Dreaming In Italian


Ode to Bologna

Sunday, January 3rd, 2021

The local newspaper, il Resto di Carlino, published an open letter from Roberta Capua who is originally from Naples and was Miss Italia in 1986. She has been a television personality for about 22 years and has now lived in Bologna for more than 14 years. She recently wrote an open letter to the paper about her love for the city. Since I feel the same way I translated the letter (with a few uncertainties) but nothing major. There are some local references that I explain in the footnotes.

Lucio Dalla1 was right, in the center of Bologna you couldn’t lose even a child. This city is big and small at the same time, it’s good natured and lively, it’s secular and catholic, it’s politically left and moderate. It remains a living room on a human scale, but elegant and it’s not for nothing that Bologna now is at the peak classification of places where one lives better. Who deserves the credit? The politics?

More than anything it’s the people. Around here there is imagination and ingenuity, health and five stars (the real ones not grillini2), culture and science that pay homage to the oldest university3. Everything that unites a solid social fabric makes this a land a place of the heart.

If you come by here you stop and never want to leave. It’s no coincidence that the virologists these days make it the benchmark of health excitement exactly here at Bologna guided by professor Pierluigi Viale and that the experimentation with monoclonal antibodies done at Policlinico S. Orsola4. As it’s not an accident that around here the economy has withstood better the force of the antivirus prohibitions and closures. “Bologna dreams” was the slogan of the culture minister Nicola Sinisi (1987). Bologna still dreams. Bigger and better than ever.

Roberta Capua

  1. Lucio Dalla was a very popular Italian singer who was born and I think lived in Bologna all of his life. If you are interested you can read more about him here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucio_Dalla
  2. A political movement in Italy is called the “Five Star Movement” and was founded by the comedian Beppe Grillo and his adherents are called “grillini”. He’s a pretty interesting guy although I regard the movement that he founded as the Party of “NO” without a plan to get to “YES”. You can read more about him here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beppe_Grillo
  3. The university of Bologna, Alma Mater Studiorum, is the oldest university in the world having been founded in 1088. Here is yet another link for those interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Bologna
  4. Policlinico S. Orsola is the largest hospital in Bologna founded in 1592 (a lot of old stuff here). Health care in Bologna is very good. And of course I’m going to provide a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Policlinico_Sant’Orsola-Malpighi



Now to change the subject… We’ve been listening to a lot of music lately and a lot of that has been jazz and classical, two genres that I have largely ignored unless they were in a sound track of a film. Laura’s father was a big aficionado of both so she has a lot of CDs of his. In addition she is a big fan of Davit Garrett who I had never heard of. He’s kind of a rock star violinist. He plays all kinds of genres and is very good. He doesn’t make any list of the most popular or best violinists today but he obviously appeals to a broad audience.
Here are links to two YouTube videos – the first is one is a documentary film and you can see David in action, the second is a very demanding classical piece.


First  David Garett

Next something appropriate for the new year – “vaffanculo” means “fuck off” in Italian.


And of course I can’t conclude without a Baci saying:

There is no beauty without a touch of strangeness.
Non c’è bellezza senza un pizzico di stranezza.

Edgard Allen Poe

Happy holidays to all. 

P.S. Let me know what you think of the music and if you were already familiar with David Garrett.

Christmas Feasts

Sunday, December 27th, 2020

Big meals are traditional everywhere. In Italy there are certain traditions. On Christmas eve the tradition is fish. The feast of the seven fishes is traditional but more so in southern Italy but we gave a nod to that for our Christmas Eve dinner. Certainly in Bologna tortellini in brodo (broth) is obligatory (it’s practically a law) and it’s also delicious.

Christmas eve – tortellini in brodo, a nod to fish with a roll of smoked salmon, cucumber and soft goat cheese, with spumante to drink
For desert sachertorte – originally from Vienna but we find it everywhere. Followed by a little glass of Armagnac.
For Christmas day we went decidedly non traditional. I saw Florentine steak in the display case of a good local butcher shop – a type of steak famous throughout Italy and couldn’t resist.
For a side dish we had ratatouille left overs from a batch that I had made the day before and a bottle of rosso di montalcino – sometimes described as a “baby brunello”. We skipped desert because that was a lot of steak but we did share a small glass of very good grappa
We gave a Christmas treat to the cats of lean ground beef
The day after we consumed a large part of an artisan panettone. It’s so light that it almost seems to float off the plate – and very good.

As a side note there is a pretty severe lockdown here due to a vicious second wave of covid infections. Travel is very restricted. My friend Gianluca who lives in a suburb outside of the center of Bologna could not come into the center even for a cup of coffee and certainly could not go be with his sister’s family that’s 40 or 5o kilometers away.

We listened to a bunch of Christmas music that I have on my phone. An interesting thing is that are virtually no Italian Christmas songs here in Italy but the radio plays a lot of them – almost all American.

Speaking of music, we’ve been listening to a lot of music lately and a lot of that has been jazz and classical, two genres that I have largely ignored unless they were in a sound track of a film. Laura’s father was a big aficionado of both so she has a lot of CDs of his. In addition she is a big fan of Davit Garrett who I had never heard of. He’s kind of a rock star violinist. He plays all kinds of genres and is an excellent violinist. He doesn’t make any list of the most popular or best violinists today but he obviously appeals to a broad audience. Here is a link to a video of David:


I stumbled across a totally different kind of music after reading an article in the New York Times about Weird Al Yankovic. I found one I thought was hilarious called “Like a Surgeon” (a send up of the Madona song) but can’t be played on my site due restrictions by the owner of the video but you can use this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=notKtAgfwDA

And of course I can’t conclude without a Baci saying:

There is no beauty without a touch of strangeness.
Non c’è bellezza senza un pizzico di stranezza.

Edgard Allen Poe

Happy holidays to all.

P.S. I’d be interested in knowing what your Christmas meals were like and what you think of the music offerings.

La Casa – the house (in this case the apartment)

Monday, December 21st, 2020

I’m finally getting around to showing pictures of the house. I had taken only 3 pictures when Laura and I arrived on July 18th when the house was mostly empty of furniture and I include those to show all of the stuff that came from Laura’s house in Torino.

The entryway (ingresso) in July
The same view now with a couple of my pictures on the wall an antique chest of drawers and mirror and stuff on the coatrack
A view from the other direction. My circus poster, the two shopping carts (carrelli) and three big armoires on the right from Laura’s house that fit perfectly.
The hallway from the entryway to the “living space”. I say living space because it’s a large room that serves as dining room, living room and office. We just call it the “sala”. Note the overhead neon lighting. Pretty cool.
In the image above you can see a little nook on the right where I have some of my stuff from travels and a few things of Laura’s
Opposite the nook is the master bedroom. The door to the hallway is not shown but is to the left side of this view.
The other side of the bedroom with the armoires brought from Laura’s house. You can just see the edge of the door to the hallway on the right and the door to the bathroom on the left. There is also a door to the terrace on the left that you can’t see in this photo.
The ceiling of the bedroom is pretty cool. There is a similar ceiling in the entryway.
This is the master bath. It comes equipped with a cat. I installed all of the shower stuff myself. At the top of the photo you can see a storage area with sliding drawers. Our suitcases are stored there – plus I’m sure some other stuff. I forget what other stuff is in there but will investigate further one of these days.
The hallway from the end of the other hallway to the kitchen – the same overhead novel lighting. You can just make out the door to the second bathroom on the left before the kitchen.
This is the second bathroom. Pretty small but it has about everything required (except no bidet).
Kitchen with a door to the terrace, dishwasher and sink.
More of the kitchen, oven/cooktop, microwave, refrigerator and toaster oven – plus a bunch of wine :^) And of course the water heater on the right. All of the houses that I’ve seen have a water heater (always tankless) that provides not only the hot water for usual purposes but also for heated water for the radiators to heat the house.
One side of the terrace. The terrace is totally enclosed by walls so there is no view and only direct sun at noon. Still it’s useful if not ideal.
The other side of the terrace. From the left a window for the main bathroom, then a door to the bedroom and a door to the entryway. There is lighting outside as well as switched electrical outlets.
Here’s that large living space as seen from the entrance hallway when we arrived in July
Here is the dining room end of the room now.
Here is the view of the same living space when we arrived, from the end nearer the kitchen, complete with Laura.
And here is the living room/office end of the room now (but without Laura at the moment).
And there’s more. Beneath the main floor of the house there is this mezzanine area with a complete living space – currently in disarray – and with another little room at the far side,
The other little room is a laundry room and bathroom complete with a bidet but with a bathtub only suitable for a child.

That’s the end of the tour. I hope that you enjoyed it. Ah but wait, I need to add a Baci quote and I have another one from one of the more quotable people who ever lived.

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
Alcuni causano felicità ovunque vadano; altri ogni volta che se ne vanno.

Oscar Wilde

I look forward to any comments.

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New year although the covid grinch has certainly had an impact on Christmas this year. But hang in there the vaccine is on the way. This is definitely not a time to let your guard down.

Transgender words in Italian

Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

Ok, this has nothing to do with actual sex. During this period of lock-down and being largely confined to the house I have been reading a lot and I always come across curiosities of the Italian language. So with a lot of time on my hands I thought that I’d write about some peculiarities of the Italian language as I sit here in my uniform of sweatshirt and sweatpants.

As many (most?) of you probably know many languages other than English have nouns that have a gender; masculine (maschile) or feminine (femminile). This really complicates the grammar because the corresponding article and adjective needs to have the same gender. One of the challenges for a native english speaker such as myself is getting used to this fact. Almost all nouns that end in an “o” are masculine and then the plural ends in an “i”. Most of the words that end in an “a” are feminine and the plural ends in an “e”. If the noun ends in an “e”, it can go either way, someone told me that about 60% of the time it’s masculine and otherwise feminine. Then there are those that change from masculine in the singular to feminine in the plural which really drives me crazy. A lot of the parts of the body are “transgender”. Examples are:

Il ginocchio , le ginocchia – the knee, the knees
l’orecchio, le orecchia – the eye, the eyes
il dito, le dita – the finger, the fingers (by the way there is no specific word for toe. They are just the “finger of the foot” (“il dito del piede” with the plural “le dita dei piedi”- crazy eh?)

And there are a bunch of others – the words for “eyelash”, “eyebrow”, “bone” that follow the same pattern as well as non-body parts such as “l’uovo, le uova” – egg and eggs.

And of course changing the vowel at the end of a word can completely change the meaning. One example that always comes to mind is: il mento (chin), la mente (mind) and la menta (mint – the herb) and you can add to that the vowel “menti” (you lie) from the verb “mentire” (to lie). This example is only scratching the surface of this change in meaning by changing only the final vowel.

I’m sure that I make errors all of the time but the italians cut me a lot of slack. They understand from context that I didn’t mean an “herb” when I meant to say “mind” just as I understand an Italian that uses an incorrect word in english. And of course from my accent they know that I’m not Italian as soon as I open my mouth and sometimes even before I open my mouth.

And oh,yes. There is the whole thing about pronunciation of words. Italians will often tell me if you see a written word then you can always pronounce it correctly. Well, that too has lots of exceptions. “Ancora” and “ancora” – one is an “anchor” and the other is ” again” or if used with a negative, i.e. “non ancora” it means “not yet” and of course the two words are pronounced differently as are “leggere” and “leggere” one is the verb “to read” and the other is “light” as in light in weight and pronounced differently. Ah the exceptions make life interesting in the world of italian language.

As I read more and more Italian books I find more and more idiomatic expressions. An english example would be “I lost my train of thought” that is; it doesn’t make literal sense since nobody has lost a means of transportation that runs on rails but we all understand it. In italian that would be “ho perso il filo di discorso” which would literally be “I lost the line of conversation”. The more that I learn the Italian language the more aware I am of how much we use idiomatic expressions in english. One example is an expression that I used above “cut me a lot of slack” It seems that I can’t speak more than one sentence without using an expression which makes no sense when translated literally and Italian is much the same – and probably all languages are the same.

Well, I hope that this post hasn’t been too boring. Let me know.

BTW it just came to mind that one relief from the isolation of lock-down is conversations with friends with the app WhatsApp. You can make calls to anywhere in the world with video if the other person has WhatsApp on their smart phone. If you’d like to try it let me know and we can arrange a chat.

Stay safe, wear a mask, stay away from crowds – the vaccine is on the way and hopefully by next fall the world will be approaching normality.

Oh, yes, I almost forgot a saying from a Bacio:

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.
Alcuni causano felicità ovunque vadano; altri ogni volta che se ne vanno.

Oscar Wilde

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