Henry and Mrs T had their last visit to a regional city on Thursday.
It was 39 degrees in Bologna and, after a visit to the Cathedral Petronius (Saint Peter) and a nice lunch, Mrs T complained of feeling ill.
'Let's head for the train', Henry suggested, hoping to get the lady onto the train 'home' to Prato before she was feeling better. 'If you need to vomit', Henry said helpfully, 'I'd suggest using one of those potted plants, and I will wait round the next corner'. This ploy worked for the first time in their 25-year-long extensive traveling program, incidentally. Mrs T must be beginning to feel her age, comrades. Since Henry is similarly afflicted, this is good news indeed, of the Irish variety.
Lunch consisted of Risotto for Mrs T, and Spagetti Bologonaise for Henry. The latter dish was the first 'foreign' dish Henry's old Mum used to make, back in the 1960s, so it was a trip down memory lane, really, delicious with tall, cold beers.
There are three big features of Bologna. The first it shares with Prato, and Firienza, as one hopes the men and women of the RBA's international economic section will note. Sales ('Saldis') are reaching the desperate stage. 50 % discounts ('sconti' if Henry's Italian is correct) are now near universal, and one sees increasing numbers of 60 % or even 70 %. With record low consumer confidence and retail sales 3.5 % below 2011 levels, clearly there is an air of desperation in Italian retailing. Retailers have to look cool, so thay still buff their nails and lounge around when one enters their shop.
Feature two is the long arcades, clearly inspired by either the unification of Italy or Mussolini (or both). Wonderful shade to walk in as one checks out the saldis e scontis.
Feature three is the fact that churches are for the most part closed ('Chuiso'). On limited evidence, we have concluded this is because they are dangerously derelict, and require substantial money, not sadly available, to make them tourist-safe again.
We also discovered Bologna's leaning tower, two leaning towers in fact, themselves worth the price of the train fare, if it is cooler than 39 degrees.
Yesterday, after Mrs T's last class (for this assignment at least), Henry was persuaded again to visit Firenza, which he agreed to do having finished a fair draft of the first two chapters of his new book on mining.
In fact, the main inducement was a visit to the Accedamia, another repositary of great religious art. Sadly, there was a long queue, people standing patiently in the raging heat, with others milling about picking pockets, begging and generally trying hard to improve Italy's economic condition. Mrs T said we could wait, but Henry put his foot down. 'Sorry mate, you'll have to find somewhere else to visit'
So we headed off to St Marks the monestry, which was closed ('Chusio'). We ended up at San Lorenzo. Saint Lorenzo was the Medici family church., which has a nice crypt featuring an outstanding chapel and tombs decorate with sculptures by Michaelangelo. There are three, or is it five, large statues by the master himself. The four monumental funery figures are called 'Day and Night' and 'Dawn to Dusk.'
Each pair adorns a Medici tomb, a male and female figure in each case. (See images below), There is also a Madona con Bambini which is believed to be by the master, but this is far from certain.
The church itself has beautiful proportions but is relatively austere, which appeals to Henry as a lapsed Presybeterian.
Tomorrow we head for the eternal city itself. Santa Maria Majora, St Peters Basillica and a couple of good dinners will end this sojourn in Italia. We are looking forward to sharing a chop bone with Jack the Border Collie who, we are told by the offspring in charge, is missing us. Whether he is or not, we are certainly missing him, and the relevant offspring of course.