Mustapicked A Good Vacation!

The adventures of Amey and Musty's trip to the Balkans and Italy in September '06...

Thursday, September 28, 2006

News from Bologna

Ciao Everyone!
We are having such a fun time in Bologna! Fabrizio's office is close to the center of town, so it's easy for us to go off and explore, and then walk back to meet up with him when he has some available time.

Bologna is a really cool city. It has the oldest university in the world (started around the year 1000), and so the the city is crowded with students. We didn't really realize how small and laid back Croatia was until we arrived here in Bologna.

In Croatia & BiH, there is a "caffe-bar" every 50 feet - with countless chairs and tables spread out in a welcoming fashion. You just pick your table and someone comes up and takes your order. There is a lot of unemployment there, which is a big part of this phenomena, but it also appears to just be a way of life. People are up late, mornings are very quiet and sleepy... there's a very easy, "all in good time" vibe. Even the drivers almost all seem to just poke along at moderate speeds, Musty found it an incredibly easy place to drive. Our last day in Split, we got a bit lost, and ended up driving around in the pedestrian area near the city center (oops!)... a friendly lady casually approached us and said "You must be lost," looked at our map and slowly explained how we could get ourselves out of there. Musty was feeling like we had to urgently get back out to the main street, but then we realized that it was clear from her demeanor, that there was no rush about it. One thing we noticed over and over again is that Croatia & Croatians have really made a decision to prioritize tourists. Tourism is by far their largest economy, and they are very courteous and welcoming to tourists. It's a very easy place to travel.

Bologna is also a really fun and easy place to be, but it's so different! After watching everyone sit around and drink coffee for 3 weeks, it's exhilarating to watch all the people bustling around the city with so much purpose! We feel all caught up in the excitement! There are scooters scooting everywhere, people whirring by on bikes, dogs being walked, babies being pushed in strollers, students walking with their friends... it's so much activity and fun. Croatia was so tourist-oriented, it's exciting and different to be in a place that is not primarily geared towards tourists. Bologna certainly gets plenty of tourists, but it's not one of the prime tourist destinations in Italy, which actually makes it a great place to visit! Instead of revolving around tourists, it has its own plans, and as a visitor you can really see the people of Bologna living their lives.

Bologna is full of big, beautiful buildings, and is especially famous for it's long covered walkways called "porticos" - of which there are miles and miles in the city center. It's such a beautiful sight to look down the street and see archway after archway... I'll try to take an evocative picture. The city center of Bologna is huge compared to anywhere we've been in the last 3 weeks, so we are having a great time just wandering the beautiful streets and looking in all the shop windows. It seems like most of the buildings in the center are painted with really warm natural hues, yellows and oranges... it makes the sunlight all the more warm and lovely.

Fabrizio has been a great guide! Yesterday morning we explored the city center together and he took us to some really great places. First we went and saw the "Seven Churches"... a cluster of 7 small churches that are really old (looks like they were begun around the year 1000). One church was built, then another right next to it... and so on. They are all connected and so you walk through one to the next. Each one had a character of its own, and they were all really beautiful.
Here is a view of the inside of one of the churches... This church houses the tomb of San Petronio, the patron saint of Bologna

And in this picture we are all in courtyard... the churches are very simple, but have a very sweet beauty all the same. The wall behind us is too small to see clearly in this picture, but with simple brick work, its exterior was made special by creating patterns and shapes with the bricks. A nice example of how something can be beatuful even with such basic materials.

After the Seven Churches, we headed over to the open market! Fabrizio has been reading our blog, so he knows that I am crazy about the market. The market in Bologna certainly didn't disappoint! It was a series of small streets, only for pedestrians, full of produce stands and bakeries and specialty food shops. So much stimulation! Everywhere you look is a new color, a new smell, something looking irresistably tasty. Musty and I especially thought of my dad (hi dad!) who would really love it here... it's his kind of place for sure!

Next, we wound our way back to the famous "Two Towers" of Bologna. There two adjacent towers are the most recognizable symbol of Bologna. In the 10th & 11th centuries, families started building towers, ... apparently just to show off?? So, at one point there were 180 towers! Today there are far fewer, but you still see them pretty often. These two are the most famous though, and you can climb up the taller one (which I think is the tallest in all of the city). It has a slight tilt (1.3 meters), but that's nothing compared to its neighbor which has a momumental tilt of 3 meters! You can't climb up that one but you can stand outside and appreciate its kooky tiltiness. Obviously that wasn't intentional... in fact, originally it was supposed to be taller than the one next to it. Too bad!

Here are Musty and Fabrizio climbing the tower. It's a lot of stairs, but not so hard. We were realizing yesterday that climbing is an important part of a European vacation. We also climbed the tower at Diocletian's palace in Split, and we climbed the walls up to the ancient fort in Kotor (Montenegro)... so if you are coming to Europe, wear some proper footwear! (I don't necessarily recommend just bringing flip flops, like I did.. ha ha!)
And here's our triumphant shot... after having climbed up and back down, here's a view of the towers looming over Musty and Fabrizio.

We're also doing loads of eating here in Italy, which I consider a moral responsibility when you are around this much good food! For lunch yesterday we went to one of Fabrizio's favorite restaurants, specializing in Sicilian cuisine. Yum! And then, for dinner, Musty and Fabrizio were exceedingly generous and decided to take a chance on a little vegetarian place downtown. The restaurant was a casual little spot inside a big yoga/massage/eastern traditions center. It seemed like a really neat place! The food was quite good, and I was most especially thrilled to eat an entire meal that didn't involve bread, refined flour, tomatoes, or lettuce! It was very exciting! So today, I'll happily sit by and watch as they eat all sorts of local treats... with my belly still full and happy from yesterday.

Hope you've enjoyed these little tales...
love, Amey


At 11:45 PM, Blogger Sara said...

hi you guys,
Its really fun to hear some local commentary about Fabrizio's home makes it come alive to hear you tell about it. We heard about the hustle and bustle, but wait....No cat or dog come?

I look forward to your return to Santa Cruz and will see you soon.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

What a contrast between Croatia and Italy! Wish I was there to get to see Fabrizio's home town too. ;-)


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