Dreaming In Italian

New Year’s Eve

Friday, January 4th, 2019

Like almost every city or town in the world there is public celebration in Bologna. The major piazza is Piazza Maggiore and that’s where the people gather to celebrate a variety of things. On New Year’s eve the major event is the burning of an effigy that represents the year past. In this case, the “vecchione” literally the “big old man”.  An interesting aside is that they do the same thing in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A guy at the gym told me that in alternate years in order to give equal weight to women they burn the “vecchia”. I did a web search and found a reference to a “vecchia” only in leap years and it’s not clear that this admission of women to the tradition still continues. I guess that I’ll have to go there at the end of 2020 to find out. I did find that the the effigy must be at least 12 meters high.

Laura and il vecchione in the afternoon.

Reading the info about the celebration in Piazza Maggiore I found that they would admit only 10,000 people into the area through 4 checkpoints and it was best to be there before 10 PM if you hoped to be admitted. So my friend Laura and I arrived at about 9:30. I was glad to have some long underwear to be there for about 2 1/2 hours at a temperature of 32 degrees. I do think that it was actually warmer than that in the piazza since 10,000 people, even bundled up, exude a fair amount of heat. How do they limit the number of people to 10,000 you might ask. Well, when you enter they give you a coupon. When there are no more coupons, they know that that many people have entered. They also ask you to return the coupon when you leave, I’m not sure why. Perhaps to confirm that you entered legally or perhaps to be assured that nobody else remains in the piazza.

The coupon to enter.


The sea of people in the piazza (the basilica of San Petronio in the background)

There were some light shows and music from DJs during the wait but much of the music was dance music of not great interest – you know the type, heavy drums and banal lyrics. Still it beat nothing whatsoever to provide a distraction.

Moving lights on San Petronio


DJ stage with video monitors

And now the main event. I took a couple of pictures and got some from the website of a local newspaper taken from a vantage point high above the crowd.

My photo as il vecchione starts to really burn


Photo from on high gives a better idea of the crowd

No fireworks unfortunately. I suspect that the issue is that in the center of an old city there is too much risk of setting a building on fire even with the almost universal tile roofs.

As we made our way outside of the piazza we found the street full of people. I would guess that there were several thousand more in the streets near the piazza.  In the piazza it was all orderly and relatively tranquil. In the street it was a different story. There were quite a few people who had too much to drink or otherwise imbibe. After drinking the contents a lot of bottles wound up broken in the street. I was glad when we got out of that area.

You can see the street full of people beyond the fountain of Neptune.

It was a fun experience (except the standing around for 2 1/2 hours) and I’m glad that we went. The next time I might see if it’s being shown on local TV.

Oh yes, one more thing, we had lentils and sausage for dinner on New Year’s eve. An Italian tradition, the lentils and slices of sausage resemble coins and therefor are meant to bring luck in the new year. I’ll go for a different choice rather than the traditional cotechino sausage the next time – too much fat for my taste.

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It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

There are some great decorations in the center of Bologna. Let’s start with the tree.

The Chrismas tree in Piazza del Netuno. The very heart of Bologna (well, that and Piazza Maggiore)

Some decorations along a nearby sidewalk under the portico

A pedestrian side street in the very center of Bologna

Decorations along the major street in the center (Hugo Bassi)

One particular striking set of lights is along a street where Lucio Dalla lived. As a bit of background, Lucio Dalla is probably kind of the Italian equivalent of our Bob Dylan. A prolific songwriter and performer with divers inventive styles and often profound lyrics. He died of a heart attack in 2012 when in Switzerland for a concert. He is much loved in all of Italy but especially in Bologna where he lived his entire life. Along this street are banners of lights for all of the lyrics of one of his songs. He was quite a guy and if you’re interested in learning more there’s a Wikipedia page in English (much shorter than the one in Italian). Lucio Dalla

All of the lyrics to a song by Lucio Dalla

It continues

All of the lyrics continue along the street

I did find of video of him performing live. I can’t understand the lyrics but often the music and energy suffice.

” The year to come”

I was invited by my friend Renata to attend an event at the most luxurious hotel in town. The place where dignitaries and rock stars stay. I have only a photograph of the lobby.

The lobby of the Grand Hotel Majestic

I went to the store that’s part art and part jewelry (which is also art) and noted this painting on the wall with a nice thought for the new year – or at any time for that matter. I wrote a blog post about the store Terre Rare that you can find here: Terre Rare

A nice thought at Terre Rare “One of the blessings of old friends is that you can allow yourself to be stupid with them”

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

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Tortellini for Christmas

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

Tortellini come from Emilia- Romagna – more specifically from Bologna or Modena. The two cities are not very far apart and there’s always an argument about which is the real source of tortellini. Of course I side with the Bolognese. They are little squares of fresh pasta filled with a mixture of meats, pork loin, prosciutto and mortadella (the latter is VERY bolognese) mixed with some Parmigiano-Reggiano and egg. They are then formed into cute little stuffed pasta forms and boiled. Occasionally they are served with a cream sauce although that is considered something of a sin. They should always be served in a good chicken broth, preferably made with a capon according to the purist.

I happened to be at a Centro Sociale near my house with a friend when she pointed out a poster that announced that for about 4 weeks leading up to Christmas on every Monday afternoon there would be a group making tortellini at another Centro Sociale.  She urged me to go and so I did for 3 Monday afternoons and with a bunch of generally senior age women and one man other than me we made tortellini.

I was the only English speaker there but managed just fine. They all thought it kind of cute that American guy was there making tortellini with them.

Making the pasta in the kitchen


One of the work tables


The little squares of pasta with a dab of filling on each


And yes, I made a bunch of tortellini

I told Franco that his tortellini looked like the German army


Mine looked more like the Italian army (I didn’t say that – wouldn’t be very diplomatic).

I’ve ordered some but almost all were already spoken for but I’m on the waiting list and hope to get a half kilo (a little over a pound). It’s a tradition of have tortellini in brodo (broth) for Christmas. If I don’t get some of this batch I’ll buy some in the center of Bologna and take them with me to Torino where I’m going to spend Christmas. If you ever come to Bologna you should really take the opportunity to have some of these in broth. They are available in many of the trattorie all year long although they are especially good in winter when it’s cold outside.

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A nice little hunting lodge.

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

I spent a recent weekend in Torino visiting a friend. One of the places she took to me was  the little hunting lodge in country built by the king of Savoy. It is called “Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi”. Palazzina is the diminutive of palazzo (palace) so the ” Little hunting palace at Stupinigi”. That last word is a place name. It’s a bit outside the city along a long straight road with trees on either side. As an aside, along the way we saw a bunch of guys and women on motorcycles and motorinos (motor scooters) wearing Santa costumes. It turns out on this date every year they have a parade in Torino of motorcycle with Santas.

Santas with bikes

More Santas

Finally we arrived at he hunting lodge. It’s really hard to imagine the scale of this place but I found an areal photo from the web. There was a little castle here since at least the 15th century but the king of Savoy decided to construct this humble hunting lodge in it’s place starting in 1729.

The humble hunting lodge

One thing that I found particularly curious was the portraits of princes and other boys of noble lineage as shown in the photo below.

Portraits of princes – yes boys were dressed the same as girls – seems a bit weird to me.

Another curiosity was the depiction of a hunt. Not my idea of hunting anything but, hey, those royals wouldn’t want to muss up their clothes.

A little hunt. Looks like an army with a large pack of dogs against one poor stag. Let’s just say that it’s unlikely that any nobles got their hands dirty in the hunt.

As you might imagine, the rooms are quite luxurious, everything has elaborate decorations. Every ceiling was quite fantastic and some of the furniture was quite incredible. Only the ground floor is open for tours. Apparently the whole palazzo was in sad shape and a number of years ago a foundation was formed to gather funds and restore much of the place.

The grand salon/ballroom at the formal entrance.

I think that this was the king’s bedroom or might have been the queen’s. They were both quite elaborate

The game room. All of the rooms have elaborately painted ceilings alike the one that you can glimpse in this photo

Incredible elaborate furniture with unbelievable workmanship. This is just one example.


Arial view photo from the web

If you’d like to learn more there’s a site that describes the residences of the Royals of Savoy. It’s hard to believe but this is just one of many. Click here: Stupinigi to learn more and see a bunch of great photos.

It’s definitely worth a visit.



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