Buongiorno Italy

I arrived in Bologna via Vienna to start my stay of learning and sharing. Attending the 27th meeting of the NIDCAP family. Why family you may well ask? This group of people are known to nurture each other as we all share a common goal of supporting and nurturing development in small and sick newborn infants. A worthy cause. The greetings were endless as we renewed friendships and found new friends. We were 24 nations together for the common cause. New ideas were floated, and challenges accepted. As we lived, learnt and ate amongst the marble, winding grand staircases and naked statues we were truly in Italy. Extravagance in contrast to the homeless I saw struggling in the streets of Bologna.

Bologna, an interesting city. Very old with the first university, the anatomy theatre still well preserved. Streets lined with arches led to the all-important squares. Market stalls with sellers displaying their secondhand wares. Nothing to buy, but interesting to compare with stalls back home, all very similar. The old square had many old buildings in various colors of terracotta, some brilliant and deep, others faded and cracked. The buildings hid many historic secrets as locals sat beneath in oblivion. The church was large for its location with a fairly plain exterior in a combination of styles. Inside were huge arches reaching towards the heavens as visitors strolled around the various enclaves and altars. Sitting quietly as an observer there were people of all ages from many backgrounds having their moment with God. A certain tranquility prevailed. Back to the streets and conversations with local youths on a campaign to be rid of drugs. Asking for help but alas unable to assist. I wished them well.

We were taken on a tour to Modena a town not far from Bologna and the home of our hosts. As we piled into buses there was a spirited sense of adventure. We drove on small winding roads, highways and town streets in what seemed to be peak hour rush. The countryside was green and flat reminding me of the trips through Holland. Not sure where we were heading we seemed to be in a paddock and then there was this rustic old yellow house with blue trim, our destination. A family business of hundreds of years making balsamic vinegar. Not somewhere I would have chosen but turned out to be quite fascinating. The grounds and vineyards were fascinating and there were many farm animals. The ones that I gravitated to were the friendly cats and the mysterious donkey. All very grateful for attention and stroking. Into the attic of the house and after climbing three sets of stairs found ourselves amongst barrels of all sizes containing the precious fluid. The best is between 15 and 25 years old. So proud are the family guarding this ancient process. Wine, not quite, this was vinegar!

We hit the small cobble stoned streets of Modena. I feel I may have been here some forty years hence. The sun was setting which left the buildings with a beautiful warm glow as our guide attempted to tell us the history. Again, a church in the square, hit by brilliant light on what could have been marbled stone on the facade. I opened the very large and heavy door to enter into the most amazing church interior. I am unsure what I was expecting but the most incredible brickworks were before me. The interior was very, very dark sprinkled with a few small lights during the mass. It was like entering a cave that man had made. Reminding me of the descriptions in the ‘Pillars of the Earth’ and the painstakingly way the churches were built. I could not resist touching the stones and the feel of history in my hand. Back outside and the sun light had faded to darkness. We continued to walk the streets to the market square. Interesting stalls of spices, chocolates, scarves, cookies, alcohol, fruits and handicraft. We wandered around chatting and sharing experiences. The beginning of a wonderful evening.

Our next stop was to be dinner, what a treat this turned out to be. We landed at the Ferrari Museum. Now I am not one to google at cars, but this was an experience. We had pre-dinner drinks and canapés amongst a range of racing cars. What struck me was the size of the beasts and the engines looked impressive and those in the know were awestruck. Tons of photographs we taken with poses from the subjects. On to dinner and we were ushered into a huge showroom with about 30 cars which were the showcase of the Ferrari family. Our tables were among them and we sought out our names to claim our seats. I did like the classic cars and the ones driven by Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren were the most impressive. Must be the female thing. On the walls and ceiling the story of Enzo Ferrari unfolded and showed how a vision with passion can turn into an empire.

As we headed back to our hotel late in the night, I was sad to think the next day was our last. The meeting closed, goodbyes were said, and we all promised to meet again next year in Canada. A quick flight to Rome, 45 minutes up and down and my connection to Abu Dhabi. My memories of Italy and their airports are the endless queues. It takes twice as long as anywhere else, there must be an efficient way……then maybe it’s just being Italian.

Kathryn Kaye Spence

October 2018

2 thoughts on “Buongiorno Italy

  1. Another terrific essay! I imagined we were sitting together by a fire; you were describing your visit to Bologna to me. I really like this conversational ‘voice’–it seems to include the reader in your experience, as though both writer and reader are visiting Bologna.

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