01
Jul

Another Sneaky Bologna Update

By: muttler

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Hi again everyone.

I know I said I probably wouldn’t post again, but thought I would do a quick cheeky one since I just had a bit more of a wander after a day of beavering away in my conference working group. We wound up at about 6pm, and everyone was in different states of jetlag and preoccupation, so rather than all head off for dinner together, we parted ways for the evening. Rather than go back to the hotel, I decided to wander back to the centre of town for a bit more of a look about and to grab some food.

 

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I had read about an apparent stunning series of terracotta statues in the Sanctuary of Santa Maria della Vita, so decided to go for a look. In fact I had walked straight past this church just the day before, unaware of what lay within. I had an hour to visit, so legged it down to take a look.

 

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The church itself was quite pleasant in its (relative) understatement and smallness. But the undoubted highlight is the “Compianto sul Cristo morto”, a terracotta group of life-size separate figures standing in a semicircle around the dead Christ figure. This is quite compelling to see, with the facial expressions unlike anything I had really seen before. This is accentuated by the fact that the figures are made of terracotta and are approaching 600 years old, which just adds to the incredible nature of the piece. I found it hard to believe that this was not something that visitors to Bologna are directed toward by default.

 

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I then explored the rest of the church. There was also another incredible terracotta sculpture that, while not as dramatic, was just as impressive. Again, a gem likely undiscovered by most visitors to Bologna.

 

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The evening was still young, and thanks to the Italian propensity to have a rest in the middle of the day and eat late, some things were still open. I discovered a special photography exhibition in the main piazza that was still open, so I decided to pop in for a look. This was a history of Bologna in photographs and was quite stunning. The city had been well documented, from the early days, through two world wars (especially WW2), through Italy’s dark times with fascism, protests in the 60s and 70s, and to what it has become today. Bologna certainly has an interesting history, in particular with political turmoil in the mid-late part of the 20th century and the photos captured it well. But it wasn’t all serious history… Sophia and Alfred made an appearance.

With that, it was time to wander some more. I was not too hungry, but being in Bologna I felt compelled to have something delicious for dinner. That makes it sound like it was a chore, but quite the opposite 🙂

 

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I came across a deli / wine bar and plonked myself on a table and ordered a board of meat and cheese. Yep, all kinds of meats and cheese and bread which summed up Bologna perfectly. And boy was it delicious! Simple pleasures.

Even though it was a Saturday night, I didn’t feel the need to be out on the town, so slowly wandered back to the hotel, stopping for some gelato on the way. Mmmmm stracciatella… I could get used to a place like Bologna.

30
Jun

A Quick One From Bologna

By: muttler

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Buongiorno everyone!

A quick post from gorgeous Bologna. Most of you know but I am here for just under a week for a conference. From Saturday to Wednesday I will be all go go go with work, but for much of today I have been able to get out and see some of what the city has to offer. It has been quite surreal, as it is about 17 years since I was last in Italy, and it is my first time here in Bologna. I have been to Florence (just up the road) but not to here, so I took the opportunity to see what it has to offer.

I have to say upfront, Italy was not one of my favourites when I first did the whole whizzing around Europe thing back in the day. For no reason really, just that I fell much more for France (and Germany), so those have been my destinations to go back to, while Italy hasn’t seen me since 2000. So I was pretty jazzed to be able to come back and see what I thought nearly 2 decades later.

My initial thoughts? I really dig the vibe of Bologna. For one of the largest cities in Italy (7th maybe?) it feels really laid back. Hardly seems crowded, everyone seems to be just hanging out, and as expected it is quite gorgeous. My memories of the places I visited in Italy all those years ago was just of crowds. Granted I was doing the “tourist” thing, but it was winter. I was expecting the warm weather here to have brought out all the tourists, but maybe they are down the road in Florence?

Anyway, what did I get up to? I had a very rough plan, mainly to see a couple of the main churches and a couple of the museums, as well as wander some streets, chasing LP’s and the like. Oh, and to eat lots of prosciutto, mortadella, salami, etc etc.

 

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First up was a visit to the Basilica Santo Stefano. But on the way I saw one of the main landmarks in Bologna, the two towers (yep, that’s what they’re known as). One of the towers is supremely wonky making it a bit of a tourist spot, but it also made for a good landmark to get the bearings.

 

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Santo Stefano was nearby and it was quite a low key church. It seemed to be a series of interconnected buildings rather than one big one. As such it was quite cool to wander through archways, and in small courtyards. Not too much in the way of religious iconography or show which probably explained the lack of visitors in there.

 

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From there I wandered to the main centrepoint of Bologna, Piazza Maggiore. This is the central meeting place of the city, home to the main square as well as the main basilica, library, museums, and tourists. I took the opportunity to pop into the main basilica of the city, Basilica di San Petronio. This was more like your typical big Italian basilica! Huge and full of sculpture and painting and stained glass and arches, it was quite a sight to behold. I’m not religious, but religious iconography is immensely fascinating, and this was up there.

 

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I wandered back out into the perfect weather and around the piazza for a bit. One of the museums I was keen to visit was nearby so in I went to the Museo Civico Archeologico. There are a number of museums and galleries in town, and in some respects with such little time I picked the couple that seemed to pop out to me. This was obviously filled with archeological artefacts from the area, which would make a nice change from the religious paintings I would no doubt be seeing a bit more of. In the end this was a good choice. Not huge, but a really great museum filled with sculptures, pottery, and all sorts of other finds. They even had a pretty decent Egyptian section, however the Italian parts were much more interesting. The courtyard was also a nice spot to just take a seat and relax.

It was lunchtime, so down a small sidestreet I popped to find something. When you see a bunch of locals outside a small deli, then that is where you go, and in I went to Bella Vita, a tiny cafe deli. It was the perfect time for a Campari soda as well as some prosciutto and other delights. I could get used to this.

I kept moving, and decided to just wander some of the smaller side streets. I was keen to see what I could chance upon, but I also knew the area where a record store or two were hiding. And yep, found one! Disco D’oro was one I read about and I gotta say, it was fantastic. A HUGE selection of LPs to wade through which was ace. I don’t really tend to buy LPs while travelling as I can typically get anything I am after, but it is always nice to browse. And in this case I also couldn’t resist picking up a limited colour LP version of the Radiohead OK Computer 20th anniversary release. It will be nice to play it remembering where I bought it from.

 

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The day was creeping away from me, so I decided to head to the other museum I was keen to visit, the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna. This is the national art gallery of Bologna, so for that reason was worth a look. But by all accounts it housed a pretty decent collection, so I popped in for a look. While not huge, it had a decent collection of 13-18th century works that were related to the city. So given the time period and the focus, yep, they were mostly religion-themed works. From that perspective it was quite good, however with such a strong focus it meant that there wasn’t too much variation (for someone like me anyway). So while it definitely housed some impressive works, they did start to blur in to each other after a while.

With that, it was time for a quick refresh and to get on the job for the first time. We had our first get together of our conference working group, to start to chat and get ready for the busy 5 days to come. And with that, my exploration of Bologna came to an end. Hopefully there will be time to sneak a look at something here and there, but for the next 5 days it will be work work work!