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!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Così tanto succede in così poco tempo!

Ciao ancora, cari lettori!
(Hello again, dear readers!)

I know I have not written in what is quickly becoming an inexcusable amount of time, but I have been (excuses aside) too busy to sleep these past few weeks, let alone to write.  So, with that said, AVANTI!

Part of what has prevented me from writing for so long was a visit from i miei cari genitori (my dear parents).  While they were here in Bologna, I had a chance to re-explore the city from an outsider's perspective and eat really, really well.  Not only did I have a chance to try out some of the nicer trattorie e ristoranti in the city, I was also able to enjoy a delicious breakfast of warm croissants, fruit, and cappucini at the hotel at which they were staying.  After several days in Bologna and an unfortunate bout of food poisoning, we headed south to Firenze (Florence) and then Roma.

Some of the highlights in Florence for me, other than eating delicious Tuscan cuisine and climbing the Duomo of course, were the long conversation I had (in Italian!) with a man selling belts on the street and the re-discovery of a certain piece of street art that I had seen first when I was in Florence two summers ago:

It has certainly aged a bit over the years.  "Vietato Morire," by the way, means "It is forbidden to die."  Death, judging by the illustration, presumably means taking a tumble from the top of the Duomo.

Speaking of climbing the Duomo, not only is the view from the top absolutely incredible, but the path up to it takes you right up close to the painting covering the inside of the dome.  Unfortunately none of my pictures do the interior justice, but here are a few that give a taste of the exterior view:

View of the campanile (bell tower).

View of Santa Croce.

View of il Palazzo della Signoria.

View of la mia famiglia (sfortunatemente meno Roberto)!

Also in Florence, we saw "la tomba spirituale" ("spiritual tomb") of Dante at Santa Croce (to match the physical tomb of Dante I saw in Ravenna).

Dante striking an imposing figure outside Santa Croce.

Sad Dante sitting on his "spiritual tomb."

This was alongside the tombs of a few others whose names you might have come across once or twice...Galileo, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Raffaelo (Raphael) big.  

After Florence we took the train down to Rome, and continued to eat well (spaghetti cacio e pepe, anyone?) and see beautiful old things.  Esempi (examples):

Castel Sant'Angelo.

Saint Peter's (la Basilica di San Pietro) from the top of Castel Sant'Angelo.

Angel sheathing his sword atop Castel Sant'Angelo.

Il Colosseo, seen from our little ristorante.

Il Foro (the Forum) with the Monumento di Vittorio
Emmanuele II in the background.

Il Panteone (the Pantheon).

San Pietro as seen from the line to enter.

Why we didn't enter.
(Guess who had a knife?)

Proof that I was actually there, in the Forum.
Also a pretty flower.

I got back to Bologna on March 16th, just in time for the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy (and you thought I was going to say Saint Patrick's Day!).  There were flags all over the place and all the storefronts were red, white, and green, but overall I found the celebrations somewhat lacking.  There were certainly a lot of people out and about enjoying their days of from school and work, but there was nothing like the American 4th of July spirit (and certainly no fireworks).

Decorations on a street in Florence.

Flag lights in Rome.

Piazza Maggiore in Bologna.

If nothing else, all the flags were certainly a reminder that I am in Italy!

Expect more soon, cari lettori.  I won't abandon you for so long next time!