Dreaming In Italian

Trip to Bentivoglio

Monday, January 13th, 2020

Unlike the other trips that I’ve written about this was not a pleasure excursion. So it is not only a description of the trip but includes some comments about the national health system, the SSN (Sistema Sanitario Nationale). As background, when I came here to live I needed to have health insurance, not only because it was the prudent thing to do, but also because I needed that to get the permesso di soggiorno. This seemed to be a bigger problem than I had thought. If I had been younger it would have been much simpler but I was already 72 when I arrived. Fortunately, at least at that time, I could join the national system without the permesso. This voluntary registration does not depend upon age. The system is free for citizens. Of course “free” is never really free, it’s paid for in one way or another through taxes, just not an explicit one like, say Medicare, in the U.S. Since I am not a citizen, my voluntary enrollment is dependent on my income for the prior year. There is a formula for calculating it which tops out at € 2,788.86 regardless of income and I believe that is on the order of a reported income of around € 55,000. In my case my reported income was my income from Social Security and I pay around € 1650 a year which comes to about $150 per month. Note that the prescription drugs generally cost less here than in the U.S. and most of the cost is covered by the SSN in any case. There are no copays when you see your primary physician and since I am over 70 there are also no copays for blood tests, x-rays or visits to specialists. So from the financial aspect it’s an incredibly good deal.

HOWEVER on the other side of the coin, I cannot make an appointment with my doctor. Some people can and when I eventually look for another one I hope to get one that does make appointments. Also my doctor has 3 different offices serving different neighborhoods so his hours are limited in mine. Still, I’ve gotten used to the inconvenience. Another thing that is a bit odd and, of course, inconvenient is that I pay for a year. The year for SSN is from January 1 to December 31. So the first time I enrolled I did so in September and therefore paid for an entire year although the coverage was for only the 4 remaining months. Another inconvenience (ah the Italian bureaucracy!) is that I cannot enroll ahead of time for the following year. As an example, this year (and last) I paid the cost in the middle of December to have it done with but I could not renew the enrollment until January 1. Of course no offices are open on January 1 so I will always have that day without insurance. It also means that to minimize risk I always need to be here in Bologna on January 2.

Now that that background is out of the way I can tell you about another inconvenience and why I took a trip to the Bentivoglio. I have an irritation in my left eye. I cannot wear my contact lenses because of it. I have tried using different kind of eye drops hoping that whatever was the matter with it would heal itself. After a month I saw my doctor and he said that I needed to see an ophthalmologist and wrote me a prescription. Here when you have a prescription for a blood test, x-ray or specialist you go somewhere to get an appointment. It could be a government office for such things (the CUP) or you can get the same service at many pharmacies. They have the same access to the computer system. So I went directly from the doctor’s office to the nearby pharmacy. This is in mid January and the first appointment in Bologna was in mid March! But there was one 2 days later in, you guessed it, Bentivoglio. I’m sure that you are not truly under the impression that all of the cities and towns in Italy are charming and I can assure you that they are not. Bentivoglio is a reasonably small (around 5,000 population) and extremely boring. It has a large hospital there which probably explains why I counted 3 mortuaries on the main (and practically the only) street in town.

Ah, but there is more. One can go to Bentivoglio by public transportation and since I don’t have a car that is generally my means of travel. So I could go to Bentivoglio and back by bus. While it is only about 20 km from door to the hospital door, it takes about an hour in total. See the map below.

Walk to the bus station for intercity buses, and then about an hour by bus. Return by the same route.

The trip to Bentivoglio had it’s good moments. After leaving the suburbs of Bologna the bus that I took went along a circuitous route through an industrial area. It was interesting so see since I rarely have the opportunity to see those parts of the country. There were large and small enterprises, food, packaging, mechanical stuff, software. Then after that it was miles and miles of nothing but farms. It was still pretty early in the morning with frost on everything and I saw a number of pheasants in the fields. Serious farming here in the Pianura Padana (equivalent of the central valley in California), big modern tractors and other equipment and lots of greenhouses – there are lots of radishes available in the market just now.

Still it’s not the distance or duration of the journey that is a problem. I found that you cannot go to and from this town without being there for 5 hours. The buses leave relatively early in the morning arriving there at about 8:15. The first bus returning to BO leaves at 1:15. So I made sure that I had a book to read during all of that dead time. If I am ever required to make the trip again I’ll also take a cushion to compensate for the hard chairs in the hospital waiting areas.

The doctor did seem to be very good and thorough as well as having a good sense of humor. I had a complete eye exam and really everything is in good shape other than some kind of irritation to the eyelid which had a specific name and also a specific medicine that I need to apply before going to bed each night until it clears up. He did say that I’m probably need to forgo contact lenses before too long – age has it’s limitations. I’m hoping to continue with them until I at least exhaust the supply of lenses that I have. I’ll also be on the lookout for nice eyeglass frames in markets for used stuff (there was one vendor at the Balon in Torino with a terrific selection).

I welcome any questions or comments (as always). Possibly personal age related health experiences. Growing old is not for sissies Or as Betty Davis put it:

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Monday, January 6th, 2020

First I’ll explain the title. MAST is an acronym for Manifattura di Arti, Sperimentazione e Technologia (Manufacturing of Art, Experimentation and Technology) founded in Bologna. Anthropocene is the proposed name for the current geological epoch when man has a major impact on the earth. MAST has some very interesting exhibits and you can learn more about the organization by following this link. I imagine that you might find it interesting.

I had noticed this in a listing of events happening in BO (Bologna) and that it’s last day was the 5th. So I went there with my friend Gianluca on the afternoon of the 4th at around 4 PM. Well, below is what I saw as we approached.

Ooh, what a line.
It continued around the block.

Well, we decided that it was probably not worth the wait so I decided to come back the next morning at 10 AM when it opens. So the next morning I arrived at 10:10 and here is what I saw.

Ooh, what a line.

Well, that’s the same photo but it’s also true although while it still went around the corner there were fewer people and in fact the line moved pretty fast and I was inside in about 15 minutes.

So before moving on to the exhibit, I was really taken with the architecture.

Reflecting pool and mirror sculpture at the entrance.
Detail of mirrored sculpture at the entrance to MAST.

There were various items to the exhibits but the most stunning things were the photos and videos. I can’t share the videos other than still images of them but I think that you’ll like the photos.

Video of coal trains leaving Wyoming (on right) and returning on left. I timed it and it takes 3 minutes for the loaded train to pass. That’s a LONG train. With the headphones you can listen but listening to a train gets boring after a bit.
A coal mine in Wyoming.
Clear cutting in Canada
Clear cut in Malaysia
Sawmill area in Lagos Nigeria
A part of Lagos Nigeria. The population is estimated to be 24 million. A guy next to me said, “no wonder so many Nigerians are coming here”.
Nairobi Kenya landfill
A copper mine in New Mexico
Some kind of mineral mine in, I think, Germany. Beautiful isn’t it?
The world’s largest machine at a coal mine in Germany. Not so beautiful. Note the man leaving the machine on the lower left.
Tailing from a phosphor mine in Florida. I was totally unaware that Florida had mines.
Carrara marble quarry. Also a mine in a certain sense.
Petrochemical complex near Houston. You could almost think of this as a mine but it’s certainly ugly.
Speaking of Houston; cars damaged by flooding due to a hurricane near Houston.
Central valley BIG farm – surely only one of many.
Somewhere in the Los Angeles megalopolis.
Solar energy in Spain. Movable mirrors concentrate the sun’s rays to heat water so it’s steam power in the end. And maybe a solar farm?

There were 35 photos in all so this is only a sample of those that I thought the most impressive. They all express in one way or another the changes being made to the planet by us. Not always negative but, let’s face it, you really have to look hard sometimes to find the positives.

Speaking of positives, I have more to say about the building. For one thing there was a bidet in the men’s bathroom. Every household or hotel bathroom has one but I’d never seen a public restroom with one.

Then there was the atrium as I was leaving the exhibit.

Atrium sculpture

And another sculpture and pool.

Shallow pool and scupture

I hope you enjoyed the post. So if you ever run across an exhibit by MAST, I recommend that you take a look.

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Christmas in Torino

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

By now it seems like this blog is almost more of a diary than anything else. I see things that are interesting and want to share but nothing particularly spectacular and since much of the time I am living “in the moment” and just experiencing things I forget to take any photos. So I was in Torino for about two weeks. Yes, I know that we change the name to Turin in English but god knows why. I have become incapable of saying Turin, Rome, Venice or Florence because I’m quite satisfied with the Italian names. At least Bologna is still Bologna in English although most Americans think that’s the name of a lunch meat that is a VERY poor imitation of mortadella – a Bologna originated fabulous salame.

As usual I digress. So now that I’ve been back in BO for a 3 days I have time to reflect a bit. So what did we do other than mundane things like grocery shopping, tending to the cats, watching stuff on Netflix or on DVD? Well, we went to a Christmas mercatino (a street market) in the center of Torino where we mostly looked, bought some questionable little jars with a bit of truffles in them and some nice chocolates. Part of the highlight of that excursion was a street performer in a nearby large piazza. This performer was a juggler and and comic (the two aspects are often combined). Like many such guys – almost always guys – he involved people from the audience. He was good at all of that and I noticed that he spoke both Italian and English rather well. It turns out that he has been living in Italy for several years and is from Philadelphia. I would have liked to chat with him but it was not a good time as he passed the hat amongst the crowd.

Of course there were the Christmas decorations. In Torino there were 25 displays of artistic Christmas lighting displays. They are naturally spread out through the city but we did see several of them in the center (photos to follow) and of course I have include a photo of the Christmas tree in Bologna.

The Bologna tree. Same as last year but always impressive.
The Torino version.

The Torino tree was quite hi-tech. It’s a tree only in basic form but the lights are all controlled by computer and it changes from the blue version to the red/yellow version to a combination of all of the above. Kind of a neat trick but I prefer the real thing.

More lights
And yet more lights
These I only saw during the daytime from the moving tram. Rows of lights of different colors.
Some great window displays at a historic cheese shop.
The Mole (the most recognizable symbol of the city) was lighted

Another high point of the trip was our outing to the Balon, the big flea market in Torino as I described in a former blog post (click here if interested). Like most of my visits to flea markets I usually buy very little but it’s always fun to look especially if there’s a lot of interesting stuff and the Balon certainly has it. At the end of eyeing most if not all of the available merchandise we stopped for lunch at a place that I really liked and certainly plan to visit again sometime in the future. It’s called Sapordivino. It a play on words. “Divine Flavor” and more literally “Flavor of Wine”, i.e. sapore = flavor, divino=divine, and “di vino” of wine. A pretty funky place with really excellent food at very comfortable prices. We were seated in a room at a table for two and after some period of time a group of what I would say were 20 somethings began to arrive. They seemed like a really interesting group that reminded me of when I was that age. There was a limited banter between us and Laura fed a little something to the little pug dog that was a part of the group and who became an instant friend. I wished them all a merry Christmas when we left. I’m still hesitant about talking with people that I don’t know because I don’t feel that my Italian is adequate. Still I’m getting a little less shy about it now which really feels good.

One of the rooms at Sapordivino – this and the next photo come from the web
The same room from the other end
Our room – with a glimpse of Laura

And of course we ate drank and made merry.

Christmas Eve dinner with a tuna based antipasto, scallops and spumante. We also had chard.
Oooh for the finale, pasticinni. Bite sized terrific Torinese pastries.
As a bonus a bit of street art that appeared overnight in front of the railway station.

Comments always appreciated. It let’s me know that someone is reading and hopefully enjoying this stuff.

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Torino again – Bunker Big Market

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Last weekend I was in Torino, as I am on alternate weekends and was looking around for something to do. Like most cities there are a bunch of things to do and many cities have a website with lists and specifics. Here in Bologna there is “bolognatoday.it” and in Torino there is “torinotoday.it”, heck maybe every city had “thiscitytoday.it”. I’m too lazy to research this possibility but if you aren’t let me know if that seems to be true (also maybe in the U.S.).

But I digress. On torinotoday there was an item that sounded really interesting. It was “Bunker Big Market”. Bunker is a location in Torino consisting of what seems to be an abandoned manufacturing or warehouse site that has been re-purposed as a center of arts and crafts, sports, urban garden and even a disco. Quite a combination but obviously frequented mostly by young creative types. So they have started having this sale every quarter and this was only the fourth one.

The pictures on their website (click here to explore) were really interesting so we decided to go. It was a bit of adventure getting there since the address seemed a bit imprecise but we finally arrived. I thought that BIG market is a bit of an overstatement. As I’m writing this and looked more carefully at their website I found a MINI market. The mini-market was for kids so the Big-Market is for adults. Cute.

There were a lot of exhibitors with very nice hand made things although generally more appropriate for twenty-somethings than seventy-somethings. For me the real exception was a guy who made macrame’ jewelry. Really nicely knotted things with thin cords and usually including semi-precious stones. I always have a vision of macrame’ as something from the 70s for hanging flower pots but I really did like this guy’s stuff. Maybe I’ll go to the one that they’ll have in the spring and buy something to put away for a gift for someone in the future.

There was food and beer (naturally) so we had some sicilian specialties for lunch before returning to Laura’s house.

And now some photos.

The street art at the entrance
Next this “mobile” street art – well, that and the tree stump art.

Another Ape (basically a vespa with 3 wheels) decorated – with a paddle tennis court in the background and the mural for a gym area.
Ooh, one of my favorites – hanging street art in one of the buildings
A dramatic mural in the same building.
Street art near the mobile popcorn machine. The other little stand is for coffee. If you look closely you can see that they are both mobile – as tricycles.
From the Bunker website. I didn’t see this one but it’s incredibly cool.

Well I hope you enjoyed the post. I really recommend checking their website – Italian language knowledge is not required.

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