Dreaming In Italian

Movies in Italy – and where one led

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

My Italian continues to improve but it is still all but impossible for me to watch and Italian language films without subtitles. I have both Amazon Prime and Netflix here and watch a bunch of stuff, choosing the spoken language as Italian and the subtitles also in Italian. I hope that it is soaking into my brain.

I’m not constrained to watch movies at home on the TV. In Bologna there are 2 or 3 theaters that show films in the original language and fortunately one of the better ones is near me, Cinema Lumiere. I’ve seen several films there, the most recent was Green Book. Of course all of the films shown with the original language have Italian subtitles. One thing that I’ve noted is that when it comes to cursing like a sailor we Americans seem to have a larger, well, range of options than Italians judging from the subtitles which largely are limited to variations of “cazzo” (shit) or “vaffanculo” (fuck you).

Recently I also went to see a film in Torino. It seems that Torino, although a much larger city than Bologna has only one theater that shows films in the original language, Cinema Centrale Arthouse. So I went there recently with Laura to watch the latest Clint Eastwood film “the Mule”. It was a good film as most of his are. One thing that struck me as I watched the movie was how old Clint is by now. I found that he is 88. Oh my god, that’s me in 15 years. Of course we’re all getting older and I’m much more aware of it now (as is my body) but I really started to reflect on the fact. So where do I want to be in 15 years? Would I return to the United States, California or elsewhere? Would I stay in Italy and if so where? Do I want to live where a car is essential to living a decent life? Where the lifestyle tends to emphasize quantity versus quality? Where the cost of living is generally higher than where I am right now?

Well, the answer obviously is that at least at this point in time I cannot imagine living anywhere but Italy and probably Bologna. Torino has it’s attractions but it is much easier to live in Bologna (especially if you live in the center as I do) without a car. Bus service is very good and relatively cheap (unlimited bus rides for a month for the price of a tank full of gas in the U.S.). Since the city is medieval and the streets are generally much more narrow, the traffic in the center is severely limited. So crossing the street is pretty easy. Things are generally close by or at least close to a bus stop when you arrive. The quality and variety of foods in the markets is spectacular with costs similar to that in the U.S. Costs of eating out are substantially less for the same quality here. What more can I say?

Now if only the bureaucracy was more efficient….

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Wine can be dangerous to you health

Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

I have never had a problem with wine. What beverage is better with food? However a few days ago I stopped at an enoteca to buy a bottle of wine. The person there wrapped the bottle in paper and since I had a little backpack with me I needn’t need a bag to carry it. As I started to put the bottle in the backpack the bottle slipped out of the paper and fell toward the floor. I was pleased and amazed that the bottle didn’t break but a few seconds later I realized why. Instead of falling on the floor it landed on my right foot. It was damned painful and I had to wait a couple of minutes before attempting to walk. So, after awhile it wasn’t to bad so I took the bottle home and went about my business for the day.

The guilty party.

But that evening when I was ready to go to bed the pain became more severe. The next morning a friend (thank you Gianluca) bought some of the medical tape used for such things and brought it to my home so that I could wrap the injured toe to the one next to it (the toe with the pain was the middle toe) and I iced the toe during during the day and never left the house. The next morning I went to my doctor. He said that he didn’t think that it was broken but advised me that I should get an x-ray right away. He wrote me a prescription and I went to what is called a “poliambulatorio”, (outpatient clinic) closest to me. They do blood tests and x-rays there but only if reserved well ahead of time and my prescription was marked urgent, meaning that it should be done within 24 hours. So the information guy said to go to the room where they handle a variety of things, take a number and wait for an hour to get directions for an x-ray elsewhere. Well, he didn’t exactly say “wait an hour” but that’s what it took for them to call my number and they gave me a reservation and directions to a hospital not too far away. Since the radiology department at that hospital closes at noon (it was already 11) and would not be open the next day I had to hurry. If I didn’t get the x-ray within 24 hours the prescription would expire and I would have to start the whole process over again. Not far from the poliambulatorio there was a taxi stand so I took one to the hospital. At the information desk there they directed me to the radiology department and said to wait there for 45 minutes to get the x-ray. Of course they didn’t say “wait 45 minutes” but that’s what it took to get the x-ray. After that the radiologist said to wait for 30 minutes to get the written opinion of the radiologist and a CD with the images of my foot. Of course he didn’t say “wait 30 minutes” but that’s what it took. Fortunately the toe was not broken.

The X-ray. I’ve never seen this image of my foot before. Complicated.

A broken toe takes a long time to heal and one should not walk much for a month to six weeks which would have been a real disaster. The system is different from the U.S. but the result was much the same. For a non-critical x-ray in California there is quite a bit of waiting involved as well, but as I now know, in Italy there is always a line and it’s usually pretty long. I have also learned that if you need to interact with any sort of bureaucracy, take a book to read.

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Another Trip to Torino

Monday, January 21st, 2019

I’m starting to see a lot of Torino lately. It’s about 250 miles (350 km) from Bologna by train but only about 2 hours and 20 minutes by high speed train and if not traveling on a weekend the round-trip only costs about 40 euros. So I’m spending more time there. On the last trip (actually the last two trips) I’ve seen some interesting parts of the city and especially one of the several palaces of the Kings of Savoy. This one, about 1/2 hour outside of the city is called the Reggia di Venaria Reale, which means something like the royal hunting lodge and residence. I found it not quite as beautiful from the exterior as the “little” hunting lodge at Stupingi as descrived in that other post about Torino (link here) but it is much bigger, as if a larger palace was really required. There are some things that are particularly spectacular. In fact it’s a bit mind-numbing. Even trying to find pictures on the web is difficult because of the scale of the place. For example square footage of the palace is a jaw dropping 861,000 square feet. This may include the stables (scuderie). I do remember seeing somewhere the stables have the capacity for something like 160 horses.

The approach to the Reggia. You can see only a little of the vast structure

The great hall. Note the woman in the photo to get a feel for the size.

Period dress on display
On a terrace looking out toward the gardens
A photo from the web showing a part of the vast garden

The scuderie (stables) now house a major workshop for restoration of national treasures as well as a lot of exhibition spaces as well as the inevitable gift shop.

This post is getting pretty long and I have only one other photo.

At the cafe with the two Lauras, mine is on the left.

The picture above I took at one of the sumptuous and historic caffe’s in the center of Torino. Max and I had a Bijarin, a Torinese specialty consisting of coffee, very dense hot chocolate and topped with whipped cream. My Laura has just the hot chocolate and the other one has a spritz. The caffe’ is Caffè Mulassano. Of course I neglected to take photos of the rest of the caffe but took some from their website.

The bar area – note the fantastic ceiling and the clock.
The front of the caffe’

Stay tuned for another post about some spectacular things in Torino.

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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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