After coffee, tea, and cookies, the three of us readied ourselves for a trip to the oldest university in the Western world, Daniele’s alma mater, the University of Bologna.
We brought along with us some leftovers from a birthday party that Daniele’s mother had thrown the night before. It was a party for her birthday and was attended mostly by Daniele’s family. We had gotten back to Cento from Ferrara and Daniele, his sister and I attempted to help set up for the party while Strom got some much needed rest. Beautiful, dynamic, capable and charming with jet black hair and dressed in a flashy Italian blouse, Daniele’s mother would have none of it, and while we puttered around the kitchen asking how we could help, she did all the work. When her sisters, brothers, mother, neices and nephews showed up, she served a potato frittata with gorgonzola, a gorgonzola and spinach pie, rice with peas and tomatoes, plates of salamis and prociuttos, tomatoes with basil and mozzarella balls, much wine, bread, and cheese. At the end of an adorable family gathering, a home-decorated cake came out in the hands of Daniele’s sister, and the italians sang a birthday song. The candles were blown out, the prosecco was opened, and we ate cake (made almost entirely of fluffy frosting) served with homemade gelato (Daniele’s aunt’s specialty) and cherries.
It was these cherries, salami, cheese, bread, and rice with peas that we ate in a park the next day in Bologna. We practiced spitting the cherry pits past a pear tree and talked about the higher education systems in our two countries. Bologna was a beautiful city, full of towers, churches, leftist revolutionaries, ornately arched walkways, tiny side streets, tasty gelato, and graffiti.
We climbed Bologna’s 97.6 meter tower, which university students are superstitiously discouraged to climb, and saw the whole city spread out before us, a sea of terra cotta, ancient churches, jaunty streets, and statues.
Daniele showed us a statue of Neptune with a suggestively placed thumb, innumerable churches, and the statues of Dante and Copernicus who studied at the University of Bologna. And of course, on the street with the other tourists we ate some delicious gelato with flavors like white chocolate macademia nut, stracciatella, and frutti di bosco. And, we did as tourists do and awkwardly discouraged the North African street merchant trying to sell us stringy bracelets.
After trekking around Bologna, we went to the supermarket to buy wine, mushrooms, and cream to help with a dinner party. First though, we had an appertivo with a software engineer for Fiat who told us of a near future in which this car will be introduced to the US.
After appertivo, we proceeded to the apartment of a post-math student from Daniele’s time in the university and encountered his friends rolling out an enormous sheet of eggy, floury tagliatelle with a meter long rolling pin in the living room. In the kitchen, our hosts were also making little appetizers of raddichio and smoked cheese. We had a beautiful dinner of home-made pasta with creamy mushroom sauce, and the post-math students of Bologna talked fast in Italian while Strom and I drank wine and attempted to keep abreast of the conversation via hand gestures, cognates, and our combined knowledge of spanish.
And, yes, we had much limoncello. A girlfriend of one of the mathematicians came by with a bottle of it and we all drank it as a post-dinner digestif.