Dreaming In Italian

Californians, here they come.

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

A good friend of mine unfortunately moved to Los Angeles. Well, I’m sure it’s good for him since he grew up there but it does mean that already sporadic meetings will be even more so. I did hear from him not long before I came to Italy in early April. Some long time good friends of his were planning a trip to Italy including a stop in Bologna and he asked if I could advise them or even show them around. I was delighted to have the opportunity to show off a city that I love.

Mel and Ellen with the twin towers in the background

I arrived here on Thursday and met Ellen and Mel at their hotel in the very center on Saturday. We walked around for a bit through the quadrilateral where there are great little food markets and generally give of the medieval vibe of the city. Then into the Bibilioteca Salaborsa (the central library) including a little tour through the etruscan and roman excavations inside.  At one point Ellen and I lost Mel. Ellen was wearing a yellow jacket and Mel was following and at some point started following someone else in a similar jacket. After that I kept a close eye on him to make sure that he didn’t stray too far. It certainly helps if everyone has a cell phone.

Ellen’s lunch at Sfoglia Rina. Great Bolognese food at very moderate prices.

We had lunch on Sunday and then ate dinner together on Monday before they left for Venice on Tuesday.


Seafood antipasto

Spaghetti with clams

A risotto

A semfreddo – dessert halfway between a mouse and ice cream.

So if you plan to come to Bologna let me know – leave a comment on any blog post. If I’m here I’d be happy to show you around.

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He’s back!

Monday, April 30th, 2018

It has been a year and a half since I’ve seen the fountain of Neptune. That’s how long he has been undergoing restoration. I did take a tour of the restoration in progress a year ago and have been anxious to see the results. Now somewhat polished, sans pigeon droppings, oxidation and with cleaned water spouts plus a new lighting system.

By day

I had first seen this fountain many years ago, I think about 1995 when I was visiting several cities in Italy including Bologna. At that time each of the, I suppose mermaids, was spouting water from her nipples. Now only one is still active. Someone told me that since the water here has a lot of calcium it blocks the water ways. I guess they need something like big pipe cleaners to keep those nipples spouting.

Only one of the mermaids is spouting water

The new lighting – doesn’t seem much different of better than the old lighting.

It’s great to see the old guy back. He’s been there since 1567 and has been restored several times and this last one was probably the most thorough and certainly used ever modern means possible to care for him. I sure that this will not be the last time that he get some tender loving care.


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Books from Italy

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

I have found that as my language skills continue to improve that I read more and more books. That’s partly because it doesn’t take as long to read them. It used to be a bit of drudgery because I was looking up so many words or phrases and making notes that it would take a long time to get through a book. It has always been somewhat pleasant and certainly perhaps one of the best ways to improve my vocabulary. Now it’s going further on the pleasure end of the spectrum. In fact I ran out of new books to read last summer and re-read a couple that I had read before and I found to my delight that I understood them much better. It seems that sometimes I actually lost track of the plot. So here are the books that I brought back.

Wow -7 books that I brought back.

OK, Ratman doesn’t really qualify as a book. It’s a comic book but perhaps the only one I found that I really like. It’s about a goofy superhero, well I guess you could call him that but he’s often getting himself into trouble. I included quite a bit about him in another post so if you’re interested you can see that by clicking here. In any case this is the last issue of Ratman. I’ll be sad to see him go.

The book on the bottom right was a gift from a friend there. It’s a story of a surviving Italian soldier near the end of WWII and his nobility and humility as he struggles at the end of that conflict amid the chaos. It’s title is “The Traveling Companion”.

All of the other books are mysteries of one sort or another. I’ve now read a lot of the books by Carlo Lucarelli. He writes mostly mysteries, including ones that are also humorous, as well as some nonfiction. I really like him a lot and have a reasonable collection of his books as well as having read several others that I got from the library in Bologna and read while I was there.

Massimo Carotto also has a big presence in my Italian book collection. All of his are mysteries. I really like some of his characters, especially one with the protagonist nicknamed “Alligator” and his partner the “Old Rossini” whose nickname come from the fact he is the eldest of several sons in his family. He’s an interesting author but sometimes the happenings can be pretty brutal. I wrote a blog post about him in 2011 before I ever went to Italy. If interested click here.

A newer discovery is Antonio Manzini. He has a very interesting protagonist who’s a reasonably high level detective for the state police that keeps getting himself in trouble due to unorthodox (and often quite illegal) methods as well as his habit of smoking joints in his office – well, he opens the window at least.

The newest discovery and to my mind the best is Gianrico Carofiglio. In real life he was a mafia prosecutor in Bari, Puglia and started writing his books later in his career. His protagonist is a lawyer and unlike almost all of the others there are legal cases but no murders. His protagonist is a thoughtful guy and a talented defense attorney. I love reading him. Many of his books are available in translation from, who else, Amazon. In fact I bought two used copies of a book translated into english (they’re pretty inexpensive) of one of the above books “Ad Occhi Chiusi” for gifts. The translated title is “A Walk in the Dark” which makes absolutely no sense at all. “With Eyes Closed” is both the literal translation and also fits with the plot of the book. It’s weird how some movie or book titles get such strange translations.

So you see, Andrea Camilleri, who many people know about with his Detective Montalbano series of books is only one of many excellent Italian authors.







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Moving around Bologna

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

I’ve never had a car or motorino (scooter) in Bologna but I did have a bicycle for awhile. It was just too much trouble to lock it up and unlock it plus it was hard on my butt so I sold it. But there are lots of ways to get around. I use buses a lot and taxis rarely. I always take taxis to and from the airport since with 2 suitcases it would be a real pain to take the bus. Also taxi prices are not that bad. There’s a number that I can send a text to with the address where I’m at and a taxi will usually show up within 5 or 6 minutes. Of course upon arriving at the airport there are always taxis. You can’t really flag down a taxi, you need to go to one of the taxi stands sprinkled around the city.

I take buses everywhere. Since I go for an extended period I usually have a monthly bus pass which costs 36 euros and gives you unlimited rides for a month.  There is an additional advantage of being able to just pass it in front of the little machine (macchinetta) on the bus. It uses RFID like a lot of such passes – the subway, trams and buses in the San Francisco area use the same system. I keep it inside my wallet and that inside my borsello (man bag) and just pass the bag in front of the machine. An alternative for shorter stays is a Citypass. It gives 10 rides for 12 euros. You validate for the bus rid when you dip it into the same little machine (it prints info about the ride on the back). For more than 1 person you can just dip it once for each person which can be really convenient. Both types of passes can be bought at almost any tabaccheria (they don’t just sell tobacco products). Woe be unto you if you fail to have a ticket when the controllers (controllori) get on the bus and ask to see everyone’s ticket. Once I was on a bus when a family of Germans (husband, wife and to teenage sons) were busted by the controllori. The wife was explaining in English to one controllore (whose English was minimal) that they didn’t know what to do. The fine is pretty stiff, something like 50 or 60 euros. I hope that he had mercy on them and only fined them for one ride rather than 4. Google maps can be very helpful in determining which bus to catch where and at what time and also transfers if needed. I have an app on my phone that tells me in real time when a bus is estimated to arrive at my stop.

Standard Bologna Bus

Articulated Bologna Bus – one I take often. The #13

Macchinette – White for cards, red to buy a one ride ticket.

Monthly bus pass

Bicycles are extremely popular in Bologna. It’s relatively flat and, being an old city, relatively small. People of all ages ride bicycles. Like any city theft is a common occurrence so a good lock is important. Waiting at a bus stop I saw some interesting riding but almost never had my phone ready. Once there was a guy with two kids, one on the front and the other behind. Yet another a young guy (he may not live to be old) riding with no hands down a main street while texting. By the way I never see any bicycle helmets except on people (almost always guys) and racing type of bikes on the weekends that are going for some serious cycling in the nearby hills.

A bunch of bicycles in the center

Part of a family in transit

Lots of “mature” people on bikes as well.

Of course the cell phone while riding

Motor-scooters are also quite popular. Traffic for private cars in the center is quite limited but motor-scooters and motorcycles are permitted along with bicycles. So you see a lot of them. It’s especially interesting to see someone (men and women both ride scooters a lot) with a cell phone stuck up on one side of the helmet so that they can ride and talk at the same time.

Motorscooters (motorini) are popular obviously

There are also the tourist buses. One kind is pretty common all over but another is, I think, pretty unique to Bologna. The latter one used to only go to San Luca but now they have another one almost identical that seems to make a tour of the city like the big red bus.

Tourist bus – empty on a rainy day

A stupid little tourist “train”

Well that’s all folks. Leave a comment if you’d like (I love comments) and subscribe if you’d like – I love that too.





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