June 20, 2010
We ended up leaving Venice around noon, since we had seen what we came for and it was still pouring rain. We decided to head for our villa, and, if it wasn’t raining, maybe stop on the way in Bologna.
Bologna is a large city and supposedly one of the best to live in, in all of Italy. It also holds the oldest university in the western world – the University of Bologna, founded in 1088. I was interested to read that “During the Renaissance, Bologna was the only Italian city that allowed women to excel in any profession. Women there had much more freedom than in other Italian cities; some even had the opportunity to earn a degree at the university.” An enlightened city, to be sure. We had not planned this stop, so we decided to just park near the center and walk around. Unfortunately we misjudged where to park and ended up wandering at least a mile to get to the true center. It was fun though, since the rain had stopped and a new city is always a treat. We observed a church, some neat light fixtures and an enormous door-–who lives here, giants???? They had an incredibly long section of their main street that was covered on both sides with arches and paved with marble. I can see why Italian marble is so famous, it is so beautiful and just about everywhere in this country! You can even see Little Lamb (Callie’s favorite doudou) came along for the sightseeing this time!
Finally we reached the underwhelming main square. I did not like the look of the Piazza Magiorre at all. Sorry city planners, but it needs some serious work. Still, I did love the giant screen TV they had set up in anticipation of the World Cup soccer match. Plus, it did have an incredibly interesting fountain, The Fontana del Nettuno, with lactating mermaids – who were not only squirting ‘milk’ but self expressing it! Totally awesome…. There is a lactating fountain in Besancon as well – must take a photo before we leave!
The main feature of the square, unsurprisingly, was a church. Specifically, it was the San Petronio Basilica and it has got to have the ugliest facade I’ve ever seen. When we first visited, I assumed this mishmash was due to being bombed in WWI and WWII. We had seen things done like that in Dresden and Berlin. But no, it turns out: “The facing of the main facade remains unfinished: many architects were commissioned to propose solutions for it, but a definitive one was never found.” OK, the thing was started in 1390. I know these things take time but 620 years seems like enough to me.
This is an immense church – I realize I say it all the time, but this time – I ain’t kidding! It is actually the fifth largest church in the world and can hold 28,000 people. The Pope actually had to forbid them from making it even bigger. The interior is quite beautiful, but my favorite part was the Cassini Sundial. There was a meridian line stretched all along the left side of the church (in fact, at 66.8 meters, this is the longest sundial in the world and measures precisely 1/600,000th of the circumference of the earth!) There is a beautiful pinhole in the ceiling to let the sun shine down and the marble floor is inlaid with astrological signs. Thanks to this site and flickr for the photos! The man who built it in 1655, Giovanni Domenico Cassini, is a truly great astronomer. He was the first to find Saturn’s moons, her red spot, to accurately measure Mars and the country of France – he even measured the entire solar system accurately. He founded the Paris Observatory and worked for Louis the XIV… And I have ever heard of this guy?! Thank you Cassini!
We headed out, seeing a beautiful little square, some fountains--typical adventure bliss! The kids were in high spirits and started playing ‘I love you’ monsters--see their horns below.
We stopped at an Italian 2 Euro Store so the kids could get some souvenirs (they each had 10 Euros to spend) and had some amazing gelato… at Gelateria Ugo S.R.L. Via San Felice, 24, 40122 Bologna, Italia 051 263849 (in case you ever want to go).
And, I can not leave Bologna without mentioning, well Bologna (as in the lunch meat). I turn to trusty research! It seems that the roots of US bologna come from the traditional sausage invented in Bologna – known as mortadella. This is made in many different styles depending on the region. In the US, our bologna looks different because government regulations require no visible pieces of lard (what a shame!). And, all I could find on the phrase ‘you are full of balogna’ was here. “Etymologists reckon, though none of them seems to be prepared to swear to it, that "baloney" comes from bologna sausage (originally made in, and exported from, Bologna in Central Italy). As Smokey says, that was a cheap food - but also it was made from inferior meat, specifically the meat of elderly bulls that was too tough for any other use. So the meaning "rubbish" is fairly plain.” But the Wiki site doesn’t say anything about using elderly bulls in the meat. So I guess the mystery goes on. Hope you enjoyed!