Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 7 Bologna

Judy and I took the Eurostar to Bologna today to visit with Pamela. Tim and Scott left to return to Rome as tomorrow they were returning home. Traveling first class on the high speed train, we had soda and cookies during the half-hour ride.

Arriving at the station in Bologna, we wondered where we were supposed to meet Pamela. The exit gave us two choices: Stazione Oest or Stazione Est. To make what could be a long story short, and to shorten our wondering where we were to meet Pamela, Judy asked a guy with a cell phone if she could borrow it to make a call. Another woman understood Judy and started to make an effort to give her hers. When the guy realized what was going on he became very ingratiating to such a beautiful woman and handed Judy his phone. Problem solved; it helped that I stayed far enough away so he didn’t notice we were together. You have to work it how you have to work it.

“Joody!” exclaimed Pamela, waving her arms in the air as she came across the intersection. “Pah-mel-a,” cried Judy, as they came into visual contact. Hugs and kisses all around for the three of us, a fond welcoming.

Pamela took us in tow for the rest of the day, showing us the sights and sites of Bologna. We climbed the Tower, all 500 odd steps to the top, to overlook Bologna, a beautiful, quaint and ancient city. Judy and I remarked how Bologna was smaller than Florence and how Florence was smaller than Rome. But Bologna made up for its size in quaintness and friendliness.

When Pamela first told us she was going to take us to the top of the tower, built in 1009 and finished in 1019, Judy and I were very impressed but we just looked at each other. The day before, in Florence, we had climbed to the top of the Duomo. After that climb my thighs, knees and ankles ached for the rest of the day. I had been grateful for the bathtub at the bed & breakfast so I could soak my legs and feet. But we knew we couldn’t say no and so off we went.

I think, because the steps up the tower were wooden instead of the Duomo’s hard marble ones, they were far more forgiving on our legs. As I sit here and write this, after having soaked in the tub once again, neither my feet nor my legs hurt as much.

The view from the top of the tower gave a magnificent 360 degree view of Bologna. Unfortunately, the day was somewhat overcast and so the view was a tad obscured. However, looking down and around the city we could see clearly. Pamela and I talked about how the roofs were different than in Boston (She had been to Judy’s office on the 30th floor). We both liked the terracotta tiles here better and how the city looked so much more appealing than the steel and glass structures of Boston.

When we got to the bottom of the tower we were met by Pamela’s boyfriend, Massimo. A classic and attractive Italian guy, he was bright, witty, friendly, nice, and instantly likable. He drove a reproduction of a classic Triumph Bonneville motorcycle. Another reason to like him, aside from his obvious adoration of Pamela, was that he was an author. However, he hadn’t given up his day job as a service rep. for the local Volvo dealer. His mixture of humility, machismo and genuineness was infectious. As he and Pamela were only four months into their relationship it’s hard to tell what the future might bring but Judy and I want to think it will bring them together for a long time.

The two of them took the two of us around Bologna for the rest of the day. We went to the Basilica in St. Petronius square, which was very cool. It was the sixth oldest church in Italy. Inside Massimo pointed out to us the Meridian line. The sun shone on this line such that you could tell the time of day, the day of week, the month, and also the season. I noticed the equinox and solstice markings and the related signs of the zodiac.

In the center of the square was a fountain dedicated to Neptune. It was also the local hangout for teenagers in love and for tourists with cameras.

Next we went to a church that was actually seven churches in one. The original church dated to 64 A.D. and, over the years, the church was expanded on six more times. However, each addition, while on top of the previous one, did not obliterate the ones built before. To some extent it was like being in an Escher drawing in which you look in and see additional layers. We were able to get right into the original core of the seven churches, right where the remains of St. Petronius were found and an altar built over the crypt.

In the church courtyard, so the story goes based on a plaque on the wall, Dante sat, meditated and had a vision. The courtyard had, high on its walls at one end under a set of arches, gargoyles that I’m sure were the ones Dante saw. I was thinking he may have sat on the edge of the well in the center of the courtyard, staring up at the wall while meditating.

It was easily the best church of the trip. It wasn’t the biggest like the Vatican nor the most awe inspiring like St. Peter’s but it was the most impressive because there were, well, seven separate and distinct churches in one. It was an ancient church, not a tourist attraction and it was the real deal.

They took us the through the market section and we saw the fresh fruits and vegetables stands and the meat and fish stands. I saw the largest crab I’ve ever seen and, in a box below it, the smallest crabs ever. I saw crayfish; Judy pointed out a whole octopus. We saw a plucked chicken with its head and feet still attached. We saw all kinds of grapes, berries and other kinds of fruit that I hadn’t seen before on this trip.

Bologna is a laid-back, friendly town, home of Ducati motorcycles. An old, old city of ancient history, it is noted for its use of arches in its architecture. I think, if I were to live in a city in Italy, I would choose to live in Bologna.

At day’s end, we all hugged and kissed each other goodbye. Tears flowed between the girls and we hugged and kissed each other some more. Massimo stayed with us until the train pulled into the station. We enjoyed his continuing to practice his English. I wished I spoke Italian so I could speak at length with him on what I knew were many mutual interests. Maybe there will be another time when we cross paths. Maybe we’ll never see either of them again. Maybe our day together will always keep us in each other’s memory. I know I won’t forget them or the day they gave to us to show us their city and a little bit about them.


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