Two weeks ago, we took a trip up to the Emilia Romagna region to visit Parma, Modena, Reggio Emilia, and Bologna with Professor Jeffrey Blanchard.
With views of snow covered roofs and a noticeable drop in the temperature, it was clear that we were in a different region, far from the bustling city of Rome. Noticeably more wealthy than the southern regions, these sleepy cities in a way resembled many of the German and Swiss cities which we visited two months ago. There is a quiet feel to these cities, where the peacefulness is not to be disturbed.
Our first city, Parma, is a peaceful medieval town characterized by snow covered pink and yellow buildings. Since we were traveling in early spring, the absence of tourists at this time of the year only added to the eerie silence of this town.
The architecture and art students visited the Palazzo della Pilotta, a Farnese palace that has been converted into an art museum. Within this palace is a beautiful theater built by the Farnese Family. Its wooden facade is a reconstruction of the original theater that was destroyed during the bombing during World War Two.
One cannot miss the magnificent Baptistery in the center piazza. Sixteen arches rise and connect at the center of the dome adorned with medieval frescoes.I thought this six-story octagonal Baptistery of pink and cream Verona marble was even better than the Baptistery in Florence.
We also visited several of the main churches in Parma with their magnificent painted domes and walls.
The Emilia Romagna region is also famous for the quality cars they produce, including Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Masserati. We spent Tuesday morning visiting the Lamborghini Factory in the countryside where we were greeted by Mr. Lamborghini himself. We toured the museum, learning about the company and car’s history and development.
After touring the museum, we were able to hear Mr. Lamborghini, the museum architect, and the mayor of the town come and speak about the company at a joint meeting.
Nearby the city of Modena is our next stop, Aldo Rossi’s famous San Cataldo Cemetery. My encounter with my first building by Aldo Rossi was very poetic and profound for me.
Rossi’s use of repetition and monumental form may be well known, but the absence of people on the site made the experience even more powerful. With no one there but the rows of hallways and open spaces for me to explore, the experience was similar to what Aldo Rossi would describe as a city which remembers its past– where one encounters only the memory of the dead in this massive complex.
We also visited Santiago Calatrava’s Ponte Nord nearby, where a civil engineer was able to give us a guided tour of this unique suspension bridge, as well as the new construction site where a new train station was to be built.
We spent the later part of the day at the Modena Museum of Modern Art-a refurbished Italian factory that is now used to hold art exhibitions, as well as the beautiful town of Modena itself at dusk.
Our trip ended in Bologna-the biggest of the four cities and perhaps my favorite. There are so many things that makes this city great: Walkable streets, its medieval charm, friendly people, incredible food (of course one can’t avoid the pasta with Bolognese sauce), among others. The whole city is lined with stretches of beautiful porticoes that makes walking around the city a real pleasure. The oldest university in the world still exists here since 1088, giving the city a college-town feel.
Two medieval towers sit at the city center, which have become iconic landmarks of the city. What strikes me even more is that these towers are remnants of a series of towers which existed before in the city but had been taken down. Some historians even suggest that 180 towers (!) had existed at once in this city.
We climbed this tower-498 steps to be exact, without windows to give us any idea of how high we were. The fact that both these lean towers were leaning made the climb even more daunting. One just had to trust the skill and craftsmanship of medieval builders.
But once we arrived on top, we were rewarded with an awesome view of Bologna still covered in snow.
Stop by the AF Tamburini for its legendary meat and cheese. I have already picked up a habit of buying meat and cheese from the different towns of Italy to bring back to Rome to cook.
In a week from now, we will be going on our last trip (sadly) to Northern Italy: Verona, Milan, Revereto, Como, Brescia, Torino, and Lucca. I will be sure to post some photos when we are back!