Sunday, July 27, 2008


Yesterday, we took a day trip to Bologna, one of the culinary capitals of Italy (home of Bolognese sauce, called ragu' there, and baloney, called mortadella), and only an hour's train trip away from Florence. Of course we ate a good lunch there, but most of the day was spent taking in the city's sights, which in typical Italian fashion, consist mostly of churches and other religious sites. I admit that after seeing such a wealth of impressive ecclesiastical paintings and frescoes, I'm starting to tire a bit of them and wouldn't mind seeing some post-16th century art every now and then. But the early art does get quite interesting at times, especially when depicting hell or martyrs, such as in the beautiful Oratory of Santa Cecilia. Other times, there's stuff who's meaning I must be missing, such as the depiction of the heads on platters in the magnificent woodwork in the choir of San Domenico (which houses the remains of Saint Dominic, founder of the Dominican order, by the way).
Also fun was the Medieval Museum, which in addition to more ecclesiastical paintings and sculptures, had some elaborate choirbooks, and a few rooms of medieval weapons and armor, as well as a visit to the oldest university in Europe (dating back to the 11th century), including its anatomical theater, where dissections were carried out in public. The landmark of the city are two towers preserved from the middle ages, one of which is leaning precariously -- maybe they had the same engineers as the Pisans? Finally, on the central plaza is a fountain with a statue of Neptune, on a base of women with water squirting out of strategic places.
So, all in all, Bologna is definitely a city worth visiting, and a nice contrast to the Tuscan towns we've seen so far, with far more red brick and less white marble (which is why its nickname is la rossa, which apparently also applies to its politics). Oh, and did I mention that there were far fewer tourists than in Florence?

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