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Darn. 

Ah, but that’s the way it goes. After all my agonizing about how long to stay in Ferrara, and finally letting the palio sway me into this extra day….

….it poured.

Yup. It was cloudy at the start of the day, and the forecast definitely called for rain just at the time the palio festivities would begin – 3/4 o’clock. But I had hope, which I carried with us through the first part of the day.

Which began – about 11:30 – with Mass at the Cathedral.

There is, of course, no paucity of churches in this city, even not counting the closed ones. But there is also, as far as I know, no masstimes.org that’s maintains a Ferrara data base, so I just took the easy way out, popped by the Cathedral on my early morning walk, checked the Mass times, and decided we would do the 11:30.

(As I mentioned before, there is a church around the corner, but, as I figured out this morning, it has been given to some variety of Eastern Catholics. I peaked in on orthros (morning prayer), and Divine Liturgy would have been great, but it was a tiny congregation and I wasn’t up to that level of engagement, as in…why are the Americans from Alabama here??? Not they wouldn’t have been lovely, I’m sure, I was just not up to it. )

So to the Cathedral it was, into which, as is the case with most historic churches, tourists continued to stream during Mass. Which is fine, because it’s evangelization, and indeed many people did pause and listen to the homily and observe various others goings-on during the Mass.

And believe me, they had plenty of time to check in and out of that homily. It was, I am not kidding you, as long as the rest of Mass put together, as Lina LaMont would say.

So, we’ll backtrack.

Celebrant was a 40-ish, energetic priest. He was assisted by a deacon and a religious sister who helped with Communion. No servers. An organ played at entrance and recessional, but no hymns. Just instrumental. The only sung parts of the Mass were the Alleluia and the Sanctus (in Italian). The sequence was recited by the congregation. Roman Canon, which I believe is mandated for Corpus Christi. The priest spoke for a few minutes before Mass, preached for thirty minutes, and then spoke for five minutes at least at the end of Mass.

Now, I don’t speak Italian, but if I know the context of the speech, I can usually pick up the gist, and especially so with Catholic-talk. So I discerned that this priest, who preached very energetically, was emphasizing the importance of the Eucharist. He probably did a great job! But what struck me was this: as I mentioned, his homily was as long as the rest of Mass. His manner of celebration was on the way-casual end of “say the black and do the red.” That is, he seemed to do everything he was supposed to, and there was nothing odd or off, but the ritual outside the homily was informal and hurried – and little of it sung.

So, despite a religious culture that can still put on a bang-up and lovely, moving Corpus Domini procession, it seems to me that if understanding the importance of the Eucharist is a priority, letting your own voice dominate the liturgy and celebrating in a casual way is  counter-productive. The ritual itself sends a message. That does not mean stuffy and distant. It means letting the ritual itself communicate Who is among us via reverence, care and MUSIC. Thnx.

Then after Mass, the priest pointed to a small display to the side and explained things. What there was, in a frame, was a piece of cloth, apparently associated with the young man pictured beside it. Those who chose reverenced the relic. We did, with no understanding of who or what this was all about except, well, saints! Blesseds! Prayers! Always good.

I took photos and when we got back, figured out who this was and then immediately wished I had known at the moment. It was Rolando Rivi, a young (very young – 14 years old) seminarian killed by communists in 1945. NCR(egister) has the story:

In June 1944, Nazis troops occupied the seminary, and so all the seminarians were sent home. Rivi returned to his hometown of San Valentino, carrying his books with him to continue his studies there.

In San Valentino, the young seminarian never stopped wearing his cassock, despite the rising climate of violence. When his parents suggested he refrain from wearing it for his own safety, Rivi reportedly replied: “I study to be a priest, and these vestments are the sign that I belong to Jesus.”

The situation grew more difficult: Four priests were killed by the communist partisan brigades, and Father Olinto Marzocchini, San Valentino’s parish priest and Rivi’s spiritual father, was attacked and subsequently transferred to a more secure place.

Nevertheless, Rivi’s days were spent between service in his parish and his studies. On the morning of April 10, 1945, after serving Mass, the 14-year-old took his books and went to the nearby woods, where he was accustomed to studying. Yet this time, he never returned. At noon, his parents, worried because Rivi had not come back for lunch; they went to the woods and found his books on the ground and a sheet of paper, where the following words were written: “Do not search for him. He just came with us partisans for a while.”

Kidnapped and stripped of his cassock, Rivi was imprisoned and tortured by partisans for three days. Some of the partisans proposed to let him go, since he was only a young boy. But the majority sentenced him to death, in order to have “one less future priest.”

On April 13, Rivi was taken to a forest in the surroundings of Modena. The partisans dug a grave and had Rivi kneel on its edge. While he was praying, the young seminarian was killed by gunshots to the heart and head. His cassock was rolled into a ball, kicked around and then hung as a war trophy in the front door of a house.

 

Reconciling With History

After the Second World War, the official history of the so-called “Italian Resistance” exalted the partisan resistance to Nazi fascism and hid the crimes brought on in the name of this resistance.

This is exactly the reason why the “feast of faith” of Rivi’s beatification is such a blessed day for Italy, and it even can be considered a high point in the process of reconciliation in the so-called triangle of death.

After the Second World War, Rivi’s death was immediately described as a “private crime.” Yet journalist and historian Emilio Bonicelli gave great impetus to the cause of beatification. He read about the story of an English child who was miraculously healed of leukemia thanks to Rivi’s intercession, and this story brought wider recognition of the young martyr.

“This is how I met Rolando,” recounted Bonicelli, “and from then on, I fought to shed light on his story. In the forest where Rolando was killed, it seemed that hate won and that Rolando had been extinguished from history. But the Lord taught us there is no great evil that cannot lead to a greater good.”

 

I don’t know if the relic we reverenced was part of the cassock he was wearing when he was captured. I don’t think I will have a chance to get over to the Cathedral tomorrow to see, which is really too bad.

*****

Clouds starting building after Mass, and I started obsessively checking the palio Facebook page. They said an official announcement of the status of the day’s events would come at 2. So we attesnapchat-7320893137772186505.jpgmpted lunch, and every restaurant was full and not available for walk-ins. It was raining for real now, so we didn’t feel like hunting down an open restaurant any longer..
.so…McDonald’s it was. Which is why American fast food has a niche in Europe. When many restaurants operate mostly on reservations and only serve through part of the afternoon, the all-day American-style convenience…helps. (Image via Snapchat – download and add me at amywelborn2)

 

By the end of lunch, the announcement had been made that the show would go on, but sadly without the parade from the piazza in front of the Cathedral to the piazza where the race would occur. We walked up (about a km) to buy tickets, and then walked back to the apartment to change out of church clothes and take a little break. Then back over to the venue where after about ten minutes…it started raining. Hard. I heard English being spoken behind me, and I turned to the red-headed woman and asked if she knew what was going on. No more than I, so as we waited we chatted. She was Canadian, having come over from Tuscany/Rome on her way to Venice – sort of the reverse of our route, without the Venice part. She was hysterical talking about the trip over – for her even longer because she was from Vancouver. “It was horrible. I literally thought I was going to die. I thought – I can’t go on. I am going to die.” 

(Because of the discomfort of economy class. Yup, it’s cramped, made even more painful when you shuffle past The Royal High Class or whatever British Airways calls it, with their recliners in cubicles. And the fact that for the sake of helping us be more comfortable by giving lots of electronic gear plus the ability to charge our own at our seats, every seat now has a chunky metal box underneath, giving even less leg/foot space. I’m short and not tiny, but still smallish and I cannot imagine how bigger, taller people deal with these flights. But hey! I usually don’t complain because…I’m going to be in Europe in six hours. It’s still kind of Magically Weird to me.)

Oh, okay. The palio. Damn it, cancelled. Postponed til next Sunday. It’s certainly disappointing, but we did get to catch a bit of the spirit of the event as we watched the neighborhoods gather and cheer and just absorbed the moment. Theoretically we could come back and see it, but theoretically, there are more things on the other side of Italy that will probably take priority.

But you never know. Because…hahahahaha. still  have made no plans past next Friday morning, when we check out of the Rome apartment. Can you believe it? This is a record, even for me, queen of the last-minute Big Trip. We’ll talk about it tomorrow on the train or tomorrow night. The way things are going – which are fine, by the way – I am thinking that what we need is running room. By “we” I mean not me, by the way.

So, tomorrow it’s…bus to train station, train to Bologna, train to Rome, taxi to the apartment and then yup, say hello to Rome once again.

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A palio is a competition between neighborhoods. The most well-known is that of Siena, but other Italian cities have them as well. These images represent the various neighborhoods.

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Colors.

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Before the rains. This was a section for one of the neighborhoods. There was to be two footraces, a donkey race and then the horses. What I could never figure out is where the animals were being kept. 

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Instagram (amy_welborn) or Snapchat (amywelborn2)

 

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Just a quick post on Ravenna. It is Sunday morning, we are going to Mass and then the palio festivities – it is supposed to rain this afternoon, so I don’t know how that will affect everything..but I just bought two umbrellas from the African umbrella peddler (he asked for 5 E, I got him down to 2 for 6 – go me. Maybe they will last the day. If there is no heavy wind.)

So, Saturday, we went to Ravenna. Learn why Ravenna is important here. One of the many, many art books my parents had when I was growing up was one on the mosaics of Ravenna, so it has always been on my radar.

We got a late start, and in order to get back at a decent hour, we couldn’t see everything I had wanted, but okay. We saw a lot.  I did take photos and will post a few here, but honestly, to get a sense of the glory of these mosaics, just find professional photos online – much more illuminating than my poor attempts!

Ravenna is quite oriented toward tourists. It’s popular in and of itself, of course, but also as a cruise ship excursion. So it was pretty crowded, but not uncomfortably so. We caught a 12:15 train from Ferrara and were there about 1:30. Found the tourist office, ate lunch, which came to a very reasonable 13.50 Euros for all of us (1 small foccaccio/salami sandwich, 1 pretty big salami/cheese/lettuce wrap, 1 big piece of pizza, 1 small black rice salad and 2 waters.), and then went in search of mosaics.

Baptistry of Neon. My photos cannot communicate the glory of these mosaics and the experience of standing surrounded by 1500-year old expressions of faith, still as vibrant as when they were first created. The tower is not the baptistry, but the bell tower next to the duomo, which is next to the baptistry. 

San Vitale. Built in the 6th century, famed for, among other things, the images of Justinian and Theodora as well as this image of a beardless Christ as judge. 

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.  Probably never actually used as a burial place, it is an absolute jewel.  Because it is small, you can see the mosaics at close range. This is St. Lawrence. If you look up more information on the site, you can see close images of the decorative mosaic, which is intricate, shimmering abstracts. 

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Sant’Appolinare Nuova Built by Theodoric, and therefore Arian in origin. Read more about it here. Fascinating visual litany of saints along the sides, men on one side, women on the other, mirroring, I would imagine, the division of sexes during worship, energetic magi, and a weird, but probably inevitable, given the dynamics of change and time, of Byzantine and Baroque. 

Interesting also,  but not for mosaics, was San Francesco, an ancient basilica with a flood crypt…and goldfish.

 

We did not, unfortunately, make it out to either the Arian baptistry or Sant’Appolinare in Classe. Both are outside of the historic center – the latter requiring a train or bus ride – and it just didn’t work out with a decent return to Ferrara.

It was too bad, because I would love to have seen both. But returning when we did, we were able to see other worthwhile sites.

Pink marble, extra rosy in the setting sun.

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Market day prep.

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People getting along at the end of the day.

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And…..music.

 

(Camera died at the end of the second one)

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— 1 —

We are in Ferrara, and as I wrote earlier today, it’s lovely. We saw how lovely all day today from the perspective of a bicycle seat. Well, three bicycle seats.

(Snapchatting away while they were back inside the apartment taking a short break. amywelborn2 on the Snapchats thing)

— 2 —

We rented bikes from this shop – nice people. I would say it’s in walking distance from our apartment (hey, I just did…), but everything in the city walls is withing walking distance of everything else.   The woman and man who were there didn’t speak English, so she called her son (I think) who did, and who went over everything with me on the phone to make sure I understood the terms – 7E/bike for all day. Not bad!

We started out riding on the old city walls (Lucca is another place in Italy where you can do this) and then moved into the town itself.

You know how bicyclists in the US are always griping about bike lanes? Well, there are no bike lanes in Ferrara, no one wears helmets, at any given time there are as many if not more bikes than cars on a stretch of road, people ride bikes carrying pizzas, with kids on the front or back, with a dog on a leash trotting beside, with a dog in their lap, texting (that’s the most impressive/frightening), men in suits carrying briefcases and big bunches of flowers, old women and men, women in heels, and all the time bikes and cars are sharing the road just fine.

It’s astonishing. I’ve never been in a place with so many bikes. It’s fantastic.

 

By the way, while many babies ride on seats mounted on the back, even more popular, it seems, is a seat in front of the rider with a windshield affixed to the handlebars. I’ll try to get a photo at some point. It makes sense.

— 3 —

I’ll admit I was a little nervous in the traffic, not so much for myself, but for my sons, but they did fine. Fairly early on, my older son’s bike developed a flat rear tire, so we just popped back by the shop and they replaced it.

 — 4 —

We made a few stops. We spent some time going through the Este castle, which stands right in the middle of town, still surrounded by a moat. We got some food, we went through a couple of shops, including Tiger, which became a favorite in Madrid – it’s like a cross between Ikea and Dollar General.  This also got our attention.

We went into the Cathedral, the ceiling of which must be in danger of falling because most of it was covered with netting.

— 5 

This is some of the graffiti in the prison room.  The right hand photos are of ceilings in various rooms of the castle. The tissue-like paper is holding cracks together. I don’t know if they have plans or funds to restore before the whole thing starts falling apart. The top photo is from one of the game rooms – the paintings are of Greek-Roman games – wrestling, etc. The bottom right is of a huge mirror positioned so that you can study the ceiling paintings without getting vertigo. 

We rode and rode, back up on another section of the walls. I think we got the bikes about 11 and returned them around 6. So that was a full day.

 

 

 

6–

Later, my younger son and I took a walk up to the spot where the palio will be held on Sunday. I didn’t take photos – but it’s a large, oval shaped piazza. The sand is laid down and hoofprints told us that practices had been occurring.

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On the way

 

— 7 —

Food today: lunch was foccaccia-type pizza slices from this bakery, eaten standing up on a side street with our bikes leaning against a wall. Dinner was salami, speck and mortadella from the salumentari/grocer a few doors down, cheese and bread from another grocery, and melon. And later, some gelato.

Tomorrow…Ravenna, I hope.

REMEMBER – if you are interested in photos and clips from this trip that I’m sending out several times a day, follow me on Instagram and Snapchat (amywelborn2).

NOT ITALY RELATED – read me here at Catholic World Report on “Walker Percy at 100.”  That’s tomorrow – Saturday, May 28 – that he was born where I now live, in Birmingham, Alabama. 

 

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

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I need to remember to turn the phone sideways for these videos….

Location.

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Today was the day. I don’t often do tours, but given the concentration of interesting and quality food production in Emilia-Romagna, and to make sure we got the most of the experience, a tour seemed in order this time – and it was a good thing, too.

We went with Laura Panella, and she was great. She took us to four family-owned producers, we learned, we tasted, we had a nice lunch…a good day!

Parma is a bit less than an hour train ride from Bologna.  Since the Parmesan production occurs in the morning, that meant…we needed to get ourselves going a little earlier than we have been. A lot earlier. It’s good that the train station is only a couple of blocks from our apartment  – that short walk lessened the pain a bit.

And as it turned out, the train was late. Only about fifteen minutes, but enough to stress me out. I hadn’t considered that possibility. Which was stupid. Would we miss the cheese production? Would they have pack it all into the forms before we got there?

(No.)

The train was packed from Bologna to Modena, when 3/4 of the passengers – a lot of students – disembarked. At Parma, we hopped off, met Laura at her car parked nearby, and off we went.

First, to the Parmesan Reggiano factory owned by this farm.  And no, we were not too late – we were able to see much of the process. We arrived after the milk and rennet had been mixed and curds were starting to form. While that continued, we saw the storeroom, learned about the various levels of Parmesan, how it is tested, what care is required – the turning, mostly done by a robot, even in this small factory – and the labeling. We were then able to see the workers removed the curds which just sort of rolled into shape, then this huge ball was cut in two, and each half stuffed in a plastic form. It would rest there for a day or so, then move to steel, and then be freed to age. This facility is near Bibbio, which claims to be the site of the invention of Parmesan – by monks, of course, who wanted a cheese that would keep. The invention is memorialized in a roundabout by a statue representing a huge chunk of cheese and the typical knife used to slice it. Some photos – and the video is via Snapchat, which I keep telling you to keep up with, so you can follow our travels in almost real time…as much as I can manage to fool with it.

 

The earlier (not earliest, which occurred long before we arrived) stage of letting the curds settle out of the milk. The vats are cone-shaped and go down into the floor. 12 vats which produce 24 wheels of cheese a day. 

 

What is happening here is that the curds are pulled together and up with a paddle, then gathered in cloth which is hung from the stick in order to allow liquid to escape. That one big ball is then cut in half, and those two hung in the same manner. In the lower right hand photo, you can see how the whey is being pumped out of the vat – it is traveling directly to a truck outside, which then takes the whey to become part of pig feed. 

 

The balls are removed , floated in water for a second to make them easier to handle, then hoisted up into the plastic forms. In the top left photo, they have been removed from the forms and are floating in sea-salt water to give a bit of flavor while they wait for the steel, curved forms and the imprinting from a plastic form. 

 

Image originally posted on Instagram. 

There’s also a short video I originally put on Snapchat here on Instagram.  Also, a quick survey of my purchases from today is on Snapchat…for the next 24 hours…(amywelborn2)

Then to the winery. Lambrusco typical wine of the region, as the vineyard owner explained, since the food of the area tends to be heavy, a lighter wine is important. We saw the vines, learned about the process of making the various wines, and tasted. Well, I tasted. Lovely wines. What was so interesting to me was that 60-70% of the wineries products are purchased by local families who bring in these huge containers (I can’t remember the name…perhaps one of you knows it) when the Lambrusco is ready, have it filled, and then take it home to bottle it themselves to have their wine for the year.  The rest is sold to local delis and groceries – no exportation, it’s just too expensive, and not worth it.  Under three Euros a bottle. I wish I could have purchased more, but we are only at the beginning of our trip, and two bottles is about as much as I want to cart around Italy for two weeks.

I asked the owner – the granddaughter of the original owner – if she’d been to the US, and she said no, but she’d been to Mexico – as it turns out, many of the same places – Chichen Itza, Merida, Tulum – to where we traveled a couple of years ago, so that was a fun conversation.

And now…meat. Which is very…meaty.

Another family business, with the 82-year old owner still about. They produce Parma ham, coppa, pancetta…etc. We learned about all of these different cuts, and of course, the curing process. Entering the curing room, you’re hit with incredibly strong smells I can only describe as..meat. With some sea salt and mold mixed in, Phew. It was not exactly delicious-smelling to my senses. The tasting was interesting to me because eating these meats right there, without benefit of refrigeration or industrial production, it is much more evident that these are cured, not cooked meats. It’s hard to describe, but there was a sort of fleshiness about them that I suppose is the way it’s supposed to be, but was still a bit of a surprise.

 

In the lower left photo, coppa is being tested by inserting a long pick made from a horse bone, used because it is porous and therefore can take in the scent of the meet quickly and then just as quickly release it. 

Lunch!  I honestly cannot tell you where we ate – I was so turned around by that point, and I forgot to take a card. Somewhere between Parma and Emilia-Reggerio, is all I can say. I think. We had a simple, but good meal of cured meats (of course), an assortment of ravioli, stuffed with pumpkin (typical of the region), swiss chard, potato and turnip greens, in a light butter sauce. The boys had “chocolate salami” – basically chocolate biscotti with hazlenuts – and I had a corncake that you dip in moscato wine. Oh, and Lambrusco, of course. Very nice, and nice people running the place.

Finally, the balsamic vinegar, which is not what you find in stores,most of which is made via flavoring additives. This is the place we visited, and received a tour and instruction from the owner. The tasting was illuminating – such a clear and interesting difference between, say 10- and 25-year aged vinegars. Quite complex. You can read more about it here.

 

Laura then drove us back to Parma and, at my request, dropped us at the  centro where we could see the duomo and baptistry, then walk to the train. I hadn’t bought return tickets, but knew generally when the trains ran, and we hit it almost perfectly, arriving at the station about ten minutes before a train was departing for Bologna.

Baptisteries are lovely things. Constructed in an era when baptisms only occurred at most twice a year in the “mother church” of the diocese, they were made for crowds. I couldn’t get a great shot, but the inner area of this font is made for four priests to do the baptizing at once – and how do they get in? A board was put over the water, that’s how. (Information learned from Fr Augustine Thompson’s wonderful Cities of God.).

The cathedral is covered –  covered in paintings. The most well -known is in the cupola, a Carreggio Assumption which:

…features the Virgin Mary ascending through a sea of limbs, faces and swirling drapery.

The imagery of the Assumption has been met with some bemusement over the years, with a contemporary comparing it to a “hash of frogs’ legs” and Dickens commenting that the scene was such that “no operative surgeon gone made could imagine in his wildest delirium.

Even from a distance, it’s pretty wild. 

Correggio Assumption Parma

 

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(Follow me on Instagram & Snapchat – amywelborn2 –  to get timely updates. I have no-extra cost data overseas, so….yeah.)

Okay, the last we met, it was early afternoon Bologna time on Monday, and now it’s about 10pm Tuesday Bologna time. I feel as if I have been here forever. (In a good way)

My older son had a more difficult time adjusting to the time difference and toil of travel this time, and ended up sleeping most of the day on Monday.  After I returned from my morning walk, the younger son and I went out, returned, saw the brother was still out, and went back again…and then finally around 4, went out to wander one last time with the now rested brother.

It actually was good because I really got my bearings that way and could plot out an efficient day today.

First, even though Bologna is not so much on the American tourist route, there are a lot of tourists here – other Italians, French, and lots of Brits. It’s a busy, busy city with an interesting vibe – probably even more so over around the university, and I’ve enjoyed the time.

So today, I got up first, of course, and walked back down to Piazza Maggiore, where I shot a little video. 

The big church is the Basilica of St. Petronius, an early bishop of Bologna and the city’s patron saint. Obviously, the marble facade was never finished. The interior is huge and expansive – it was hoped to be larger than St. Peter’s in Rome, but the Pope squashed that notion. The interior is not terribly interesting except for its size – there are a few pieces of artwork I took note of – an enormous fresco of St. Christopher, for example – and I think the most prized fresco set was roped off and is only open to special tours or something. It was odd.

I found some really wonderful croissants at this bakery. Most Italian croissants that you find in a typical corner bakery are not so great. Obviously mass-produced, dry and too sweet for my taste, they are not a favorite. But these were lovely, baked out of some sort of (probably) organic/natural/Slow Food ethos. As good as you would find in France. And cheaper than anything you find in America – 6 Euros for five exceptional pastries.

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Once everyone was up and fed we got out the door and took the bus down to find the Corpus Domini convent. It is where St. Catherine of Bologna’s body is on display for reverencing. Yes, her whole body, sitting up. The story of why is here. And while the nature of her final earthly resting place seems weird and grotesque to some, her life story is anything but. A fascinating woman, born into wealth and privilege, she sacrificed it all to become a Poor Clare and left some very sound spiritual advice. You can read what Benedict XVI said about her, including that advice here.

In her autobiographical and didactic treatise, The Seven Spiritual Weapons, Catherine offers in this regard teaching of deep wisdom and profound discernment. She speaks in the third person in reporting the extraordinary graces which the Lord gives to her and in the first person in confessing her sins. From her writing transpires the purity of her faith in God, her profound humility, the simplicity of her heart, her missionary zeal, her passion for the salvation of souls. She identifies seven weapons in the fight against evil, against the devil:

1. always to be careful and diligently strive to do good; 2. to believe that alone we will never be able to do something truly good; 3. to trust in God and, for love of him, never to fear in the battle against evil, either in the world or within ourselves; 4. to meditate often on the events and words of the life of Jesus, and especially on his Passion and his death; 5. to remember that we must die; 6. to focus our minds firmly on memory of the goods of Heaven; 7. to be familiar with Sacred Scripture, always cherishing it in our hearts so that it may give direction to all our thoughts and all our actions. A splendid programme of spiritual life, today too, for each one of us!

In the convent Catherine, in spite of being accustomed to the court in Ferrara, served in the offices of laundress, dressmaker and breadmaker and even looked after the animals. She did everything, even the lowliest tasks, with love and ready obedience, offering her sisters a luminous witness. Indeed she saw disobedience as that spiritual pride which destroys every other virtue. Out of obedience she accepted the office of novice mistress, although she considered herself unfit for this office, and God continued to inspire her with his presence and his gifts: in fact she proved to be a wise and appreciated mistress.

Later the service of the parlour was entrusted to her. She found it trying to have to interrupt her prayers frequently in order to respond to those who came to the monastery grill, but this time too the Lord did not fail to visit her and to be close to her.

With her the monastery became an increasingly prayerful place of self-giving, of silence, of endeavour and of joy.

(By the way, I was under the impression that some sort of secret handshake was involved in getting into the side chapel with the body, but no – the door was wide open, and there she sat.)

The experience was not as odd as I thought it would be. For one, I couldn’t get close because a woman was deep in prayer in front of the body. But secondly…it just wasn’t. You get in there, are initially a little bit freaked out, and then you pray, and it all makes sense – why you are there and what you need to be saying.

It seems to me that St. Catherine is still filling that role – the service of the parlour – as she welcomes outsiders to the prayerful silence of the convent, of focused spiritual life.

Then we walked just a few blocks over to the complex of San Domenico – where St. Dominic died in 1221, after having sent his friars to the university town in 1217  –  and where his body rests – not sitting up behind glass, but in a large , stunning sarcophagus. Unfortunately, as per usual, we arrived to see it right before they shut off close access to it – I don’t know if it was for the afternoon break or because of Mass, but whatever the case, we only had a couple of minutes close to the tomb – enough time to pray for Dominicans we know, including future teachers of some of us from the Nashville Dominicans, as well as other friends and acquaintances, and in general thanksgiving for this wonderful order.

So if you want to see good photos and learn more about the art…go here.  I’m no help.

As we walked over, large groups of schoolchildren started streaming in from various streets in the same direction, and when we walked in the church, it was clear there was going to be some sort of Mass. More and more children – teens to tiny ones – kept coming, and as we left before Mass began, here came a bishop.

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(I’m using Snapchat a lot this trip – find me as amywelborn2)

We were then just a few blocks from San Stefano, where we’d attempted to go the previous day before being kicked out after 97 seconds. We headed over there and it was interesting – the complex is a set of churches (more like chapels) intended to evoke Jerusalem.  The problem is that the signage is terrible, there is no guidebook available at the entrance – only at the gift shop which is in the back and staffed by chatty (with each other)  but otherwise indifferent Benedictines. Some evocative Romanesque, but I’m still not sure what it evoked.

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We then returned to the Archiginnasio of the University of Bologna, where, again, we had ventured the previous day, but of course, right before closing time. It is an fascinating structure – one of the original sections of the University of Bologna. What makes it so memorable is the tradition of students’ coats of arms being painted or erected on the walls and the ceilings – seven thousand.

Right up the street was Santa Maria della Vita , in which I wanted to stop to see the other terracotta grouping – the 15th century Lamentation over Dead Christ by Niccolò dell’Arca .  There is a small charge to see it (3 euros for me, 1 each for the boys), and it is worth it. It’s a stunning piece of work. Probably overwrought, but no matter. It’s hard to stop looking, and a privilege to be able to do so at such close range.

It was then time for lunch. I decided we would check off “Traditional Bolognese Cuisine” from the list and so we went to Da Nell0 – just a block from Piazza Maggiore – and had a good meal centered on cured meats, then tortellini en brodo (tortellini in broth) and tagliatelle Bolognese – which is not what you might think of when you think “Spaghetti Bolognese.” First it is made with the flat, ribbony pasta called tagliatelle, and secondly real Bolognese sauce is basically meat. It has been cooked down and is intensely flavorful (I made a simpler version a few weeks ago, via Marcella Hazan), and it is so much better than any tomato-sauce drenched dish you’d find on the menu in the US.

We had great service, which is obviously the norm, not only for humans, either. We must have been seated next to the canine table, for the party sitting there when we arrived had a dog with them, and the next group and another, even larger dog. No, we weren’t outdoors, and as we had learned in France, Europeans don’t seem to mind dogs in restaurants…

By then, the older kid needed a break, and what the younger one had his sights on held no interest for him – the Archaeological Museum.  So we walked him back to the apartment and then headed back out to the museum, taking the bus for most of it. It is not that far, but at this point, I was, uncharacteristically, dragging. I say “uncharacteristically” because I am blessed with great health and stamina and hardly every get tired. But not today.  The reason being that I had awakened at about 4 am and not been able to get back to sleep. So yes, after having been awake for 12 hours, eaten a heavy lunch (also uncharacteristic), and walked about 4 miles…I could have easily dozed off in the midst of the mummies. In fact, I might have.

For that was the special exhibit – on Egypt. And, as we discovered, it was the only exhibit. the museum was all Egypt, top to bottom for the moment. It was okay – the kid was fascinated, and there was an audio guide which made it even better.

Then back to the apartment where, unbelievably, people asked for food.  I won’t eat again until tomorrow at some point, and have no desire or need to, but, them..what is up with these people and their thing about eating meals?

Well if you are going to insist, then you are going to get streetfront pizza, which is just fine and super cheap. So.

We then walked around a bit, ending up strolling through the 11 Settembre Park – a small park where there were teens and students congregated at one end smoking and drinking, and parents and children on the other, smoking and drinking. The main attraction for us was an enclosed dog park in which an Great Dane was holding court with a resounding, basso, yet friendly  bark.

What’s a little sad is that at 11 and 15, my own kids are now too old to join the playground scrum. Some of our greatest travel memories have been made on playgrounds in foreign countries, including in Paris one day when the then-7 year old ran up to me breathlessly saying, “The kids keep asking me what my name is and all I keep saying is, ‘Je suis Americain, je suis Americain,‘ but they keep wanting to talk to me!”

But..time passes and different pleasures take the old ones’ places.

One more stop: the train station to  buy tickets for tomorrow. We are going to Parma, and it’s not necessary to buy tickets ahead of time from an availability standpoint, but since the train is pret-ty early, I thought it would be a good idea to have them in hand for my own peace of mind.

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On the way to buy train tickets. This is the Porta Galleria, a gate built at the old medieval city walls in the 17th century. 

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The beginnings of these trips are always so odd – you lose a day of your life, in this case, Sunday.

We flew out of Atlanta. Yes, Birmingham has an airport, but for international flights, you are probably going to get a better deal out of Atlanta (although Atlanta international fare “deals” are not much to shout about. I did well on this fare, though.) ..and the last time we flew internationally to and from Birmingham, we almost missed the connecting flight back to Birmingham from Atlanta because of customs, so I swore we would never do that again.

On the way, we caught the Vigil Mass at this sweet little church in Carrollton, Georgia.

It’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and I really like the design of this metal ornamentation on the exterior.

Parked offsite at the airport, where it’s cheaper, and got on a plane to London, waited a couple of hours, and then flew to Bologna. The flights were fine. They had never flow British Airways before and were blown away by the difference in service between that and American airlines. Some sleeping occurred on the way over the Atlantic, and more between London and Bologna. Even I slept a bit, which I usually don’t do.

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We were too tired to explore Heathrow much, although I did peak in the multi-faith prayer room, where a few Muslim men were saying their prayers.

We are in an apartment in Bologna. We didn’t get here until after 6. Met by the owner, we were oriented, and then walked a bit. Got pizza, checked out the grocery store, found Kinder Eggs, then came back. Asleep by 9, I woke up by 7 AM and set out to explore a bit and get my bearings. I happened upon the Cathedral, where Mass was happening, and saw this marvelous terracotta figure grouping.  Compianto su Cristo morto. 

 

There is another, more famous terracotta group elsewhere in the city. We’ll find it.

Random shots. Find me on Snapchat (amywelborn2) and Instagram (amy_welborn) for more frequent updates and even some expertly-shot video.

 

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We’ll try to check some of this out. 

Unfortunately, we will have to miss St. Philip Neri being honored by Italians singing American Gospel music. 

 

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The second floor of the grocery store has a pharmacy/health goods, plus this area growing herbs that you can pack up and purchase. 

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View from the apartment. I don’t mind. I’ts quiet. City apartments with a street view tend to be…loud, as we learned in Madrid, painfully.

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