Italy before the plague…four weeks ago

I was extremely lucky to spend a week in Bologna in mid-February to study Italian. Not only lucky that I had the time and resources to do so, but also that my timing was lucky indeed. The day I left Italy to return home on February 22nd, there were only 75 known cases of covid-19 and two deaths from the virus. At the time all of these cases were in Lombardia which is the province immediately north of Emilia Romagna where Bologna is located. I was worried about perhaps bringing the virus home with me and becoming patient zero for the DMV. That didn’t happen. In fact it took at least another week before cases started to appear in Emilia Romagna so I didn’t worry too much. And now Italy has 21,157 cases and 1,441 people have died there. And people in this country are finally starting to realize that we need to take drastic measures to try and flatten the curve.

But four weeks ago, Italy was a happier place.

The view from my Air BnB window. It was several days before I realized that that gate opened out onto a street. I’m not sure what I thought was behind it. They were having unusually warm weather for February and one day as I did my homework with the window open the sounds of the birds singing was mixed with one of my neighbors playing Sempre libera at high volume. It was a very Italian moment.
The wall of my salotto.
The city is layer on layer of architectural styles with poritici everywhere. It would be a good city to walk around in in the rain, but I didn’t see any of that.
Bologna’s famous due torri.
Everywhere you turn there is some amazing thing to look at. Hard not to act like a tourist.
I would love to see an overlay on this spot explaining how all these elements came to be mashed together.
Right outside my apartment. It was fun watching the progress during the week.
I really enjoyed Madrelingua. I know there are programs like this all over Italy, but I kind of fell in love with this one and assume I won’t be so lucky if I try one of the others in a another city.
The ceiling of the room where I had two hours of grammar and two hours of conversation each day.
Actually, now that I think of it, I think this is the room where I had conversation and grammar. The other one was the room for my post-lunch intensive session.
Every day after grammar lessons all of the students from the various classes walked to a nearby bar for coffee and Italian conversations. With the fun instructors rapping our knuckles if we retreated into English. My class had two students from Australia, and one each from Germany, South Africa, India, and Moldova.
Unlike learning in the US all of the teaching is in Italian so even the explanations to questions are in Italian. Challenging but pretty satisfying. Although most of my classmates seemed to be better than me, I will say that on the first day my instructor complimented my pronunciation and was surprised to learn that I grew up in the US.
They advertised this Unicorn Latte and said it had no artificial coloring in it so one day I had to order it. It was kind of like chai with ginger and other things in it. I took one sip. But it made for a good picture.
Bologna’s trademark tortellini in brodo (broth) expertly executed at Oltre.
Take out pasta and European Fanta (so much better then the US version). I saved the second pasta for another day.
Much to my delight, my good friend Ron who lives in the Netherlands was on break from his teaching job and decided at the last minute to join me in Bologna. The day of his arrival I walked by a food market and couldn’t resist buying somethings. Those strawberries were red all the way through. The pinkish citrus looked a bit like a blood orange but were smaller and sweeter. The tomatoes were unbelievably good. Even in the height of summer at a good farmer’s market you can’t get tomatoes like that in the US. The flavor is astonishing. It must be the soil, or the water, or something.
Someone else made the fresh tortellini, but I made he sauce.
The kind of cookies that sneak up on you when it comes to deliciousness.
Right on the corner near my apartment. I never bought anything there but I loved looking in the windows.
Very cute used book shop near my apartment. In Italy mysteries, detective novels and books of that type typically have yellow colors and are referred to as i gialli (the yellows).
I loved the patina of this place.
Loved this place.
The anatomical library.
I didn’t know these existed, but once I leafed through one I had to have them. But then I saw the price for the set and decided not to.
Then later that night I looked them up on line to see about getting them when I got back to the States and saw that some of them were really hard to find and really expensive. So I went back the next day and bought the lot of them. It sure made packing my one small bag interesting.

7 thoughts on “Italy before the plague…four weeks ago

  1. Liz Dexter March 15, 2020 / 3:37 pm

    Lovely pics and what a lucky escape! We got back from the Canary Islands Friday a week ago and have a friend stuck on a different island now.

    Like

  2. Susan March 15, 2020 / 5:21 pm

    What a great post. Next time can I come along?

    Like

  3. Susan in TX March 15, 2020 / 5:31 pm

    I always love your trips. And I think I love even more that you are still working on your Italian. But what amazing timing for you. We had a family friend get married on leap day and they were scheduled to honeymoon in Italy, but ended up in California due to the rapidly changing situation over there. Stay healthy, friend!

    Like

  4. BookerTalk March 15, 2020 / 6:20 pm

    You have me hungering for a trip to Italy. I love the casual way they treat their historic past – hardly ever hidden behind iron railings….
    I’ll take a pass on the unicorn latte though

    Like

  5. Gail in Washington State March 15, 2020 / 9:58 pm

    Straight out of Eat, Pray, Love….it all looks perfect, even the blue drink.
    So glad you came home healthy. Did you see the video floating around of housebound Italians singing from their balconies?
    Today we cancelled an upcoming getaway to the desert…our kids were freaking out about us flying. Better safe than sorry, I guess.
    Thanks for the photos and stories.
    Best Regards..

    Like

  6. Claire (The Captive Reader) March 15, 2020 / 10:35 pm

    Looks like a wonderful trip. I only spent a few days in Bologna but can imagine what a wonderful city it would be to spend longer in. I loved how, unlike so many other Italian cities, it felt like it belonged to its people rather than the tourists.

    Like

  7. Lori March 17, 2020 / 10:39 pm

    What a wonderful trip, everything from the food to the architecture looks perfect! And you got those beautiful books. Thanks for sharing with us.

    Like

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