chosen Bologna as their Alma Mater.

As a matter of fact, in my first weeks living as a Bolognese I was sometimes startled by the scherzi or jokes that Italian students play on their graduation day, some of those scherzi include signs with graduates faces imposed on interesting images or others bodies all over the city (jokingly), students dressed up as Pikachus, unicorns, fairys, you name it, running all over Bologna, La Dotta, forced to pull pranks on tourists and any willing volunteer, commanded by their peers. This could have been me, had I acquired that group of friends...but I was luckily blessed with low key reserved friends :) While some people are sprayed with ketchup and egged on their giorno di laurea, graduation day, there are also other graduates who walk through the Bolognese streets, and while they don't stand out in a crowd like a Pikachu might, they do wear a distinct head piece that separates them from the rest and also resonates as a powerful symbol of Bolognese (and Italian) culture.

La Coroncina di Laurea or La Coroncina di Alloro per Laurea | The Graduation Crown or The Crown of Laurels for Graduation

Priceless. Ti voglio Bene :)
This is the symbol that resonated with me in my first days in Bologna, and this is the symbol that inspired me to make it to my Italian graduation day (along with another superstition I'll explain later).

The Laurea is a coveted accomplishment in Italian culture, especially in Bologna who is home to the world's oldest university in continuous operation, founded in 1088. After I was introduced into Bolognese society, began taking courses at the prestigious university and witnessed newly graduated students roaming the streets in their coroncine, a goal was set in mind and it motivated me from my first stroll through the main square. Additionally, it also fostered a new found appreciation for the city that I fortunately chose to pursue my masters studies in.

Throughout my first year at Bologna, I noticed there were distinct times of the year when the neo laureati (newly graduated) would be out and about showing off their laurels or pulling pranks with friends throughout the city center. As I dove into classes and got familiar with the Italian university system the Italian graduation day became more clear and justified the various potential graduation dates for a group of students who might have all started class on the same day. Just as getting used to taking oral exams was a challenge, understanding the graduation was a challenge as well, but as I started to understand the exam schedule, la laurea logistics began to fall into place as well.

In the Italian University system exam period is much different than exam period in the United States. A typical course runs the semester and attendance is often given as a choice. A student can either be considered a frequentanti, someone who attends the class, or a non frequentanti, a student who does not attend the class. Both types of students are enrolled in a particular course and have the opportunity to receive a grade and be tested on the coursework, however each path comes with merits and challenges. I chose the frequentanti path since I knew I was incapable of self study to learn the material, and it just made sense that I would get far more out of seeing the teacher, hearing Italian every day, interacting with my classmates and building relationships at school was a far better option than the latter. But a non frequentanti might argue that they work two jobs and don't have time to attend class, can teach themselves well out of the book, and are capable of putting all their eggs in one basket to either pass or fail the one exam that counts toward your grade. I opted for the interim assignments to test my knowledge and help my grade, along with creating relationships with my docenti and colleghi. 

For any class, there is the normal class period where class is in session, normally the duration of a regular semester. Immediately following the end of the class period, exam period begins. BUT, exam period is not as simple as it may sounds. Exams are broken up into appelli or sessions, and each class has the opportunity to take the exam at one of three options of appelli. Generally there are three appelli immediately following the end of the semester for a certain course, so a student will have three different exam dates to choose from. If you are a frequentanti like I was, most professors also do a pre appello or pre session offering of the exam then generally follows the week after classes end. The regular sessions start 4-5 weeks after the end of the semester, for example, classes ending in may would have their first exam session mid June, and the following sessions would happen monthly, in July then in September. If you fail the first session or get an undesirable grade you are allowed to take the exam the following session or even wait until the next semesters session to re take it.

Huddled around my kitchen table!
For me, the appello I took my exam in was always obvious. I don't know if it was my Union College experience that helped me not procrastinate or just the thought of studying for longer than necessary that turned me away from postponing exams, but if there was a pre appello in my classes I took it, and if I couldn't I took it the first session possible and as a result I was the first student in my class to complete all of my exams. Carrying this mentality, I learned about the graduation sessions, and since I was successful in completing my exams on time, this allowed me to be successful in graduating on time as well.

Graduation in Italy does not happen all on one day like it does in the US. That becomes obvious when you stroll down the cobblestone streets of Bologna and see a neolaureato on almost any day of the week. Why? This is because the graduation dates happen similarly to the way exams happen: in sessions. Each department has their own appelli di laurea that generally follow the same monthly schedule, for example, my department of Political Science has graduations sessions in July, October, December and then March the following year. Since I completed all of my exams by June, I was able to apply myself and write thesis like crazy to be ready for the first session in July. In retrospect, maybe I should have taken my sweet time writing and extend my Bolognese experience through the following year?

But Lina and I had the same mindset. Finish your studies as soon as you can, do not prolong the torture of stress associated with studies! And we did it!

051 @ Piazza Maggiore
A year ago today marks my Bolognese graduation day. It's hard to believe it's been a year since I had one of the best days of my life. The stress of the Italian education system culminated on July 22, 2014. I was successful in completing all of my classes and exams on time (without failing) and my language skills had developed enough to be able to defend my 119 page thesis in Italian! What an accomplishment! I had been through ups and downs during my studies and my time away from home, and I had also avoided climbing the beautiful Torri Asinelli for two years, in fear that the old Bolognese superstition claiming that if you climbed the tower prior to your graduation date you would never graduate could be true. Finally, July 22nd was going to be the day to prove it was all worth it and boy was I not disappointed at all!
Al Sangiovese

Tim, Alex & Michael arrived the Friday before my graduation, I don't want to get into the detail of everything since this post is already long, but man did we have fun! We ate and drank in all the great spots including Osteria del Sole, birra up at San Michele in Bosco, Piadine, Tigelle, Marsalino, gelato, Spacca Napoli etc. We made it to Modena and Maranello for the car lovers, and even managed to force Alex to walk up to San Luca... Cappuccino pit stops were necessary and welcomed.

The rest of the family arrived on Sunday evening. The nonni had been driven up by my parents and Toni in the rental car (Happy that Toni thankfully gave in and stuck around long enough with the Nonni at Muto to make it to Bologna!), it was a long 8 hour drive from Muto and after my Nonno had fallen earlier that week they thought the trip might not have been possible. I was so grateful for their arrival and they seemed beyond grateful to have arrived safely in Bologna for my Italian graduation. The next two days leading up to my graduation were madness, it was amazing having so many family members and friends (Thanks Marana!) there to support me, but wheeling two vecchieti around Bologna and making a decision for a group of 14 people was not easy and as low stress as I had anticipated. While I tried to entertain and show my beautiful BO to family and friends, I also had to deal with printing and binding my final finished thesis product and prepare myself on the Italian vocabulary I would have to use in my discussion as well as be prepared to answer any questions asked of me concerning my paper.

Despite the stress and arguing, I still managed to have my last few days in Bologna be among the best. On Sunday evening we all walked to Piazza Grande to eat outside al fresco in the alley the hugged the right flank of San Petronio. Nearby we could hear "Cabaret" being screened on the Maxi schermo in the Piazza as part of the Cinema Sotto le Stelle program that extended the month of July. The previous days had been burdened with unbearable heat, but that Sunday temperatures started to cool and we had the most perfect evening in Piazza. Pignoletto was drank, tortellini were tasted, roses were bought from street vendors, and jokes and fun were had by all.

Monday was craziness as well. We dragged my Nonna and Nonno across town so they could see some of Bologna. My Nonno was very excited to be back in Bologna since his only time in the city had been when he was passing through during World War II. He loved sitting in Piazza Maggiore and soaking up the atmosphere, and I don't blame him, there just isn't anything like it! My mom and I grocery shopped at the Coop in Santo Stefano while the Nonni rested for a little, then we ran home to prepare lunch in my lovely little Via Solferino apartment. While we prepared lunch everyone opted to do their own thing, nap, walk around, shop, grab a cappuccino... then at lunch time the Nonni were whisked to my apartment that thankfully had an elevator and we all squished around my table meant for 4 or maybe 6. We had the best lunch among the best company and enjoying the best view of San Michele in Bosco. My nonni were so happy to see the apartment where I had lived for the past two years and they were excited to have a family event over good food and wine in my tiny little kitchen My Nonna couldn't believe I managed to survive using the tiny stove, oven and sink for two years! What a riot! After lunch the cycle restarted, naps, cappuccios, shopping and walking on your own accord until yes, dinner time! The rain began before dinner time so walking efforts became hindered slightly, but we managed to all make it to Al Sangiovese in my neck of the woods for another fabulous dinner. The food, the wine and the company made it exceptional! I tried not to drink much vino since the big day was to follow, but I joined in a lovely brindisi and we all made it to bed on the early side, with most of my nerves subsided for the big day.

Nonni & Lucio Dalla
Planning for the graduation day had been a nightmare since leading up to it we weren't positive on the timing of la discussione and la proclamazione. Tuesday there would be two separate events, 9:00am started the list of defenses (la discussion), luckily I was second in line, but there was no way to tell the exact time I would defend my thesis to the panel, and then the proclamation was held at a different location a few hours later, making eating and drinking logistics with a group of 20 people kind of difficult.  I woke up stressed as heck, I was nervous about my family making it to my defense by 9, them causing a scene (because that is normally how it goes down) and then nervous for my own material, afraid that I might not be able to search my Italian vocabulary in a time of desperate measures in order to efficiently and correctly communicate the point of my thesis. But there wasn't much time to stress. Tim and I headed off down Via Rialto, past La Sorbetteria and we stopped at my go to Cafe on Via Guerazzi where I had half a cappuccino in fear that the caffeine would affect me negatively, then we walked down to Scienze Politiche at Strada Maggiore, 45 to get the scoop from Lina on the proceedings of the morning and to make sure everything was in order. When I had left my apartment Alex and Michael were barely awake and certainly not showered so in the back of my mind I was stressed about their arrival, and similarly I had no idea on the whereabouts of my parents and Nonni. Additionally, I had Gaetano and Christina arriving from Torino, and my wonderful famiglia fiorentina arriving from Firenze with two little ones in tow... who knew how the day would unfold!

By 9:00am I was prepared. I had found Lina and conferred with her about my fears. I had found my wonderful relatore or advisor, Professor Partington, who advised me I was well prepared for my discussion. And slowly but surely my friends and family began to fill the courtyard of Strada Maggiore, 45 while the first graduate went into Aula A to be questioned by the Commissione di Laurea. Relief, anxiety, fear, excitement, you name it! Was all happening in my mind. I was due second according to the list, but after the first person finished, I was asked if someone could cut me in line, so I was bumped to third, unknowing of what time I would actually face the Commissione and my graduation fate. My friends and family distracted me as I waited anxiously for the door to open and for them to call the next candidate "Lia D'Ambrosio". I rushed in and my family quickly mobilized behind me wheeling my Nonno into the tight turns of Aula A, behind him came the carriage with Chiara's two children, Giada and Andrea, Claudia followed, then Gaetano & Christina and the rest of the crew (Alex, Tim, Michael, Samantha, Jessica, Lina, Li etc). I was unaware there was a head of the commission, so before I sat I handed copies of my thesis to my advisor Professor Partington and my Co advisor, and looked clueless on where to hand the third, when Partington nicely pointed me to the man sitting in the middle of desk and panel of professors and opposite a lone chair that was clearly going to be the hot seat. I gave the head of the commission (Prof Gozzi) my thesis and sat nervously with my back to my friends and family audience and facing Prof Gozzi directly along with 5 professors to his left and his right... talk about intimidation! Ha! It was go time! Professor Gozzi mentioned that I might like to present my defense in English, and I let him know it was kind of him to ask but since I did my studies in Italian I'd like to give my final stand in Italian as well, he agreed and I proceeded to give my spiel, stumbling at first over the Italian, but then getting into the flow. A couple minutes in, my advisor kindly reminded me I had a handout for the panel/commission, so I got flushed and embarrassed again, handed out the sheets and recomposed myself to finish my 15 minute defense. At the close of my time, I was relieved, but only for a moment! Now it was the panels turn to ask a question... starting with my advisor (such a nice man!), he asked and I responded... generally only your advisor asks a question, but I was surprised to here Prof. Gozzi directly across from me begin to ask me a second question... he seemed really truly intrigued in my work! Psyched, I answered his question and I was done, they sent me (and my audience) out of the room to deliberate, they called me back in a few minutes later expressing that I had done well enough to be invited to the graduation ceremony that afternoon... WHAT A RELIEF!!!
Grandi amici :)

Out in the courtyard I was congratulated and overwhelmed with all of the built up anxiety that I could finally let go. I thanked my professor for helping me achieve such a wonderful accomplishment then I went back into see Lina finish her discussion since she was right after mine. What a thrill to have both accomplished so much and in such a short time. Lina and I were the only ones from our class graduating during that appello there were maybe 7 students in total, some from other programs within political science and a couple from our International Relations program but who had started the year before us.... che grande emozioni! Lina and I were finished! So I told her I'd see her at la proclamazione and I was off with my posse to grab a cappuccino on Strada Maggiore and then to have a fabulous lunch at Al Torinese under the porticos of Piazza Maggiore. Life was good! After lunch my host family had to depart to catch their trains, I thanked them immensely for attending since they were a huge part of my initial florentine experience and my love for Italy, then I walked the crew down to the classroom where la proclamazione was held. The actual graduation ceremony was short, simple and underwhelming. A number of our professors were dressed in judge type robes and marched into a classroom with the graduates in it. We line up along the side of the room and then Professor Endrici (La Endrici) announced each of us and proclaimed we had become Dottore by Italian law and also announced our final grades. I was psyched as I achieved a 100/110, which was beyond my expectations of a grade, my lovely Lina got a 110/110 con lode, she is such a hard worker and truly intelligent woman, lucky to have her as a friend during my two years at Uni :) But the main thing I walked away from that proclamazione with was a title and a feeling, I was now a dottoressa, and my adventure to becoming a dottoressa was above and beyond and the most important people in my life were there to witness it! SO thankful for everyone who supported me through my ups and downs in BO and so thankful to have such a strong family bond through my Nonni who inspired me to embrace the country they immigrated from so many years ago. I was and still am so proud to have completed this feat with them as witnesses!

So blessed :)

From the semi underwhelming proclamation of 20 minutes we headed outside for photos and auguri, and Alonso, Alena, Li and Lavinia brought Lina and I our Coroncine with purple ribbon (Purple signifies we were from the department of Political sciences) - It was official! My turn to shine and walk the streets of Bologna as a dottoressa and coroncine! Coroncine and all we began to diverge from the classroom, some may have begun to chant dottore, dottore, dottore... (they were probably for the other graduates and I know Alonso was saying it under his breath as well, haa!) as we walked away, and I don't know if everyone knew where they were headed, but I sure as hell was headed straight towards that Torre Asinelli...

New campanello title!
What a reward! For more than one! -- Tim's Union graduation reward as well ;) A group of us climbed the tower, grins on our faces and excitement exploding. It was the perfect end to my time in Bologna. The view was breathtaking, I could point out all of the different places I had walked to so many times, I could point out my house, where school was, where I ate pizza the most often and you could see the outline of Bologna la rossa enveloped by the famouse viale e porte and engulfed by green rolling hills. It felt amazing to be on top of that tower looking out at the breathtaking landscape and medieval towers and porticos of Bologna, and to be doing at as a new dottoressa with my best friends, boyfriend and family was an indescribable feeling! We stayed up there for hours admiring the view, soaking it in and chatting... the day wasn't over yet, cocktails and aperitivi were to be had to close out my numero uno day and my last day living in Bologna! Bittersweet!

If you're still curious about the dottore song.... take a look at this link! But shhh... I didn't tell you about it!  -> Typical sight in BO!

Monday, July 6, 2015

La Pietra di Bismantova

Have you ever heard of la Pietra di Bismantova!? I certainly hadn't, and even once I had heard of it, I still was unsure what I was about to embark on when I agreed to go hike it with a couple of my classmates. But I am sure glad I said "yes! I'll come!" when they asked :)

The beginning of June marked the end of the first appelli of exams and the commencement of the brief period before the next session of exams that many of my classmates would not be taking. I, myself had finished all of my career exams, and June marked a quick 2 weeks where I decided I could be a little adventurous and still be able to finish my thesis in time for a July 11 deadline. So, when Alonos and Giulia asked if I wanted to head to Reggio-Emilia (Giulia's hometown), and hike La Pietra di Bismantova, I said "Come no!?"

Alonso and I got a semi-early start, early for him! We met at la stazione centrale around 9:00am to take the regionale train to Reggio Emilia where Giulia was waiting for us with her car. The train ride was pretty quick, and we found Giulia easily as we excited the train and headed towards the parking lot where she indicated she would be waiting. 

First stop: Il Panificio. We couldn't hike the Pietra di Bizmantova without a little nutrience in our backpacks and in our bodies. Giulia drove us to a Panificio near the center of Reggio-Emilia and the train station. She suggested we try this spinach filled pie, typical of the area, known as Erbazzone.  This delicious pie is made of dough, spinach or collard green filling, garlic, onion, parmigiano-reggiano and tiny pieces of lardello (layer of fat, prosciutto bits). Delicious to say the least.

With erbazzone in our backpacks, we were off towards the Appenines of Reggio-Emilia. 

Giulia drove well and explained the sights and the various roads as we headed toward the mountains. We passed the apartment complex where she lives as we exited the city center, she commutes back and forth from there to get to class everyday. City turned into rolling hills and green fields quickly. The windy road brought us through hills and valleys, weaving between small towns every so often. I wasn't quite sure how long the drive to the hike was supposed to be, nor did I know what to expect but as we got closer, about a half hour out, Giulia pointed out a flat plateau-like feature that rose steeply out of the rolling geography. THAT, she explained, was the destination. We could see the destination for most of the hour ride, but as we neared closer and closer, the plateau shaped geographic form grew even more impressive.

The landscape was beautiful. Rolling hills carved out by the road we traveled on, small towns sporadically placed, and green, lush fields engulfed our car. The green hills gave way to the impressionable Pietra di Bismantova, a steep rock face that jutted out of the hills and was capped with another lovely blanket of green grass and wild flowers, what a treat! But as we near, I also grew weary... how on earth was I going to climb the steep rock face? There was no way the three of us were getting up there easily! Rest assured, Giulia was sure the hike would be an easy 40 minutes and that there were no difficult parts of the climb... I wasn't going to believe her until we arrived at the top!

We drove up the base of the rock formation, driving farther up than I had anticipate -- already a good sign for my legs. We emptied from the car and started heading up towards the beginning of the path where there were bathrooms, a small tourist shop and a a restaurant. The first leg up to that point was pretty steep, but manageable and no rock climbing attire proved necessary, so my nerves had already settled.  We made our way through the woods to find a path that Giulia assured us would take us zig zagging around the rock instead of straight up. In good fiducia we followed her. The hike was beautiful, curving around the rock wall at a slight incline and opening up to a grassy field almost at the top. Giulia pointed out a path straight up the vertical rock face where two people were getting geared up to climb up utilizing the anchors that you could see staggered all the way up the face of the cliff. Who the heck put those there!?  This discovery sparked a conversation on rock climbing vocabulary, that seemed very difficult, and writing this now I see why it was so difficult. I had to google what those metal hooks they put into the rock to figure out what they were called in English, no wonder describing them in Italian was no breeze! The difficult part was that there wasn't just a single type of anchor used to rock climb and scale mountains like the one we were staring up at. I couldn't name the various types of anchors in English and I hard a hard time describing them in Italian and Giulia and Alonso also struggled to come up with the right set of vocabulary for the rock climbing word. Whatever words we did establish that described the anchors clearly did not stick, since I now cannot remember the vocabulary set! I'll have to do a little wordreference-ing ;)

A few key vocabulary words you should know before you go climbing in Italy:

Agganciare - to hook
Ancoraggio - Anchor
Appiglio - Hold (place to place your hand)
Arrampicare - to climb
Chiodatura - nailing
Corda - rope
Crevaccio - crevasse
Imbracatura - harness
Protezione - belay
Salita - way up, climb
Scarpata - steep

So after tackling rock climbing vocabulary proved to be more difficult than continuing on our way up the mountain the easy way, we decided to proceed with a loss for words. The climb was quick, steep at parts, but mostly painless since it was only a total of 40 minutes up the mountain. At the top of the path we approcahed a clearing and a dramatic view. We had reached the flat top of the immense plateau of La Pietra di Bizmantova and man, oh man, it was impressive! Just as we had seen the rock stick out of the rolling geography on our drive up, we could now see the surrounding hills and valleys below us and the winding roads weaving between them, with that I pictured myself standing on top of that massive rock!

There were a few trees and tall grass that covered the top of the plateau and the terrain was quite rocky underneath, hence the name, Pietra. We walked near the perimeter and looked straight down at the steep drop off and massive rock wall that some crazies climb straight up. We found a flat area near some shade that wasn't directly next to the drop off and we laid our picnic blankets/towels down to rest.  We sat on top of La Pietra di Bizmantova for a couple of hours, we chatted, ate our delicious erbazzone and soaked up the sun and the friendship, and I, the language. How lucky was I!? The trek down the hill proved to be much easier and quicker than our hike up, we stopped at the bottom for another snack, Alonso a smoke, and then Giulia drove us back to la stazione di Reggio-Emilia and Alonso and I were back to our beloved BO!

Vi consigliate di andare ad arrampicare la pietra di bizmantova se vi trovate in zona! E da non perdere!

Alla prossima! xxx

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Il Calcio Bolognese

Now, a year or so later, seems appropriate to describe my experience at my first Bolognese soccer game. Why do I say appropriate? Appropriate because it was nearly a year ago when I witnessed a defeated city get emotional when they lost their playoff game to Catania and were demoted to the Seria B and it was just 8 days ago when my social media blew up with all kinds of celebration and excitement by my fellow classmates marking the results of a 1:1 tie between Bologna and Pescara advancing Bologna back in to the esteemed Seria A. Che emozioni!

Some context: There are three professional series or divisions in Italy's football league system. Seria A is considered the first tier of the system and is composed of 20 teams. Seria A championship winners are automatically entered into the Champions League, which helps explain the difference between Seria A and Seria B. During the regular season matches are played and teams are awarded points for their results, 3 points for a victory, 1 point for a draw and zero points for a loss. And this is where it gets interesting... after the regular season, points are totaled and the bottom three clubs in Seria A are relegated to Seria B, these clubs are replaced by the top three ranking teams in the Seria B at the end of the season.

So leading up to my first Bolognese partita di calcio,  fans knew that Bologna would have to beat Catania in order for them to remain in the prestigious Seria A league. No pressure. And I am not sure if every Bologna FC game generally unfolds in the same manner the Bologna - Catania game did, but man, oh, man! What an experience!

I'll have to give some credit to my friend Alonso who asked if I'd be interested in attending the game with him and a few other classmates. The obvious answer was "yes!" and that was even prior to him informing me that the tickets would be GRATIS! I met Alonso and our other classmates prior to the start of the game near the Curva Burgarelli where I had been told to wait. I made the beautiful 2 mile walk to the stadium from my apartment casually and was obviously still the first one there, even with a timed 5 minute lateness pre-calculated on my part! In any case, one by one everyone arrived, in the end our group ended up being five people, Alonso, Alessando, Massimo and Sebastian plus myself, we were all classmates so I knew them well and knew it was going to be a fun and entertaining afternoon at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara.

To begin the adventure we headed around the other side of the stadium to a different entrance. Sebastian had our tickets ready for us all and e other boys came prepared with a couple of Peroni in a bag. They offered me one as we waited outside the door, what we were waiting for, I wasn't quite sure, so followed the crowd and chit chatted as we waited and drank our peronis outside the stadium. I soon figured out we were waiting for someone else too find us before we went in, and as soon as we had the whole crew we headed to mesh with the line of Bologna FC fans piling through the turnstiles. We apparently went through security, although I don't recall ever being searched or ever going through a metal detector, then we handed over our tickets and they handed us a Bologna FC flag in return. This was a big game. You could already tell by the mood of the line or mosh entering the stadium. 

We walked up to our seats, which in retrospect I don't think we're actually assigned. I believe our tickets were for a certain area of the stadium, similar to the bleacher section at Fenway Park, but the individual seats were a free for all. We sat down in our seats which were essentially concrete stairs, and I soaked in the atmosphere. It was overwhelming looking at the blue and red crowd dispersed throughout the stadium wielding flags, body paint, and signs. And I couldn't help but smile as I listened to the roar created by the collaborative banter of the thousands of Italian fans.

Conclusion #1 = Italian banter > English banter.

As the game commenced the state of the stadium only got better. Bologna was playing well enough to give its fans hope of remaining in the Seria A and the opposing team, Il Catania, was also giving the fans enough verbal ammo to make the stands quite an interesting place to be. With that being said, I am not quite sure how well I paid attention to the game, but the crowd was sure enough, enough entertainment for me!  Chants, songs and banter rose steadily from the stands, and more visibly... colored smoke and fireworks also started to rise from one section of the stadium.  When I noticed that, I thought to myself "Well that would never be allowed at Gillette!"  It seemed like anything could go in Lo Stadio Renato Dall'Ara, I was loving it.

What was most entertaining to me however was not the special effects emitted by the crowd, but the verbiage and typical Italian flare that was given to the game. I couldn't even understand half the cheers rising from the crowd, but I could tell there was passion in the voices of the people singing and also that they were willing to say almost anything to demoralize there opponent (not sure how I felt about some of the things coming out of people's mouths!). I knew that some American cheers at football games, hockey games and basketball games could be a little vulgar, but leave it to the Italians to take it to the next level!

Conclusion #2 - Italians are quite crafty with their insults and expressing disappointment in there team. 

At some instances during the game I would actually get confused at who the beautifully crafted rants were geared towards. They were all music to my ears, Italian has that effect, but as the game continued and Catania fought back with a goal making the score a draw (which would still put Bologna out of Seria A) I couldn't tell whether the rants were still aimed at il Catania or whether the lack in scoring goals had shifted the fans frustration toward its own team! I consider the latter option highly likely because I too have found myself rather upset when the Patriots might be about to lose it (this past Super Bowl for example, luckily even with my doubts we came out with a win!). 

Some of the things I heard at the game can only be written in Italian and I'll leave you to do the research on the meanings.

One of my favorites is "Daje! Daje!" this is probably the most appropriate cheer heard at the game and also the most common. It essentially means, "Go! Go!" or "Common!" Daje, Bologna!

Other expressions heard included your typical Vaffanculo and dai cazzo!

One of the chants I was barely able to make out the words to sang Ver-gogna-t-evi! And I am positive many others were sung that my ear couldn't make out and I was too embarrassed to ask my classmates what they possibly could be singing. Some other "playful" banter heard included porco dio alla madonna and fai cagare!

Depending on who was playing better, I felt as though most of the expressions could be used interchangeably against both teams, but that's left up for debate. I'd like to think they most of them were directed at the opponent, but chissa!?

In between the chants, the singing and the swearing fireworks, smoke, horn blowing and noise making filled the stadium. It was hard to believe that such pyrotecnics were allowed inside the stadium, and then it makes you wonder what the real point of the security check at the gates was if they were going to let smoke bombs and fireworks in anyhow... Oh the logic behind it all! This chaos was just purely entertaining to me, there seemed to be no better venue than a soccer game to enjoy the greatest of Italy and all of it's quirks... and I haven't even begun to explain the greatest of Italy within the stadium's walls.

It only took a couple of minutes before the group decided it was time for a birra. I volunteered to make the venture with Alonso since I didn't want him to offer to buy me yet another drink, especially after he and the boys already gave me drinks waiting in line! So up to the kiosk we went... to my surprise there was NO line, and the kiosk seemed more like the concession stand we ran out our high school football games and not much like I had expected of a Seria A soccer team. This was no Gillette or Fenway offering, the choices were simple, beer, wine, coca cola and a couple of choices for snacks. What the real game changer was, was the price of the beer. I ended up paying 3 euros for my beer at that Bologna Seria A game, less than half than what would have been spent on a worse tasting beer at Fenway park. I considered this AMAZING. And to top the food and drink portion of this post, you won't believe what happened later during the game.

Half time comes and we relax, get another beer and chat freely. This is when it gets really good... Unbeknownst to me the Bolognese do a special half time snack that is so typical of a Bolognese event, I nearly died when I saw it. Although, I really should have expected it and thought nothing of it. At half time the little dinky concession kiosks were handing out trays with focaccia, parmigiana, and tiny cubes of mortadella... FOR FREE! The crutch of Bolognese society, Mortadella & Parmigiana, life could not get any better.

Conclusion #3: Bolognese do it better. What can beat free half time Mortadella and Parmigiana? #winning

There was nothing else I could have wished to experience that day at the game, besides a win for Bologna. It was sad to leave the stadium feeling defeated by a southern team with the rest of my Bolognese friends, even though it wasn't even a loss, but even so, a tie meant down to Seria B, and that felt the worst. Despite the low outcome, I learned and experienced so much in such a short period of time, I couldn't complain. Bologna would fight through the following year in Seria B to regain it's position in the Seria A and when that news blew up on facebook and instagram 8 days ago, I couldn't help but become a little sad wishing I could've been back in the Stadio Renato Dall'Ara to see Bologna reclaim it's title and to witness the city erupt with pride, passion and devotion.

Who knew you could gain so much from witnessing a simple Catania-Bologna game ending in a draw!?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ancora una volta

So... let's think back to May 2014... what in the world was Lia doing then? My memory is starting to fail me... but oh wait, I think I recall a quick week and a half cram sesh between Greece and my parents deciding they were changing their California plans to return to Bologna, cause heck, Why not?

Allora, cram cram cram I did! I returned from Greece with two full weeks left of classes before the period of exams would begin. My first exam for my last master career appello would be Sistemi Internazionali Comparati, taught by Panebianco. The exam was held on May 5th, technically the last day of class where he allowed frequentanti to take his written exam. My other two exams would follow occurring in the first real week of appelli, which would start May 15th. Since my favorite class of the semester was Sistemi Internazionali with Panebianco I was very concerned for my outcome at the exam. He taught by far the most interesting class and the theories on total war, offensive realism, realist theory, balance of power, institutionalism, constitutionalism, and I can go on... were by far the most attention capturing topics I had read thus far in my Unibo career. One of our assigned books, John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: Norton, 2001), was so interesting I couldn't wait to come home to my little balcony at Via Solferino, whip out my chair, my little blue table and my book to dive deeper into Measheimers realist theories throughout the history of the major world wars since the late 1700s. In addition to enjoying what I was learning, Panebianco also had a reputation of being a hard ass when it came to grading exams, so I was going to learn his stuff and learn it good. But, my parents and a friend from college were also planning to visit during prime study time, so time management was KEY! During the day I studied my but off, I focused the majority of my time on Panebianco's material, but I also was concurrently writing a 20 page paper for my United States in the Contemporary World class that I wanted to do well on purely because it would be embarrassing if the American girl did poorly on an exam focused on the United States. So those Union time management skills kicked in during the weeks that unfolded from the day I returned from Greece until the day of my last exam on May 21st. While my parents and my Union classmate Jenna visited the lovely BO, I studied during the day and spent time with both guests at night.

My mom arrived in Bologna alone two days before my dad, Mom stayed with me in the apartment until my dad arrived Monday afternoon. Prior to his arrival, mom and I made sure to enjoy a couple of cappuccinos and even try some new restaurants that were deemed worthy due to tripadvisor reviews and fellow bolognese bloggers. Naturally the first thing we did when she arrived was head straight toward the quadrilatero to check out the new Mercato di Mezzo, and to eat at the place that my Zizi Linda still raves about, zerocinquantino! You know what that means... tagliere misto and tigelle, nothing else compares! After an afternoon passeggiata digested our lunch we headed down to Via Del Pratello to check out dinner options. If you hadn't noticed from prior posts, when you visit Bologna your vacation becomes a food race. One meal followed by the next, the pattern broken by 1 of 4 options; the passeggiata, the second or third coffee of the day, a nap, or a gelato (what else did you expect?). Anyways, I digress...the weather was gorgeous so we strolled up and down until we landed on a trattoria we found appetizing, had outdoor seating and had a good vibe. I was a little nervous about eating dinner on Via del Pratello with my mom because that was a street that students traveled often to cause shenanigans, drink and smoke Hookah (Narghile), but to my surprise she found the road very endearing and lively! Wahoo! Our meal was good, Al Cantinone hit the mark for the atmosphere and price but we didn't find it to be one of those Bolognese knock outs, in fact, I had a difficult time remembering where we decided to eat that night over a year ago! Nevertheless, it provided my mom with a new neighborhood to see and an urge to try another restaurant on its pedestrian only cobblestone way once my dad arrived in town. 

Sunday, RAIN. They day started out beautifully, but by mid afternoon the clouds descended. We didn't really mind, but if it held up to greet my dad the following day, he would surely be bummed. My mom did her thing while I did mine and we spent the latter half of the day together since it included eating dinner. This time we walked another way to check out what few options we had on a Sunday night so we wandered down to Via Belli Arti in the university district down on via belli arti. We walked with our umbrellas up in then pouring rain to Via Belli Arti hoping to land on a welcoming and yummy place that evening because I had heard there were a number of good trattorias that I had yet to try. Our immediate impression of Anna Maria was good, it was your traditional bolognese menu with your typical wooden tables, checkered table clothes and signed photographs lining the walls of all the famous 

Gianni & I

people who had graced Anna Maria's presence and lasagna verde. The food proved to be good, but the experience iced the cake.  Our waiter was a character, very talkative and cordial and far too elegant for the establishment he was working in. He explained his job situation to us, saying he wouldn't be working at Anna Maria's unless he had to, apparently he wasn't treated very well, and he was formerly a waiter at a high scale restaurant on a cruise ship. We weren't sure we believed him till Anna Maria herself came down the stairs in her apron, we were so excited to see the famous chef had actually cooked our meal, but the following interaction she had with our waiter proved their relationship was quite rocky indeed, he came back to finish our order with a smirk on his face saying "I told you so" "ve l'ho detto". Finishing up our meal my mom searched the walls of photos to find her man, Gianni indeed was up on the wall. We walked home in the  rain, walking home from a filling meal was my favorite  thing to do in Bologna, even in the rain!Monday, I would study while my mom did her thing, but only after we grabbed a cappuccio together. That afternoon we went to move her things to I their bed and breakfast down the road, B&B Porta San Mamolo and awaited Dad's arrival, knowing he would be bummed to see it was raining in Bologna... Again! I hoped it wouldn't down his spirits too much! After getting settled the game was food again. I had reserved at a restaurant at the end of Via Del Pratello, after mom and I had researched it on our stroll and on tripadvisor later. It was a roman restaurant and our choice was field by our desire to enjoy some carciofi... Leave it to the culinary romana to own springtime artichoke based meals. It was a fabulous choice for Dad's first Italian meal, and the only thing that dampened his spirits was the still ongoing downpour of rain. Che palle.

The routine continued throughout the week. Wake up, meet for breakfast, go study while dad and mom picked a city to day trip in, meet for aperitivo and eat dinner, repeat. On occasion we went on on a morning jog... This is one of the things I miss the most since being home.  We did my route that climbed to the top of San Michele in Bosco to see the beautiful full panorama of la rossa, winded down through the flowering and bustling giardini margherita, the finished off by running down Santo Stefano, past Nettuno, through Piazza Grande and looping back down to Via Solferino. It was the perfect 4 miler and once that I miss very much running. Another yearning I've been having is to do what my parents did that week, hopping on the treno regionale to a neighboring town to check out it's secrets, it's treasures, it's cappuccinos and it's other culinary delights. It's like visiting a whole new world but your back by the end of the day, didn't have to take a car anywhere and paid less than 10 euro for a round trip ticket. #winning. Their day trips included Imola, Dozza, & Faenza. Bologna is just the best hub ever! Mi manca assai. My parents even took the bikes from the hotel and rode the path down to Casalecchio and to the bridge on the Reno, that was also part of my longer marathon training runs. Out and back past San Luca, never daring out actually run up to the Santuario like many crazies do... Maybe the next time I live there ;)


Run to San Michele in Bosco!
Funivia w/ Sheryl & Jenna

FaceTime with Alex :)
Jenna & I @ Santo Stefano

Trattoria Meloncello

Da Tony
Dal Biassanot
To add more craziness to the week my friend from Union, Jenna arrived Thursday night. She and her friend Sheryl came from Palma, Spain to explore Italy for the weekend. I was psyched to see Jenna and hear about her experience teaching Spanish in Palma so far and also to catch up on everything we missed since college. Jenna and Sheryl were the BEST house guests, so polite, respectful, fun and independent. They arrived late Thursday night, I met them at the bus stop and we walked back to my place. We got settled then we headed out to eat. Pizza due torri was the go to since it was late and they didn't want a full meal. The plan for Friday was to see Bologna, I woke early to study until they woke up. After we were ready I took them on the Bologna tour which included seeing Piazza Maggiore, Santo Stefano, il quadrilatero, Via Indipendenza, my school, Piazza Verdi, i 7 segreti, etc. we bought balls of buffala mozzarella to snack on from Tamburini. We walked around for a while and I left them to explore while I headed home to study some that afternoon. We'd meet up for dinner later on at Da Tony and no Bologna trip is complete without gelato from Funivia. For Saturday and Sunday I gave them direction on getting to Venice and Florence for day trips, they spent the entire day in both cities, finding Venice not to be so magical, but Florence to be one of the most beautiful and enchanting cities they've ever been too. I spent Saturday studying until dinner time at Dal Biassanot down on Via Piella. It was actually one of our better meals had all week! Sunday was my final study day and also my parents last day. We ran in the morning, enjoyed the sun on the breakfast patio and enjoyed our cappuccini. I left them around noon to go finish studying before the girls came back from Florence and hoped that I had Sistemi Internazionali Comparati under my belt. Another great week in Italy spent with my parents, and they'd be back just in 2 and a half short months for my laurea... That is if I passed my exams!