Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tanto cibo e ancora di più sabbia

This past weekend has been high on adventure and low on sleep.  (But never fear, a two-hour nap last night followed almost immediately by nearly fourteen hours of sleep put me back on track).  But before I recount these aforementioned tales of adventure, I would like to at least mention my Monday night discovery.

On Monday night (as you might have gleaned from the previous sentence), I went out with Claude (my half-French Milanese friend with whom I had aperitivi and dinner in the previous post) to a concert that was quite literally under the ground.  The venue (XM24, a "centro sociale," literally, social center) was, as with most edgy sites in Bologna, just outside the walls.  It was also covered with incredible street art murals, and pretty much every major street artist operating in Bologna was represented (I have been keeping track and photographing lots...I think that as of now I have more pictures of spray-painted walls than anything else, so expect an epic graffiti post at some point).  It was too dark for me to take my own pictures that night, but here are a few by the artist Blu gleaned from the internet.  Both are from the walls of XM.

The inside, which resembled a half-outdoor, half-indoor giant warehouse with a makeshift bar and stage (complete with a sheet strung up to for a screen), was brimming with scavenged furniture and junk sculptures of all kinds.  A narrow stairway led down to the basement where the bands played, and I was rather forcefully reminded of co-op cafés back in Saint Louis, especially since it was a Monday night.  The basements of both the co-op and XM24 are heavily and haphazardly decorated with art and tapestries, and the line-up at XM was a group of four indie-punk bands from all over the world.  A small bar in the corner sold cheap beer on tap and cheap red wine from giant jugs.  Before the concert, Claude and I ended up in the back room where we met one of the bands, from, of all places, Virginia.  After conversing a bit in English (the fact that I was a native speaker and a former resident of Virginia was a delight to the band), we headed back into the main room to watch the first band, a French group whose show included an old vampire film being silently projected onto the wall behind them and a tambourinist who enthusiastically danced among the small crowd.  When they finished, it was getting late, and, as it was Monday we decided to leave and go exploring in the park (the nearby Montagnola) instead, which resulted in sculpture-climbing, muddy-falling, and little-sleeping.

Tuesday and Wednesday were full of reading and catching up on sleep.

On Thursday night, I went to dinner at Claude's apartment outside the city walls with Jaclyn, un'amica americana (an American friend).  We arrived early (after purposefully taking a giro around the block to ensure that we arrived at least fifteen minutes after we had said we would arrive), so we passed some time chatting with two of guys that lived in the apartment while they cooked and we controlled the music (a more intimidating task than might be initially assumed, considering that at least one of them studies music at the university).  After some time the third roommate arrived and began cooking his dish, and we broke open the first bottle of wine of the night.  The three of them are quite the chefs, so when the seven of us (two of their friends had arrived a bit after Antonio to complete the party) sat down to dinner, we feasted on homemade chapati (an Indian flatbread) with a spicy yogurt sauce, red wine risotto, another Indian dish with potatoes and green beans, and, of all things, deviled eggs (which apparently have no specific name in Italy; when we explained that in English they are called something akin to "uova al diavolo" it caused much amusement).  Although the dishes were certainly eclectic, they were all extremely delicious.  And incredibly abundant.  There was so much food that it was impossible to finish everything, which meant that at one point, having torn off a half piece of chapati, I had to explain to Andrea that I had done so not because I didn't like it, but because I had already had too full pieces and that I still had to fit in the rest of the meal.  The same "You don't like it?" "No no, it's delicious but I don't think I could fit another bite if I tried" conversation was repeated every course.

After dinner and several bottiglie di vino (bottles of wine), Andrea made for us a large batch of vin brulè (mulled wine) and we sipped and chatted for several hours more.  Among other things, we talked about Andrea's ambitions to travel to India (he is currently in the process of teaching himself Sanskrit), another friend's travels in New York the previous year, and comparisons between the drinking cultures in Italy and the United States.  They were absolutely shocked when we said that aperitivi don't exist in the US, and flat-out didn't believe us when we told them that many people in the US, particularly university students, drink alcohol solely for the purpose of getting drunk.  "That's ridiculous," they told us.  "Who would do that?"  (They were, however, equally as shocked when we explained that very few people in the US smoke, because here smoking is absolutely ubiquitous.  In fact, one of the best ways to come across as anti-social is to refuse the friendly offer of a cigarette).

When it came time to leave, we realized that we had, in fact, stayed so late that the buses were no longer running.

The next day I got up early and sat through five hours of class, including a THREE-HOUR art history lecture, and took a quick nap before getting ready to head al mare (to the sea) with Francesco, Enrico, Irene, Teo, and assorted Americans.  The ten of us piled into two very small cars and sped toward Enrico's apartment right on the water near Cesena, about halfway between Ravenna and Rimini.  It was a harrowing journey involving driving 1. at high speeds, 2. at times with two cars in one lane, 3. the wrong way through traffic circles, etc. etc.  Ma, abbiamo sopravissuto (we survived), and this time Enrico had remembered his keys.  Upon arrival we ate a lot of patatine (potato chips) and prosciutto and eventually got around to actually making dinner.  After dinner and a dance party we headed downstairs to the beach, at which point everyone again chased each other, tackled each other, and generally got very, very sandy.

The view from Enrico's balcony.
(Taken the next morning, as it was dark when we arrived).

Also from the balcony.

Once we began to get cold (since it was, in fact, the middle of the night in February), we returned and resumed the dance party for several hours before finally retiring to (three people to a) bed at six o'clock in the morning.  After a few hours of very sandy sleep, we woke up and began searching for somewhere to eat breakfast.  As February very much constitutes the off-season for a small beach town, EVERYTHING was closed.  So, after much driving in circles, we eventually gave up and took the ten-minute drive to, of all places, McDonald's (which in Italy they just call Mac).  McDonald's would be the only place open, right?  The Italians couldn't understand why all the Americans were so upset about this, so we tried to explain how disturbing it is to see one of America's worst exports absolutely packed on a Saturday morning in a beautiful beachside town in Italy.  Not to mention the fact that it was here that we all saw our first obese Italians.  And the fact that I, the vegetarian in the group, could not eat anything because everything on the menu had meat, even the salads.


When we returned to the beach and resumed running around, things started to look up, even if it was freezing.  Enrico found something resembling a soccer ball so some of them spent a while kicking it around in the sand while Marie and I collected their shed jackets.

Between the three of us, we're wearing seven coats.
And Teo only has one.

After it finally became too cold and sandy to frolic any longer, we returned to the apartment and cleaned.  And cleaned and cleaned and cleaned.  It appeared that the night before we had managed to carry in with us approximately half a beach's worth of sand.  It. Was. Everywhere.  In everything.  But with ten of us to clean half as many rooms, the work went quickly and before long we were ready to pile back into those cars for a fortunately-not-quite-as-harrowing journey home.

Then, sleep.

And tomorrow?  Milan.

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