Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I'm thinking about stopping my blogging. I'm happy with how it has gone, but life now has been chaotic, spent on trains and in the far-reaches of the globe where the internet is inaccessible. Actually just a few blocks from home, but still without access.

so, for now, I'm on break.

Friday, November 11, 2005

the week's travels

Blog, travels

I tucked into a plate of tortellini in brodo tonight with American guests, very happy to be back in Bologna after some amazing impromptu travels. Last weekend I headed to Rome to see Marta off and to meet with colleagues. It was strange to be there again, to see my neighborhood and my friends in the autumn as a visitor, not as a summertime resident. It was still warm and inviting Monti, with all the characters I remember, but from the outside. I made a trip to Porta Portese and enjoyed the boisterousness of the market, but spent most of my time tracking down friends, being rained on, having my cell phone die. Then I hurried back to Bologna to meet my friend Zane, to accompany him the next day to Turin to the opening of the Torino Triennale of contemporary art, where his friend Justin Lowe was finishing an installation. We enjoyed the VIP status of being in the artist’s entourage, getting access to the parties and museums, schmoozing opportunities with the press, and free reign to be as loony as we wanted, in the name of “ART”.

Turin is a city with a fascinating history, vying to be a contemporary European cultural center. Nearly the entire city is under construction, the main piazzas, the monuments, buildings hidden behind scaffolding…for the upcoming winter Olympics but also I suspect as a larger effort. I was very impressed with the architecture, the elegance of the city center, the royal Savoy historical presence, and especially with the amount of cultural activity. This triennale was opening, then a big film festival sponsored by Fiat the following weekend, and there were simultaneously major exhibits of surrealism, Robert Maplethorpe, Joan Miro, to name a few. AND the food is excellent, not to mention the region’s wines which are indisputably Italy’s finest. Zane is on the same wavelength in terms of food, willing to wander out of his way to find the typical regional trattoria, willing to pay a little extra for a real wine and have less of it. It’s great to have him around.

So I’m full of marrons glaces and risottos and Nebbiolos and Gattinaras (can’t afford the Barolos), great cheeses and chocolates and artichokes. I wandered Turin alone today, while Zane helped extricate Justin from the triennale and bring him back to Bologna for decompression. In a few hours I managed to see the Shroud of Turin (actually, the altar that holds it and some reproductions since the real thing only comes out for very special occasions), ascend to the top of la Mole (the funny top of the Chrysler building shaped tower without the actual building says Zane), walk through the royal gardens, search out an excellent cheese shop, treat myself to a coffee and marron glace in a posh café, see more contemporary art, and wander most of the city center.

As much as I enjoy travel and trying new things, I’m very happy to be back in my town, my inelegant, medieval town full of grungy students and homey food. I like Torino, but it tries too hard. Bologna is unpretentious and good for the soul.

Friday, November 04, 2005

allora, alloro

today was a laurea day, a graduation day for students recently finishing their theses. graduations occur continuously here, not just at the end of semesters or the big chaos in may. so every so often a big group is scheduled to defend their theses -- an undergraduate degree requires a written thesis paper after students complete oral exams. families come to see their kids pass from students into the ranks of the unemployed, bands of friends gather to sing and chant laurea cheers in the streets outside the faculties, new dottori and dottoresse and ingenieri ecc. parade around in their laurel crowns to their graduation parties in cafes and restaurants nearby.
the laurel crown is a fantastic tradition, fat wreaths of bay leaves wound with ribbons that signify the course of study. of course, the tradition is handed down from the romans, who crowned with bay laurel their victorious conquerers, emperors, notable poets, athletes, and other overachievers. from the laurel crown we get words like laureate, the phrase "resting on one's laurels", and of course, the names Lawrence, Lauren, Laura, ecc. names perhaps overburdened with expectations. or read another way, names given by parents so excited with a new child that they designate her as a VIP from birth.
bay as a culinary herb is strong, aromatic. it has a green and woody perfume, suggestive of ancient forests. bay is not a flashy herb but an undertone, a leaf simmered in milk for bechamel, perhaps two in a broth. alloro in italian.

when I see the newly laureati in their crowns, I can't help but smile. they're fragrant and liberated from the stress of showdowns with professors, applauded by friends and family. I steal a little of that energy for myself, it's my herb afterall, I'm the namesake.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

try this out!

this involves downloading and installing the software, but it's so cool:

Google earth

loooooooooong weekend

yesterday was the first weekday I've had in a while. Tuesday was All Saints', so everything was closed, and most took Monday off for good measure. highlights of a long weekend:
  • Sunday night dinner on Via Broccaindosso: At Stefano and Marco's apartment across town, I find myself sitting across from a couple with matching tattoos, a man with the bridge of his nose pierced, a girl tying back handfuls of dredlocks to my right and two pitbulls under the table. primo piatto, tagliatelle with fresh truffles. only in Bologna do pitbulls beg for tagliatelle with truffles. we had a great meal, a great time.
  • roasted chestnuts: it isn't true that they smell better than they taste; I think they belong to the same acquired taste category as sweet potato pie. starchy sweets.
  • Romans in Bologna: I had an unexpected visit from Roman friends on Monday, so got to play host, tourguide, gastronomic consultant. We took a long walk through the center of town in the evening, stopping to take pictures in front of prosciutto hanging in shop windows, mortadella, ourselves in front of landmarks, ourselves in front of mortadella. I was amazed at how out of place Francesco and Daniele were here. It was difficult to find the right places to take these friends from my enoteca in Monti - Bolognese don't drink wine the way Romans do over the course of hours before a late late dinner. It really struck home how much this is a northern city.
and the low point, the departure of Marta. I keep exporting roommates! my New Yorkers must take good care of Marta.

so it's me and the fisarmonica.