Dreaming In Italian


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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Italian Driver’s License – the final chapter

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019

If you’ve been reading my blog you already know what a struggle it is to get an Italian license to drive. From the truly absurd test for theory to the incredible cost. Now I have an updated cost. I thought that the total would be about 700 euros. However I took an additional two lessons with Paolo so that added another 70 euros (I thought of it as insurance). Then it turns out the fees for the tests of theory and driving (125 euros each) also have IVA tax added. IVA is the Italian acronym for the Value Added Tax. It’s essentially a sales tax that varies somewhat (less for food for example) but for possibly most items it is 22 percent. Holy mackerel! With a lot of items it is included in the quoted price so it’s not really too noticeable but for two exams it comes to 55 euros. So the grand total comes to about 825 euros or about $908 at current exchange rates. All so that I can rent a car or use car sharing in Italy. I hope that it’s worth it all. Aside from that I’m really ecstatic that I met the significant challenge of getting the license. It was kind of my all consuming hobby for the the last 4 months but finally you can see the result below.

La mia patente italiana (my Italian driver’s license)

A last note about my Paolo, my driving instructor. I learned that he has been an instructor for about 40 years. I must say that I profoundly disagree with his methods which mostly consist of constant criticism. Only in the last two “extra” lessons did we have a bit of a heart to heart talk and he was more clear in giving me actual instruction. This was especially important for parallel parking and parking in reverse at right angles to the street. He gave me for the first time clear instructions for the methods he advised and they worked like a charm. So if anyone reading this wants to get an Italian license I advise spending the part of the very first lesson establishing clear ground rules of clear instruction rather than implied instruction via criticism. I know that in some sense he was trying to break some of my driving habits but it would be much more effective and less nerve wracking had he used a different method but I will not try to break his ineffective instruction habits. In any case in the last couple of days we could laugh together and kid each other a bit.


Being an optimist I made reservations for Laura and I for dinner to celebrate getting the license. We went to a place that I would highly recommend. A great environment, excellent food and wine, attentive service and moderate prices. It’s Osteria Santa Caterina and you can learn more about it by clicking here. The web site is in Italian but they also speak English and have menus in English. As soon as I opened my mouth the waiter switched to english and I had to explain that Laura doesn’t speak english and they brought the Italian menus.

A glimpse of the osteria and, of course, Laura.

I always appreciate comments so let me know if you’ve liked my series on the Italian license quest.

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