Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gli ultimi giorni a Bologna

Almost immediately after my return from Belgium, my friend Vanessa came to Bologna (bringing with her a much-appreciated replacement camera...as well as my Belgium photos came out, considering that they were taken with an iPhone, I would still much prefer a real camera).  I spent a summer in Castelraimondo, Italy with Vanessa two years ago, so we went back to Le Marche to visit for a weekend before Vanessa continued on to Sanremo for her summer job working in English language summer camps and I returned to Bologna for my last week.

Before we left for Castelraimondo, however, I had an exam to make it through.  More precisely, I had the written half of my Fenomenologia exam.  It was fairly impossible.  The course had been an art history survey of the twentieth century, from Expressionism to Post-modernism.  Our book had likewise covered twentieth century art.  With that in mind, here is a sample question from the exam: "Here is a title of a work from the 15th century.  Who was the artist?"  And so on.  No one had any idea what to do, so most of the class compared papers and whispered to each other while the professor looked blithely on from his seat at the front of the room.  I turned in my exam with at least a third of it left blank, and most of what I had filled in based on previous knowledge (i.e. from AP Art History in high school) rather than anything I had learned in the course. It was an overall mystifying experience, and I reminded myself that all I needed to do was pass.

I was able to distract myself from dwelling on this utterly impossible exam fairly easily, however, considering that I went nearly straight from the exam room to the train station, stopping at home only long enough to eat a quick lunch and throw some clothes in a backpack.  The train ride to Castelraimondo was long and full of changes, but I managed to get quite a bit of reading done on the way.  I ended up getting off in San Severino (another small town right near Castelraimondo), where I met up with Vanessa, Iva (one of my Wash U Italian professors who spends the summer teaching in Italy), Gugu (another of my professors from two summers ago), and Gerta (one of our friends from Castelraimondo).  We all ate dinner with Gugu's family in San Severino before heading back to Castelraimondo to sleep.  Vanessa and I stayed at the same villa we had lived in two summers ago, and I ended up sleeping in the very same bed.

The next day was beautiful weather, so we spent it walking around downtown Castelraimondo, buying some fresh produce at the vegetable market, cooking a fantastically huge lunch, and lying outside by the pool.  Giorgia (the owner of the villa and another friend from two summers ago) also came over and I had the chance to meet Nicola, her two-month-old son.  So adorable!

The entirety of Castelraimondo.

Vanessa and I outside the villa.

Our feast...I mean, lunch.

La piscina e la vista.  Che bella!

Il piccolo Nicola.  Così carino!

That night Vanessa and I enjoyed a small dinner and quite a few YouTube videos with Iva and Gugu.  The next morning, after breakfast and another quiet morning at the villa, I headed back to the train station to try to find a train to Ancona.  Ancona is the largest city in Le Marche (in the sense that Portland is the largest city in Maine...it still isn't very big), and all of the trains from Castelraimondo either go through there or through Civitianova Marche, another nearby town.  The number of times I had seen the Ancona train station, combined with the number of friends (including both of my roommates) I had met in Bologna from Ancona, meant that a visit there was a must before leaving Italy.

After some trouble with the trains either not existing or not running on Saturday, I finally made it to the Ancona train station, where my friend Luca was waiting to pick me up.  We drove around for a bit on a combined city-tour/errand run with Benny, one of my roommates.  Once we had completed our errands, we drove out to the beach at Portonovo and sat looking at the waves and chatting for a while.  Eventually we had to go back and drop Benny off, which was sad because it meant saying my first final goodbye (she was about to take a trip to London and wouldn't return until after I had left).

The goodbye was rendered more bearable by the hellos said right afterward, as Luca and I returned to the train station to pick up Marie, Lubín, and Maddy, who were coming in from Bologna.  The five of us went back to Portonovo for dinner, where we ate a fantastic (if somewhat pricey) seafood meal on the beach.  It was absolutely delicious and entirely worth it, because it gave us a chance to sample many of the regional specialties of Ancona, such as spaghetti with red sauce and mussels.  Yum!  The only downside was that Lubín doesn't eat seafood or drink wine, so he spent most of the meal looking like someone's unruly five-year-old sitting at the head of the table, drinking water, and eating all of our bread.

After dinner we went back to Luca's apartment, where we met his parents and dropped off all of our bags in the guest apartment in the basement.  We spent the evening sitting by the water several minutes from Luca's house and watching the crowd come and go from a nearby club.

Not a bad view, eh?

We spent that night on fold-out couches in Luca's basement, and woke up early much later than we intended to go back to the beach at Portonovo for some sunbathing and swimming (and excellent people-watching...my personal favorite was the man in a white speedo and a cowboy hat).  First we ate an enormous breakfast courtesy of Luca's mother, who also made us sandwiches to take with us for a picnic on the beach.

Portonovo itself was gorgeous, and the weather was perfect (sunny and clear without being oppressively hot).  Our friend Nicola met up with us at the beach, and he, Marie, Luca, and I actually went swimming, which was certainly a novelty for me if not for the others (the Atlantic coast of Maine is far to frigid to submerge yourself in for more than about thirty seconds).

The beach at Portonovo.  Note the Italian flag.

Nicola and I, looking very orange for some reason.

Italians on a beach.  Note the aforementioned speedo/cowboy hat combo.

After a few hours at the beach, Luca, Marie, Lubín, Maddy, and I said goodbye to Nicola (for what we thought might be the final time, and was for everyone but me) and headed to a nearby vineyard for some wine tasting.  There was a deal that weekend in Le Marche where you paid five euro and got a wine glass, a little pouch to put it in and hang around your neck, and unlimited wine and cheese (and jam and bread) tasting at all of the wineries in the area.  Not a bad deal!  We made it to three different wineries, including a tour at the first, before having to go back into town and pick up our stuff from Luca's house before catching the train back to Bologna.
Lubín and Luca looking over the vineyards.

Modeling our mysteriously necessary wine glass pouches.

The entire crew over Ancona: me, Luca, Maddy, Marie, and Lubín.

We got back to Bologna around midnight, and I had the oral part of my Fenomenologia exam at 8am the next morning.  It was another ridiculous and strange experience.  After first being told to sit in on someone else's exam (which seemed to be a book report for an entirely different course), the professor had Jenna (the other American in the class) and I take our exams together.  It was another strange and mysterious experience.  Here's a rough transcript of the beginning of our conversation (in English for your convenience):

Professore: What do you want to talk about?
Us: ummm...Expressionism?
Professore: Ok, talk about Expressionism.

From there we moved on to the (negligible) differences between American and European Pop Art and a list, in order, of all of the artistic movements of the nineteenth century (keep in mind that our course covered only the twentieth century).  Eventually the professor just interrupted us and asked how we would feel about a 28 (out of a possible 30).  Utterly mystifying.

My last exam, Storia della Radio e della Televisione, followed shortly after and passed without incident (it consisted of five short answer questions and one short essay).  With exams completed and only four days left in Bologna, the semester wound down quickly.  Nicola came back from Ferrara for an afternoon, so I had the chance to say a more satisfying final goodbye to him (the most final-feeling goodbye of all, as I walked him to the train station and sat on the platform with him until his train took him back to Ferrara).  The Brown group enjoyed one final dinner (almost) all together at Osteria 15 the last night that everyone was in Bologna.  I spent the evening afterward helping Marie frantically pack everything for her flight back to the United States early the next morning.

The next night I went out for two aperitivi.  The first was with Matteo, my language partner.  When he had to leave I met up with Luca, Lubín, Ceci, and Giulio, Ceci's friend from Milan who had come back to Bologna for the night to say goodbye to me.  The spitting rain contributed to the bittersweet tone, but didn't stop us from meeting up with the rest of the remaining Brown students and Italian roommates for gelato alla Sorbetteria Castiglione.  The absences were felt, but it was a fitting cap to a wonderful semester.

Luca, Jaclyn, Saerim, Simon, Lubín, Giulio, Diego, io, Loren, Fabrizio, Martina, e Rob.

The next day only Jaclyn, Rob, and I remained.  We cooked in my kitchen a final time, got gelato at Funivia a final time, and I took one final nap in my empty bedroom in my empty apartment.  Ceci and Luca came over to say goodbye to me and help me with my bags, and Ale (Rob's language partner), drove us to the train station...where we found that both of our trains (to Munich and Paris, respectively) had been delayed by an hour.  It proved to be a fortuitous coincidence, as it gave Rob and I a chance to spend a bit more time together, sitting on his giant bag on the floor of the station, before we had to split off to our separate platforms and wave goodbye to San Luca on the hill one final time.

So ends l'avventura bolognese...for now, at least.

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