Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fuoco, fontane e...fist pumping?

La vita a Bologna continua! 
(Life in Bologna continues!)

I write now having completed my first week of "class" (the language and history classes that make up my month-long orientation) and, along with it, my first week of compiti (homework).  Fortunately, i miei professori sono molto bravi (my professors are great) so that makes going back to school much more bearable.  My history class takes place in one of the university buildings: Il dipartimento dell'anatomia umane normale (the department of human anatomy).  When you walk into the building you have to walk through a giant hallway with walls covered all the way down, floor to ceiling, with skulls.  Real live (...dead?) skulls.  Once you pass through and arrive at the aula (classroom), you are greeted by a full skeleton suspended in a glass case right next to the doorway.  As if that weren't enough, the professor has to compete for attention with a life-size anatomy model that is perpetually blocking la piccola lavagna (tiny chalkboard).  Professor Donattini, however, has quite a commanding presence so he usually wins out.

Right now we're studying l'Italia dopoguerra (Italy after the war), which in this case refers to la seconda guerra mondiale (second world war) and involves a lot of acronyms.  It's interesting, but I am not looking forward to the time when I have to remember the distinction between the CGL and the CLN in an oral exam worth almost 100% of my grade.  Dio mio!  Fortunately I don't have to worry too much about that for a while yet.

In the meantime, there has been plenty to distract me.  Last weekend the group took a gita (trip) to Ravenna, una piccola città (small town) nearby that just happens to be home to the finest collection of Byzantine mosaics outside Istanbul.  

Right outside San Vitale in Ravenna.

In addition to the mosaics, una delle cosa più figa (one of the coolest things) we saw was the the Basilica di San Francesco.  The ground in Ravenna is predominantly clay, so over time the older buildings have slowly sunk further into the earth.  In the Basilica di San Francesco, the original floor is now more than ten feet below the reconstructed floor above (which is equal to the level of the ground outside).  A section of the new floor has been left open, and the original floor below is actually permanently covered with a layer of water.  Enough water, in fact, that there are a few fish who call the lower level home.  

Note the fish!

In addition to the churches and mosaics, we also saw la tomba di Dante (Dante's grave):

This mound is the place to where Dante's remains were moved during World War II when Ravenna was in danger of being bombed.  After the war, the remains were moved back to a small chapel right next to this spot.

After all of that exhausting chiesa (church) visiting, the group had a chance to explore some more of Ravenna on our own.  So here are a few pictures to show that I've been living in the present as well as the past!

Lubín was really happy about a bike he found

Yu-Gi-Oh cards provoke SATANISM!
(who would've known?)

Madeline, Jenna, and Marie are excited to be in Emilia-Romagna!

King Kong gorilla crushes your house
(but in a cute, rhyming kind of way)

So after a bit of fun, a large and laughter-filled meal at a local buffet (it was like no buffet I had ever been to before: they served homemade gnocchi!), and some fist-pumping outside of the train station, we were on our way back to Bologna.  Walking back from the train station, we ran into a fire show happening in la Piazza Santa Maggiore.  Naturally, we stopped to watch and I took the opportunity to test out some long exposures.

The shadow cast by la Fontana di Nettuno (the Fountain of
Neptune) in the Piazza.
Note the person walking for scale.
So that was Saturday.

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