Sunday, January 11, 2009

My Bologna Has a First Name ...

(and it's not O-S-C-A-R).

It's 2009 (!) and yesterday I took my bipedal and god-bipedal attendants on their first outing
of the New Year. The bipedals are currently "between assignments" (which is my typically sensitive way of saying that they're unemployed) and I thought that a visit to the historically rich city of Bologna would cheer them up.

Bologna is considered by most Italians (especially Bolognians) to be the culinary capital of Italy, and not just because of their namesake pasta sauce which, by the way, is called ragù rather than bolognese sauce - and sausage - which, by the way, is called mortadella rather than bologna. Human food can be so confusing. Anyway, besides its foodie status, this 2500-year old city is home to the oldest university in Europe (3rd oldest in the world) where the likes of Dante, Petrarch, Thomas Becket, Erasmus and Copernicus cracked open the odd book and probably cut a few classes, and more churches, piazzas, palazzos, basilicas and arcaded walkways than you can shake a stick at.

I confess though that it can be a little trying travelling with my bipedal attendants - especially since I do so in order to bring a smidgen of culture into their otherwise bleak little lives. For example, I brought them to the Fontana del Nettuno (the Fountain of Neptune) in the Piazza Maggiore in order to highlight the sculptor's skilfully studied attention to the musculature of the sea god Neptune. I reminded them that this sculpture is Giambologna's homage to the (then) four known continents of the world - represented by the four sirens at the base of the fountain - and all my bipedal attendants could do was snigger at the water spouting out of the sirens' nipples. These people can be absolute Philistines. (Sometimes I just pretend that I don't know them).

We also stopped by le Due Torri - or Two Towers - which dominate the city's ancient university quarter. Not to be outshone by Pisa, Bologna has two leaning towers. The tallest of the two is just shy of 100 metres tall and those who climb its 498 steps are rewarded with a stunning view of the city's rooftops.

At least, I've been told so - because my bipedals refused to make the trek up the tower because they were too cheap to pay the admission fee (it's not like I don't give them a decent salary) and their feet were sore. Which in my mind translates as sheer laziness. Consequently, I had to forego my tower-top photo and pose in front of a street-level mural of Bologna.

Just for the record: it wasn't the same thing.

I do feel a little badly though - and not just about the missed photo op. The truth is, at one point, I almost got them into a spot of trouble at the Basilica di San Domenico - although, really, it was their own fault. My god-bipedal attendants asked that I pose in front of a statue of the Pietà. Normally, I try not to associate myself too closely with religious icons of any persuasion, but my male god-bipedal attendant made an excellent case that I would fit perfectly in one of the cherub's open hands and wouldn't that be a great photo? Of course he was right.

We had set up the shot perfectly but then my male bipedal attendant's hand slipped, thus failing to position me properly, and I took a tumble - at the very moment that one of the church's priests popped out from around the corner. Consequently, all you can see of me in the photo is a red blur. If I hadn't have been wearing my red kangaroo, you wouldn't have been able to see me at all. Thank goodness I still have a keen sense of fashion.

Fortunately, we weren't busted by the priest (those Dominicans were responsible for the Inquisition so I don't like messing with them) but not wanting to tempt fate any further, we all scurried out of the church in search of lunch. As I mentioned earlier, Bologna is the epicurean capital of the country but unfortunately that translates into a lot of meat dishes. As you all know, I'm a vegetarian bear but if there's one thing that Italy isn't short of - along with all those churches, piazzas, palazzos, basilicas and arcaded walkways - is pizzerias. And that's no bologna.


Anonymous said...

Dear Grey Bear
WOW Your best blog yet.
It sounds like you had a good day over all.
Do you think you like Italy enough to stay there?
Should you not be hibernating right about now?

Grey Bear said...

Thanks Anonymous! You're right: I should be hibernating but I don't want to miss anything while I'm in Italy.