Bologna Blog Number 1

Trip Start May 03, 2007
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15
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Trip End Aug 22, 2007


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Monday, November 19, 2007

The journey continues......
It is very different living in one place for 4 months than it is traveling for a similar time period.
We arrived in Bologna to the very pleasant surprise of an apartment with loads of space, great light and in the very center of town so that walking will be the principal mode of transportation. The apartment belongs to one of my oldest friends, Giusi (Jewzy) Gardenghi, who was a fashion model in the 1970's and who was one of the models that I represented as an agent. She dropped out and went to live in Katmandu, Nepal 23 years ago with an Italian gelato making machine in tow. She is now independently wealthy as a result of the Nepalese falling in love with gelato. She now has multiple retail sites and for all practical purposes Giusi is ice cream in Nepal. She maintained this apartment in Bologna to use when she came to Bologna to visit her mother, who passed away one year ago. She was going to get rid of the apartment until our friend Rachel was having lunch with her 2 months ago and they figured out that renting the apartment to us for 4 months would be a win-win for Giusi and Karen & Steve. Things happen for a reason.
My first month of internship is in an ambulatory care office with a group of primary care physicians. What a trip. The first physician that I worked with was an engineer until he lost parts of 3 fingers in a construction accident 12 years ago. At the age of 40 he went to medical school and here he is. In my first week I have seen overflow incontinence in a 92 year old, a neck mass in a 32 year old, acute onset alopecia in a 15 year old female, craniofacial herpes zoster (ouch), a lot of constipation and diarrhea as well as a variety of patients who have had the flu and needed a note from the MD to explain the days out of work. The disease that has blown me away is Hashimoto's, or autoimmune, thyroiditis. All will remember that Chernobyl occurred 20 years ago and the radioactive cloud included the northern portions of Italy. The incidence of Hashimoto's hypothyroidism is simply unbelievable. I have seen 9, mostly women, patients in the first 2 weeks. I think that there is a lesson in her somewhere.
The second part of each week I work with the boss primary care doctor, who is the boss for a reason. This guy is very smart. He enjoys having me around and exchanging ideas about how certain pathology is treated in Italy as compared to the U.S. He has very good analytical skills and his knowledge of pharmacology is impressive. I am learning so much about hypertension, congestive heart failure, non-insulin dependent diabetes, hypothyroidism, etc. This experience is going to make me a much better doctor.
Bologna is unrecognizable. In the 1970's the rhythm of life was a pleasure; slow and somehow soft and sensual. Men wore 3 piece suits; women wore elaborate outfits of the latest fashion. Walking down the principle avenue of downtown Bologna was like going to fashion week  at Bryant Park. Blue jeans and the T-shirt have turned this population into a very bland and undistinguished group of Greenwich Village wanabees. They look so ordinary, like walking around downtown Brooklyn. The 44 year old female bank executive , not a teller but a customer service person with an oak book- shelf office, who helped us open our new Italian bank account was wearing black jeans with a 3 inch zipper and silver studs on all the pockets. Years ago it would have been a man in a 3 piece suit (the fact that now it was a woman is progress) with a classic pinstripe and red tie. Call me nostalgic but some changes cannot be ignored.
With the price of gas now 1.40 Euro ($ 1.66) per LITER, which comes to $ 6.64 per gallon, we are on the train to Florence to buy car insurance for cars with non-Italian license plates. Round trip for 2 persons is 60 Euros, $ 84. 00, which is expensive but a bargain compared to the gas required to make the one hour trip. Upon our return from Florence this afternoon we will finally pick up our car from BMW after a quick 1000 Euro ($1,465.00) service charge to repair the passenger window that no longer went up and down, replace the back wheel brake pads, replace the battery and perform the 75,000 Mile service. Here's hoping that our allotted finances last for this entire adventure. I keep telling myself that these are one time start up costs and that the weekly steady state cost of living will be very reasonable. No, my name is not Walter Mitty but thank goodness for the apartment and the Euros it produces.
Now for the news that makes all the frustrating issues of living in Bologna worthwhile. Yesterday afternoon we drove; yes drive the car with gas in the tank, to Pesaro where Marco Ciccone and Tea have planned a dinner with Titti, Massimo & Marina & Bebbo in which we celebrated the harvest of the white truffles. The white truffles are at their peak fragrance for 12 to 14 days and then it is over. All the courses of this dinner in Marco & Tea's home were based on the white truffle except for the dessert, made by me, of zabaglione and wild berries. Vive Cliquot flowed all evening. We slept at Marco/Tea's and Sunday morning we went to Titti's house and practiced Yoga for 75 minutes. We then went to Massimo/Marina's house where she prepared an elaborate lunch of frittata(an egg quiche with truffles), tagliatelli(with truffles), and rabbit and potatoes and radicchio trevisano in the oven. These are the events that make living here special.
Yesterday, Sunday, we went to the very small and unknown town of Savigno, about 30 minutes southwest in the foothills of Bologna. For 2 Sundays each year this town converts its main square into an eating orgy of white truffles. The square has massive heated tents set up and the restaurants from the region cook dishes based on the white truffle. The dogs that find the truffles are there, the truffle spade used to dig them up are displayed.... In other words, the entire process of finding the white truffle and the foodin which the truffles are used are all available in the small square of this tiny, unknown town. What a feast. We saw more white truffles in one day then I seen cumulatively in my lifetime. They are displayed by weight and range from 10-15 Euros to 400-600 Euros for the prestigious large ones. As you walk around the town you cannot escape the wafting smell of the white truffle. We only wish that all our friends could have been with us to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.
Karen's Impression of Bologna (So Far)....
Arriving into this city is was an exciting event for me. With Rachel as our guide through the narrow, busy, ancient streets that once provided passage for Roman soldiers, we made our way to the apartment she had brokered for us through her relationship with its current owner, a woman who lives in Nepal most of the year.  This is a spacious, 2BR/ 2Bath with terraces everywhere! We are extremely lucky! There is a tree outside the living room that is noted in history books of Bologna as being the tree Napolean tied his horse to when he came here to visit his mistress. In addition, since our landlord is a Buddhist, we have a small shrine to Buddha in our living room and some amazing Buddhist prints hanging throughout the apartment. The church bells seem to ring all day long providing me with a great sense of my Catholic upbringing and endearing memories of St. Ann's School.
Our first week here was a little rocky. Getting our computer into service, getting the bank set up, car insurance and adjusting to the time difference have finally all been successfully completed, so we have really started to have some fun.
Madrelingua, the Italian school I have enrolled in is a no nonsense program. My teacher, Stephania is very energetic, and we spend 4 hours per day speaking Italian only- in fact, you must even ask questions in Italian and the answer is always in Italian! On my first day, I met people from Michigan, Thailand, Japan, Wales, England and Australia during our daily coffee clutch, where everyone has to speak Italian- it is hysterical because with everyone at different levels, our discussions become a mash of words with everyone strongly attempting to get their point across. It is great to be able to walk or ride a bike to school- back to simplicity!
Josh and Stephen, from Michigan (a conductor and a professor of music) invited Steve and I, Maria (an Australian Italian teacher) and Chiaki (a Japanese ceramic artisan) to an Acetaia (vinegar production facility) in Modena on my third day. We tasted 25 year old vinegar and toured the grounds of this family's heritage of vinegar production. What a process! The production and cultivation of this product is complex and extremely technical, without the use of modern equipment. The people of Modena have cornered the market on this process with a great understanding of nature and how to guide it so that a superior product is the result!  We ended the night with a great dinner in Modena, interesting conversation and some new acquaintances. (see pics)
Other great things that are happening here: it's truffle season!! We have been eating truffles now for the last 2 weeks. Tea and Marco had a great truffle dinner party, and the next day, we had a truffle breakfast with Marina and Massimo (truffles on eggs!!)  In fact, today we went to a truffle festival, had truffle oil, cheese, shaved truffles, etc. (see pics). There is a "Festival di Cioccolato" in Bologna... a flea market - like set up except that every table is some form of chocolate from some region in Italy- can you imagine?? (See pics). Luckily, I have met Rebecca, an American yoga instructor who is willing to take us on. She lives nearby and we are very hopeful that her style of practice will work for us. I know this will make Margo and Darlene (our yoga instructors in the US) very happy! True yoga studios and gyms are non-existent in this small city, purtroppo. (unfortunately)
Going shopping for food every day is a great time! Atta and Tamburini (see pics) are the providers of the fresh pasta that Bologna is noted for- (tortellini, tortelloni, etc.) and these two stores are right around the corner from us along with the fruit, vegetable and fish markets. The flavors here are amazing, something I wish I could bottle and carry home for everyone.
Well, this is the end of our first "Bologna Blog"- please enjoy these culinary pictures. Have a great Thanksgiving Day!!! (I have homework to do!!)

**A special prayer for my Uncle Jim who is gravely ill at this time.
 
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Comments

wotan98
wotan98 on

Food Food Food
well, i'm glad you're finally settling into your new routines. both sound demanding and enriching. not surprised that some things have changed, and not for the better. that sense of disappointment is common, i think, among people who return many years later to a 'special' place that just isn't what it used to be. i'm sure you realize how much of your blog is about food. maybe 75% of it? that too is no surprise; just finished rewatching the first five and a half seasons of The Sopranos, in which characters are constantly eating, out of Tony's refrigerator, in the back of the pork store, at the strip club, in fancy restaurants. hope you're exercising!!! we'll miss you at Thanksgiving, but look forward to seeing you and hearing more on your first trip back. all's fine here. A-Rod and the Yankees are working on a 10-year, $275 million contract. go figure.
lots of love,
Michael and Debi

dandeutsch
dandeutsch on

bolognese
Sono felice che tutto vada bene! Bologna è una vera cittá e non esiste solamente per i stranieri. Mangiate per noi!

Auguri,
Danny and Sandy

wotan98
wotan98 on

p.s.
if you find anything on or by Rabarama (an Italian artist) in any bookstore you frequent, please buy it for me and bring it/send it home. i'll reimburse you when i see you. Debi adores her and i'm striking out from six time zones away. many, many thanks, MC.

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