September 17, 2008

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Hey all,

Time is flying here on the Boot! I can hardly believe it’s already been three weeks since our classes at Cultura Italiana started. Although we are still acclimating ourselves to the different style of teaching at the school, we are beginning to make some headway with the language. I am now able to converse with my host family at dinner (which is a relief). I can’t really say that I’m learning tons of new things, but the work we do in class (which consists primarily of conversation exercises and grueling worksheets) is serving to hone our speaking skills at our respective levels and thus far seems to be working. I can only hope that our progress continues at this rate — especially considering the fact that our classes at the University of Bologna (which are conducted entirely in Italian) begin on Oct. 1!

Our advisor, Alessandra, is helping us through the course selection process and has generously offered to research some options for each of us based on our individual interests and fields of study. I am hoping to take an Italian cinema class this semester in an attempt to better understand modern Italian society while working toward my major. Next Friday, Alessandra will let us know what she has found and we will make our decisions then.

While we wait for our schedules to fill up, we have been keeping ourselves busy exploring the city. This past week we discovered yet another pizza place right across the street from the Two Towers of Bologna (it’s appropriately named "Due Torri Pizza") and have eaten there almost daily. For ?1.50, you can get a thin-crust jumbo slice of pizza with any topping (when I say jumbo slice, I am not exaggerating — one piece is at least 14" in length!). If you are a student, this is ideal. The past few days though (having grown tired of pizza) I have eaten at two little side-street trattorias and have been thoroughly pleased. Today I had a red-wine risotto with beef cutlets and could not have enjoyed it more.

Bologna is a really cool city. It’s big enough to have a cosmopolitan feeling but small enough to not be overwhelming. Unlike Florence or Rome for example, there are no grand museums or massive basilicas with domes the size of a small village, and is therefore completely devoid of tourists. Within a half hour, a tourist could see all the major sites (which essentially consists of the Piazza Maggiore and le Due Torri) and move on to their next destination. However, this is what makes Bologna so unique — it is one of the few remaining Italian cities that has been totally untouched by the rest of the world and is thus a place where you can truly experience what it is like to be an Italian.

Furthermore, it is reputed as being the culinary capital of Italy. Many of the dishes which we associate with Italian cuisine in fact originated in Bologna — tortellini, mortadella ham, and Bolognese sauce (here, simply called ragu) — to name a few. Bologna is also possibly the prettiest city I have yet to see in Italy. It is very clean and all the buildings are matching shades of orange, red, and yellow. Every street is lined with porticoed sidewalks, some decorated with frescoes and roadside shrines and others simply with the original stone work. In fact, Bologna is said to be the most porticoed-city in the world — a feature which in addition to being beautiful is especially nice when it rains.

Last weekend the other Holy Cross kids and I took a day trip to Parma. We spent the day walking around the city center and ate lunch at a small restaurant in one of the city’s main piazzas. As incredible as the food is in Bologna, that lunch in Parma has to have been the best meal yet. Feeling the need to immerse myself fully in this experience, I started out with an antipasto of Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (the two items for which Parma is world renowned) and was not disappointed. After devouring the entire plate, I proceeded to eat my main course, which was (sticking with the theme) Tortelli alla Parmigiana. In the United States we would probably call this dish Ravioli stuffed with Spinach and Ricotta, however that description doesn’t really do it justice. There’s really no way to describe how amazing that meal was, so I won’t even try. Needless to say, we were all in agreement that a return trip to Parma is mandatory.

This weekend we were hoping to go to Florence and meet up with the other Holy Cross group for the Bologna-Florence soccer match, however we were unable to get tickets (apparently only season ticket holders can gain entry to the stadium). Instead, we are planning on spending the day in Ravenna, which is on the Adriatic coast and only an hour away. It’s supposed to have one of the greatest collections of Byzantine mosaics in the world, so I am looking forward to it.

Until next time!


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