La Prima Settimana (The First Week)

La Prima Settimana (The First Week)

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

So now I have been in Bologna for a week. I’ve survived the first week of school, walked a LOT and since the weather is hot (caldo) I’ve also sweat (sudare – to sweat) a lot. I cannot even think about wearing a t-shirt more than one day here like I can in Oakland. I don’t have any photos of the school or the teachers but those will follow in another post. So I have some photos of general impressions of being in Italy in general and Bologna in particular. I have found that the internet is like a drug and I was having severe withdrawal without ready access.

The family with whom I’m staying doesn’t have DSL so what’s a guy to do. Well, in Italy there is an easy solution. Just run down to one of the cell phone stores (I chose Vodafone rather than TIM or Wind) and plunk down your money (49 euros in this case) and walk home with an “internet key”. I took my laptop with me to make sure I knew how to do things since I wasn’t sure how compatible my current proficiency in Italian would be with technical instructions. Everyone seems to have a special promotion going on and at Vodafone this was as follows: buy the key, which you then own, and get 3 months of service for free. The only limitation is that the higher speed service (up to 7.2 megabits/sec) is only good for the first 3 gigabytes per month. If you go over that the service drops to 1.8 megabits/sec (actually I have some doubts about the fallback speed because what she told me doesn’t match the brochure). Not really a problem since so far I’ve only used about half a gigabyte in almost a week. That includes as much usage as I’ve really wanted every day and included a Skype call with Massimiliano on Thursday evening. Since I own the key, should I choose to return sometime in the future I can then pay 19 euros a month. Not a bad deal. Internet service is available through the cell phone network at up to 43 megabits/sec (!?). Just as with the cell phone networks I think this kind of communications has developed faster here because they have lagged behind the U.S. in wired infrastructure. It’s a lot easier to erect a bunch of cell phone towers than string wires all over old cities.

I’m doing reasonably well in the school. It’s still a bit difficult at times to understand the teacher but little by little it’s getting better. I had the first test this last Friday (September 9th). We are tested every two weeks to see how we’re doing. I still have lots of problems with prepositions. These are pesky little words. They are  the Italian equivalents of “in”, “to”, “from”. “on” or the other two that seems to have change like a chameleon depending on the sentence (the Italian prepositions are “in”, “a”, “da”,”su” and the ever popular “di” and “per”).

Yesterday Paolo took me to a barbeque  (believe it not) at a private airport where he keeps the two seat airplane that he owns with a partner. There were grilled sausages and thin steaks to eat (I saw nothing else) and water and lots of wine available to drink. I generally had a good time. Being VERY social, Paolo introduced me to a lot of people which helped a lot since I’m a little timid about approaching strangers with my still modest level of Italian. After that we went to see, of all things, the Vagina Monologues. His friend Lisa (with John Hopkins University here) was the director and one of the actors as well. It was in both Italian and English and I did reasonably well with the Italian portions. After the show (which was in open air space with a full moon – fantastic) I talked to a bunch of people. Much of the conversation was in Italian but several women there were either English or American so we talked some in English as well. Almost the first English I’ve used since coming here. In fact I generally try to avoid anything other than Italian. I had a great time. I will say that some of the Italian women really should consider the benefits of a little gym time. While they were not heavy and were probably only in their 30s  some of their arms looked like those of my old aunts or something.

Of course I’ve done a little shopping. I looked all over for used book stores without success so I wound up buying a new copy of another Massimo Carlotti book. This morning I had one of the serendipitous experiences of stumbling onto a street market of largely antiquarian stuff in Piazza Santo Stefano. I came away with two modest prizes. A frog for my collection and and old copy of Dylan Dog – published in 1990. Dylan Dog is very popular here. The character is English, lives in London and is a investigator of weird shit as you can perhaps tell by the cover. And speaking of weird shit, check out the mirror.  In the same photo (I almost wrote “foto” – the Italian version so I must be making progress) you can see the internet key ( also called a “chiavetta” – little key).

Other kind of random photos for initial impressions of Bologna are shown in no particular order.  Click on any of them to be able to see them enlarged and with comments,

There’s more to come so stay tuned.

6 Responses to “La Prima Settimana (The First Week)”

  1. Dana Says:

    Paolo sounds a bit like my friends in Florence who had dinner parties, and took me to numerous other dinner parties, to meet their friends. It can be tiring, but I had no choice but to speak Italian. I learned a bit faster that way, and it was quite enjoyable.

    The Vagina Monologues? How fun! I’m never in the right place at the right time to see this!

    One comment gives me pause:

    “I will say that some of the Italian women really should consider the benefits of a little gym time. While they were not heavy and were probably only in their 30s some of their arms looked like those of my old aunts or something.”

    Really? Why is this even worth mentioning? I understand about appreciating the sight of a beautiful body, but the reality is that few people have a perfectly sculpted body at any age. I would instead admire that they are very comfortable with themselves and don’t feel the need to worry about what anyone thinks about their flabby arms. Surely there are much more interesting things to consider in Bologna?


  2. Joe Says:


    Yes, Paolo, is really something. Yesterday I went with him for a lunch at his country place – a barbecue. I learned the the word “la braccia” well. I suppose it this is quite common. He has an outdoor grilling area with two separated places for fire. In one you start a roaring blaze and after it has burned for awhile you bash it with some sort of stick “bastone” to break loose coals which are then transferred with a little shovel to the area where the actual cooking is done. I spoke a lot of Italian and people were very helpful in correcting me and sometimes teaching me new words. I have some photos and Paolo will give me some others so it will probably be a subject for a post. I must say that the “le zanzare” – mosquitos – were very active and seem to really like the taste of me.

    With regard to the “arms” comment. I think that the only reason that I mentioned that is that it seemed so out of character that the otherwise fit looking women seemed so flaccid. In a country where “la bella figura” seems so important it seemed a bit jarring. I’m sorry if you found it offensive but it’s still, I think, a valid observation.


  3. Mary Says:

    Hey Joe – Sounds like you’re making progress. Si deve studiare sodo per parlare bene italiano. Ciao – M&M

  4. Joe Says:

    Ciao Mary & Mike,

    Some days it seems like two steps forward and one step backward. I think that you meant to say” One must study a lot to speak Italian well.” Penso e’ ” Si deve studiare molto per parlare bene l’italiano” – but then again I’m not sure if the preposition is “per” or “di”. Everyone has trouble with the prepositions!

    Thanks for the comment. They are always appreciated.


  5. Dana Says:

    Hi Joe,

    OK, we will just have to agree to disagree! 🙂 Keep studying, and keep posting!


  6. Joe Says:


    Certainly the world would be less interesting if we all agreed on everything, We probably agree on almost everything anyway. I do have another post almost ready for publication and I hope that you like it.


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