On the last of our Italy trips together, we visited “Central” Italy, with sites in Modena, Bologna, Prato, Lucca, and Carrara. Since the architects, artists, and planners had separate itineraries for parts of the trip, I’ll talk about the version I experienced.
Our first stop was the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari in Modena. The museum consists of two structures: a modest brick structure (the home of Enzo Ferrari) encompassed by a gigantic electric yellow sculptural edifice (which houses the exhibition gallery, bookshop, and café). The interior of the brick structure houses a multimedia exhibition of Ferrari’s life, touching upon subjects of not only his illustrious career as driver and car-maker but also his personal life. In addition to old photographs and video relaying the events of his life, this part of the museum housed his personal mementoes, such as his journals and writing utensils. They even had a setup of his office. But the coolest part of the museum of course was the exhibition gallery, which showcased classic older models along with newer ones.
From the Ferrari Museum, we went to the San Cataldo Cemetery by Aldo Rossi, also in Modena. Personally, visiting cemeteries makes me really uncomfortable and this one wasn’t any different. I guess the discomfort rises from coming to terms with the limits of one’s existence and being surrounded by a massive complex that is created for the purpose of immortalizing the limits of human existence has the power to silence everything else, which is exactly what Rossi does with his relentless austere and orthogonal forms. The weight of the project was felt despite its incompletion. Before departing Modena for Bologna, we took a quick walking tour of the historical center, through porticoed streets to the Piazza Grande and Cathedral, with some of us stumbling upon dried fruit and fried food vendors in an open-air market around the way.
On our first day in Bologna, we took another historical center walking tour. We walked through two of the biggest piazzas: Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Nettuno, on our way to San Petronio, which was probably the best church we visited on that trip, in my opinion, despite it being the coldest one we visited. After a quick stop at the Archiginnasio and the Anatomical Theatre, we wandered around the complex of Santo Stefano, an interesting labyrinth of a building. After missing the group meeting time following an intense lunch convo with a couple of my fellow classmates, we climbed the Asinelli Tower ourselves. Climbing that tower was a serious workout and I’m definitely not as in shape as I convince myself. In any case, once we got the windy top (seriously, that’s not a place to try and maintain any type of a good hair day), the views of the city were worth the struggle to get to the top. Following our slow descent (those stairs are not to code at all), we tried to catch up with the larger group at Carlo Scarpa’s Negozio Gavina. Now the trouble with splitting up with the rest of the group is trying to find them with limited Italian skills. So after asking a couple of locals, with enough Italian between the three of us to understand different parts of their directions, we finally found the Negozio Gavina, a former furniture store converted into a modern-day toy store. But our adventures that day did not end there. After our lunch break, we visited Le Corbusier’s Esprit Nouveau Pavilion, attended a presentation at the architecture studio of Mario Cucinella, and chilled out on the rooftop of a nearby municipal building done by the Cucinella studio.
The following day we made our way to Lucca, with a brief stop in Prato. In the Lucca, we took another wondrous walking tour of the center. What surprised me about Lucca was the amount of people out enjoying the city. Our walking tour took us out of the center and to part of the wall circuit, where our tour ended and our bike rides began. Several of us rented some bikes and rode a couple of laps atop the wall circuit, which was one of the best experiences thus far.
On the final day, we headed to Carrara, the town known for its marble. Our first stop: Nicoli & Lyndham Sculpture Studio. Though it was a Sunday and the studio was empty, our enthusiastic host definitely kept us entertained, as she gave us a tour of the studio, showed us some exclusive works in progress, and told us stories of rebellious workers and Naomi Campbell mispronouncing Versace in her studio. After a quick lunch break, we made the ambitious journey to our next and final stop: the Fantiscritti Quarry. Arriving several hours later than planned, we finally made it to the top, and the views of Carrara below – priceless. A couple Indiana Jones-esque rides back down, we headed on our long journey back to Rome.