Dreaming In Italian


Palazzo Reale

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019

As you may have guessed even if you know no Italian that this is the Royal Palace. I’ve visited two fantastic residences of the Torino royalty, There is Stupinigi (you can see more here) which was “just” a hunting lodge then the most magnificent of all Reggia di Venaria (more info here) and finally I visited the Palazzo Reale in the very heart of Torino. June 24 is the saint’s day in Torino in this case San Giovanni Battista and the museums were free so Laura suggested a visit to the Palazzo Reale.

Palazzo Reale in Torino

Seems pretty impressive with a grand piazza at the entrance. I was a bit disappointed although I found a lot of things interesting inside. First of all there is a magnificent courtyard paved as a mosaic.

The courtyard of the Palazzo seen from a window

The next spectacular thing was the chapel (Cappella della Sacra Sindone) inside that is actually a part of the palace but also adjoins a church. In 1997 there was a fire in this chapel that did tremendous damage. The restoration was long and difficult and costly ever undertaken.

The reconstructed ceiling of the chapel that was devastated by fire.

Then there were a series of rooms which in general were not as magnificent as in the other royal residences even though they are quite impressive although I found them to be rather dark, dark walls, lots of heavy tapestries but perhaps because I had seen the Veneria, as I said I was a bit disappointed.

One of many large, ornate and relatively dark rooms
The throne room
The ball room
The major dining room

The ceilings as is often the case were quite spectacular

Ah but then came the armory. Maybe it’s just that I’m a guy but armaments always are fascinating. There was lots of armor, swords, daggers, bludgeons and then firearms (which at that point made most of the armor obsolete).

Ah, the armory !!!
Armor for dandies
Lots of ways to kill your enemies – stab them
Whack them with swords or axes
And later as technology developed you can shoot them. They even had a Winchester rifle, old west kind of thing in the later displays.

It is definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in Torino.

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Sardegna – Part 2

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

Alghero was nice enough but we really wanted to explore some other areas so we decided to go South from Alghero to Bosa. It’s not too far away, about 50 km (30 miles) along a scenic coast road reminiscent of Highway 1 in California that runs along the Pacific Ocean. Like that road it is slow going taking about an hour to drive that distance. There are a number of beaches between the two cities but most are inaccessible except by boat because of the bluffs along the coast.

The road south to Bosa – reminds me a lot of the coast road Route 1 in California

It was a nice drive in the Fiat (did I mention that I love the Fiat 500). At a scenic overlook I asked a fellow tourist to take a picture of us with the Fiat. You can note the amount of wind blowing our hair.

With the Fiat 500

In any case during that first trip south we wanted to take a day off from the beach anyway. So we strolled around Bosa a bit, had a nice lunch and headed back. Of course I neglected to take photos since I was just content to be there. Lots of cobblestone streets, nice bars and restaurants and frankly much more attractive and walkable than Alghero. If I were to fly to the Alghero airport in the future I’d stay in Bosa instead. Aside from the Mediterranean Sea, Bosa also has a river as you can see from the photo below that I obviously did not take.

The River Temo that runs through Bosa is the only navigable river of the island.

We liked Bosa enough that we decided to return another day and this time to find a beach. I’m not sure that we selected the best one but certainly an interesting one. It’s about 7 km north of Bosa and there is a parking area on the side of the highway. Then after hiking down a fairly rugged but not too steep trail you arrive at he beach. It’s only about 200 meters but seems longer.

A lot of interesting rock formations at Sa Rocca Lada
Getting into the water is tricky – especially since the waves were fairly strong that day. I had limited success.

On the last day we needed to leave our AirBnB by noon but our flight back wasn’t until 10:30 or so. We decided to take a jaunt into the interior. After doing a bunch of studying of the map we agreed to go to Ozieri. It’s about 50 miles from Alghero which is almost halfway across the island. The road was excellent and we were able to see some interesting terrain. I had expected it to be more mountainous but at least in that part of the island there are sporadic mountains jutting up but lots of flat areas. It is quite dry and apparently rains mostly in the winter months.

Ozieri from the restaurant balcony

At Ozieri we had one of the finest meals of the whole trip at Ristorante Teatro. It is on the first floor (as opposed the ground floor) and sitting on the balcony is like being at a theater looking out at the town. Inside, it really was (and occasionally is) a theater. We were the only customers at lunch. I felt sorry for the restaurant but the waiter was great born in Ozieri and a heavy sardinian accent. We went with his reccomendations, mussles for an antipasto and then lobster accompanied by a half liter of white wine and coffee at the end

Spaghetti with lobster at Ristorante il Teatro in Ozieri

I think that we skipped desert but we were so full that we sat in the shade at a nearby park for an hour before being able to move much. In any case it was a fantastic meal for 2 for about 50 euros.

We still had some time to kill so we went back to Alghero for a not too great gelato and then to the airport to be punished further by Ryanair for not paying more for out tickets before finally getting the flight to Bologna and arriving at the house via taxi after midnight. A great trip!

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Sardegna

Sunday, June 30th, 2019

In English for some reason, like other place names, this island’s name changes to Sardinia. And no, it’s now where sardines come from. It is the second largest island in the Mediterranean sea (after Sicilia – Sicily – another mysterious name change). It was one of 4 of the Italian regions that I’ve not visited. Well, I suppose it’s cheating to say that I’ve been in Molise when I only saw it while passing through on the autostrada.

I’ve always been curious about it so in the second week of June Laura and I took a Ryanair flight from Bologna to Alghero. If you’ve never flown Ryanair, you can’t imagine what a pain in the ass it is. However it is redeemed somewhat by it’s ridiculously low air fares. They make you suffer for the privilege of low fares.

Part of the suffering is that the flight times are extremely inconvenient. We left Bologna at 7:00 AM and returned a week later at midnight. Still, it’s just an hour flight and was about 75 euros each including the luxury of a checked (small and light) suitcase which costs 10 euros. But with Ryanair EVERYTHING costs extra but I do understand that if it’s really cheap they’ve got to get more at every opportunity. Upon arrival we picked up the rental car at the airport. I was thrilled to have a Fiat 500, the car I had and loved for the last 4 years that I lived in California.

The AirBnB in Alghero was comfortable, at a very affordable price. It was fairly far from the city center but since we had a car that was not a problem and actually an advantage since it was really easy to park near the apartment.

The first day we bought groceries and explored the city a bit. We took a walk along the port area with defensive positions, catapults and cannons and had an unremarkable ice cream at a gelatoria.

One of the fortifications at the port – built in the 14th century
Part of the extensive wall in one direction from the tower
One of two or three catapults on display. There were also canons but these seemed more interesting

The next day we went to a nearby beach Spiaggia di Maria Pia. The water was nice if a bit cold but for me the annoying thing that unless you were careful in wading out to a depth where I could swim I would often step into sand that would come up to my ankles. It was not easy to identify a path devoid of this muck.

The first beach we visited – Maria Pia – not far north of the city. Photo from web since I left my phone locked in the car.

The next day we decided to roam a bit further. We had an excellent lunch in the little town of Fertilia and explored a bit of a regional park Porto Conte.

Torre di Porto Conte – in part of a regional park. Doing some restoration work.

Another part of the park which we didn’t see but I wish that we had.

Then another beach day a bit further north at Spiaggia Punta Negra. I liked the beach better here but the water was colder. It was more of a tanning day and getting in the water up to my waist.

On the Spiaggia (beach) di Puta Negra decorated with the back of Laura

The following day we took another break from the beach and headed to Castelsardo which is only about 70 km away but we took a lunch break at Porto Torres. The meal was nothing special but the main interesting thing about that stop is that aside from a lot of industry around it is also a port for ferries that go Corsica, Marseille and Barcelona. Those ferries are huge! I’ve seen ferries before in the Caribbean and in Hawaii but nothing like those brutes.

Castelsardo is quite spectacular because there is, well, a castle on the top of a hill. Pretty impressive.

Castelsardo – note the castle on top of the hill

And you can visit the castle which we did.

The castle on top of the hill – closer look

Okay that’s it for now. There’s more to the story but I’ll save that for part 2. Stay tuned.

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Private Bologna Tour

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

For years I have volunteered in a program at the central library to talk with people who wish to practice their english. One of my regulars for probably at least 5 years is Roberta a tour guide a bit younger than me. By now we know each other quite well. So I asked her recently if Laura could join an Italian language tour when she is here in Bologna. This turned out to be rather difficult to schedule so Roberta suggested a private tour instead at a significantly reduced fee given our relationship (I’d say friendship at this point). I accepted and we scheduled a tour.

So we met in front of the library one morning in late may and proceeded to a very interesting tour for 2 1/2 hours. Of course I forgot to take any photos since I was engrossed in the tour (all in Italian of course and I understood almost everything. However I retraced our steps and took photos a few days later.

Our first stop was Palazzo d’Accursio. The home of much of the city government. It started as a large home of an important person (Accursio was his last name) and became the first seat of government of the city in 1336. It was gradually expanded over the centuries to include the central library (Sala Borsa). One enters through a courtyard which often has exhibitions.

A temporary sculpture in e courtyard of Palazzo Palazzo d’Accursio – The effect of plastic waste in the ocean.

A previous exhibit in the same palazzo that they decided to leave there – to heavy to move again.

There are two interesting sets of stairs starting on the ground floor and proceeding to the second. I had thought that these stairs were constructed so that someone could ride a horse all of the way to the second floor but Roberta said that it was not only for “a” horse but for a horse drawn carriage. The residence of the pope’s representative ( bishops or cardinals) of the Catholic church was on the second floor and God forbid that such an important person should walk up the two flights of stairs.

One of two sets of stairs in Palazzo D’Accursio. God forbid that the cardinal should walk up the stairs

On the first floor there is an areal map of Bologna from a few years ago where Roberta explained where the sets of walls were. There were 3 in total expanding outward as the city grew. She also pointed out the route of the via Emilia (an important Roman road) through the city and other items of interest.

An areal map of Bologna on the first floor (would be the second floor in the US)

We also took a peek into the Red Room which is used principally for weddings. There were two when we were there, the second for a lesbian couple. When I returned the room was not in use so I took some pictures of the room and also from the little balcony.

The Red Room on the second floor. Used often for weddings.
Piazza Nettuno from the same balcony
A view of Piazza Maggiore and San Petronio from the little balcony of the Red Room

On the second floor there is the museum of art for the Comune di Bologna. We didn’t go into the museum both for lack of time and the fact that I had been there several times and Laura was with me the last time. However there a splendid view of Piazza Maggiore from a window.

View pf Piazza Maggiore with the big screen for summer movies in the evening.

This view includes the giant screen where they show movies in the evenings throughout the summer. I counted the rows and seats per row and there are roughly 1700 seats available but one needs to arrive probably at 8:30 (the movies start at 9:30) to get a seat.

We also visited the Sala del Consiglio (city council) which is beautiful in it’s own right. There was a group of students receiving a lecture about whatever but Roberta is fearless – probably as a tour guide you must be – and we were able to see most of the room and hear her explanations of what we were seeing.

Sala del Consiglio. Where the mayor and city council meet with seating areas for the press and interested citizens

Facing Accursio there is a statue of a pope, I don’t remember which one. But when it was clear that the French troops under Napoleon were going to control the city, they labelled the stature as not a pope but as the bishop, Petronio. Napoleon had a hatred of popes since he was refused a divorce so there was fear that the statue would be destroyed so they simply put a plaque above it that said that it was only a bishop. The plaque remains to this day. You can barely see the lower edge of the plaque in the photo below.

The sculpture of the pope

The next stop was the Basilica of San Petronio. The largest church in Bologna. The original plan would have made it larger than Saint Peter’s in Rome but the pope squashed that idea so they truncated the design. While there was something of an uneasy tension between the citizens of Bologna and the church and the Bolognese were given significant freedom, the church had it’s limits.

Inside San Petronio is more austere than many churches in Italy but still is beautiful. One particular interesting item is the “sun dial”. Actually it is a “meridian line”. It doesn’t give the time of day but fairly accurately gives the day of the year. It was designed in 1655 by a professor of astronomy (Cassini) at the University of Bologna. It is quite incredible that at that period of time that the calculations could be so precise. There’s too much to the story to describe here but it’s there is a really interesting description at this website if you are interested in learning more.http://www.basilicadisanpetronio.org/the-sundial-of-s-t-petronios-basilica/

The sun dial in San Petronio – There is a about a 1 inch diameter hole in the ceiling that allows light to fall along the line that you can see on the floor at noon on any given day.
General view of the interior of San Petronio

The final stop as at Archiginnasio, the first permanent site of the University of Bologna. Currently it houses the research library of the university which only students and faculty of the university can enter. It is full of rare books and other documents. All of the halls and stairways of the building have coats of arms of students and professors during the early part of it’s history. The high point is the anatomical theater. An interesting item is that an errant bomb during the last years of WWII hit the building an did significant damage to this room. The room was painstakingly reconstructed using damaged parts and photographs taken before the destruction. I got the image below from a website.

The anatomical theater
The ground floor of Archiginnasio
Full of coats of arms of early students and professors
More coats of arms – and there are many more!

That was the end of a wonderful tour with Roberta. If you ever want to have tour with Roberta and learn a lot about the fascinating history of the city let me know. I can connect you with her. She’s very simpatica and has a great depth of knowledge and love of the city.

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