The Becker's Bologna Blog

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

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Getting Ready for the Holidays.... in

Although we originally thought that we would let
Thanksgiving Day quietly pass us by, as it drew closer, the need to be with
loved ones, cook great food and give thanks became overwhelming. The macellaio
(butcher) handed over to Steve a turkey (tacchino) complete with head, tail and
feathers and after he cleaned it for us, we were able to shove it into our
little oven and actually cook a Thanksgiving meal! Our little Italian family-
Rachel, Matteo and Paola enjoyed turkey, gravy, chestnut stuffing and even a
version of cranberry sauce! Steve and I ate turkey for the next week, but it
was absolutely one of the most memorable Thanksgiving Day's for both of us!

We have been able to do some cycling in Bologna- the ride to
the Church of San Luca is unbelievable. This church was built between the
1300-1400's and is famous for its 3.7 km uphill walk through a covered portico
(666 arches). This soggiorno originated back in the 1300's when the pastor at
that time led a procession up the hill, carrying an image of the Blessed Virgin
and placing it behind the opulent altar. After the first procession, the heavy
rains that were spoiling the fields finally stopped. Since then, it has been a
yearly tradition, with people from all over the world taking part in the trek
up the mountain during the week of the Ascension. (See Pictures) The city is
normally filled with religious memorabilia to the many saints that were a part
of its history. (St. Petronius, St. Francis, St. Sebastian, etc.)   Even the churches are filled with preserved religious
artwork that dates back as early as 1100. Going to Mass here and being able to
light candles for my loved ones has given me great comfort during this time.
(see pictures)

In Bologna, the Christmas decorating starts immediately
after Thanksgiving Day (it's the same everywhere!) and they really light it up
here! The Two Towers are the center of attention and every street displays a
different configuration of lights. Their tree is illuminated in red and white
(our friend Matteo is responsible for the Christmas tree display this year) and
gives me the feeling of being home every time I look at it. (See Pictures)

The manner in which people socialize here is one of the best
parts of this trip. Having lunch together, going out before dinner for aperitif
and making arrangements for dinners at home are all part of a way of life that
we lose back in America because we are so overwhelmingly busy and live far
apart from our family and friends.

We were invited to a book party- our Italian friend from
Formentera, Paola Cane, has done the illustrations for a new cookbook, Le
Cesarine, and there was a huge presentation of the work at the Teatro
Communale. She is a talented artist and has completed another fabulous project.
(see pictures). The main focus of this book is basically this: the Italian
cooking culture is in danger of extinction. With the introduction of "fast
food", pre made food availability in the food stores, shopping malls and an
increase in the amount of women that are working and raising families, there is
much less time spent with the family around the dinner or lunch table, and
there is an enormous lack of time spent cooking in the traditional style (sound
familiar?) The main theme of the book, in addition to all its recipes is: "Home
Food, I Mangiari Di Casa" (Eat in the House). It is interesting to see how
these people are quickly identifying this problem and trying to address it- I
hope they succeed because this is one food culture we can't afford to lose!!!

Friday, December 7 was my last day of school at Madrelingua!
The 4 weeks have flown by in a heartbeat! My 2 insegnante (teachers-both named
Stephania) were excellent and gave me the education I was looking for. More
importantly, they were interesting, intelligent and made each day an
experience, not just a monotonous lecture. I will always cherish this time,
because learning at any age is attainable if you can open your mind. (see
pictures). We were even able to start a yoga class, which Rebecca and I
translated into Italian! My one concern now is how do I keep this Italian
lesson going??? Here is one idea I had:

Tomorrow, I am meeting with one of the anesthesiologists at
Sant'Orsola Hospital. I am hoping to become a hospital volunteer in the ICU and
my initial meeting is with this doctor. I am figuring this will be a total
win-win. I help them (gratis, of course) and they speak Italian to me! I hope
it works  - will keep you posted!

Last weekend we went to Cortina and cycled in the mountains
in addition to going on a passeggiata (walk) up to Ra Stua. This is one of the
most beautiful places in the world- and I cannot wait to start skiing again! We
were lucky enough to secure a table at Seppila- a tiny restaurant with 12
tables on the border of Austria. (see pictures of the interior). I love the
rusticity of this place as well as their traditional mountain food. (tartar of
Scottish Highland beef, and pappardelle with a sauce made of cervo - deer). Of
course, Rachelle discovered this out of the way restaurant and are we ever

Saturday, December 15 was Marie Becker's birthday and Titti
Carizi's (Chiara's godfather) birthday party. We went to Gabice Monte to
Titti's home overlooking the Adriatic Sea and found that 1 inch of snow had
fallen, VERY unusual. We traveled to Gabice from Bologna with Rachel &
Matteo and Omar di Maria. Steve has known Omar for 35 years. He started out as
a policeman in Pesaro when Steve was in medical school but 23 years ago he was
drafted to become an agent in the secret police of Italy. He was stationed in
Rome where he was the personal bodyguard of what would be the Chief of Staff of
the Cabinet of the ruling party in Italy. The stories he tells, or is able to
tell, are the makings of his 1st, 2nd and now 3rd
book called " Capo di Gabinetto" (Chief of State). What a character!!

The party was a huge success. Steve saw people he had not
seen in 30, 25 or 20 years, depending on who we are talking about. Titti was 56
years old and was in excellent form. The food was prepared by a local fisherman
and his wife. Cannochi (small, soft-shelled sweet lobster), risotto di mare,
yellow & red peppers grilled and mixed with a strong fish from the Adriatic
sea, fresh sardines in oil, etc. etc. Champagne and prosecco flowed deep into
the night. You could see that all in attendance had heart felt warmth for the
opportunity to be gathered together as in years past. Luckily, no one was
missing due to disease or death. It was a reunion to remember.

This will be our Christmas blog- Steve and I are thrilled to
be coming back to NJ for the Holidays! We wish you all a wonderful Holiday
Season and a HEALTHY New Year!!

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