September 27, 2015

Porta Day is a holiday…Porta Day is my favorite day…cause on Porta Day we get to walk around the entire city which turns out to be abut 5 miles and see more of the awesome things that Bologna has to offer and take lots of cool pictures of interesting things!  Okay, so my Porta Day lyrics don’t quite sync up to “Scrubbing Day” from the movie Pippi Longstocking, but still, Porta Day was an awesome day and it needs its own song.

What is Porta Day you ask, it’s just the day that Brittany and I decided to walk around the town where, at one point in history, a wall surrounded the entire town.  There are still several sections of the wall that are intact, and 10 porte still stand (kind of…but we’ll get more into that as this blog progresses).  Oh, porta is the Italian word for door (or porte for doors).  So we took a trip around the city to follow the path the old wall and doors into the city followed.  Ready for some history?  I hope so, cause these “doors” are really interesting.

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Museo Civico del Risorgimento

Before we even got started, in fact, before we even got to the street that circles the city containing the wall and porte, we ran across a hill with several interesting statues.  There was a fence separating us from the statues, but we still managed to get some photos.  Turns out, the area is actually the Museo Civico del Risorgimento. (According to Dictionary.com risorgimento is “the period of or the movement for the liberation and unification of Italy.”)  It was closed, but know we know where to find it…and we’ll be back.

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A quick side story: I love gargoyles, and all other creepy statues lurking in hard to reach / hard to find places.  I try to get pictures of them where ever we go.  There aren’t many in Bologna (that I’ve found so far), but I also like their less-hidden cousins.  Like this lion.  He sits on several fences around the city, I’ve kind of made it my side mission to photograph him at all of his locations.  So enjoy!

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As luck would have it, the starting point of our journey lay just behind the statued hill.  There we found our first section of the city wall that once circled Bologna.  Each wall has a placard on it that says “Mura della Città – Avanzi dell’ultima cerchia murata costruita new secoli XIII – XIV; fu demolita in gran parte agli inizi del Novecento.”  (City ​​Walls – Leftovers of the last ring of walls built new in the 13th and 14th centuries; It was largely demolished in the early twentieth century.)

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Brittany and I both really love how buildings and other such structures are often integrated right into the wall remains; but, more often than not, the section just stops dead.  Making way for a street or sidewalk.  It’s really neat to see the wall/porte just end like this because you get to see the make up of the structure.  Although it is also kind of saddening because, with a little research, you find that a good portion of these pieces of history were torn down to make way to accommodate modern needs (i.e.- wider roads, buses making sharp turns, etc.).


This isn’t part of the wall, but rather just an image to show how beautiful our little trip was as the leaves begin to turn.  FYI…for those of you that I’ve talked to about the narrowness of all the roads, this is the exception.  This road, though called different things along the way, accommodates most of the traffic while getting around the city.  This is not the norm once you enter it.

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Porta di Strada Maggiore

And just a short distance away from our first wall, we get our first porta – Porta di Strada Maggiore.  

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We tried to get a perspective shot with as many of these things as we could.  Some are so close to the road that you can’t even get a good photo much less one with any perspective.  But for Strada Maggiore, Brittany demonstrates its size.

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The placard on the porta states “La porta appartiene alla terza e ultima cerchia delle seconda metà del XIII secolo. Fu ridisegnata nel 1770 da Gian Giacomo Dotti e ridotta nelle forme attuali, sulla base dei resti ritrovati dopo la demolizione dei primi del Novecento, secondo un progetto di Alfonso Rubbiani.” (The gate belongs to the third and final circle of the second half of the thirteenth century. It was redesigned in 1770 by Gian Giacomo Dotti and reduced in its present form, based on the remains found after the demolition of the early twentieth century, according to a draft by Alfonso Rubbiani.)

According to one of my favorite Bologna websites, Bolognawelcome.com, it is also called the “Gate of honor” because “many sovereigns and popes have crossed under this gate.”  To clarify the porta placard, the website also states that it was built in the 13th century and then “rebuilt” in the 14th and 15th centuries.  I’ll have to do some research about what “rebuilt” really means…was it completely torn down or just in need of some repairs?  It goes on to say, as the placard says, that it was again “rebuilt” in 1770, and that in 1903 it was decided that the gate would be torn down, but demolition was stopped in 1909 after a “long and heated debate.”  It finishes by by saying that pieces of the demolished porta were saved and restored by the Committee of artistic and historical Bologna.

Knowing this now, I’d like to know how much was left when the demolition stopped and what pieces had to be re-lego-ed.  Regardless, it’s really beautiful and I’m glad that it was restored.  The site also says there was once a long bridge over a moat at this porta…kinda bummed it didn’t survive.

We actually stumbled upon this porta our first day of exploring, but really didn’t know what we were looking at.  Apparently, we also didn’t bother looking past the porta or we would have seen just how incredibly close to le Due Torri we actually were.

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Across the street we could very clearly see both sides of the next section of city wall.  Like this porta, we stumbled into this section of the wall in the same initial days.  It really is beautiful and stunning to see the ancient architectural skills.

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And while I have my tiny lion statues, Brittany has benches.  I love my little lions, but I will admit she has a great eye for simple beauty.

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Porta San Vitale

The next porta, which was really close to the first, was Porta San Vitale.

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Again, we couldn’t get far enough away from the structure to really get a good photo from every angle (unless we wanted to get hit by a car).

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The placard on this porta reads “La porta appartiene alla terza e ultima cerchia delle mura delle seconda metà del XIII secolo.  Portata alle forme attuali in seguito a molteplici rimaneggiamenti venne privata dell’ avancorpo, o rivellino, nel 1952.” (The gate belongs to the third and final circle of the walls of the second half of the thirteenth century. Brought to its present form as a result of numerous changes and was deprived of the avant-corps, or ravelin, in 1952.)

So what exactly does that mean?  No idea.  Time for a bit of research on Bologna Welcome.  According to the site, this porta is also called “Gate to Ravenna” because it leads to Ravenna, which was the “antique capital of the Roman Empire.”  It further states that the porta was built in 1286 along with “a powerful tower – destroyed at the beginning of the 16th century.”  Additionally, it says “the gate was reduced in 1950-1952 when the ravelin and the external avant-corps were demolished.”  Hopping over to Wikipedia let me know that a ravelin is “a triangular fortification or detached outwork” and avant-corps refers to “a part of a building that juts out from the principle portion.”  Also, like the previous porta, this gate once had a drawbridge over a moat.

Again, for some perspective, here’s Brittany standing beside the porta‘s door.

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And then me standing beside the door within a door (also called a wicket…knowledge is power!).

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Porta San Donato

This porta was completely new to me, but Brittany had seen it a few times because it is very near her school; however, she hadn’t really stopped and looked at it…just saw it in passing.  One of the great things about this one (other than its size) is that on three sides you can stand pretty far back to get a shot.  The other side…not so much.  In fact, in the first image, you can see just how close the right hand side is to the street.

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This placard says “La porta appartiene alla terza e ultima cerchia delle mura della seconda metà del XIII secolo.  Venne trasformata nel XV secolo e conserva ancora l’ antico avancorpo o rivelino.” (The gate belongs to the third and final circle of the walls of the second half of the thirteenth century . It was transformed in the fifteenth century and still preserved the old avant-corps or ravelin. – see previous porta for definitions of avant-corp and ravelin)

The interior portions of this porta were gated, but you could still get a pretty good view of the inside.

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So what does good ol’ Bologna Welcome have to say about this one?  Well, first off, that Porta San Donato used to have a drawbridge and moat too!  Man, to have seen these things in their glory days!  It also discusses the various times the gate was shut-down and reopened through its existence, as well as the fact that there was apparently another gate (San Giacomo) south of this one that was walled up in the 14th century.  Finally, there is reference to this porta almost being demolished several times between 1952 and 1959  to make room for the roads, but apparently “one meter of wall was destroyed after a heated debate to resolve traffic problems.”  So glad they left it standing.

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And here’s our perspective shot.  Can’t tell?  That’s because I’m so tiny standing in its entranceway.  M-A-S-S-I-V-E.

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The next portion of the wall started just across a small sidewalk/bicycle path.  This was the largest section that we had encountered so far.  In fact, it was so large that the only way to get a good photo of it was to cross the street.

This is looking left, back toward the Porta San Donato.

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And this is looking right…into the future I suppose…

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While we were across the street, we decided to venture a bit since neither of us had been outside of the walled section of the city since arriving.  This is a view of the more modern Bologna from Via Camillo Ranzani.

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Back to our wall – this is the end of this portion of the wall.  On the back (interior) side of the wall, the land actually slopes up to meet the top of the wall.

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Porta Mascarella

We quickly found our next target, Porta Mascarella.  As you can see in the first image, this porta was completely surrounded by street.

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This placard said “La porta appartiene alla terza e ultima cerchia delle mura della seconda metà del XIII secolo.  Sono visibili resti della costruzione originale, poi rimaneggiata e abbassata nel corso del XVI secolo.  Fu isolata agli inizi del Novecento, a seguito della demolizione delle mura.”  (The gate belongs to the third and final circle of the walls of the second half of the thirteenth century. There are visible remains of the original construction, altered and lowered during the sixteenth century. It was isolated in the early twentieth century, following the demolition of the walls.)

Bologna Welcome says, as usual, it had a drawbridge and moat (catching on to a theme?), and that “its location was considered risky and it had to be reinforced repeatedly.”  There was also apparently a tower at this porta as well, but it was “demolished in 1511 because of the risk to be hit by the artillery.”

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I’m not going to lie here…we were a little distracted at this particular porta.  There was a very large, fenced in area across the street from its location that caught our attention.  We’re still not sure what was behind all the veiled sections, but whatever it was, it was huge…and secretive.

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Also, within this porta lived the fattest pigeon that either of us had ever seen.  And directly below him, the biggest pile of pigeon feces that anyone has ever seen.  That along with the fact that there wasn’t much room around the porta meant that we didn’t get a perspective shot.

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We crossed the street onto Via Stalingrado to check out said veiled area, but got no more information.  While we were there though, we did snap another photo of the city.  We weren’t sure what the green-roofed building was, but we were determined to keep it in our sites so that we could go exploring.

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And while across the street, we grabbed another shot of Porta della Mascarella.

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There was a pretty good walk from Mascarella to our next porta, and you could tell you were coming into a more modern part of the city.  There were lots of gas stations and souvenir shops and what-nots.  But eventually we did reach the city wall again, and the Castello di Galliera.

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Castello di Galliera was a site we had visited previously, but since it was along the way, we thought we would include it.  Its placard stated “Questi ruderi sono ciò che rimane dell’ antics fortificazione cittadina, costruita e distrutta cinque volte.  La prima fortezza venne innalzata dal Cardinal Legato Bertando del Poggetto nel 1330-32 e distrutta con la sua cacciata nel 1334; nella cappella trecentesca vi erono affreschi di Giotte e un polittico marmoreo di Giovanni di Balduccio (1334 c.).  L’ ultima construzione, con fossato e otto torrioni di guardia, venne eretta per volontà di Giulio II nel 1507 e distrutta nel 1511.”  (These ruins are what is left of ancient city fortifications, built and destroyed five times. The first fortress was erected by the Cardinal Legato Bertando of Poggetto in 1330-32 and destroyed with his expulsion in 1334; in the fourteenth-century chapel there were frescoes by Giotte and a marble polyptych of Giovanni Balducci (1334 c .).  The last building, with moat and eight guard towers, was built by order of Julius II in 1507 and destroyed in 1511. {According to Dictionary.com, polyptych is “a work of art composed of several connected panels.”})

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Tempio del Sacro Cuore 

And then, in the same area, was the Porta Galliera, but since we had visited this area in the past, we chose to go across the bridge to find our green-roofed building first.

We crossed into yet another section of town we had not previously explored. This section was significantly newer, but still had the same Bologna charm.  Our green-roofed building turned out to be a church called Tempio del Sacro Cuore (Temple of the Sacred Heart).

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I didn’t take too many pictures since the shutter on the camera is so loud, but I did manage to get these two.

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And Brittany snapped these using her cell phone.

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Umm…what is that you ask?  Creepy.  The answer you’re looking for is creepy.  Actually, it’s a really interesting piece of art titled L’Uomo Velato (The Veiled Man).  There is also a youtube video showing the piece at different angles here.

We also found this small scale version of the church.

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Okay…so large small scale…

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Porta Galliera

Back across the bridge we went, straight to the Porta Galliera.  This porta is directly across the street from the train station, and it was very full of people.  While we didn’t personally pose for a perspective shot, there were plenty of people to do it for us.

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If you’ve been following along with us on our journey, you might remember that we’ve been here before…remember these guys?

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Porta Galliera‘s placard reads “Costruita su progetto di Bartolomeo Provaglia (1659-61) è una delle più elaborate e complesse porte dell’ ultima cerchia di mura. Si presenta con due fronti di disegno assai dissimile: quello interno di fastosa e scenografica architettura barocca, quello esterno di carattere severo, che ne accentua la funzione difensiva.  Venne isolata agli inizi del Novecento, a seguito della demolizione delle mura, e successivamente restaurata nel 1926.” (Built and designed by Bartolomeo Provaglia (1659-61) it is one of the most elaborate and complex gates of the last ring of walls. It has two very dissimilar styles: the inside of sumptuous and spectacular Baroque architecture, the external character severe, that accentuates its defensive function. It was isolated in the early twentieth century, following the demolition of the walls, and then restored in 1926.)

According to Bologna Welcome, the porta is also called the “Gate of the hostile fortress” because of the nearby Castello di Galliera, which, again, “was destroyed and rebuilt 5 times between 1330 and 1511.”  The site continues by stating that this porta is significant because it “was the entrance of the convoy of vessels coming from the river port.”  This is strange seeing as there is no water near this porta anymore…or is there.  Many of the canals and waterways in Bologna have been covered and paved over.  If you look a bit closer at this porta you find evidence of this.

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Because of its style, sheer beauty, and location, we both really like this porta (and Brittany loves her statues!)  It is astonishing from every angle.

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Salara

As usual, during our little escapades, we always manage to find a few beautiful things unintentionally…like the Salara.

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The building was once a salt warehouse, but now provides a fairytale-like entrance to the Parco del Cavaticcio (Cavaticcio Park).

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For those of you keeping score at home…that’s 5 porte down and 5 to go.

If you’ve made it this far, go a little further with us.  There’s still plenty of beautiful sights to come.


After leaving the Salara, the city wall picked right back up.  This section of the wall was severely deteriorated, but in spite of, or because of, it is still immaculate.

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Porta Lame

Next we found the Porta Lame, which sported a couple of bonus finds.

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The placard associated with this porta says “La porta, costruita su disegno di Agostino Barelli nel 1677, appartiene alla terza e ultima cerchia delle mura.  Le statue bronzee dei giovani partigiani, di Luciano Minguzzi, ricordano una battaglia avvenuta nei pressi della porta il 7 novembre 1944.” (The gate, built and designed by Agostino Barelli in 1677, belongs to the third and last city walls. The bronze statues of young partisans, by Luciano Minguzzi, reminiscent of a battle that took place near the door on Nov. 7, 1944. {partisans-fighters that do not belong to the army but rather a movement of resistance})

According to Bologna Welcome, the gate that originally stood at this location was built in the 13th century with, not one…but two drawbridges!  “One for pedestrians and one for carriages.”  It states that this porta is also called the “Water Gate” because “of the many lakes and marshlands outside of the gate (lame in Latin means marshland).”  It goes on to say that the porta was “radically rebuilt in 1674 and 1677 when the medieval keep was demolished.”  It finishes by revealing the meaning of the two statues, which is dedicated to “the victory of partisans against the Nazi troops after long fights in November 1944.”

These statues were pretty huge as well.

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Everything here seems to have a beautiful, and sometimes tragic, story.

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Since we were on the opposite side of town we decided to throw in another shot of how gorgeous the city is.  This is the bike lane that runs down the center of the main road encircling Bologna.

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And back to the wall!  This time though, the wall held a pleasant surprise for us.

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There was a small park behind this wall, which meant we got to see the other side up close!

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Porta San Felice

The next porta on our journey was Porta San Felice.  While we were taking photos of this porta, we got some pretty odd looks from the passengers on a bus that was passing by.  But, as you can see from the next two photos, there is barely enough room to squeeze by without walking on the road.

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And we remembered to take our perspective shot.  Though tiny, I assure you she is happy!

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This placard said “La porta appartiene alla terza e ultima cerchia delle mura della seconda metà del XIII secolo.  Ristrutturata nel 1508 da Antonio Paltroni, fu isolata agli inizi del Novecento, a seguito della demolizione delle mura.”  (The gate belongs to the third and final circle of the walls of the second half of the thirteenth century. Renovated in 1508 by Antonio Paltroni, it was isolated in the early twentieth century, following the demolition of the walls.)

And what does Bologna Welcome say about this porta?  The gate was built in the 13th century and a “fortress and a drawbridge were added in 1334.”  It also refers to the porta as the “Gate of the War” because it has been involved in so many wars though out the centuries.  It goes on to say that “it was restored on the occasion of the visit of Napoleon in 1805.”  And this last piece will need further research on my part, but it states that “one of the famous moments of its history is the affair of the “stolen bucket” taken by soldiers of Modena from the spring near the gate San Felice as their spoils of war after their victory in the battle of Zappolino in 1325.”  Hmmm…a stolen bucket?!?  Maybe “bucket” means something different here.

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Chiesa di Santa Maria e San Valentino della Grada

Again and again we stumble onto astonishing things we never would have thought to look for.  We thought we had just found another piece of the wall, but we ended up with so much more.

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We couldn’t find any information about this place at first, but the hidden canal was fantastic.  Brittany and I both liked the metal grill that could be lowered into the water or, as in the picture, raised.  Apparently through these grills is how the “Reno Canal entered the walls of the city and was mainly used to prevent possible enemies to enter the city.”  As usual, my source is Bologna Welcome.

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This next photo is the area directly above the area in the previous photo.

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Also according to Bologna Welcome, “The Church of Santa Maria e San Valentino della Grada is famous above all because it preserves the remains of the priest and martyr San Valentino.”

These final two photos are taken from the other side, where the canal exits the tunnel.

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Just a beautiful sunny afternoon in Bologna, Italy.

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Actually, I’m thankful for the church and the beauty of the city because the next porta, Porta Sant’ Isaia, is no longer there.  So it was quite the walk between the porte at this point.


Porta Saragozza

But we did manage to finally reach Porta Saragozza, and honestly, it was worth a little extra walking to get to this one.  Saragozza felt more like a palace than a city gate.

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While not my little lion friends, these guys are still impressive.

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This porta was so large that it has its own portici.

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The placard with Saraozza says “La porta appartiene alla terza e ultima cerchia delle mura della seconda metà del XIII secolo.  Il complesso venne modificato radicalmente, con l’ aggiunta di due torri circolari, dall’ ingegnere Enrico Brunetti Rodati (1857-59).”  (The gate belongs to the third and final circle of the walls of the second half of the thirteenth century. The complex was radically changed, with the addition of two circular towers, from the engineer Enrico Brunetti Rodati (1857-59).)

Bologna Welcome also calls this porta the “Holy Gate” or the “Gate of Pilgrims” because “the gate has been an important point on the way to the hill Colle della Guardia and to the Sanctuary of Beata Vergine di San Luca (Virgin Mary of San Luca) – the goal of many processions and pilgrims.”  It also had a drawbridge and a moat (can you hear the disappointment in my voice?) added in 1334.  The site also states that the portici were added in 1859 to join the two towers.

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A closer look at my not-so-little lion friends.

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Brittany and I had wondered to this porta on accident once before (sans camera) while we were looking for the Chaplin Cinema, which apparently plays English movies once a week.  I’m glad we came back with a camera…

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There was another fairly significant gap between Saragozza and the next portaPorta Castiglione, because the porta between the two, Porta San Mamolo, is no longer there.  I’m kind of sad about this one because, once again according to Bologna WelcomePorta San Mamolo was built in the 12th century.  Grrr…”a drawbridge over the moat was added in 1334″ and “despite its full restoration in 1850, the gate was demolished in the fever of ‘progress’.”  Just one moat…that’s all I’m asking for…with some tiny lion statues…but that’s it…and maybe a drawbridge…


Back to the wall…

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This section of the wall was pretty neat because it had a little door presumably leading to a canal.  I say that because the sign at this wall had a map of the hidden canals of Bologna.

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Nature taking back its territory….

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On the final leg of our journey…one final look at how perfect Bologna is going to be in the Fall.

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Porta Castiglione

By the time we finally reached Porta Castiglione, the next to last porta, there’s no lie to tell…we were both tired, thirsty, and in desperate need of a comfy seat.  Again, not much room to maneuver around the base, but this first photo is our prospective shot.

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Its placard stated “La porta appartiene alla terza e ultima cerchia delle mura della seconda metà del XIII secolo.  È stata rimaneggiata agli inizi del XV secolo e portata alle forme attuali nei primi anni del Novecento, a seguito della demolizione delle mura.”  (The gate belongs to the third and final circle of the walls of the second half of the thirteenth century. It was remodeled in the early fifteenth century and brought to its present form in the early twentieth century, following the demolition of the walls.)

Pretty straightforward, but let’s see what Bologna Welcome has to say about it.  This gate is also called the “Gate of Canals” because “there was a canal that allowed the Savena river to enter into the town.”  Hmmm…also pretty straightforward, but this information probably means that the door in the city wall that we thought lead to a canal is most likely the canal being referenced.

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Found this cool little guy just hanging out behind some bushes.

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I love random acts of art.


And even more city wall!

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Oh but wait, this one holds a surprise!  Behind this city wall is a rather interesting church.  Surprisingly Bologna Welcome offers me no information about this church, luckily I snapped a photo of its placard. (Yes, placards are on everything…because everything is freaking ancient.)  It is called the Santuario della Madonna del Baraccano, and the placard basically stated that the sanctuary was built in 1418, resting on a section of the wall.

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These statues adorned the front facade of the sanctuary.

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And a different angle of the statue holding Le Due Torri.

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And all of them in their places.

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This was a door and wall to the left of the church entrance.  It just screams ancient, and we love it for that reason.

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And somehow we managed to make it back to our starting point.  Yay!!! tiny little lion statues again!

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Hold on now, if your on porta duty, you should have only counted 9 porte when there should be 10…right?  Well that’s because we somehow missed one!  And as exhausted as we were, we wanted to complete our Porta Day journey.  So we looked up Porta San Stefano and backtracked.

Now, if this were a novel I would tell you to stop reading at this point.  End on a happy note and walk away, but, if you’re like us and need finality, keep going.  But you’ve been warned.


Porta Santo Stefano

Turns out, we had, in fact, already passed Porta Santo Stenfano.  It just looked so different from the other porte, we didn’t realize what it was.  In hindsight, we should have started here and worked our way around.  Now we know.

So…taadaa…here is the final porta…in all its…glory…

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Santo Stefano‘s placard reads “Gli edifici attuali, che sostituiscono la porta medioevale, furono eretti nel 1843 dall’ architetto Filippo Antolini per ordine di Papa Gregorio XVI.  La barriera daziaria era chiusa da un cancello, poi trasferito all’ ingresso dei giardini Margherita presso porta Castiglione.”  (The current buildings, replacing the medieval gate, were built in 1843 by architect Filippo Antolini by order of Pope Gregory XVI. The toll barrier was closed by a gate, then transferred to the entrance of the Margherita gardens at Castiglione gate.)

So the current buildings were built in 1843, replacing the porta…sigh…Bologna Welcome says the original gate was called the “Gate to Tuscany” and was built in the 13th century.  It also states that, before being destroyed by artillery in 1512, there was a tower here.  It makes no mention of a moat…

Don’t get me wrong, these two buildings are interesting, but compared to all the others…just disappointing. And to add insult to proverbial injury…both serve as stores now.  And they didn’t look like interesting stores…just normal tobacco stores…sigh

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Ah well…

Hooray for tiny LIONS!

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Well that was our exploration of all the porte around the outer wall of Bologna.  We laughed, we cried, we nearly soiled ourselves…seriously, that thing at the Tempio del Sacro Cuore was creepy!  Anyway, I apologize that this blog was so long, but there is so much to see in this wonderful city.

And the best part…your day can always end with gelato!

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Italian word of the day: leone – lion (because, well other than the obvious, the Bologna Coat of Arms has a lion on it…there…I made it work!)

September 26, 2015

With Brittany’s class schedule set up a little differently than it would be back home (she is basically in class from 9AM to 7PM Monday through Friday and on some days she gets a break in the middle), we decided that weekends would need to be packed full of adventure.  So today we decided to try and find a museum.  Since Brittany is officially a student now (meaning money has been paid), she gets in free to most of the museums in Bologna, but we specifically had our hearts set on going to the Museo Civico Medievale (City Medieval Museum) that is housed across the street from the Chiesa della Madonna di Galliera.

The foundation of this museum was literally built by incorporating the remains of both a palace and an ancient tower into the design…sections of which can be seen later in this blog.  While all of the information posted about each piece in the museum is in Italian, each room had a laminated card detailing some of its most important pieces in English.  It was very, very helpful.  The only thing Brittany and I struggled with was getting information about the exhibit pieces that weren’t on the helpful English page.  If the item was on the laminated card, then we knew the name, date, etc; however, if it was not, all we could find was an Italian name, inventory number, and a lot of other words that may have been descriptions.  (This blog has actually taken me quite some time to write since I have to translate all of the little placards for items that weren’t on the list.)  Most of the pieces are from the Medieval time period (5th to 15th centuries according to Wikipedia), but there are definitely some pieces that leak over into the Renaissance Period (14th to 17th centuries again according to Wikipedia).

We had a pretty great adventure just trying to find the museum without using a map, but because of the length of this blog, I’ll detail that in our photo journal section.

Enjoy the Museo Civico Medievale! (Larger versions of each of the images are available by clicking them.  A new window will open.)


The first room contained a collection of very odd pieces that were once a part of the Museo Cospiano owned by Marquis Ferdinando Cospi.  Without question, the first item on display was one of the most interesting in the entire museum, and it also became Brittany’s favorite.

Title: Unicorn Head

Date: between 1660-1670

Media: Ivory, carved and gilded wood

Roman Artifact

(The piece is actually made from the tusk of a narwal.  Truth be told, I honestly did not know these things actually existed.)

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Title: Stilts

Date: 16th-17th century

Media: Leather and cork

Venetian Artifact

(No…way…)

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Title: ?Knife holder?

Date: Mid-17th Century

Media: Carved bone over wooded structure

German Artifact

(The container depicts images of Apollo and Daphne as well as Neptune’s chariot.  The handles coming out of the top of the container are actually knife hilts.)

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Title: Runic Calendar

Date: 1514

Media: Carved boxwood

French Artifact

(These tablets are each only slightly larger than a credit card and are carved on front and back.  Only six indicate calendar months.  The other two are devoted to religious figures.)

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Title: Cup Cover

Date: 15th Century

Media: Polished enamel

French Artifact

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Title: Tin plate with the scene of the Resurrection of Christ in recess and the figures of the twelve apostles on the brim.

Date: ?

Media: Tin

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Title: Four knife handles worked with slotted pairs of deities

Date: ?

Media: Carved boxwood

(These handles are only about the size of chess pieces.)

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Title:

(Left piece) Byzantine-style wooden tablet with the pietà (Pietà is a depiction of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ on her lap or in her arms)
(Right piece) Wooden cross carved with stories of the Passion of Christ .

Date:

(Left piece) 17th Century

(Right piece) ?

Media: (both) Wood

(Both of these pieces are smaller than a credit card.)

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Title: Two rolls of Japanese painting. In each of them depict ten episodes, which make up a single story.

Date: Early 18th Century

Media: Paper

Japanese Artifacts

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Title: Gravestone of Shabatai Elchanan

Date: 1546

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Title: Ark of Bartolomeo of Saliceto (tomb of Bartolomeo of Saliceto – a law professor)

Date: 1412

Media: Marble, sandstone

Bolognese Artifact

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Title: Sculptures from the Palazzo della Mercanzia

Date: 1382 to 1391

Bolognese Artifact

(Each statue was created by a different artist and represent Justice and the patron saints of Bologna.)

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Title: Tablet with Aaron and the children in priestly garments.

Date: 10th Century

(These piece is almost exactly the size of a credit card.)

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Title: The Blessed Virgin

Date: end of 12th to beginning of 13th Century

Media: Mosaic

Venetian Artifact

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Title: Cross on a Column

Date: 1219

Media: Limestone

Bolognese Artifact

(Behind this cross you can see portions of the tower that once stood here.)

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Title: Base with four figures of atlases

Date: 13th Century

Media: Limestone

Bolognese Artifact

(Brittany found this statue to be particularly “creepy” because of the holes where eyes would be.)

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Title: Crosier (pastoral hook)

Date: 1250-1270

Media: Bone, polychrome and gold painting

Northern Italian Artifact

(This hook takes the form of a serpent emerging from the mouth of a griffin.)

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Title: Boniface VIII

Date: 1301

Media: Hammered gold-plated copper, bronze with wooden core

Bolognese Artifact

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Title: Tombstone of Filippo of the Desideri

Artist: Arriguzzo Trevisano

Date: 1315

Media: Limestone

Bolognese Artifact

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Title: Fragment of a Matrix

Date: 14th Century

Media: Limestone

Bolognese Artifact

(The first image shows The Last Supper. The second image shows a large angel.  And the third shows the entire face.  The opposite side {not shown} contains letters of the alphabet.)

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Title: Fragment of the Crucified

Date: 14th Century

Media: Marble

Bolognese Artifact

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Title: Crucifixion

Artist: Maestro di Corrado Fogolini

Date: 14th Century

Media: Marble

Bolognese Artifact

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Title: Urn of Corrado Fogolini

Date: 14th Century

Media: Limestone

Verona Artifact

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Title: Santo monaco

Date: 15th Century

Media: Stuccoed wood, polychrome and gilded

Siena Artifact

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Title: Madonna col Bambino

Artist: Jacopo della Quercia

Date: around 1410

Media: Terracotta polychrome

Bolognese Artifact

(I thought this piece was especially interesting because of the layers of work that could be seen.)

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Title: Tombstone of Bernardino Zambeccari

Artist: Andrea da Fiesole

Date: 1424

Media: Stone

Bolognese Artifact

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Title: Tombstone of Geremia Angelelli

Date: 1417

Media: Marble

Bolognese Artifact

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Title: Tombstone of Graziolo Accarisi

Date: 1434

Media: Red Marble

Bolognese Artifact

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Title: Tombstone of Pietro d’ Ancarano

Date: 1416

Media: Stone

Bolognese Artifact

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Title: Marsyas Chained

Artist: Andrea Briosco (Called Il Riccio {the hedgehog})

Date: 15th Century

Media: Bronze

Padue Artifact

(Il Riccio is “considered the greatest Renaissance master” in the field of bronze works according to the museum’s paperwork.  Most of the statues in this room are tiny.  This one is no larger than a chess piece.)

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Title: Tap shaped monstrous bird

Date: 16th Century

Media: Bronze

Northern Italian Artifact

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Title: Erma faunal

Date: 16th Century

Media: Bronze

Northern Italian Artifact

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Title: The Acrobat

Date: 16th Century

Media: Bronze

Venetian Artifact

(According to what Brittany was reading, this guy is a candle holder, but, if that’s what it is, it is a really odd candle holder.)

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Title: Hercules drunk

Date: 18th Century

Media: Bronze

Italian Artifact

(This is one of the taller pieces in this section.  For the sake of his title, I’ll say he stands about as tall as a beer bottle.)

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Title: Bust of a clown

Date: 16th Century

Media: Bronze

German? Artifact

(This statue was tiny.  It stood an inch…maybe an inch and a half tall.)

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Title: Baccante

Date: 16th Century

Media: Bronze

Florentine Artifact

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Title: ?Nozzle for lock with Abundance?

Date: 16th Century

Media: Bronze

Fontainbleau? Artifact

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Title: Bust of Gregorio XIII Boncompagni

Artist: Alessandro Menganti

Date: 1572-1585

Media: Bronze

Bolognese Artifact

(We are back to sizable statues again.  We both liked the detail of this piece.)

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Title: Mercury

Artist: Jean de Boulogne detto Giambologna (detto = called) (The same artist responsible for Fontana del Nettuno.

Date: 1564

Media: Bronze

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Title: Bust of Gregorio XV Ludovisi

Artist: Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Date: 1621-1623

Media: Bronze

(Again, the detail of this piece is what amazed us.)

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Title: St. Michael the Archangel killing the devil

Artist: Alessandro Algardi

Date: Unknown – but the artist lived between 1595 and 1654

Media: Bronze

Bolognese Artifact

(This was my favorite piece in the museum.  It stand about 2.5 to 3 feet tall, and the detail is exquisite.  The artist is from Bologna.)

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Title: San Giovanni decollato

Date: 16th Century

Media: Marble

Northern Italian Artifact

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Title: Half-lenghted figure of Christ in a niche   (A niche is a shallow recess to display a statue.)

Date: 16th Century

Media: Painted marble

Bolognese Artifact

(Enjoy this piece for a moment and then read on to have it ruined.)

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(I really thought this was a beautiful piece, but when we were looking at the photos after getting home, Brittany pointed out that it looks like he’s wearing Mickey Mouse ears.  I dare you to look at it again without thinking about the ears.  There, now the piece has been ruined forever…just like it was for me.)


This is not an actual piece on display, it’s just the ceiling of the museum.  As previously stated, this was once a palace, and I imaging it was beautiful in its time.

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Title: Nettuno

Artist: Jean de Boulogne detto Giambologna (detto = called) (The same artist responsible for Fontana del Nettuno.

Date: 1564

Media: Bronze

(This was a preparatory statue for the Fontana del Nettuno which is located in Bologna’s city center.)

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Title: Venus

Artist: Bottega di Girolamo Campagna

Date: 16th Century

Media: Bronze

Venetian Artifact

(Another of the smaller statues.  She stands about as tall as the earlier seen Hercules statue.)

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Title: Tombstone of Domenico Garganelli

Artist: Francesco del Cossa

Date: 1478

Media: Limestone, colored marble, and bronze

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Title: Rapier blessed by Lodovico Bentivoglio

Date: 1454

Media: Steel blade.  Hilt and scabbard – silver with enamel decorations

Roman Artifact

(This begins our journey into the weapons portion of the museum.)

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Title: Shield depicting St. George and the dragon

Date: 15th Century

Media: Wood covered with parchment

Bolognese Artifact

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The weapons section of the museum was large and amazing, but often it was difficult to tell which placard was associated with a certain item.  So these next few images will not have detailed information, but will be separated by item or display case depending on how it was photographed.  Most date from the 16th or 17th Century.


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(Note the detailed knight on the hilt of this sword.  Also note the engraving on the blade…”Respice Finem.” {Look back at the end, or consider the end.})

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Title: Bologna model

(According to the placard on the wall, this was a model of Bologna representing the city at the end of the third century.  Also according to the placard, Bologna was one of the five largest cities in Europe at the time.)

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(While there were some amazing weapons in this room, the detail work on this gun was astonishing.)

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(Um…ouch…)

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(And now we move away from weapons again…)


Title: Pair of reliefs depicting ‘Judith and Holofernes’ and ‘Rebecca and Eleazar’

Date: 17th Century

Media: Ivory

(These reliefs were about as tall as a standard sized book.  Note the decapitation depicted on the second image.)

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(These final few images are of the center square of the museum {you basically travel through three sides of the square with the entrance being the fourth side.}  The tall brown structures are different angles of the lower portions of what was once a tower.)

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We had a great time walking though history.  Hopefully you enjoyed walking with us!

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Italian word of the day: stanco – tired (because, as Brittany and I were walking around Bologna, this was one of the first words I was able to read on a sign based on context clues – Stanco di essere sanco? {Tired of being tired?})


These Italians know a thing or two about…

Since Brittany has started classes there has been a bit of a break in the action for us. (It would be kind of unfair of me to go exploring new things while she’s sitting in a classroom…right?…right??…yeah, I guess so.)  Anyway, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about some of the super-random things that Brittany and I think these Italians have absolutely done right.  Now, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’m not from “the big city,” but I’m also not a country bumpkin…that being said, some of these things might not be available only to Europeans, they might be all over America and I just haven’t seen them yet.  Either way, here they are –

Our list of stuff these Italians are doing right:

  • Their towels have hooks sewn into them

Like I said…these are mostly random things…but putting hooks on towels so they hang…genius. (I know that right now, on this first item on the list, I sound like a country bumpkin…I know and don’t care.)  I mean, every hitchhiker needs one, right?

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And it’s not just bath towels…it’s kitchen towels too.

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  • Their dish drainer is above the sink

This might not be true for all, or even most, of the houses/apartments here, and I know that space dictates arranging items for functionality rather than beauty; but I have to say, it is really nice to be able to wash dishes and places them in a drainer that drips right into the sink.  I know back home the space above the sink is typically not utilized or it plays home to a window (because it helps us imagine we are not completing a chore but rather lounging the day away in the sun?), either way, the functionality of this is incredible; also, you can close the cabinet door and Voila! all your dishes are put away.

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  • Brittany doesn’t get catcalled / whistled at

As I was working on a preliminary list for this blog, Brittany made sure that this item was included.  When we first arrived in Bologna, it was still very much summer weather as far as the temperature was concerned.  Meaning that I wore a lot of t-shirts and shorts and Brittany wore shorts or sundresses.  She says that, back home, any time she wore items of this nature, inevitably someone would catcall or whistle at her; here, she says, no one has done that (other than me).

  • Beers come in half liters (and it’s cheap)

We found out rather quickly that every establishment here seems to serve alcohol (we haven’t asked for it at the police station or the hospital yet, but who knows), and they all serve it for a very low price (I just bought a six pack this afternoon and it cost 2.70€ {around $3}).  And not only is it cheep, but, at most restaurants, when you order a beer, it comes in a half liter!  The hobbit in me rejoices.

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  • Wine is tasty and locally made (and it’s cheap)

Ah, wine, though not my favorite, I can appreciate a good vino (wine) when I taste it…and there are lots of good tastes here!  Back home, I enjoyed getting beer from my favorite local brewer…Yazoo, but here, we get wine from the regional vineyards, and while there are several expensively priced bottles on the shelf, the majority are priced well under $10.  In fact, most are in the $3-$4 range.

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  • Art is everywhere

I’ll say that again…Art is everywhere.  I grant you, this item should have been first on my list, but we have several posts dedicated to art, and will continue to have more…and more…and more…because it’s everywhere!  This list is dedicated to some of the odder things, so rather than focus on the art itself, I have focused on the fact that every crevice has something artistic.  Graffiti, both the random, stupid stuff and the my god that is a work of art stuff, is on every wall, every door front, and every surface that someone could possibly get to.  There is also hidden art everywhere, you look up and the architect has put ornate flowers on the corners of the roof, or a statue is built at the end of a portico, or any number of other things.  Every church has a story told in art (architecturally and with statues and paintings), and it’s sad to see the statues have eroded and the paint has withered away, but, as pointed out in another post, you would have to kick everyone out and put this city under a glass dome to protect everything.

Art vs. Art?

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  • Windows all have awesome shutters

Every window has a shutter (not made of plastic) and they are actually used.  They are wooden and aged and a lot of times weathered and beautiful.  I’m looking at our kitchen shutters right now, and, yes, they are distressed, with paint chipping away in several places; but in America we pay good money to have someone fake that look.  Here, they just make you feel Italy.

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  • Everyone speaks multiple languages

Everyone definitely speaks Italian, but everyone also seems to be able to speak at least one other language…and that other language is not always English.  I took two years of French in high school…that was it.  I wish I had been forced to take another language my entire school career.  There is so much beauty in these other languages and I hate that I’m stuck with just one.

(A caveat to this – no one speaks any other language other than Italian at places where you need them to speak something else…*cough, cough* or at least they pretend to only be able to speak Italian.  You have to go to the Poste Italiane (the Italian post office) to purchase and turn in your permit to stay application (which is entirely in Italian) and no one at the post office spoke anything other than Italian.  After your permit to stay application is turned in, you receive a paper with your appointment at the immigration office, and we found out today that no one speaks anything but Italian.)

(A second caveat – Brittany and I are learning Italian, but it is a slow process.  And learning Italian and trying to have a conversation with an Italian are two totally different things.)

  • You can get medicine from the pharmacy without a prescription

This has proven to be a life-saver so far.  Brittany and I have purchased international insurance so if we need to go to the doctor we can, but the process of filling out all the paperwork involved in that is daunting.  Brittany felt really sick when we first arrived, and last week I thought I had either a kidney stone or a UTI, both times we were able to simply go to the Farmacia, describe our symptoms, and walk away with basic medication.  Now, we are not talking about morphine or dilaudid here, but if you need an antibiotic they’ve got you covered.  You can also get things like Cranberry pills there, however, since cranberries are apparently not grown here, 60 capsules will cost you about $40…we chose not to get them.

  • Food

Just food in general.  Not much more I can say about that, especially since I have devoted an entire series of blog posts just to food.

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Food = Yum.


Now, with all these random good things, there must also be a few bad…so we’ve included a short list of these as well.

Our list of stuff these Italians are doing wrong:

  • Maple Syrup, Peanut Butter, Mexican food, and Cranberries are EXPENSIVE

Yes, at least we have access to these items, and, yes, we could, theoretically, live without them, but man are they ridiculously expensive.  We were so excited to finally find them and then very sad because we realized our wallet wouldn’t allow us to have them.  A little bottle of syrup…$7.  A tiny jar of PB…~$5.  A nacho kit…$8.  Cranberries…you don’t even want to go there.

On the plus size though…Nutella is CHEAP!!!  Now if I could just find some PB M&M’s here…or better yet…Nutella M&M’s…Ferrero (makers of Nutella) and Mars (makers of M&M’s) MAKE THIS HAPPEN!

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  • The shower is tiny

Americans, don’t take your ginormous shower/tub for granted.  I am fairly tall and fairly skinny, but I cannot move in ours without hitting the wall or shower curtain (and every time you hit the shower curtain water floods your bathroom floor).  Brittany asked me what I missed most about home, and other than family and friends, this is it.

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  • Gas stovetops

Yes, gas stoves are in America, and I know some even prefer them, but they seem to be the norm here, and while Brittany and I can cook on them, it is not a pleasure.  Here’s our deal – we have a great ceiling fan in the kitchen/living room, when it’s on, there’s no need for the AC; however, you can’t have the fan on and have the gas stove on.  The circulation of air created by the fan wreaks havoc on the burner’s flame and it takes an eternity to cook anything.  So you have to cut the fan off to cook, but the gas stove top makes the room incredibly hot, by the time you have anything cooked, your so hot you barely want to eat.  Imagine your outside cooking on your awesome gas grill…now imagine that your cooking with that same grill in your bedroom…so hot.

  • McDonald’s

Okay, yes, we have gone to McDonald’s because we wanted something cheap and quick, but, just like back home, it was pretty disappointing.  But McDonald’s is one of the only places where you have access to a restroom…if you make a purchase…I guess we’ll have to try the McLobster next time we need to make a pit stop.

Also, not sure about these guys being the first thing we were able to read upon arriving in Italy.  Granted, McDonald’s ketchup is good, but come on…McDonald’s mayonnaise and not mustard…if anything, they should have bottled their pickle chips.

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I think that’s it for now.  This was just for fun so I hope no one gets the idea that we are bumpkins, but we thought it would be nice to show you how things are done in other places.

Be sure to tune in for the next blog when we Try out the BIDET!!! (Just kidding.  I’m sure those things are great but I can’t imagine trying to use one when you don’t know what you’re doing…just bad images…lots of bad images.  I’m as scared of it as a dog is of a vacuum cleaner.  Update: While she was editing this blog, Brittany decided to watch a few Youtube videos.  Still nope.  But if your interested check one out here or a more humorous version here.)


Italian word of the day: sugo – sauce (because it’s Italy and delicious sauce is on everything)

For those concerned parties…

I’ll keep this post short and sweet…

For any of you that have been concerned for Brittany and I because of our lack of Peanut Butter, Pancakes, or Mexican food…your concern has been appreciated but it is no longer needed, for today I found Pancakes and Mexican food!!!

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As previously stated, the price of Peanut Butter and Syrup will keep us from indulging too much, but at least now we know where to find them!

On a side note, we’ve officially been here 3 weeks (my how time flies), and now that Brittany is in class, I spend most of my time writing these blog posts, writing other things, or exploring.  Brittany and I were talking about finding work here and the fact that, because of the language barrier, the only thing that either one of us would really be qualified for is some type of manual labor, which I would gladly do. However, if the Italian government allows me to stay past 90 days and get a job, I think I would like to lead some type of English-speaking tour around the city.  I’ve been reading up on all the places we visit, and with a little more work it might be something to look into.  If that doesn’t work out, I could always create a service that helps English-speaking foreigners find things around the city.  Need pancake batter…gotcha covered.  Searching for bacon…oh yeah, I know where you can find that.  Can’t find a Dr. Pepper…good luck, man, you’re on your own there.  In all seriousness though, with all our explorations, I can find most tourist-heavy spots without ever looking at a map…maybe something I could get into.


Italian word of the day: teatro – theatre (because it’s what Brittany and I do…plus for 130€ apiece, we can get a season subscription to Teatro Europa – that’s 8 shows for 130€ – Billy Elliot – The Blues Legend – Jesus Christ Superstar – Pinocchio – Rapunzel – Romeo e Guilietta – Opus Cactus (dance) – The Man: The Passion of Christ(dance))

September 19, 2015 (Brittany’s Birthday Dinner)

We are here in Bologna, Italy because Brittany is attending the University of Bologna, which is the oldest university in the Western world…founded in 1088; but just because the university is old doesn’t mean it doesn’t deal with the same ups and downs as every other university.  For instance, Brittany’s first class, Economics, was canceled on the first day…and then again on its second day.  For some this might be a cause for celebration, but when your class meetings are already limited it’s not the best option.  However, Brittany and I were pretty happy about the second class being canceled because it was on her birthday and it gave us ample time to celebrate; that being said, I had already made a reservation for her birthday dinner for the following night…Saturday night.  So this is the story of Brittany’s Birthday Dinner (even though it was almost the story of rushing Elijah to the ER…but that’s a whole different post):

On one of our first outings in the city, we passed a gorgeous little alcove of arches between two streets.  Someone had gotten the brilliant idea of turning this little alcove into a restaurant called 7 Archi (7 Arches), and Brittany and I agreed that at some point we would need to try this place.  Well, what better time than a birthday.

On Saturday night, Bologna can be a pretty hopping place, so I started researching how to make a reservation.  7 Archi‘s website is completely in Italian, but with the help of Google Translate, I was able to navigate it pretty well.  I could not find anything about reservations though; what I could find was a ‘Contact Us’ link.  So I put Google Translate to work again and wrote out my inquiry…basically, how do you make reservations?  The restaurant returned my email within 30 minutes stating that the email would serve and i just needed to let them know a bit more information (my name, the time, how many people, etc.).  I replied, but since they did actually have an indoor section of the restaurant, I also wanted to let them know we wanted to eat outside under the arches.  Again, the restaurant replied extremely quickly with a “Perfecto” and all was done.

Now, that last paragraph made it sound like my email was super simple, where I just typed information into Google Translate and sent it directly to the restaurant…not true.  A word to the wise when using Google Translate to form sentences, after you have a translation, copy the translation so that you don’t loose it, and the reverse the translation to see what you are actually saying.  I found all kinds of fun and humorous tidbits that could have resulted in an interesting inquiry to the restaurant.  One example…my name has Dies in it…dies is a word…Google was bound and determined to translate that…easy fix though.  Another example…when I requested a table outside, somehow it was translate into us wanting to sit our chairs on the table.  I can’t imagine the restaurant reading an email about a reservation for a dead man who wants to be set on the table!  After a few tweaks here and there, and several back and forths with Google Translate, the reservation was made.

The restaurant had there menu listed in both Italian and English outside of the entrance, so I had been really thinking about what I wanted and had it narrowed down to two things.  Brittany wanted the destination to be a surprise, so she had no idea what to expect but I had a pretty good idea about what she would get.  When we arrived at the restaurant, Brittany got an opportunity to look over the menu for the first time, and we were both excited about the possibilities.  Brittany was either going to get the Swordfish or the Octopus (yep, it was a really, really awesome menu).  I was looking at the Pork with Goat Cheese or the Swordfish, depending on what Brittany got.

We were seated at a corner table (Brittany’s favorite location at any restaurant) and the atmosphere was amazing.  Live music was being played, the Arches were lit and beautiful, and they bring you a complementary glass of champagne when you sit down…amazing.  Also, the host (who may have been the manager or owner) was extremely kind.  We were trying to speak our few little practiced Italian phrases, but he spoke perfect English and made us feel very welcomed.

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When we opened the menu though, it was completely different from what was outside.  Apparently it is a seasonal menu and had recently changed.  No fear…the menu contained English subtitles.  We were initially a bit disappointed because they were out of Swordfish, which had remained on the menu, but everything sounded so delicious…we couldn’t be upset.  Bread and a fancy glass bottle of water were brought to our table.  Several restaurants in Italy offer a full four-course menu, and this restaurant was no different.  There’s appetizers, first plate, second plate, and dessert.  We though about going all out with all four, but in hindsight I’m glad we didn’t.  FYI…our waiter was also extremely friendly and helpful.  He let us try to show off our Italian and he played along, correcting us when necessary…he also spoke perfect English.  After looking over the menu for a while we finally decided on an antipasti (appetizer) Vitello Tonnato (Sliced Veal with Tuna and Capers topping) and a Primi Piatti (first plate) apiece.  Brittany ordered Spaghetti alls Chitarra con Ragù di Mare e Bottarga (Spaghetti with Fish Sauce and Fish Eggs) and I ordered Lasagne alls Bolognese (Home-Made Lasagne Bolognese).  We also each ordered a glass of local Sangiovese wine that the waiter called “the blood of angels.”  I’m not much of a wine person, but I’m trying since we are in Italy.  It was really good, but because of the whole ‘almost rushing Elijah to the ER thing’ I decided to stick mainly to water.

The Vitello Tonnato:

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It was fantastic.  I can’t really even think of anything to liken it to.  The tomatoes, like all the tomatoes here, were ripe and juicy.  The little pickles were just slightly sweet and fit the dish perfectly. The veal was excellent. The sauce with capers was the part I can’t compare anything to…it was its own unique entity.  The entire plate was cold, which was a surprise at first, but everything added flavor to everything else.  Brittany was all cute, putting one slice on her plate at a time.  I, on the other hand, loaded my plate and devoured this delicious dish.

When we finished, our main course was brought out, and in the WCBDOMC there was quickly a clear winner.

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Brittany’s spaghetti was good…really good, in fact, but I couldn’t have much of it since it contained shrimp, but my lasagna was everything a lasagna should be.  It was the lasagna I had been searching for my entire life without even knowing it.  Everything about it was perfect.  There was no ricotta cheese filling, whatever cheese they used was warm, gooey and amazing.  The meat and sauce…the noodles…ahhh…so good.  The only way I know how to describe it is that it required no chewing…let me clarify that.  The cheese, noodles, sauce, and meat were so well prepared that the entire dish melted in your mouth leaving you with wave after wave of what lasagna should be in your mouth.  So the score is Brittany 1.5, Elijah 3.  (Even though I should get like 10 bonus points for how good my dish was.)  The end of this story…if you happen to be in Bologna, Italy and are looking for something extremely good to eat from a place with exceptional service…try 7 Archi…you won’t regret it.

At the end of the night our waited kept trying to apologize for the “delay” in service by offering us free dessert, but there was absolutely nothing bad about our time at 7 Archi and we had no delays…he was just a fantastic server.  We denied, mostly because he had done nothing wrong, but also because we couldn’t have eaten another bite.

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After leaving the restaurant we decided to try and walk off some of our pasta before going home.  It was  around 10:30PM at this point, and I was amazed at how busy the streets were.  Every corner had full bars and restaurants and every street was packed with people.  We decided to walk to Le Due Torri to see if they were lit up at night, and along the way we realized at least partially why the streets were so packed…there was a jazz festival going on.  Every street had a different jazz band playing live (there was even a live band inside the Apple store).

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One of the things that we like most about Bologna is there is always something going on…and not commercially.  Every Friday and Saturday there have been street vendors set up all over town.  Every Sunday the street vendors have been replaced by people selling antiques.  This weekend was Bologna in flowers, where several flower vendors set up on the plaza, along with the jazz festival and a bicycle festival…there’s always something to do.

While we were listening to various jazz groups, we walked around the city center and snapped a few pictures.  They have been working on the streets in front of Le Due Torri but they were open tonight so we got a few more up-close pictures.

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We also found that at night the streetlights highlight different areas of the city and you notice things in a completely different manner.  Statues stand out that you’ve walked by dozens of times and never noticed.  Intricate details merge and you see whole structures as the massive, beautiful works of art that they are…like the Basilica di San Petronio:

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We’ll have to go sightseeing at night and see what we can get in to.

All in all, Brittany’s birthday was a success.  Great food, great music, great sights…Other than having our family and friends with us to enjoy it…I’m not sure we could ask for more.

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Italian word of the day: calcolo renal – kidney stone (because at 1AM when you are in massive pain and think you need to go to a hospital…you need to know the term for what you think is wrong)

Sometimes you just want pancakes…

Yes, sometimes you just want pancakes.  Apparently some people eat them for breakfast, but I have always been of the mindset that they make perfectly delectable lunches and even better dinners, especially when obtained from IHOP covered in Cinnabon icing.  So when Brittany decided she wanted to have pancakes for dinner…I was completely on board.

We have 3 small markets within a ten minute walk of our apartment.  They all have the necessities (pasta, bread, fruit, meat, snacks, pasta, bread, beer, wine, pasta, and bread), but there are a couple of supermarkets that take a little longer to get to but have more variety.  We decided to walk to one of these because we hadn’t seen much in the way of breakfast items (other than pastries) at our local markets.  So we grabbed our grocery bags (if the store provides you with a bag you are charged for it so most people bring their own) and headed across town in search of pancake supplies.

We decided to go to the Pam store, Coop is the other available market, but the associates at the Pam store have been friendlier to us.  You can choose to get a full-sized cart at either of these markets, but you have to pay 1 € to get the cart.  Instead, most people opt to get a basket, which has the handle for you to carry but also has wheels and a separate handle so it can be pushed around the store…pretty sweet.  We got our basket and started wheeling it around the market.

Apparently, every time Brittany and I go into a market, it is shopping time for everyone else as well…these places are always packed full of people; it’s a little intimidating to be completely surrounded by people speaking a language you cannot understand…keep that in mind, people.  Anyway, wheeling the basket around looking for supplies…Bananas!  Yes, bananas might be good on pancakes…let’s get those.  Bacon!  Yes, bacon goes with everything, especially pancakes…let’s get that.  Cream Cheese!  Yes, we might need cream cheese for the pancakes…let’s get that.  But that’s as far as we got.  We hit the breakfast aisle…no pancakes…no pancake mix…no mention of pancakes (frittella).  Okay, maybe if we try the baking aisle…no pancakes…no pancake mix…no mention of pancakes (or waffles).   Okay, maybe if we search the entire store…no pancakes…no pancake mix…no mention of pancakes.  (We did find frozen waffles, which would have worked if we needed a fix, but really wasn’t what we wanted.)  We went up and down every aisle searching for the word frittella, but could not find it.  Hordes of people, who knew exactly what they were looking for or could read the packages if they couldn’t, passed us…probably mocking us with our jitters.  At this point we had been so set on having pancakes that we might have been twitching a bit, might have even started wandering the streets looking for our fix.  Earlier, we had seen that the McDonald’s had pancakes available at breakfast, perhaps we might even be forced into that route.  How could this market, where we could buy a bottle of Disaronno for 10 €, a full Swordfish, or a haunch of horse meat (yep, there’s a post about it in my Random section) not sell light, fluffy, delicious PANCAKES!  And then, luckily, Brittany found a solution…Crepe mix in a bottle…just add milk.  Crepes…maybe they would work.  So we added them to our cart.  And now for syrup!  Oh brother, here we go again.  Of course they didn’t have syrup, they didn’t have pancakes, why would they have syrup.  We came to our senses though, you don’t put syrup on crepes, you put fruit on crepes…or Nutella!

Easily enough we found frutti di bosco confettura (berry jam) and the biggest vat of off-brand Nutella I’ve ever seen.

No kidding…here it is beside a normal sized bottle of wine:

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(FYI…that knob in the background by the spatula, that controls a hose underneath the cabinet.  If you turn it on, water sprays all over the kitchen.  We found out the hard way not to turn the knob.)

After checking out, we lugged ourselves back across town, both exhausted from our excursion to the market, which had taken way more time than we had intended it to.  We got home and Brittany translated the crepe package while I started making bacon.  Brittany made the crepes with relative ease and, as she finished each, I covered it in either jam or Nutella and folded it to match the crepe on the package.

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Our breakfast excursion actually turned out to be fantastic.  The crepes were both delicious and filling, the bacon was…well it was bacon…it’s hard to go wrong with bacon, and the ananas (pineapple) juice was very tasty.  We both agreed we would do this meal again sometime.

As a side note, we did eventually find syrup later at the Pam store by our apartment…still haven’t found pancakes.  But the syrup was 7€ for a tiny bottle, so I think we are good with our crepes.

Moral of the story: When life gives you lemons make lemonade; or in our case – when life denies you pancakes, make crepes and smother those bad boys in Nutella; or an even simpler lesson – life bad…eat Nutella and bacon.


Italian word (or phrase) of the day: il conto, per favore – the check, please (because once your done eating you can sit there forever unless you know how to get the bill)

Buon Compleanno!

The birthday of my better half gave me the opportunity to have my first actual conversation with an Italian.  We’ve been doing the Buongiornos and the Grazies and the Pregos, but this time I actually asked a question and received an answer.

My question: Quanto costa è la torta cioccolato? (How much is the chocolate cake?)

The owner’s answer: Something italian. (I have no idea what his response was…we are getting better reading Italian, but actually understanding it when someone speaks it…that’s another story.)

The main point here is that I asked an Italian man a question and he responded without hesitation.  I felt like i deserved a medal…something snappy like “Official Speaker of Italian.”

The best part of this little adventure was the actual cake though!  The name of the bakery was Palma and everything inside looked amazing.  Brittany had specifically said that the little chocolate cakes looked delicious, so that’s what I went with.  And! he wrapped them up so perfectly…man, these Italians know what they are doing with food.

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Not sure what the “S” is for…maybe Superdelicious?  but we have noticed that many of the pastries we see in shop windows have a letter baked (or iced) on to let you know what flavor they are…

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“M” for Mostarda (Mustard…and no, we haven’t tried it yet, but I really want to), “P” for Pesca (Peach), and “A” for Albicocca (Apricot), etc., so we’ll have to find out what the “S” is.

I also tried to find her an Italian birthday card.  Now, as stated, they have food down, but the whole birthday card thing was another story.  First off, know that the Italian word for birthday is compleanno and I definitely wasn’t looking for that word when searching for a card.  And when I say search…I really mean it.  I went to 3 different bookstores and a grocery store that all had cards, and all were the same.  The cards are on a typical shelf like you might see at any store back in America, but all of the cards are wrapped in cellophane.  Yes, we have cards back home that are wrapped in cellophane, but typically there is a sticker on the wrapper that tells you what it says inside…these do not…at least most of them that I saw anyway.  These cellophane wrapped cards are setting on their shelf, looking smug, tempting you to open them and see what they have to say…but they are not in any order.  There is the real possibility that not all stores are set up this way, and one can walk into a store here in Bologna and find a very organized birthday card section with cards that can be opened and read, but the four stores I tried must be the exceptions.  Imagine walking to the electronics section at Wal-Mart.  There’s a bin full of $5 DVDs, but there is no order and you have to dig and dig to see if there’s something you like.  Also imagine that these DVDs have no title and no description on the back.  This is what finding a card is like.

I finally found a card that had birthday items on the cover and a compleanno sticker in the corner.  Without having any idea what might be written inside, I purchased it…Brittany could be getting a “happy third birthday” card for all I knew…but at least it would be in Italian.  That was the real reason for my troubles.  Since we were in Italy, I thought it only fitting that she receive a card that she would need to translate.  There was a whole section of Happy Birthday cards written in English very neatly organized with individual cards on a shelf right beside the Italian cards, but she would have to work to understand the card I got her, by god!  Wrong again.

The card:

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The inside – blank….

Maybe that’s why none of them had the sticker informing the customer what was written on the inside…because there’s nothing there!

But I still managed to get her an Italian card:

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There’s also some not-to-be-missed irony about the “Made in Italy” being in English…

Oh well, Buon Compleanno, Amore Mio!!


Italian word of the day: cioccolato – chocolate (because…there is no “because” with this one…it’s chocolate…you need to know how to say chocolate in every language)


Equina

No biggie…just wandering through the supermarket.  Hmmm…what’s this…equina

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…as in equine…as in equus…as in equestrian…as in Horse?!?

Yep. I can buy horse meat at the supermarket here and apparently throughout Europe.  Supposedly, it’s better for you than meat from a cow.  Though I think I’ll leave that judgement to others.

Neigh, sir, none for me!


Italian word of the day: compleanno – birthday (because someone’s birthday is coming up and I was not looking in compleanno section for a card)

And now you know…

Mexican’t

Look…I know we are in Italy, home to some of the greatest food in the world, but sometimes you just crave comfort food.  This happened with Brittany and I last night.  We went to the market to get food and found their International Foods section.  Low and behold there was Mexican!  (Well, at least there were a few items marked Mexican.)  We had both been talking about wishing we had some type of taco or burrito or something and there it was…kind of.

We found Jalisco alla Messicana: zuppa di fagioli piccante.  As usual, neither of us could translate much of this, but the picture on the package looked like chili and it had cooking instructions in English.  So we grabbed the “chili” packet, a bag of tortilla chips, a bottle of Salsa Messicana, and a package of Gnocco Fritto (fried dumplings) because they looked so tasty.  We couldn’t find tortillas or taco shells, so the plan was to make nachos with “chili” and salsa, but then we couldn’t find cheese.  Now, again, we are in Italy, also home to some of the greatest cheeses in the world, but finding a package of shredded cheddar cheese here has been difficult.  A package of mix di formaggi italiani (mix of Italian cheeses) would have to do.

When we got home and started creating what was to be our fantastic Mexican dish, we started running into issues.  The gnocco fritto were either supposed to be heated in the oven or cooked on the stovetop.  Well, we have no oven, so stovetop it was, but cooking pre-fried bread on a stovetop is somewhat difficult…imagine trying to cook all sides of a hamburger bun on a stovetop, sure the flat surface is easy, but the round portion is a challenge.  We finally figured out that we just needed to heat the dumplings so I just threw them all in a pan and stirred them around occasionally to get them warm.  Next problem, the bag of “chili” was dehydrated and needed to be boiled for 10 minutes…no problems there.  But after boiling for 10 minutes, it just didn’t look like the image on the package (does it ever though?).  What we had in a pot was not chili, but rather exactly what the package said it was zuppa di fagioli piccante – spicy bean soup.  Okay…so we weren’t exactly going to have nachos, but we could still make this work.  Cheese filled spicy bean soup and chips and salsa…still good, yeah, still good.  The next bridge to cross, the cheese was basically parmesan cheese finely grated, but we dumped it in our chili soup anyway.  It didn’t have the nice gooey, melty, stringy-ness of good old shredded cheddar, but it was still cheese.  We always have chips and salsa though…right…right…turns out…not so much.  The tortilla chips were absolutely delicious, like Doritos without the standard flavoring but with salt and lime instead.  The salsa though, ketchup…with some spices.  Brittany tried to defend it saying it was just the texture, and she was right…it was the texture and the texture was ketchup.  In fact, when I initially went to pour the “salsa” into a bowl, nothing came out.  I had to use the old Heinz trick and tap the bottom of the bottle.  Ketchup…end of story.

So our fantastic Mexican dish turned out to be warm dumplings with bean soup and parmesan and a side of chips and ketchup…sigh.

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But when everything was said and done, all mixed together and ready to eat…it was actually really, really good (except the “salsa,” which would have been great with french fries).  So we didn’t exactly get the Mexican dish that we wanted, but we did find some new items that were pretty tasty.  Good for you, spicy bean soup, good for you.


Italian word (phrase) of the day: zuppa – soup (because apparently you really need to know when you are picking up a packet of soup)

And now you know…