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Friday, May 22, 2009

A Short Trip to Adriatic Italy or It's Good To Be Hated by the Bad Ones

This was definitely a crazy week in terms of travels. The itinerary of my body was Budapest-Treviso (flying) -Rimini-Ancona-Urbino-San Marino-Venezia (driving)-Ljubljana-Zagreb-Budapest (night train)-Belgrade-Lazarevats (driving). While my body is roaming around the Apennine and Balkan peninsulas my poor soul is trying to catch up, a small child running by his father.

However, this morning, after finally sleeping through the night with a humble one-hour spell of rumination, now reading quietly Huston Smith's The World's Religions, sipping Turkish-Greek-Bosnian-whatever coffee, hearing voices of playing children through the window (remember Rolling Stones' As Tears Go By) - body and soul might meet again.

And let me try to take you on a very short and incomplete walk along Italy's Adriatic coast.

Together with my two colleagues Venelina and Dora we flew into Treviso (north of Venice) into a hot summer afternoon. This made me regret even more the fact that I had lost my sunglasses. After renting a Fiat Punto we indulged in an ancient Italian ritual coming through the centuries - drinking of a cappuccino or as as the Italians say - cappuccio. For me, this is a great replacement of border controls and suspicious looks from border guards. Now an idea comes to my mind that border controls should have been legally replaced by a ritual welcome consumption of a national drink.

In Italy, the welcome should be like that: a smiling Italian girl approaches me and says: "Buongiorno, Ruslan. Welcome to Treviso! We are so happy you are finally visiting us. We have been impatiently waiting for you. Your cappucco has just been prepared and there is a heart shaped in the foam especially for you. Would you like to add some cinnamon or you drink it pure? And by the way, we would like to offer you a pair of sunglasses as we have heard that you lost yours and you would be driving 400 km. in the sun. Which is your preferred brand? And by the way what do you think of Umberto Eco's last book?" That's how Europe should be, shouldn't it?

Well, I drove south without the glasses, stretching the capacities of the rented Fiat Punto so much that I thought it would collapse in exhaustion with foam on the mouth. Where is a car's mouth by the way? We drove by Padova (thinking of Paulina), Ferrara (thinking of Jelica), Bologna (thinking of Umberto Eco - what's up with this man?), Faenza (thinking of bathroom tiles). When we started approaching Rimini I started thinking of Frederico Fellini but also of a nice dinner by the sea.

The Rough Guide has quite a disparaging attitude to all Adriatic Italy. The most common adjectives are 'bombed', 'modest', 'mass tourism'. Well, everything is relative.

That's the cetral square in Rimini. It is modest but only in Italian terms. It has an 'inconspicuous' palazzo on the right side from the early 13th c.

Cavour Square - Fontana della Pigna
(The Pine Cone Fountain)


Cavour Square - Pope Paul V
On the right - Palazzo dell'Arengo e del Podesta (1204),
Palace of Judiciary and Administration

To me, this bridge from year 21 (not 1921!!!) was the most beautiful thing in Rimini, especially at sunset. The bridge is still functioning, it is build in Istria stone and it spans over the river Ariminus (nowadays Marecchia) river. The bridge leads north to ancient Via Emilia and Via Popilia. I like this ancient fashion of giving names to the roads.


Tiberius Bridge, I c. AD


I don't know the name of this church but as I have a fascination of the interplay of setting sun and churches, I decided to put this picture here. For me, these three colours - ocher, green and blue - are the colours of Italy.


Church of the Setting Sun

This frightening and un-Italianly inelegant palace was the residence of the local feudal lord - Sigismondo Pandolfo. I liked the fact that he often acted as a condottiero (mercenary) to gain money in order to embellish the city: beauty was more important than peace after all, let alone than other details like human life.


The Residence of Sigismondo Pandolfo, XV c.

All three of us wanted to go and have dinner by the sea. I stopped a guy and I asked him the fundamental question 'Dove il mare?'. After laughing a good deal, he explained to us. Well, here it is on the picture below: that's the mass tourism a la Rimini, not very attractive.

The Beach in Rimini at Sunset

We had a good pasta dinner in a nice restaurant. When asking the waiter about the connection between driving and drinking in Italy and if I was allowed to have a beer, he smiled and said 'You are allowed two if you are a real man'.

Late in the evening, we drove into Ancona where we were headed to for work. Ancona is the centre of Regione Marche which is a partner in one of our projects. The next day together with Cornwell (UK) and Burgenland (Austria) we tried to figure out how to best use 220,000 EUR to develop a framework methodology for assessing the potential for low carbon economy of a region. We were thinking of this for some 11 hours in a 30 degrees room.

After solving this fundamental issue we were rewarded by Cinzia with a dinner by a beautiful beach in the Natural Park Il Conero, south of Ancona: mountain and pine forests going into the sea, white pebbled beach, the lulling sound of the waves: these were our companions for dinner.

The next day was dedicated to travel and pleasure. We decided to start with a walking tour of Ancona - after all, it's so bad to be somewhere and not have at least an hour of walk. Ancona is also very 'modest' and bombed in WWII. There is a huge industrial port and unfortunately the seashore is not an integral part of the city - you see it but you can't go close to it. I wonder if they are not contemplating a reshuffle a la Genova where the industrial port was moved away and the seashore was given back to the people.

Historically, it is interesting to note that Ancona was an important maritime republic after the 11th century and often fought against Venice. It was taken over by the same naughty guy who lived in the castle in Rimini before becoming a part of the Papal State in the 16th century. Ancona was the sole city in the Papal States in which the Jews were allowed to stay after 1569, living into the ghetto built after 1555.

Central Ancona

This is a church in central Ancona, I think Santo Sacramento. I was attracted by the spear in its tower as it reminded me of Babylon in the famous paintings by Brueghel - Tower Construction at Babylon.


Ss Sacramento, Ancona

Look at the spear and compare it to Brueghel's painting below.

Tower in Ss. Sacramento, Ancona

And that's Pieter Brueghel's construction of the tower in Babylon. It deserves a separate posts though.
Pieter Brueghel, Tower Construction at Babylon

Our short early morning walk ended by the beautiful fountain below from the XVI century. Then off we drove to Urbino, San Marino and Venice.


Fontana del Calamo (delle tredici cannelle), XVI c.
Translation: The Stem Fountain (of the thirteen pipes)


And something totally different from the book I am reading. This comes from Confucius' Analects.

The King said: 'What would you say of the person who is liked by all his fellow townsmen? 'That is not sufficient' was the reply. 'What is better is that the good among his fellow townsmen like him, and the bad hate him'.

So, if someone around you hates you that's how it should be after all.

5 comments:

I_am_Tulsa said...

Sounds like you have been very busy! How are you enjoying the book by Smith? It is a book I refer to frequently when I have questions about different religions. Karen Armstrong also writes some pretty good books on religion if you are interested.

I love the pictures and the "stories" that go with them.
Thank you!

Lorac said...

I am glad you were able to relax for a day in Italy. It sounds like a wonderful place to visit. Always love to see pictures of other countries, especially seeing it through other peoples vision.We tend to all look at places in our own ways.

Alessandra said...

I repeat myself: I really like your travel descriptions! BTW, it's "cappuccio"! ;)

Seaside Girl said...

I like your new border control idea! Much more civilised!

Ruslan said...

Dear Tulsa,

Thanks for the book suggestion.

Dear Lorac,

Italy is one of a kind. Visit it while it is there.

Dear Alessandra,

I am glad you like it. Your country inspires me a lot. The best in the world, you know. Capuccio is corrected:-)

Seaside girl,

I am afraid it will only stay an idea:-)