Friday, June 21, 2013

Art, Architecture and Food in Bologna Italy

Ohhh, I owe some darling readers a huge apology! A lot of people tell me that I am living the dream life because I live in Florence, Italy. And while I do love it here and know that it is where I need to be for the moment, life here is not always la bella vita. Since I last wrote to you, I have been on a short trip to Florida to spend some time with my family, was ill and in a lot of pain, and I have been living out of boxes for too long now. I have not written a blog entry in a while because I am having withdrawal pains from creating art, have been sorting out a new life in a new home and some changing relationships, and in general, not feeling myself.

Sometimes someone writes to me to ask if she may write a guest post on my blog. I recently decided to try this out until I can get my feet back on the ground and my head out of the clouds for a bit. Angie Picardo is my first guest blogger and she has chosen to write to you about Bologna, a city north and east of Firenze (Florence’s real name). The artwork is one of mine . . . as are each of the photographs. Thank you for reading!

Art, Architecture and Food in Bologna

Often overshadowed by its better-known neighbors, Bologna is quite a hidden gem. The city offers myriad rewards for the intrepid traveler intent on finding one of the best arts scenes that Italy has to offer.

Bologna’s origins date to 1000 BCE. It was first settled by the Etruscans and Celts, followed by the Romans, and then as a free municipality in the Middle Ages. The city boasts the oldest university in the world – University of Bologna – founded in 1088. Its thousands of students still contribute heavily to Bologna’s vibrant art and culture scene.

The city’s historic center is well-preserved, and it defines Bologna as an artistic and culturally important city. The architecture is distinctive for its warm colors, including vibrant reds, burnt oranges, and yellows. Miles of porticos extend throughout the town center. For museum buffs, the art is world-class. For example, the National Gallery (Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna) features a wide range of fine art, including Renaissance portraiture, Mannerism, works of Carracci, and paintings by Guido Reni. The Archeaological City Museum (Museo Civico Archaologico) contains artifacts from almost every stage of Bologna’s civilization. The Roman section features the statue attributed to Emperor Nero, and Etruscan artifacts include rich funeral attires from ancient tombs. Other notable museums include the Medieval Museum, the Municipal Ancient Art Collection, and the International Museum and Library of Music, each featuring impressive collections.

Bologna was named a “European Capital of Culture” in 2000. Because of this distinction, the city raised close to $10 million to transform an underdeveloped neighborhood into an arts district featuring the Manifattura delle Arti, or Factory of the Arts. Many formerly vacant spaces quickly became dynamic hubs of culture. For instance, a slaughterhouse in the area was refurbished as the Cinetica – an institute for film restoration and study – that features free screenings for the public. Art galleries and design studios have sprung up across the city, as young artists flock to join the creative resurgence in Bologna. These galleries include Galleria Neon, Agenzia 04, Metropolis Photogallery, and Stile Libero.

A number of sites have been created to facilitate mingling amongst the creative class. For example, Non mancare! (Don’t miss) the Zo Caffe which serves as a café, art gallery, and venue for ambient-music DJs. In addition, new destinations crop up every month. 2012 marked the long-awaited grand opening of the city’s modern art museum called MAMbo. The 9,500 square meter space brings innovative exhibits from some of the most dynamic artists of contemporary art, featuring nine permanent displays ranging from the latter half of the twentieth century to the present.

Bologna is also renowned for its cuisine; it stands out even in a country known for food. The abundance of classic Italian food has given rise to the town’s nickname, La Grassa, or “the Fat One.” Many Italian specialties originate from Bologna, including tortellini, mortadella and, of course, Bolognese sauce. A number of expansive food markets, including Mercato di Mezzo and Mercato delle Erbe, attract shoppers interested in the freshest local ingredients from nearby farms. Some of the best restaurants in the area – and it’s no easy feat to narrow it down! – include Da Marco (known for its seafood pasta), Diana and its old-fashioned ambience, La Terrazza’s classic Mediterranean fare, and Da Fabio. Visitors with a sweet tooth can find locally-made chocolate at Roccati, Lagana and Drogheria Gilberto, all of which feature fine candies, chocolates and pastries.

Visitors will be pleased with the Mediterranean weather, especially in March through October, when the warmest months allow outdoor enjoyment of food and drink.

Angie Picardo is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance and travel site dedicated to helping people learn how to get the most from their money, whether it’s booking flights for vacation or choosing between a traditional or Roth IRA. As an undergraduate, she spent time abroad in Florence and hopes to return to Italy for a trip to Bologna.

From Kelly: Happy Summer solstice for the northern hemisphere! We are certainly feeling the summer heat here in Firenze, but we are in the valley of many mountains. Perhaps Bologna is much cooler.