I only spent 24 hours in Bologna which is comprised of universities, industries, and food! Just when I thought it was impossible to have bigger or more ornate or more something buildings/churches, another city comes along, and outshines the previous one — Bologna was no exception.
I had lunch at a locals’ restaurant on a side street. The all in one mâitre’d-waiter-bartender-cashier greeted me like his long-lost friend, took my order after many “prego’s, prego’s”(please, please)never said only once, and “si, si’s(yes, yes) same applies — all one word acknowledgements must be said at least twice, but preferably three times. The regular lunch crowd arrived around 12:30ish and re-emphasized the importance of community in daily Italian life. Everyone knew one another and was greeted warmly by the all-in-one only employee(!), some received their usual drink, others heard the daily special and ordered as they walked to their table. Everyone spoke at the same time, gesticulated with their hands and forks constantly, nodded and never stopped eating. Noise level reached new heights as 1:15pm approached and started to taper off around 1:45pm — I learned weeks ago lunch is a 2 hour affair – enjoy the food, appreciate the ambiance, savor the flavors, and absorb the sights/aromas that make up one of the main components of Italian life – FOOD.
I wish I had spent more time in Bologna to see the museums and neighborhoods, but, plans had been made.. so.. only saw church #8,765, the Civic Collection of Art, and walked thru streets with the usual collection of high fashion stores that are in many of the larger towns — Gucci, Chanel, Hermes, YSL, Fendi, Praga and a multitude of other Italian designers — and outlet and non-designer stores owned by Asians and Italians, a smattering of small speciality stores, and coffee bars filled with customers standing at the counters drinking espresso.
Well, let me tell you, he has left the building…. but… restaurants/bars/hotels have taken his name…..and capitalized…along with Juliett…and the balcony…
The graffiti in Verona was unbelievable — I have seen graffiti all over France and Italy, but in Verona, it really reached an entirely new level – no place escaped the spray can– except the arena(1 A.D.)…again, didn’t spend much time there — summer time brings a high-profile music scene, concerts in the arena and warm summer nights to reminisce about love’s sweet sorrows….
“Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.”
…. and off to Venice.
I got off the train, and thought I thought, OMG…. canals = water = boats – “Oh no, how do I get from here to the hotel without getting on a boat?” Well, it simply is an impossibility. Boarded the water bus, “vaporetto”, for those in the know, and off we went… the waiting platform was worse than the boat because it wobbled/bobbed like a basketball player, 10 minutes to San Marco square, where I became totally European, ignored all forms of civility and bolted/pushed/glared my way off that boat.. to the sidewalk, where I promptly found a café and sat…breathing deeply. This was an issue. Can one go to a farmacia and ask for Dramamine for a boat that goes on a canal and doesn’t really even bob or rock? And will that take care of the waves of claustrophobia with all the millions of people crammed on the water buses… well..not really since in Italy, one needs a doctor’s prescription for just about everything, and the tourists were propagating by the second(I understand how the “local population” can just get MAXED on the same question being asked again and again and again..)…so… I walked everywhere – over bridges, side streets, policemen became close friends since I always needed directions… Word for the wise — if you suffer from motion sickness – don’t go to Venice!
Can we get ANYMORE tourists on these islands –…and shops, you bet…we only have 1 Hermés, bring another one.. triple the cost of food anyplace else, and you might have the price – masks, glass anything, jewelry, fabric, designer clothes — all geared towards the primary economic base of tourism. Empty buildings on side streets reflected the lack local life in Venice. A majority of people employed take the train into Venice on a daily basis. St. Mark’s and the other churches, museums, art galleries, great building facades, HUGE Italian sunglasses(!), and Venice’s history, overshadowed so much of the kitchiness — one of those times, when a person needs to close their eyes, and imagine floating on the canal to the Opera House, listen to the symphony, sip champagne from fine Venetian crystal, and flirt with others while never removing the one of a kind handmade jeweled mask covering your face… oh, days gone by…………………
And………plunk…….reality……zoomed to Rome on a high-speed train…met my friends, Annalisa and Francesca from “travels in India” days, and saw Rome through Roman eyes. The one-time power base of the world sent shivers down my spine, walking on the same stones as the Roman soldiers, and the sheer magnificence of it all. My little camera cannot justify it. We, also, visited a town that has a Sunday “flea market” containing everything from clothes to olive oil, salami to paintings, cheese to honey…..and, of course, we ate! Arrived mid day at old farmhouse complex that I doubt has seen more than 5 tourists in its life time — kids playing soccer in the parking lot, Francesca ordered for us…Was the pastry made by hand TODAY or brought in? Where did the meat come from? When was the bread made? — all the while I am thinking “Oh, THIS IS what they talk about for HOURS before ordering — they get the pedigree of the menu — I get it!!!”
Bottom line….Italy is awesome.
Riding on the train to Rome, I thought about “local life” — no matter where I am in the world, the common thread is we all live our lives – some places are more colorful or exotic than others, but, we are all trying to do just the best we can at that moment in time…