Thursday, April 9, 2009

My Bologna Has a First Name…

Martello has already regaled you with many tales of our lovely weekend in Bologna. Trofie Wife’s mission is to fill in the details, act as the putty to his plastering (or something like that). Martello neglected to mention that we should once again be lauded for making an early train (despite Martello having to race back to the apartment and then to the train station due to a miscommunication about who had the camera—no one) and landing in Bologna by 11 a.m. I will also add that our lovely hotel allowed us to get into our room —featuring orange décor— before official check-in time, so we could check out the awesome view of the city below (though Trofie Wife was none too comfortable with the window, which lacked a screen or bar despite our soaring height).

Martello already drew a picture of the gorgeous Biblioteca Communale. I will merely add that libraries are my favorite type of place, and I was tempted to just deposit myself in this particularly grand one for the remainder of the trip. But if I had done that, I would have missed our lovely passeggiata through the Quadrilatero district—replete with enticing food stalls (where we purchased the most succulent strawberries ever and fresh honey) as well as our hike up (and back down again) the high tower (Pisa is so overrated).

To prove Pisa's mediocrity, the Bologna tower folks posted this sign midway up. 

Following said hike—which occurred during the official lunch hours—we managed to sweet talk our way into a last-minute lunch at a cute little place that had fantastic zucca (pumpkin) tortellini. Martello described most of the latter half of the afternoon, but I'll just add that we also found our way to the oft-used trade fair grounds (incidentally, a project on which a colleague of Martello’s worked).

We can both honestly state that our meal at the Osteria de’ Poeti was far and away one of the best that we’ve had in Italy thus far—and that’s clearly saying a lot! In addition to the fine food and wine, we were treated to live music. Unfortunately, the stylings were mainly cheesy American tunes (the one-man synthesizer phenom opened with Sting’s “Fields of Gold”). However, once the Italian and Latin music started swirling and the quasi-karaoke (fueled by alcohol-laden locals) got rolling, it was a much more pleasurable experience. And Bologna’s lit piazza made for a romantic stroll home.

On Sunday, we explored the old Jewish ghetto and museum. It was fairly empty and not incredibly interesting (there was a lot of generic information about the Jewish people, which Martello and I are already somewhat acquainted with) apart from the relatively brief exhibit on the history of the Jews of Bologna and the wider Emilia-Romagna region (Jews were in or out of favor depending on the season (or pope or doge), kind of like mini-skirts). Once a Papal State, Bologna was the setting of the infamous kidnapping case of Edgardo Mortara, who was seized from his family by the Catholic Church in 1858. Due to the fact that a servant had had him baptized when he was ill, the Church claimed that he was Catholic and thus could not be raised by Jews. (Apparently this law has since been relaxed. I have a sister who was baptized by a nanny in Vicenza. None of the sitting popes since the early 1960s have laid claim to her, though I might note that she is an excellent cook and loves cats, Benedict.) Absurdly, although Mortara reestablished some connection with his family, he went on to become a priest and attempted to bring Jews into the Church (i.e. convert them en masse). Trofie Wife has read that this is still a bit of a touchy subject (in relation to the sainthood candidacy of the pope in question, Pius IX), so maybe that is why there is not a lot of information about the incident on display at the museum. Another bit of information that I would have liked more in-depth information about (and Google hasn’t turned up anything else) was the brief mention of there being at least one Jewish woman amongst the prominent money lenders in the community—she must have been something else! The museum also has a separate wing for rotating art exhibits and apparently has some sort of Hebrew learning program as well—we spotted an easel with the alef bet in one of the locked classrooms.    

Following the history lesson, we headed to an award-winning gelateria, La Sorbetteria Castiglione. It was really difficult to decide on flavors; there were just so many from which to choose! We then spent the rest of the day in Modena, gazing at yellow buildings, the awe-inspiring church (I think synagogues need more Romanesque arches), and bottle upon bottle of Lambrusco and pricey balsamic vinegar (we picked up some more moderately priced ones). Modena also has a vaunted Jewish history and still-active community of sorts, but there wasn’t time to check it out; perhaps during the next trip. We ended this extremely pleasurable weekend three trains later, despite a scolding by Trenitalia personnel on Train #2 due to Martello breaking all protocol and opening the door after the conductor had been given the all-clear (he says in his defense that if we hadn’t forced our way onto this train—our original was over an hour late—we’d still be waiting at the transfer point).

Baci e gelato,

Martello e Trofie Wife

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