Dreaming In Italian

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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Thanksgiving Dinner in Bologna

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

I was invited to a Thanksgiving dinner here a couple of weeks ago. It’s like a lot of those non-family ones in the U.S. – that is, a potluck. The hosts had some appetizers and roasted the turkey with another American expat and everyone else brought something to eat or drink. I decided to go very thanksgiving traditional with a pecan pie. Since pecans are strictly north american that makes them an exotic ingredient here. The traditional syrup for that pie is corn syrup which one absolutely cannot find here. I did find some italian site recipes for “torta di noci pecan” which used maple syrup so I basically made a hybrid italo-american pie. Given that both the syrup and pecans are exotic ingredients they had prices to match. So the ingredients for the pie came to about $20. Plus I had to buy a pie pan (toriera – i.e pan for a torta) and a rolling pin (matterello).  I must say that the maple syrup was a terrific substitute and plan to never use corn syrup ever again. I might add that I have made pie crust a bunch of times but never completely by hand so I was pretty proud of myself for the success of the whole thing.

The pie crust


The other ingredients. Syrup, eggs, brown sugar, butter, pecans and the cute little vials of vanilla. 9 milliliters each so one is just right for a pie.

The finished product

The dessert table included my masterpiece as well as pumpkin pie made by Harriet, an English woman. The boxed cake from a pasticceria (pastry shop) was brought by John, the non-cooking American. In the foreground a salad and roast stuffing.


Gianni, the host with Steffani from Michigan in red. The other woman whose name I don’t remember is Italian. In the foreground right is Jim from Ohio who carved the turkey.

A bunch of side dishes (contorni). Cranberry sauces (2 varieties) green beans and the orangey things on the far right are fat slices of pumpkin roasted and very good.

Gianni and Loranza’s house is big enough to accomodate 19 people for dinner. Actually quite a spectacular house. I think that we were 6 Americans,  one each French, German and English and the rest Italians.

Entering the “palazzo” (apartment building) where Gianni and Lorenza live. The courtyard is entered from a little corridor after the front door tall enough that a man astride a horse could ride inside.

View across the first floor (which we would call the 2nd floor).


Looking up at the ceiling above the first floor.

The entry into their house. Gianni doesn’t know about the clothes on display since they rented the house furnished – it just came that way.

I was there in the evening so I didn’t get a photo of the front of the palazzo but found the one below from the web. It was built by a member of a prominent family Bentivoglio in about 1570. You can find more information about it by searching for “Palazzo Bentivoglio Bologna English”. Or if you omit the “english” you’ll get a lot of results written in Italian.



By the way since I’m writing this on Black Friday in the U.S. I just thought that I’d show a little cultural seepage.

OMG Black Friday is here too!

Well I had planned to buy a couple of heavy sweaters today anyway so it was nice to get a 25% Black Friday discount on both.

I hope that you all had a great Thanksgiving!


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