Sunday, March 27, 2011

La primavera arriva!

Spring has arrived in Bologna, and coats and scarves have been traded for adventure and exploration.  So now I present to you, cari lettori (dear readers), a blog in three parts.


As some of you know only too well (and as others of you might have gleaned from past entries), I have an interest in street art and graffiti that comes dangerously close to obsession (and compulsion, as I am irresistibly drawn to photograph and record nearly every marked wall I encounter).  For me, graffiti and street art represent the pulse of a city.  Particularly in the medieval city of Bologna, the weight of history can sometimes be overwhelming; the graffiti and street art serve as refreshing jolts into the present.  The historic city is transformed from an airless museum into a bustling gallery with constantly changing images and ideas.  There is dialogue and transformation.

The city is tactile again.

I have been thrilled by the incredibly vibrancy of the walls in Bologna.  So thrilled, in fact, that I probably have more pictures of painted walls than I do of friends and scenery.  Fear not, however.  I will limit myself now to a discussion of only one of Bologna's most famous street artists, who has work all around the world and whose name you might recognize from a previous post: Blu.

About a month ago, an Italian friend of mine took me out to XM24, a "centro sociale" (social center) outside the walls of Bologna.  At the time, I had no camera and it was dark anyway, so I was unable to document the incredible large-scale murals by Blu that cover the outside walls.  However, the other day I returned with my friend Madeline (during the day! with a camera!) as part of our hike around Bologna in search of Blu's creations.  Here are some of the results:

Collaboration between Blu and 2 other Bolognese street artists.
Side wall of XM24.

The whole mural along the entirety of XM.
This shot is just to show scale, the following are some details.

Look familiar to anyone?
(Hint: check out the 27 February entry)

This one makes me think of Shel Silverstein.

From XM, Madeline and I wandered over the Porta Mascarella, near the train station.  If you walk down the Via Stalingrado bridge from the Porta and take a small stairway down to the small via (street) below, you can find another of Blu's magnificent and intricate creations.

Again, this shot is for scale and the detail shots are below.

First half of the wall.

Second half of the wall.

From here, Madeline and I headed over to Porta San Donato for our last stop.  Unfortunately, this mural no longer exists in it's entirety as the building on which it was painted has been partially demolished.

So there you are.  But before I move on completely, I would also like to point out that Blu does not confine himself to walls, but also creates stop-motion short films using walls and found objects.  The video below is his Big Bang Big Boom, "an unscientific point of view on the beginning and evolution of life...and how it could probably end."  I know it looks long (10 minutes), but it is well worth your time.

So, without further ado, on to the next section.


So, Bologna has a canal.  Just one, and it is very small and runs under the city much of the time.  However, I managed to stumble across it two years ago when I was in Bologna for the first time, at which point I took the picture which is currently the header for this blog.

When I realized that I would be returning to Bologna for an extended period of time, it became my goal to re-discover this canal.  After almost three months, I achieved this goal when I stumbled upon the canal one day while aimlessly wandering the city with my friend Rob.

My first glimpse of the window again after
following the canal for a while.

See it there in the background?

Look familiar?

Unfortunately, I think it looked better two years ago, which kind of put a
damper of the excitement of redicovery.

As seen from the other side.

So, there it is.  Mission accomplished.


Yesterday I headed to la campagna (the countryside) with a collection of Italians and other Americans for a grigliata (think like a barbecue or cook-out).  Enrico (he of the Cesenatico apartment) has a plot of land in the country outside of Bologna with a little one-room shack, an outdoor grill, a picnic table, and the tiniest basketball court I have ever seen, which provided the perfect setting for a celebration of the arrival of spring (and the "birthday" of Teo's stuffed monkey, Augustavo).  As the day was mostly spent not doing much in particular, I believe that this is truly a situation in which the pictures tell the story better than my words possibly could.

View of the hills over the shack.

Francesco being the DJ.

Matteo il capo cuoco!
(Matteo the head cook)

Boys grilling a lot of meat.  A LOT of meat.

Strolling up the hill to enjoy the view.

The view.

Irene and I enjoying some roasted patate (potatoes).

Note the Italian flag in the middle-ground.

Le ragazze americane (the American girls).

Alcune delle ragazze italiane (some of the Italian girls).

Language partners!

...and Francesco.

Tutto il gruppo (the whole group)!
Well, almost the whole group anyway.


Actually, one more thing:

Notice anything odd about Neptune?  I learned the other day that if you stand at a certain spot in the piazza, it appears that Neptune has a giant erection (if you move forward, you realize that the "penis" is in fact his thumb).  A little joke on the part of the sculptor.  Nice to know that Renaissance men aren't so highbrow as all that, after all!

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