Friday, August 15, 2014

Five Fun Facts For Ferragosto

The church across the street

 “I am at length joined to Bologna, 
where I am settled like a sausage, 
and shall be broiled like one, 
if this weather continues.”
~ George Gordon Lord Byron

Today, Bologna was not as hot as it's been for the past two weeks.  The high reached about 80 degrees, and while the humidity was still high, the slight temperature drop and breeze made it comfortable.  Add in the fact that today is Ferragosto, and the day was a perfect one in which to walk around the city.

"Ferragosto?" you ask. Yep. So did I.

On Wednesday morning, the Spanish woman in my class, Violeta, slid something my way and asked, "Do we have to go to that extra class this afternoon?"

"What extra class?" I was confused because I had heard of no extra class.

"The school is closed Friday for Ferragosto," she informed me, "so there is an extra class today."  I looked at Violeta and then at Annette.  Annette looked as confused as I did.

"Ferragosto? What is that? Did you know that, Annette?" I asked.  She shook her head.

"Everything is closed Friday," Violeta said.  She had a tendency to mix things up, so I was sure she was a little pazza.

It turns out ol' Violeta was correct. Today is Ferragosto, and it is a national holiday. Apparently, the ancient festival celebrated the end of hard work in the field and coincided with the Feast of the Assumption, which my non-Catholic friends might not realize is a holy day of obligation (Catholics are supposed to go to Mass.) Almost everything did close (YAY!! Another reason to take a day off!!), and the streets in my area were very quiet.

I took a number of long walks and took photos since very few people were out and about. I thought I'd share a few along with a few fun facts.

I.  I went into the church across the street from my apartment today to see if Mass was going on and to light a candle for a friend's grandchild. I assumed they'd be having Mass since the bells were ringing a lot, but there were only five people in the church, and I was one of them.  As I was kneeling there, a little, old nun started playing the organ, and she and the old priest started singing.  I mean no disrespect, but I was surprised the beautiful stained glass didn't shatter from their voices.

Colazione (Breakfast)

2. Not exactly everything closes.  *My* bar, Bar Santo Stefano, reopened this morning after having been closed for four days to remodel.  I had to celebrate with a cappuccino and brioche (with apricot marmellata, of course).  Cesar's was the only bar open, and that shocks me because one would think the others would want the business.  Oh, well.  Good for Cesar and Lili.

The canal from Via Piella

 3. Bologna, like many European cities, once depended on canals for transportation and power.  The Bolognese silk industry and flour mills used the water to power wheels for those businesses.  In addition, they used the canals to transport goods.  In the 50s and 60s, the city government paved over most of the canals to provide more parking for the modern city.  Today, you can see the remnants of one of the canals in the old ghetto ebraico—Jewish Ghetto.  Across the street from where I took this photo is a wall with a window cut in it.  When you open the window, you can see the other side of the canal.  I'm quite taken with it and will most certainly return.

Naked Neptune
 4. The Fountain of Neptune, a bronze statue that was completed in 1565, still stands guard over Piazza Nettuno next to Piazza Maggiore in the center of Bologna.  (Neptune's trident, by the way, is the symbol of the Maserati Car Company.) The two piazzas front what was once the papal palace in Bologna.  Apparently church officials were not too pleased with the giant nude statue and claimed it upset women and made them faint, so they had bronze shorts made to clothe Neptune.  After Napolean formed his puppet state and became "king" of Italy in the early 20th century, he ordered the bronze shorts removed.  Luckily, I haven't seen anyone fainting in the piazza since I arrived.

Naked Luzzo

5. Via di Luzzo is a tiny street off of Piazza Santo Stefano. Very close to the top of the street, this sculpture of a fish resides where you might otherwise see a street sign.  A Luzzo is a kind of fish that looks like the sculpture, as I found out by looking here.  One of the instructors from the school told us that because people could not read 300-400 years ago, city planners put sculptures on the streets so people would know where they were.  As far as I know, no women (or clergy) were upset by the naked fish, so they didn't have to wear cement shorts until Napolean freed them.

That's the end of today's Five Fun Facts for Ferragosto!

 Be sure to join us again tomorrow as we see what kind of fun stuff we find in this fair city.

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