Having just passed the half way point for my first week of classes, and having been here in total nearly a week, I’m starting to develop a bit of a routine, which is always a good thing for me when I’m abroad. As you probably know, I’m taking Italian classes five days a week here. The school is pretty close to my apartment, and thankfully almost on the same street, so getting lost is difficult (though not impossible, at least for me). Classes run from 9 to 1, with a ‘pausa’ at 11 for coffee. Italians are incapable of doing anything from 9 to 1 continuously with no pausa. During the pausa the entire school troops down to a tiny bar/tabaccheria around the corner, which the barrista there probably anticipates each morning with terror. We form our own daily rush hour.
Class is divided into a morning lesson, during which there is remarkably little grammar taught, though we do plenty of exercises, and an afternoon conversation session, taught by a different teacher. It’s pretty exhausting, all in all. The class roster seems to change on a daily basis, as people move in and out to get to a more appropriate level. Well, mostly they move out. As of today we have a very charming Japanese girl who is studying to be an opera singer (a common pursuit for people in Italian classes, I’ve found), a nice but remarkably humorless Polish/German woman, looking much like a hausfrau with a blonde buzz cut, an older (i.e., near my age) Dutch guy who, interestingly, builds facsimile period harpsichords for a living and is in the area networking, and a retired Dutch nurse who seems to be in a perpetually cheerful mood. I’ve ended up mostly spending our breaks with the Dutch guy, whose knowledge of art, architecture, music and history is almost as deep as it is narrow. Pedantic blowhardiness has never had such an accomplished adherent.
There is, conveniently enough, a little shopping strip that I pass on the way home from class, with about a half dozen stalls selling fruit, vegetables, deli meats, and, oddly, fish. I’m not entirely sure how you keep fish fresh outdoors in Bologna for half a day. There are also a few small bakeries along this strip. Yesterday I ventured into one of the bakeries, and the long-time followers of my foreign misadventures will be pleased to learn that buying bread there was a snap. While nothing was really labeled, I did manage to get – and understand – a description of each type of bread before having to decide. I will no doubt have to get some things in the supermarket around the corner from me from time to time, but I can see this string of shops providing most of what I need, with a little language practice tossed in to boot.
After getting back from class I have to put in a few hours of work, which is decidedly the least pleasant part of the day. It’s very hot and humid here. By that I mean that it’s very hot and humid here even for me. Of course there’s no air conditioning in the apartment, and frankly it can be a little hard to summon up the concentration required to get anything done. But get things done I must, and do.
To break things up I’ve taken to having a stroll around town in the evening. The city is very small; I’m in the northern part of it, and can easily walk to the southern edge of the old walled city in fifteen or twenty minutes. Walks here are very different from those in Rome, in that the streets look remarkably uniform here, and are also uniformly narrow, a result in part of the fact that arcades were built onto almost all the buildings, thus encroaching on the formerly somewhat wider streets. As a result, you can be walking right by large elaborate palazzi and be completely unaware of them. Also, there are remarkably few places to sit down, at least few public places. Even the piazze around town tend not to have benches of any kind. To me this makes it a bit less attractive for a visitor.
All in all things are going smoothly here. It’s an interesting town, though I feel like I’m still just discovering it, and no doubt there will be posts highlighting less mundane aspects of my stay in the future. So far, though, I can’t say that Rome has any serious competition for my civic affections. Rome this is not. And I should probably apologize, both to you and to this city, for the number of times I’ll no doubt compare this place to Rome, but it is my main point of reference for Italian cities. I’ll also apologize for the lack of photos in this post. Well, near lack of photos. As a parting shot, here’s a demonic looking fellow who overlooks the piazza a few steps down from our coffee bar. Perhaps I’ll have more on that piazza in the next post.