Dreaming In Italian

Thanksgiving Dinner in Bologna

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner here a couple of weeks ago. It’s like a lot of those non-family ones in the U.S. – that is, a potluck. The hosts had some appetizers and roasted the turkey with another American expat and everyone else brought something to eat or drink. I decided to go very thanksgiving traditional with a pecan pie. Since pecans are strictly north american that makes them an exotic ingredient here. The traditional syrup for that pie is corn syrup which one absolutely cannot find here. I did find some italian site recipes for “torta di noci pecan” which used maple syrup so I basically made a hybrid italo-american pie. Given that both the syrup and pecans are exotic ingredients they had prices to match. So the ingredients for the pie came to about $20. Plus I had to buy a pie pan (toriera – i.e pan for a torta) and a rolling pin (matterello).  I must say that the maple syrup was a terrific substitute and plan to never use corn syrup ever again. I might add that I have made pie crust a bunch of times but never completely by hand so I was pretty proud of myself for the success of the whole thing.

The pie crust


The other ingredients. Syrup, eggs, brown sugar, butter, pecans and the cute little vials of vanilla. 9 milliliters each so one is just right for a pie.

The finished product

The dessert table included my masterpiece as well as pumpkin pie made by Harriet, an English woman. The boxed cake from a pasticceria (pastry shop) was brought by John, the non-cooking American. In the foreground a salad and roast stuffing.


Gianni, the host with Steffani from Michigan in red. The other woman whose name I don’t remember is Italian. In the foreground right is Jim from Ohio who carved the turkey.

A bunch of side dishes (contorni). Cranberry sauces (2 varieties) green beans and the orangey things on the far right are fat slices of pumpkin roasted and very good.

Gianni and Loranza’s house is big enough to accomodate 19 people for dinner. Actually quite a spectacular house. I think that we were 6 Americans,  one each French, German and English and the rest Italians.

Entering the “palazzo” (apartment building) where Gianni and Lorenza live. The courtyard is entered from a little corridor after the front door tall enough that a man astride a horse could ride inside.

View across the first floor (which we would call the 2nd floor).


Looking up at the ceiling above the first floor.

The entry into their house. Gianni doesn’t know about the clothes on display since they rented the house furnished – it just came that way.

I was there in the evening so I didn’t get a photo of the front of the palazzo but found the one below from the web. It was built by a member of a prominent family Bentivoglio in about 1570. You can find more information about it by searching for “Palazzo Bentivoglio Bologna English”. Or if you omit the “english” you’ll get a lot of results written in Italian.



By the way since I’m writing this on Black Friday in the U.S. I just thought that I’d show a little cultural seepage.

OMG Black Friday is here too!

Well I had planned to buy a couple of heavy sweaters today anyway so it was nice to get a 25% Black Friday discount on both.

I hope that you all had a great Thanksgiving!


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Visit to San Michele in Bosco

Saturday, November 17th, 2018

I have 2 or 3 regular conversation partners here which whom I speak English (for their benefit) and Italian (for mine). It’s called a “tandem” when the object of the conversations is to improve each other’s command of the language. So last Sunday I went with Dina to the hospital where she works as a teacher for kids who are hospitalized. It is a hospital but a large part of it is quite old and in it’s previous life it was monastery. When Napoleon was in Bologna, it was a military barracks and then a prison. Now it is a major orthopedic hospital.

It is situated in the hills just outside of Bologna with a magnificent view of the city. Since I’m describing the outing I’ll start first with where I met Dina. It turns out that there was a little market or primarily fruits and vegetables from local farms – a farmer’s market. But there was more. Food “on the hoof”.

I think that those below are guinea hens and those above are pigeons. In the cage behind the guinea hens is at least one turkey – much smaller than those in the U.S.

various other fowl – there were also ducks and geese.

Rabbits. Big ones that I don’t think are meant to be pets.

A stand for crafty things

After arriving at the end of a windy road into the hills we first took in the view.

A foggy view of the city – the tallest structure is one of the famous two towers Asinelli. The most prominent of the symbols of Bologna.


The view from inside. Here you can see the terrace outside. 

The window in the above photograph is tiny in the following picture. What you really cannot see from this picture below is that there is a odd optical effect. For some reason the corridor acts as a telescope.  When I was at the other end of the corridor the tower Asinelli looms much larger.

A very long corridor with doors on either side which were rooms for monks and now are doctor’s offices.

What a dramatic stairway.

The central part of the church which attached to the monastery.

This was once where the monks ate. Nice environment for meals, eh?

The larger of the two courtyards. I think that’s a well in the center. 

The other cortile with what is certainly a well in the center.

Well, that’s all for today. I hope that you enjoyed it.  Thanksgiving, that uniquely America holiday, is next week and I am invited to a potluck and am tasked with bringing a dessert. I am going to attempt a pecan pie. I’m on the hunt for the necessary ingredients.


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And the circus came to town….

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

I had mentioned earlier that I saw a circus tent in Piazza Maggiore – considered the very heart of the city. As circus tents go it was not very big and I’ve repeated the photo here.

Ooh, the circus is coming to town! 

After it was there for about a week I noticed a booth near the entrance and asked about cost. They said it was free but this was the last day in Piazza Maggiore. They were moving at the end of that day to a park outside of the center. I took some information and went to the web site. Reservations were required and only by phone. Thankfully my Italian is good enough now that I succeeded in reserving for 3 nights for 2 each night and it turns out that I went with a different friend each time.

The first night was great. There were acrobats, a tight rope walker, a juggler, a clown of sorts, and lots of humor woven into the the circus acts. The tent was bigger but still not huge. One item of interest is that they welcomed children of all ages. The problem with that was that those very young, let’s say 3 or younger were very distracting and I think that the better policy would be to limit it to kids at least 6 years old. Some of the semi-humorous comments from a couple of performers indicated they they would agree.

Cute little youthful offender!


The clown, all about little bits of fire and small explosions.


One acrobatic act


A second acrobat


Acrobats with a BIG ball


Wire walker. A lot of humor in this act between the musicians and the walker


Woman in a BIG “hula hoop”. Really good and novel with strong reaction from the crowd

The second night was pretty much a bust. Almost all of the acts were aerial acrobats, non really exceptional and it was quite repetitive. So lets go straight to the third night. This was absolutely the best of all. A crazy band that was always there. Jugglers, aerial acrobats, more down to earth acrobats, bicycles, a lot of clowning around, i.e. humor woven into the acts. It really was spectacular.

The line to get in and the tent.

The band

Acrobats using poles (also the second one in the background). There were 4 people involved.

Another big “hula hoop” – a guy this time and even better than the woman the first night.

3 on a bike. Missed the photo of the third person standing on the shoulders of the second.

More acrobats – 2 columns of 3 persons

Another acrobat

Of course I missed lots of photo opportunities (especially the 3 jugglers). Due to low light and motion there are lot of blurred photos but I think that you get the idea. Also there were no young tykes running around which was a plus.

The tickets were FREE!! At the end of each show they encourage people to make donations as they exit and I did.

There was a little bit of pre-performance entertainment while in the line to get in. There was a dog that was just crazy for the game of  “return the stick”. You know that game; throw the stick, the dogs gets it and returns it. So his partners in the game had left so he came to the line looking for someone else. I accepted the challenge. After 5 or 6 rounds I realized that this would never end so the next time he brought the stick back I turn to the guy behind me, handed him the stick and said “your turn”. He accepted and continued with the dog, then passed it on back. When everyone was in the tent, after awhile the dog also came in with a stick in his mouth but was shooed back out.

Let me know if you’re enjoying my posts.

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By popular demand….

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Well, since I did have one comment requesting further information about where I live that qualifies as popular demand.

First a map.

Map of my location and particular points of interest – at least for me.

The red marker is where I live. It’s really a great location although not as beautiful as many parts of Bologna. There are bus stops very close by which are extremely convenient. There’s also a terrific supermarket barely more than a block away as well as the “Mercato delle Erbe with fresh veggies, fish, bakeries, butcher shops and all manner of foods including places to eat. My gym is a short bus ride away and I can easily go to the center where I do volunteer work 3 days a week (but only 2 hours and 15 minutes each time. I invite you to looks at a map Bologna via google maps and you’ll note that the center of Bologna is an egg shape – the boundary of the walls that mostly no longer exist. So within this boundary is considered the “center”. It’s a great place to be.

View of the general area with the structures for electricity generation

Approaching my house from the bus stop there are these strange painted structures. They are actually the visible part of apparatus for generating electricity from an underground river that turns turbines. The murals are nice and serve as more than just funky art. There seems to be an unwritten rule that if some surface is decorated then it is forbidden to fill it with graffiti.

the building in the middle is mine – #16

The little piazza with steps leading down. All around where I live it is a pedestrian area and my apartment faces the rear so it’s really quiet.

A partial view of the little piazza and pedestrian street. 

You can note the ever present graffiti. I read recently that the city government has recently declared war on the graffiti writers. I wish them luck but am rather dubious. But if they can cut it down by even half it would be great.

There I am on the “citfono”. Intercom at the entrance.

The “living room” seating.

The living room is also the “dining room” so it can be a little cramped having 3 people for dinner but I’ve done so once and plan to start having 3 guests for dinner on a regular basis.

Entertainment and storage in the living room

When seated in the easy chair this is the view. The cabinets and drawers are convenient storage.

Items brought from “home” in California to “home” in Bologna.

Armoires in hallway

Hallway amoires become a broom closet (rispostiglio) and pantry (dispensa). 

Note the trash cans for recycling. They are much more conscientious about recycling here. There is the indifferenziato (non recyclable stuff), glass and metal, plastic, paper and organic. I’m being a good citizen by recycling all of it.

Bathroom one side.

bathroom – other 1/2

I’ve learned to use the bidet. Heck I figure that if they use these things all over Europe there must be some benefit. They are in every home or hotel room that I’ve ever been in.

master bedroom

Armoires (IKEA of course). Lots of storage capacity.

Chest of drawers in my bedroom

Guest bedroom with “desk”

Well that’s it for now. Next up, the circus. Stay tuned.





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