Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Day at the Beach

Though the temps here cannot compare to what some of you have already suffered in New Jersey and New York, after a very wet and cool spring, the hot 90s finally arrived yesterday.

The geographic shape of Italy allows for a major amount of coastline, and Italians sure take advantage of it. One of the favorite past-times is going "to the sea" (unlike the "beach", or the "shore" as we New Jerseyians say) and getting the darkest tan you can (tans and wearing fur are not at all taboo here). Andrea grew up going to the sea for a month every summer. The sea air and sun is a cure-all for everything, and one can book a room at one of the zillion hotels and for a relatively inexpensive price, eat breakfast, lunch and dinner in the dining room and in between lay on your sunbed on the beach. The beaches have a line of "bagno"s (pronounced ban-yo"), low buildings on the sand that are privately owned, and provide sunbeds, umbrellas, a restaurant (or snack bar), and play area for kids, showers, bathrooms, etc. In the trendiest sections (where all the beautiful soccer players and disco queens show off their bodies), you can pay more than 20 euros for one sunbed. We went to the beach yesterday in the more family catered section, and paid 16 euros for two sunbeds and an umbrella. But these are on the Adriatic coast in this region. There are less trendy beaches to go to but it is not as fun to people watch (and I was to afraid to wear a bikini!?).

But because everyone goes to the beach, especially on the weekends, there is an exodus from Bologna and the trip which should normally take just over an hour took two. So unless we plan to spend the night or leave from Lugo (which is 30 minutes from the coast), we won't do it again as it was more stressful and time-consuming than fun.

But, admittedly, I am not a fan of tans (I wear spf 50) so I am glad that Andrea told me to smack him next time he suggests driving to the sea just for the day.

Of course, here I am talking about the local beaches. This region of Emilia Romagna holds the most developed and attended beaches. The beaches of Sicily are amazing and unlike those of the mainland, and I understand Puglia is just gorgeous. The water here can be smelly on some days as it is more of an inlet between Italy and Croatia rather than an ocean. There are little waves, if any, and coming here is to experience a large part of the culture rather than to enjoy a dramatic and refreshing break from living inland.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The long, hot summer begins

We have been busy in recent days - the beginning of summer and the end of the school year kicks off the Italian vacation period and there is this urgent feeling to get together before splitting up for the summer. Italians tend to go away for vacation and we aren't talking about a week or two (I'll be happy next year when I can say I am going to the US for 8 weeks, which can be the norm!). We attended the family bbq of the IWF and Ray had a very fun time with his other English speaking friends and the horses. He rode his first pony, and here we both are with Rokstar. How cute is little Daphne in the first photo. All the kids are half-Italian.

We also hosted an aperitivo/reunion to celebrate the marriage and expected baby of Alberto and Esther. Fiorenza joined us along with a Graziela and Piero who live across the street from us (he went to elementary school with Fiorenza and looks like Anthony Quinn. They invited us over for dinner last winter and embarrassingly enough, I fell asleep at the table. In my defense, they were all speaking in Italian and Ray was not sleeping all night in those days so I was e-x-h-a-u-s-t-e-d and completely t-u-n-e-d out). Paolo Pucci came from his family's home in Florence to join us - he was a lecturer at Princeton and is now teaching Italian at the University of Vermont.

My two closest Italian friends, Mara, and Marcella with her new baby Carlotta, came over for some New York cheesecake and american coffee. Both of their kids go to school with Ray.

Ray had his end-of-the-year party at school. It was fun - they had some games where the parents had to "name that tune" and charades. Here is Andrea doin' his thang (he was the champ in the tunes category). The five ladies in the photo below are the teachers, there are two more not pictured (really great for only 25 kids).

Andrea watches the charades with Mara, and next to her is Michele, Marcella's husband. I am just starting to realize how many Italian names start with "M" - Marco, Massimo - they are all so popular for this region...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Art, Gingko, and Uncle Koji

A friend, Angela Lorenz, (whom I happend to move across the street from when we came to live here last year) is an artist - she creates these amazing, limited edition, scholarly pieces using form and everyday materials that are often sold to museums and libraries. She recently came up with an idea to write a poem about the ginkgo tree written on a paper ginkgo leaf folded into a fan. She came over to tell me about it, and I said, "oh, my cousin Keiko was just visiting and she wears a gold ginkgo leaf on a chain because my Uncle Koji discovered the medicinal value of the ginkgo and blah blah blah..." So in chatting, she decided to put the folded leaf into a test tube (Koji=scientist) and wrote a dedication to him that you can see here:

Here is Uncle Koji's web site:

And, as most of you know, he was recently awarded the highest honor in Japan, the celebration in which Aunt Yasuko was well enough to attend with him. We've always known him as that absent minded professor who is only interested in an audience for his magic show, so it is hard to imagine him as such an accomplished scientist. Congratulations, Koji!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Visitors to Bologna

We have had a number of friends and family who have come to visit in the past several years. I thought it would be fun to post some of the photos.

Mom and Keiko came to visit just after Ray's birth. Here Mom and I are in Bologna's Piazza Maggiore (it's easy to see what I am going to look like at 70). Keiko has visited three times now - last summer to take a language course which she plans to do again this year (she has been studying Italian for several years now and is way more advanced than me).

Here we are in Lugo (Andrea's hometown) doing a Slow Food tour ( of various restaurants. The little bags around our necks is what one keeps a wine glass in to do all the various tastings. How fun is that?! Lugo's native son is Francesco Baracca, a WWI hero who apparently flew this plane. The logo he used, of a rearing horse, is the one that Ferrari now uses on their cars. (

Celeste, Rik, Kyle and Lauren came to visit one month after I moved here (Kyle is obviously jet lagged). Celeste and Rik took off for a couple of days in Venice to celebrate their 25th anniversary, and Kyle and Lauren hit the sales in Bologna (every July and January for those interested in Italian clothes).

Andrea's thesis advisor, Peter Bondanella, came to Bologna with the Indiana U. summer program students.

Dick and Susan Stryker visited every year until his retirement from Indiana's study abroad program. And Pietro Frassica comes from Princeton regularly (he was Andrea's best man at the wedding).
Sophia and her friend Marissa came in the first year. I thought this photo was funny - I look like Michael Jackson in his "I'm Bad" video (that's Marissa on the right). They were able to go on an excursion to Urbino with Andrea's students which was nice. Here, they are sitting at my favorite bar in Piazza Maggiore and below, standing next to one of the canals in Venice.

Pico and Jeremy came to visit last summer. I don't have a photo of them, but here is Pico when we saw her in Spoleto, where she was in the orchesta for the international music festival.

Having Melinda and Susan visit from Princeton was a blast. We spent three days in Venice drinking wine and watching the gondolas go by. An American woman approached us and said she wished she was hanging with us instead of her husband, ha. It was a special time. We are on the Rialto Bridge and there they are toasting, yet again, at my favorite Bologna bar.

Fiorenza Weinapple lives in Princeton but is originally from Bologna where she still keeps an apartment (a 5 minute walk from ours). She hired both Andrea and Alberto as lecturers at Princeton. She'll be over next Tuesday for an aperitivo, along with Esther and Alberto, who came to visit us in Sicily two years ago and now are expecting a baby in September and just got married! Alberto lives in Massachusetts but his family is in Rimini, about an hour by car. Esther teachers at SUNY in upstate NY. Hopefully they can juggle the distance when the baby arrives. Alberto is Ray's Godfather.

Uta, my former manager at Princeton, visits Germany every summer and here she came to visit us in 2004. She may try to come again next month.

Our friends Marsha and Greg met up with us in Rome, but haven't made it to Bologna yet. Here is a recent photo of them in the south of France where they went last month to celebrate a BIG birthday for her!

Alicia and Rob Shimer stopped in Bologna for dinner one evening while they were in Italy for a conference. They were economists at Princeton but moved to Chicago a few years ago.

Tori came to visit - here is an exciting photo of us at the Bologna train station. She did a LOT of shopping. Andrea's friend, Ken, came from Portland and stayed with us for a month while researching his family's history in a small town near Rome. I will try to find a more exciting photo than this one - he doesn't bite.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Early June

I have a good friend, Sogand, who is an amazing cook and invites her friends regularly when she cooks her specialties - typically foods from her native Iran. Though she also is an American citizen, she married an Italian and has a 4 year old daughter, Sofia, who is a doll. Here is a recent hen meeting - Sogand is on the right, and my very good friends, Harriet (from South Africa) and Philippa (London) are next to her. Next in line are Ms. France, Ms. Nashville and Ms. Spain.

Here is also an old photo of Ray and Sofia. She has amazing hair.

The first part of June was fairly busy - we wrapped up Andrea's year with a farewell dinner with the students though they are still here finishing up exams. It is the norm in Italy to take your final exam orally (that sounds so dirty), so you can imagine the stress of sitting in front of the class and being "interrogated" (that is the word they use!) and then immediately recieving a course grade which you can reject if you aren't happy with it, and then schedule another oral exam at a later date. Can you imagine? I'd rather write a 20 page paper or take a written one.

We spent one afternoon with friends in a castle in Dozza, a small hilltop town where we had visited with Celeste and Rik. There is a great enoteca in the "cantina" where there are wines from the hundreds of local producers. This is Andrea, Ray and friends in the castle tower playing Ring around the Rosie Italian style.

Following the castle tour, we visited an agriturismo for lunch. These restaurants are usually working farms that produce their own foods-we sat on a terrace to eat while Ray played on the playground next to it (for four hours straight and no lunch - just a drink of water from time to time).

Another day, another photo of Ray on a mall ride.

Ray's birthday was celebrated again with Godmother Kathryn, and her husband Marco. (Don't laugh at my cake, sisters) Kathryn works for a non-profit cancer research institute. She is one of the few Americans who has carved out a fairly successful career here...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Lee and Aunt Yasuko

Peace and love to Yasuko and Lee. Our memories are so much richer because of you.