Three cities in two weeks: Why Italy has stolen my heart and made it its own

I guess what they say is true, you can fall in love when you’re twenty two. These two weeks are coming to a close and reflecting back on this past weekend literally is making me smile as I type this. Who knew I could have so much fun with people I have never met in cities I have never been to.

Let’s start with Saturday, our day trip to Ravenna. We visited the most beautiful mosaics at the Basilica of San Vitale, Opera Di Religione Della Diocesi Di Ravenna, and Sant’Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna. I am positive I have never experienced anything like it. The images were overwhelmingly beautiful especially with the sunshine beaming in from outside revealing all of the color and detail of the mosaic. The experience was very soulful and humbling, I could tell I wasn’t the only one feeling that way because when we all walked in, all we could say was, “Wow.” It was simply powerful. There aren’t many words to describe such imagery, so I will just post some pictures.

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After eating the best lunch I think I have had thus far, we then went to Dante’s tomb. For all of us English majors, or our one medieval history (Hi, roomie!), this was obviously like going to Disney world. Nothing like seeing a legend and a piece of his history; and taking selfies with his tombstone.

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And, just to add a great little tidbit of information, the fish in the church that lived underground in their own little cave was just too good not to post. Just shows how amazing Ravenna is, full of hidden gems! 

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Sunday was supposed to be our day off but we were all feeling extremely adventurous so we went off to Venice. The giddiness and pure happiness that Venice provides is a little ridiculous. I have never fallen in love with a city the way I have fallen in love with Venice, and Bostonians have a lot of pride, but I definitely foresee myself going back to that magical place (hoping it doesn’t sink before my honeymoon, if I ever get married.) The sights, the wine, and everything about Venice (the shopping and the gelato, especially) has put the cherry on top of the already very amazing cake.

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And finally, Monday morning. We started off with a lecture by the very wonderful and engaging Dr. L. Iannacci about the juridical books from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages. The common thread between the format of glosses and the present day hyperlink and footnote was so interesting to me. We have come such a long way in technology but I never realized the way we have transformed note taking from manuscripts to the formatting of textbooks and note taking today.

Then, after my very expensive shopping lunch break, we visited the Archivio Storica of the University of Bologna. The manuscripts and letters we saw were so well preserved and interesting. They each had such an incredible story and who knew we would have a letter from Cambridge, that was pretty awesome (there’s the Bostonian pride I was talking about earlier). The “scrapbooks” were also exciting to see because linking students from then to now, not much has changed. The fraternities are still very prevalent, the social events held during college, and the general bond students have to each other are still the same. I think that is incredible that we still connect (even if it is through Facebook or FaceTime, since that’s just how I talked to my boyfriend before writing this.)

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I have never felt so humbled in all of my life. I feel so grateful to be a part of this experience with all of these wonderful mentors and fellow students. I am the youngest one here so I was a little intimidated, knowing I would be so learning so much with people who already know so much, and I feel nothing but grateful to be surrounded by such beautiful, intellectual human beings. So, thank you to everyone for being amazing and talented people.

Now, I am going to close this very long post with just a few awfully cute/needed to be posted pictures of our professors: 

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Ti Amo, Bologna!

        In the words of our friend Brian Campbell, “Another tough day here in Bologna”. Now, it should be mentioned that this phrase, which he has said almost every day that we have been in this magnificent city, is said with as much sarcasm as he can muster, as everyday here has been more wonderful than the one before.

Today we took our morning lesson in the classroom, the Aula Gualandi. Professor Mueller gave a wonderful lecture on Bolognese dictatores and their influence on the history of oration and letter writing. We began the lesson with a discussion of “Rationis Dictandi” by Anonymous of Bologna, followed by a class discussion in which we talked about what certain parts of a written composition should contain. This began what was a very interesting lecture on the differences between many great dictatores and how they each contributed to the art of letter writing. We discussed the works of Brunetto Latini, Boncampagno de Signa, Guido Faba and Giovanni de Bonandrea. The section on Bonandrea was particularly interesting for me, as I studied one of his texts yesterday at the Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna. One of the most interesting things I learned in lecture today was about Giovanni’s “Brevis Introductio”. This is one of his additions to the ars dictanis, and it created a category of the salutation for people of “quality”, such as notaries, clerk and merchants. I found this particularly interesting because Bonandrea himself worked as a notary for some years.

After our fascinating lecture, we had some lunch and then a few of us made an attempt to climb the Torri in the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, but alas! we did not have enough time. Another day! After our lunch, we made our way to the Genus Bononiae­- Museo della Città for a tour of the wonderful museum.

photo-2 Alex & Elana ready to take on the museum!

The museum is in the renovated Palazzo of the Pepoli family, and it is incredible! It is a very interactive museum, and there was not a dull moment. Every corner I turned  I encountered a new room highlighting some of the most important moments, people and cultural aspects of the city’s history. One of my favorite exhibits was the Literature of Bologna exhibit. As Bologna is home to the oldest university in the western world (where I get to study-­ I am pinching myself as I type!), the history of the art of books and literature is vast and began long before the invention of the printing press. In this room of the museum, you are surrounded by old lectures, bound together in books, of many great teachers and writers of the past, Italian, French and American alike. Another exhibit I enjoyed immensely was called “Bologna the Scared”.

photo-3    Bologna il Sacro.

In this room we were able to see an amazing media presentation on the journey of the icon of the Madonna di San Luca from the sanctuary on the Colle della Guardia to Bologna’s city center. The portico that the painting travels under is 3,796 kilometres long, with 666 arches and 15 chapels along the way. This makes it the longest portico in the world. As I was watching the presentation, our professore Flavia told me that she watches the procession every year. I thought about how wonderful this must be, how incredible it is to live in a city that is home to so much history and beauty.  I cannot help but comment here about how wonderful our UNIBO professors have been.  They are extremely kind and knowledgable, and their pride in their city is evident and contagious. I enjoy their company and their conversation immensely.

One of my favorite parts of the museum came at the end, in the last room that was called the “Geoblog”. In this room, visitors to the museum, Bologna residents and visitors alike are welcome to place post­-its on a location on the city map that is meaningful to them. I placed a post-it on the location of UNIBO, with the message “Ti Amo, Bologna!”.

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As another day in this enchanting city comes to a close, I continue to feel incredibly fortunate to be here. I can’t wait until tomorrow when we head to Ravenna! But I cannot help but think I will miss Bologna.

 

Just A Few Short Reasons Xke I’m So Happy

Buonasera, everyone!

First of all: did you get it? “A few SHORT reasons”?

A joke about abbreviations for you to enjoy!!!

And second: I hope you noted the “perche” reference — that is for anyone who was really listening today!!

I am very happy to write for you all a summary of another great day, reminding me of how much all of us are so lucky to be here together. Despite being in Bologna for several days already, our immersion into the city and its vast history has been primarily centered on being treated like princesses (and one prince), with wonderful walking tours that we could just as easily count as beautifully-spent vacation time as we could call them classroom time.

Meanwhile, today, we truly began to get our feet wet with the research/patient/careful work-part of things. It just makes me appreciate Paolo leading the way that much more, now that we’ve had a day much less calorie-burning. But just think about it: it’s the first time it rained, and it was the first day we spent our afternoon indoors! We are so lucky….(as is Paolo that the rain waited.)

 

Below are some of today’s major highlights.

To begin with, in class:

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Class today was split into two parts.

First, there was a great introductory presentation by Flavia, preparing us with a background knowledge of abbreviation systems, and the types of commonly used ones which we will most often come across in our research for the rest of our time in this course. Flavia began by talking about the functions of various abbreviation forms and the things they provide. That is when she mentioned to us something called “the law of minimum effort”. This is material I was very familiar with, as I also follow a law of minimum effort in my own life very diligently.

I am just joking, of course; the law of minimum effort is the basis for the possibility of abbreviating our language in documents, as we are mentally wired to only need “meaningful letters” and “general combinations” of letters in words to conclude their representation power. Without this being true about how our minds process writing, no abbreviation system would ever be able to even exist.

Mostly, this thorough and delightful presentation served to truly give us a foundation on the main forms all of what we come across was founded in: namely, Tironiun note abbreviation and Notae Iuris legal abbreviation, Insular code and several that came later during the age of Scholasticism; all of this these things have shaped the forms we are working with in our materials.

Notes 26.6.14

For your enjoyment, I have included the last line of Lindsay’s forward, photographed above….

It says “Finally, let me anticipate the criticism: ‘this books has no index.’ A book arranged such like this does not need an index.'” I think that’s a funny line, and also a great example of efficiency and brevity.

 

Translate

The second half of class was a lot of fun! But it was also a bit intimidating, too. In this photo, you see the copy of the second letter we worked on decoding and, eventually, translating. Not only is it beautiful, but I also loved trying to decipher this document very much. At the end of class, Flavia went over our two document with all of us. We all felt better knowing it wasn’t supposed to be easy, and it was a great thing to find out it could be fun, too.

No, thank YOU!

No no, Professori… 10 Q!!!

After class and after lunch, we walked in the light rain with our professore to meet our wonderful other professori under the Two Towers, (and under their One Umbrella). Together, we walked through the arcades to the BUB (which — to translate from the Tironiun code — means the Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna”.)

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The rest of the academic day was spent here, where we went over several selected precious documents that our teachers had prepared for us, analyzing each with the same evaluation manner as in class with examples earlier today. For each document, we worked on catalogue sheets that aided in our learning the process of consistent identifying all of its parts and recording the information regarding them (whether it be sizes or line count or catch-word, etc.)
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The incredibly graceful, humble, brilliant, effortlessly stunning, and serenely accomplished palaeographists, who are our beacons, (and are photographed here), answered every question, and maintained a great consideration and patience for our learning something very complicated today for the first time.

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And Professor Mueller was there, too, being very serious as always.

 

 

 

So, as this blog post is getting a bit too long to be considered an abbreviation of the day, and yet is still full of complicated code, I shall wish everyone (library included), a wonderful night….

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And, besides, as Brian reminded me when I was trying to take pictures at the BUB, we will be there again in just a few days.

Goodbye for now,

Renata

renatatbolognascript

Buonasera, everyone!

First of all: did you get it? “A few SHORT reasons”?

A joke about abbreviations for you to enjoy!!!

And second: I hope you noted the “perche” reference — that is for anyone who was really listening today!!

I am very happy to write for you all a summary of another great day, reminding me of how much all of us are so lucky to be here together. Despite being in Bologna for several days already, our immersion into the city and its vast history has been primarily centered on being treated like princesses (and one prince), with wonderful walking tours that we could just as easily count as beautifully-spent vacation time as we could call them classroom time.

Meanwhile, today, we truly began to get our feet wet with the research/patient/careful work-part of things. It just makes me appreciate Paolo leading the way and gelato on-the-go that…

View original post 684 more words

Macarons and Manuscripts

I ate my first macaron today, and it was almost a transcendental experience. This was one of many  occurrences today where I was transported outside of myself in a way Italy does best, whether in the form of a vibrantly painted medieval manuscript, or a hot pink macaron tantalizing visitors from behind the window of a Bolognese bakery. I wanted to start my blog by documenting my macaron experience because it was the perfect end to a day of intense intellectual and cultural experiences my classmates and I had on our third day in Bologna (and since this is Italy I just have to talk about food somewhere on here!).

   We started off our day at the Universita di Bologna with the beautiful and charming RAM staff, learning about the history of the University and manuscript cataloging. Professor Francesca Roversi Monaco gave a lecture about origins of the University, focusing on its significance on the city’s identity throughout the centuries. The birth of the university is a complicated subject because not only are there no official documents revealing its official foundation, but it is intertwined with Bologna’s political, social, and economic history as well. Dr. Monaco emphasized that the University’s apperance in the eleventh century was spontaneous; it was not created for any one specific purpose by any one particular person. This might explain its continued importance to Bologna; the University was able to grow from many different directions at once throughout time and adapt to outside pressures and changes.
   One comment of Dr. Monaco’s that I found particularly interesting was that many professors of the University wielded considerable political power throughout the medieval period. This coincided with what I saw yesterday outside the magnificent Basilica San Francesco: two elevated stone tombs that our guide informed us once housed the remains of two professors. Such dignified tombs suggest an importance that stretched far beyond mere academic influence and prestige.
    My classmates and I next learned about proper manuscript cataloging from Dr. Flavia Manservigi, and we received a surprise afterwards when we were invited into the personal office of the RAM staff to look at some medieval documents in their collection. This was my first time in direct contact with a manuscript this old, and I think my fellow UMass students shared in my excitement and awe with the opportunity to touch and closely examine these documents. This made me think about how even though technology has made it possible to view documents such as these online, it cannot replace direct evaluation, particularly because we are able examine the document from different angles and using other senses besides sight in our evaluation (and yes, I do admit to smelling one of the documents, although the result did not exactly meet my fanciful expectations; it just smelled like an old book.)
   We also had the opportunity to use some of the things we learned from Dr. Manservigi when we visited the State Archive of Bologna after lunch. I think all of us felt truly privileged to receive a private tour of the archives and to see some of its most valuable medieval documents. I was even able to momentarily forget the incredible heat of the non-air-conditioned archives building when our host revealed a beautifully and intricately decorated medieval miniature; its gold leaf shining as if freshly painted.
    Although it would be easy for me to continue with descriptions of the treasures our group was fortunate enough to see in the Archive today, I will conclude by stating my appreciation for my fellow classmates, our teachers, and this city. So far this trip has been a wonderful combination of learning and discovery, and like my macaron experience, I remain hungry for more.

The Foundation of Our Studies: Bologna and the History of Palaeography

Hey-o!

Today we began our exploration into the history of Bologna with a lecture from Igor Santos Salazar. He gave an engaging lecture in two parts: 1) Bologna in the Middle Ages and 2) the structure of written sources in and around Bologna up until the beginning of the 16th century. 

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This helped the students of UMass create a foundational knowledge of the history of Bologna and how Italian medieval documents came to exist. It is important to note the way that much of what exists today was set aside on purpose by the papal state or by prominent Italian families. Even though the state eventually created an archive, many documents were destroyed by will, leaving little to study from the 10th-11th centuries.

Next,  Maddalena Modesti gave a lecture, also in two parts: 1) an intro to palaeography and 2) why we study palaeography today. Noteworthy pieces of Maddalena’s lecture included how paleography came to be, from its roots with Jean Mabillon to how the University of Bologna became a center for its study. Other important points included the 6 questions of why someone studies palaeography: to know the What, When, Where, How, Who, and Why of a document. Essentially, the documents come to create a foundation of how culture changes over time through our written expression

After our break, we began our afternoon excursion by beginning at Santuario di Santa Maria della Vita with our guide Paulo. Below you can see a picture of the entrance:

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Inside we found an especially moving depiction of the aftermath of the crucifixion of Christ. Notice that a recent earthquake, 2 years earlier, has created the need for scaffolding around the piece, making sure nothing falls on top of the work.

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Then, Paulo took us to the original student center and resting place of the University of Bologna, which was founded in 1088. As you can see from the sepulture below, professors were extremely respected and given what we would consider an extravagant burial. It was also told that professors were often knights, serving under the papal state, expecting their students to visit them in their own private quarters. 

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Next up was St. Francis Square, which included the church of St. Francis. This is often a college hotspot, the square that is, with college students during the summer. Inside the church we found a beautiful marble pieces and Byzantine style frescos from 1250, along with representative columns.

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Afterwards we checked out the flea market in the church center and an extremely beautiful fresco by Giovanni di Modena, which was housed within the nun’s abbey! We had to be especially quiet. This was a treat from Paulo! What’s important about this painting is that it represents the pork used to create balsamic oil to soothe the pain of Black Plague victims. Check it out:

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Next up was the Bilblioteca communale dell’ Archiginnasio where much of the original university began. In fact some of the rooms are still used today…other than tourists like us walking around. The library was particularly beautiful because it housed original crests, frescos, and lecture rooms. See below:

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Then, we headed back to the 2 towers of Bologna, which we had visited briefly before. Or I should say, we’ve seen, but never recieved insight from Paulo. This time Paulo let us know that there were originally 200 towers within the city. Now, only about 12 or 13 exist, but these two are the most prominent. A third, like these, was made, but in 1910 it was destroyed. I can’t wait to climb one of these!

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We finished up with a the Church of St. James and the oratory chapel of Saint Cecil (Cecilia). While we did not enter the church of St. James, frescos were outside and the attached chapel was great. Saint Cecil’s oratory chapel is used for classical music during the summer, since Cecil is the patron of music. It was smaller than other’s we have seen so far, but housed some of the most beautiful frescos by Bentivoglio. 

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It seems now, all we have to do is actually interact with the texts. We’ve certainly interacted with the city and its university. 

 

Ciao,

Brian

 

 

 

First Day of School at the University of Bologna!!!!!!!

just testing

Ok. So maybe the second time around is better. Right? I just wrote this beautiful entry and then lost it some how. So, sorry for my poor salutatio, because I have to express my frustration first with technology.
So, then, let me begin. This morning we had a great breakfast, coffee Americano and croissants and nutkao-for me. Set my day up right. And then we walked over to the University of Bologna together. When we got to the classroom it was on the ground floor and it opened onto a beautiful courtyard, with a well and some great modern paintings. The professors were four women who couldn’t be nicer and friendlier. We had an excellent instruction by Prof. Mueller and learned about the connection of medieval writing theory and its impact on modern digital writing. For me, I was thinking “Who would have thought?” But, through the course of the morning, I could see the connection between ancient writing theory and how we correspond with one another today.
After our lunch period, we took a tour of the center of Bologna: the Piazza Maggiore. It has a major T.V. screen for a huge audience, a famous statue of Neptune, and a cobbled plaza. We first went to the Town Hall and saw some great pieces of art work. Afterwards we went to three different churches. The first was the San Petrino in the Bologna square. I had to change and put a cover-up sun dress on in order to enter the church. They seemed strict and allowed absolutely no photography. The church was an active place and one of the professors explained to me that every Sunday it was busy and that was also were they celebrated events for the city. Following this, we went to the friar’s church of San Domingo next to our dorms and were able to see a preserved German saint’s body. We also saw St. Domingo’s skull preserved in a glass tomb in a part of the church that was too sacred to take pictures in. The last church we visited was St. Viale e Agricola which was an old fashioned, medieval church. This had many nooks and crannies and many of us on the trip noticed the scents wafting from these little rooms. Some said “talcum powder” some “flowers” and yet again “old wood.” One of the professors told me that for a time people falsely believed that St. Peter was buried there. We went to visit a fourth church but it was closed for the day.
What an incredible learning experience today. I can’t say enough of the knowledgebility of Paolo, our guide, and the other professors. They were so kind and helpful that it was so enjoyable. Later that night we went out to eat as a group, al fresco and I for one had the famous Tataglione Bolognese. It was a fabulous and busy day. I learned a lot and am amazed at the historical richness of the city!just testing

Ok. So maybe the second time around is better. Right? I just wrote this beautiful entry and then lost it some how. So, sorry for my poor salutatio, because I have to express my frustration first with technology.
So, then, let me begin. This morning we had a great breakfast, coffee Americano and croissants and nutkao-for me. Set my day up right. And then we walked over to the University of Bologna together. When we got to the classroom it was on the ground floor and it opened onto a beautiful courtyard, with a well and some great modern paintings. The professors were four women who couldn’t be nicer and friendlier. We had an excellent instruction by Prof. Mueller and learned about the connection of medieval writing theory and its impact on modern digital writing. For me, I was thinking “Who would have thought?” But, through the course of the morning, I could see the connection between ancient writing theory and how we correspond with one another today.
After our lunch period, we took a tour of the center of Bologna: the Piazza Maggiore. It has a major T.V. screen for a huge audience, a famous statue of Neptune, and a cobbled plaza. We first went to the Town Hall and saw some great pieces of art work. Afterwards we went to three different churches. The first was the San Petrino in the Bologna square. I had to change and put a cover-up sun dress on in order to enter the church. They seemed strict and allowed absolutely no photography. The church was an active place and one of the professors explained to me that every Sunday it was busy and that was also were they celebrated events for the city. Following this, we went to the friar’s church of San Domingo next to our dorms and were able to see a preserved German saint’s body. We also saw St. Domingo’s skull preserved in a glass tomb in a part of the church that was too sacred to take pictures in. The last church we visited was St. Viale e Agricola which was an old fashioned, medieval church. This had many nooks and crannies and many of us on the trip noticed the scents wafting from these little rooms. Some said “talcum powder” some “flowers” and yet again “old wood.” One of the professors told me that for a time people falsely believed that St. Peter was buried there. We went to visit a fourth church but it was closed for the day.
What an incredible learning experience today. I can’t say enough of the knowledgebility of Paolo, our guide, and the other professors. They were so kind and helpful that it was so enjoyable. Later that night we went out to eat as a group, al fresco and I for one had the famous Tataglione Bolognese. It was a fabulous and busy day. I learned a lot and am amazed at the historical richness of the city!