This is a long one. You’ve been warned.
My week in Bologna was incredible. I have posted a lot of pictures on Facebook, so go there to see more. Bologna is such an amazing little Italian town. It has no tourist infrastructure, and no one speaks English. This has preserved it as a cultural and culinary center of Italy. The town is also the most portico-ed town in Europe. When it’s raining (as it was sporadically throughout the week), you can walk around the town without getting wet at all! Bologna is also famous for it’s “Two Towers” that have been the symbol of the city since the days of Dante. There used to be over 60 towers throughout the city, but not these are the only two that remain. The locals are very proud of the shorter tower, which leans more than the tower in Pisa.
The first day I got in around noon and spent the day walking around Bologna and meeting Alexia’s friends. Alexia had told them all that my high school nickname was “Ry-Ry”, so they all addressed me as that for the entire trip. Anyway, that night was one of her friends’ birthday, so we went out to celebrate. Alexia and I shared a bottle of Jack, which we finished in an embarrassingly short amount of time.
The next day we woke up and decided to go walk up San Luca, a local missionary that overlooks the city. The walk across town and up the hill took most of the day, but the view of the city was great. The path to the top is the longest portico in the world (3.5 km), with 666 arches. Evidently the walk is supposed to be a symbolic overcoming of sin, or something. I’m pretty sure I’m still going to hell. That night we made a traditional Bolognese dish for dinner and watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Monday was spent in Modena, which is famous for balsamic vinegar and Italian sports cars (Ferraris and Lamborghinis). Like all Italians, they are also famous for deciding when they want to work. It turns out that the entire city closes on Monday, so all we got to do was look at the churches and museums. The highlight of the city museum was the wooden bucket that Modena stole from Bologna, starting their centuries-long feud.
Tuesday was spent touring the local museums in Bologna. We got a personal tour of the university museum by the cutest old Italian man. He took us all the way to the roof of the museum, where they used to have an observatory. We were able to take amazing pictures of the city, including the glass water ball picture that I used as my picture of the day. After the museum, Alexia went to class (the only time that whole week), and I went to the art museums with her roommate Juan. He knows more about Italian religious art than anyone I’ve ever met, so he was a great tour guide. I learned that in the early days of the church Jesus was represented as a pelican. This was because pelicans are known to tear off pieces of their own flesh to feed their young, rather than have them starve! For dinner we went to a local bar, where you order a drink and then get access to a mini buffet of foods (pizza and pastas). Most people just get a plate and enjoy their drinks, but we loaded up our plates three times to get the most out of our meal.
Wednesday we woke up early to go to Milan. Juliana, one of Alexia’s friends, had to leave from Milan for London the next day, so Alexia, Juan and I decided to take the train with her. Of course, there was some problem on the line between Bologna and Milan, and every train was delayed for two hours. Fine, no problem. We get on the train, and almost FIVE hours later we arrive in Milan. By this time we didn’t have time to do everything we had planned, but we rushed to the Scala (most famous opera house in Europe), window shopped past all the famous designer stores (5 euro for a Gucci coffee!), and visited the Duomo. The Duomo was one of the most magnificent churches I’ve ever seen, absolutely breathtaking in its scope. The giant columns lining the sides reminded me of the Great Hall in Lord of the Rings. The church also claims to house the nails that were used to crucify Christ. After the church we decided to walk around the city for a few hours, and then had a nice long dinner at a local restaurant. I ordered the Milanese specialty, osso buca, which is a special cut of veal served with risotto. After eating the meat, you use a special small fork to scoop out the bone marrow. It sounds gross, but it’s actually a delicacy, and tastes wonderful.
Thursday was the glorious day of Thanksgiving. How do you celebrate Thanksgiving in Italy? For starters, you go look at dinosaur bones in the morning. Then you wander around Bologna, looking at various churches and playing in parks where bums are sleeping. We took naps in the afternoon, in preparation for the madness that is Italian Thanksgiving. Our Thanksgiving dinner was sponsored by Brown University, and was held at Speedy Pizza (complete with Sonic the Hedgehog logo). They decorated the restaurant with the cheesiest decorations they could find (which they actually probably had shipped from the states). The school encouraged us to all bring our own supplementary dishes, so we had traditional staples such as green beans, stuffing and mashed potatoes. The restaurant started us off with salads, then served two different types of pasta. I don’t know if they thought that was traditional, or just couldn’t go an entire meal without serving multiple pastas. After the pasta had settled, they brought out two full turkeys glazed in some sort of weird chestnut sauce. It was unusual, but still tasted great. We were all really impressed with the dinner, and the fact that it was free made things even better.
Friday was spent in Venice, which is more American than Texas. I swear, more people speak English in the streets of Venice than they do here. The town is really beautiful, but after a week of traveling around small local towns, it was almost disappointing to be in such a tourist location. The train station even had a huge buffet that catered towards the fat Americans! The big plaza by the cathedral in Venice is one of the scariest places in the world. There were easily 10,000 fat pigeons swarming around people with food and shitting all over the place. Of course the tourists all encourage this, buying bird seed from local crazies. Anyway, we did some shopping and then headed off to Padua for dinner with Juan and Alexia’s other roommate Vivi. We got into Padua at 6 PM and realized that the only train back to Bologna left at midnight, so we had tons of time to kill. We went to a great restaurant, and then walked the streets looking for gelato. Padua is a really great little city, and has the largest plaza in Europe (second in the world to Red Square – which I don’t consider part of Europe). The ride home was fun because we snuck into first class and were able to sleep on the ride home in peace, with our own room to ourselves.
The last day was spent shopping around Bologna and hanging out with Alexia’s friends. Unfortunately, I realized that the vast majority of Bologna’s shopping is women’s apparel. They don’t have any real tourist shops, and I couldn’t find any gifts for people. So that’s basically my excuse for not getting you anything.
One of my favorite things about Bologna was the “Enjoy Box” found on various corners. Lights, rolling papers and condoms all available in one convenient location. Does life getting any better?
The weeks since Bologna have been spent in my room, studying. This semester has not been fun. Who cares, though? Finals are over, and I don’t have to think about school for a month. Tomorrow my roommates are having a dollar party. We give everyone some fake money when they enter, and they dare people to do things for money. At the end of the night, whoever has the most money wins a prize (probably a handle of something). It should be fun as long as we are able to keep the party to a reasonable size and don’t run out of alcohol.
I hope everyone is excited about Chrismukkah! The Lunar Base gingerbread house is going to be one of the greatest things we’ve ever done.
I think that restless leg syndrome is proof that Americans look for any excuse to get prescription drugs.
So my first year of Pictures of the Day ended at the end of November, and I’ve picked my favorite pictures of the year. The whole experience has been a lot of fun, and I will continue taking pictures indefinitely. Here are my favorite pictures of the year, compared to Brandon and Leahanne’s choices.
And other people’s favorite picture:
Top 10 Fun Pictures:
We’ll that’s it from me. Hopefully, this update didn’t crash your computer. I’ll see everyone soon, either in the Wood or at Marco Island! Good luck on finals, and Merry Chrismukkah!