Dreaming In Italian

An eventful week

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Yes, eventful. Of course there was a new president in the U.S. but there were also events at casa Joe and Laura.

So first things first: the inauguration. All things considered (like 25,000 national guard locking down the capital) it was a pretty good show. Lady Gaga, Garth Brooks and Jennifer Lopez providing the songs, the flags commemorating the 400,000 who have died from Covid in the U.S. due to extremely poor management of the epidemic on the national level and the huge national and international sigh of relief to have a sane person as president. I especially like J.Lo singing “This is land is your land”. It’s the only song that really provokes an emotional reaction for my country of origin and I think would be a good replacement for the current national anthem. I tried to stream the video via the New York Times but there must have been millions of others trying to do the same because it broke up so much that it was worthless. During the same period Laura streamed the whole thing from the La Stampa website without a hitch but of course didn’t understand a thing since there were no subtitles. That would be a good project for the Google guys to do real time subtitles in another language – a difficult technical task but those guys are pretty good at technology. Go for it Googlers.

Next was the caldaia (water heater). It ceased to work some time on Monday afternoon (January 18).

The caldaia in the kitchen

The lack of hot water was an annoyance but the water heater also provides heat for the house which made it much more urgent with winter temperatures. It showed an “error 3” on the display. I looked in the manual that I had downloaded months ago and it said to call for a repair person. So Laura called them and they came out the next afternoon and fixed it. Since we are renting the landlord will pay the bill – only 80 euros. It seems that there was some blockage in the exhaust pipe which required a fair amount of disassembly and reassembly and they also lubricated some moving parts in the process. One somewhat nice thing about the heat is that even in winter it doesn’t get too cold in the house. That’s probably because the building is over 500 years old and has thick walls. The thermostat is set at 20 C (68 F) during the day and at 16 C (61 F) at night but even in these days when the temperature is below freezing at night it almost never falls below 66 F (19 C) but when the heat comes on in the morning at 5 AM it takes about 5 hours to recover that one degree to reach the daytime temperature. So in any case now we’re back to normal

The other notable thing is that since we have two cats we also need a constant supply of kitty litter. Each sack of litter weighs about 15 pounds so it is really a chore to buy and transport it. So Laura ordered a bunch (10 sacks) from a major supermarket chain, Coop, for delivery to our door. She also ordered enough other stuff to bring the total above the level where we need to pay for delivery, I think that’s something like 75 euros. We have the litter stashed in unlikely places but it’s still a lot more convenient than a trek to the store. I think that we’ll be regular customers for home delivery from Coop.

And finally there is the greenhouse (“serra” in Italian) that Laura ordered. We have a very small one for herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme, etc) but it is really too small so Laura ordered another one. So yesterday afternoon I decided it would be a good project to assemble it. I thought an hour maximum since there are no tools required. It was made by a German company and so you’d think that since there Germans are so precise that the instructions would be clear – something like those from Ikea. Well, you can look at the photos below and judge for yourself.

There are a total of 154 total pieces not counting the shelves and the cover. This is the front of the instruction page.
Pretty clear, huh?

The Germans must assume that everyone is an engineer. Fortunately I am one and only made two or 3 errors none of which required too much time to correct. For the record it took just over 2 hours to assemble. Today I’ll put the cover on it.

And a new Baci quote that seems particularly apt for this period (and maybe every period),

Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn.
Ogni tramonte porta la promessa di una nuova alba.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A penny for your thoughts – as in comments ;^)

Ode to Bologna

Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

The local newspaper, il Resto di Carlino, published an open letter from Roberta Capua who is originally from Naples and was Miss Italia in 1986. She has been a television personality for about 22 years and has now lived in Bologna for more than 14 years. She recently wrote an open letter to the paper about her love for the city. Since I feel the same way I translated the letter (with a few uncertainties) but nothing major. There are some local references that I explain in the footnotes.

Lucio Dalla1 was right, in the center of Bologna you couldn’t lose even a child. This city is big and small at the same time, it’s good natured and lively, it’s secular and catholic, it’s politically left and moderate. It remains a living room on a human scale, but elegant and it’s not for nothing that Bologna now is at the peak classification of places where one lives better. Who deserves the credit? The politics?

More than anything it’s the people. Around here there is imagination and ingenuity, health and five stars (the real ones not grillini2), culture and science that pay homage to the oldest university3. Everything that unites a solid social fabric makes this a land a place of the heart.

If you come by here you stop and never want to leave. It’s no coincidence that the virologists these days make it the benchmark of health excitement exactly here at Bologna guided by professor Pierluigi Viale and that the experimentation with monoclonal antibodies done at Policlinico S. Orsola4. As it’s not an accident that around here the economy has withstood better the force of the antivirus prohibitions and closures. “Bologna dreams” was the slogan of the culture minister Nicola Sinisi (1987). Bologna still dreams. Bigger and better than ever.

Roberta Capua

  1. Lucio Dalla was a very popular Italian singer who was born and I think lived in Bologna all of his life. If you are interested you can read more about him here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucio_Dalla
  2. A political movement in Italy is called the “Five Star Movement” and was founded by the comedian Beppe Grillo and his adherents are called “grillini”. He’s a pretty interesting guy although I regard the movement that he founded as the Party of “NO” without a plan to get to “YES”. You can read more about him here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beppe_Grillo
  3. The university of Bologna, Alma Mater Studiorum, is the oldest university in the world having been founded in 1088. Here is yet another link for those interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Bologna
  4. Policlinico S. Orsola is the largest hospital in Bologna founded in 1592 (a lot of old stuff here). Health care in Bologna is very good. And of course I’m going to provide a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Policlinico_Sant’Orsola-Malpighi

Now to change the subject… We’ve been listening to a lot of music lately and a lot of that has been jazz and classical, two genres that I have largely ignored unless they were in a sound track of a film. Laura’s father was a big aficionado of both so she has a lot of CDs of his. In addition she is a big fan of Davit Garrett who I had never heard of. He’s kind of a rock star violinist. He plays all kinds of genres and is very good. He doesn’t make any list of the most popular or best violinists today but he obviously appeals to a broad audience.
Here are links to two YouTube videos – the first is one is a documentary film and you can see David in action, the second is a very demanding classical piece.

First  David Garett

Next something appropriate for the new year – “vaffanculo” means “fuck off” in Italian.

And of course I can’t conclude without a Baci saying:

There is no beauty without a touch of strangeness.
Non c’è bellezza senza un pizzico di stranezza.

Edgard Allen Poe

Happy holidays to all. 

P.S. Let me know what you think of the music and if you were already familiar with David Garrett.

Christmas Feasts

Sunday, December 27th, 2020

Big meals are traditional everywhere. In Italy there are certain traditions. On Christmas eve the tradition is fish. The feast of the seven fishes is traditional but more so in southern Italy but we gave a nod to that for our Christmas Eve dinner. Certainly in Bologna tortellini in brodo (broth) is obligatory (it’s practically a law) and it’s also delicious.

Christmas eve – tortellini in brodo, a nod to fish with a roll of smoked salmon, cucumber and soft goat cheese, with spumante to drink
For desert sachertorte – originally from Vienna but we find it everywhere. Followed by a little glass of Armagnac.
For Christmas day we went decidedly non traditional. I saw Florentine steak in the display case of a good local butcher shop – a type of steak famous throughout Italy and couldn’t resist.
For a side dish we had ratatouille left overs from a batch that I had made the day before and a bottle of rosso di montalcino – sometimes described as a “baby brunello”. We skipped desert because that was a lot of steak but we did share a small glass of very good grappa
We gave a Christmas treat to the cats of lean ground beef
The day after we consumed a large part of an artisan panettone. It’s so light that it almost seems to float off the plate – and very good.

As a side note there is a pretty severe lockdown here due to a vicious second wave of covid infections. Travel is very restricted. My friend Gianluca who lives in a suburb outside of the center of Bologna could not come into the center even for a cup of coffee and certainly could not go be with his sister’s family that’s 40 or 5o kilometers away.

We listened to a bunch of Christmas music that I have on my phone. An interesting thing is that are virtually no Italian Christmas songs here in Italy but the radio plays a lot of them – almost all American.

Speaking of music, we’ve been listening to a lot of music lately and a lot of that has been jazz and classical, two genres that I have largely ignored unless they were in a sound track of a film. Laura’s father was a big aficionado of both so she has a lot of CDs of his. In addition she is a big fan of Davit Garrett who I had never heard of. He’s kind of a rock star violinist. He plays all kinds of genres and is an excellent violinist. He doesn’t make any list of the most popular or best violinists today but he obviously appeals to a broad audience. Here is a link to a video of David:

I stumbled across a totally different kind of music after reading an article in the New York Times about Weird Al Yankovic. I found one I thought was hilarious called “Like a Surgeon” (a send up of the Madona song) but can’t be played on my site due restrictions by the owner of the video but you can use this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=notKtAgfwDA

And of course I can’t conclude without a Baci saying:

There is no beauty without a touch of strangeness.
Non c’è bellezza senza un pizzico di stranezza.

Edgard Allen Poe

Happy holidays to all.

P.S. I’d be interested in knowing what your Christmas meals were like and what you think of the music offerings.

La Casa – the house (in this case the apartment)

Monday, December 21st, 2020

I’m finally getting around to showing pictures of the house. I had taken only 3 pictures when Laura and I arrived on July 18th when the house was mostly empty of furniture and I include those to show all of the stuff that came from Laura’s house in Torino.

The entryway (ingresso) in July
The same view now with a couple of my pictures on the wall an antique chest of drawers and mirror and stuff on the coatrack
A view from the other direction. My circus poster, the two shopping carts (carrelli) and three big armoires on the right from Laura’s house that fit perfectly.
The hallway from the entryway to the “living space”. I say living space because it’s a large room that serves as dining room, living room and office. We just call it the “sala”. Note the overhead neon lighting. Pretty cool.
In the image above you can see a little nook on the right where I have some of my stuff from travels and a few things of Laura’s
Opposite the nook is the master bedroom. The door to the hallway is not shown but is to the left side of this view.
The other side of the bedroom with the armoires brought from Laura’s house. You can just see the edge of the door to the hallway on the right and the door to the bathroom on the left. There is also a door to the terrace on the left that you can’t see in this photo.
The ceiling of the bedroom is pretty cool. There is a similar ceiling in the entryway.
This is the master bath. It comes equipped with a cat. I installed all of the shower stuff myself. At the top of the photo you can see a storage area with sliding drawers. Our suitcases are stored there – plus I’m sure some other stuff. I forget what other stuff is in there but will investigate further one of these days.
The hallway from the end of the other hallway to the kitchen – the same overhead novel lighting. You can just make out the door to the second bathroom on the left before the kitchen.
This is the second bathroom. Pretty small but it has about everything required (except no bidet).
Kitchen with a door to the terrace, dishwasher and sink.
More of the kitchen, oven/cooktop, microwave, refrigerator and toaster oven – plus a bunch of wine :^) And of course the water heater on the right. All of the houses that I’ve seen have a water heater (always tankless) that provides not only the hot water for usual purposes but also for heated water for the radiators to heat the house.
One side of the terrace. The terrace is totally enclosed by walls so there is no view and only direct sun at noon. Still it’s useful if not ideal.
The other side of the terrace. From the left a window for the main bathroom, then a door to the bedroom and a door to the entryway. There is lighting outside as well as switched electrical outlets.
Here’s that large living space as seen from the entrance hallway when we arrived in July
Here is the dining room end of the room now.
Here is the view of the same living space when we arrived, from the end nearer the kitchen, complete with Laura.
And here is the living room/office end of the room now (but without Laura at the moment).
And there’s more. Beneath the main floor of the house there is this mezzanine area with a complete living space – currently in disarray – and with another little room at the far side,
The other little room is a laundry room and bathroom complete with a bidet but with a bathtub only suitable for a child.

That’s the end of the tour. I hope that you enjoyed it. Ah but wait, I need to add a Baci quote and I have another one from one of the more quotable people who ever lived.

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
Alcuni causano felicità ovunque vadano; altri ogni volta che se ne vanno.

Oscar Wilde

I look forward to any comments.

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New year although the covid grinch has certainly had an impact on Christmas this year. But hang in there the vaccine is on the way. This is definitely not a time to let your guard down.