Monday, September 11, 2006

primo weekend

The first weekend is over and what a lovely weekend it was. With the end of appointments and tests on Friday, Sarah and I had dinner and went to a concert out in the open air of the Castello’s courtyard. I sat there listening to an hour and a half of classical music, imagining that 300 years ago there was a ball happening in the very courtyard I was sitting in to the very same music. Regal and grand. At one moment, as the small Orchestra Citta di Ferrara concluded their first piece, I shut my eyes and had that full body shiver with the resolution of the final chord. And opened my eyes to applause.

Saturday morning meant that the students from the Middlebury program in Florence were coming to visit Ferrara for the day, thus it also meant that my roommate from college, Chris, was coming to visit me in Ferrara for Saturday and Sunday. It was so nice to spend time with someone who knows me quite well and someone who I appreciate and who appreciates me too. We wandered the city at first as a tour group, learning of the city’s dual history as Medieval and Renaissance town, noting the changes in architecture in the buildings we saw, understanding the details and their meanings (a fresco inspired by the Sistine chapel, a solitary arch designed by Alberti, an unfinished campanile, a town with a revolutionary Jewish population). I continue to appreciate this city and pick up bits and pieces as I wander its streets.

Now my mission is to find a few books written by Giorgio Bassani, the famous Jewish author from Ferrara. For some reason, I strike a chord with the author, simply hearing of his work, hearing of the reality he had to live through. The Jews in the town had to identify themselves and attend Church, a symbol of their difference but of their eventual conversion. I imagine Jewish women wearing yellow scarves around their heads, walking in to the Church through the women’s entrance on the right, bowing their faces to the ground and sitting through the service pursed lips, not knowing the words to repeat, refusing to play along.

I visited two Museums this weekend: il Museo del Cattedrale which, among other treasures, showcase Jacopo della Quercia’s Madonna della Melagrana (Mary of the Pomegranate), a very femininely rotund Madonna with a baby Jesus holding a scroll that looks like the bread of Ferrara, and I also visited the Museo dell’Ottocento, a refreshing change from Renaissance art, showcasing Italian painters near the Impressionist period. It was wonderful to see paintings in suitable frames that exhibited such elegance, such liberty and such passion as the paintings of Boldini.

For the first time since I arrived, I went out to dinner with Chris, Chiara, and Sarah to a little restaurant that claims to have been in existence since the mid 1400s and have served such people as Copernicus and Titian. Sarah and I shared a delightful pasta called cappelacci, a Ferrarese specialty, a pasta filled with what seemed to be sweet potato, in a word, wow. Another Ferrarese specialty which Sarah and I discovered still edible and unexpired in our fridge at home was a pampepato, a chocolate covered chocolate cake with almonds and candied fruit. Piano piano (slowly) I will try the specialties of this city, find its wonderful markets selling fresh wares and hear the secrets whispered from its palazzi.

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