On Sunday a group of four of us took a trip to the city of Bergamo which is an hour’s train trip from Milano.  The old city (Citta Alta) is built on a hill which you reach either by a spectacular lower body workout over cobbled streets or by the Funicular at a welcome cost of 1.30 Euros. We took in beautifully preserved buildings crowding together and encrusted with wooden window shutters and plant boxes as well as spectacular views. We visited the Romanesque church of Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore where the riot of colour on the roof and emblazoned gold made our necks ache because we walked around looking at it for so long.  It never fails to amaze me how ancient architects and designers could build such impressive structures without machinery or computers and still get the maths right so that the buildings are still standing today.  The figures carved out of the marble…I mean how do you design something and know its proportions free-hand from a block of stone to a figure with detailed eyes, clothing and musculature? And how do you do that work lying on your back on scaffolding and know how large to make the figures so that people can see it from the ground?  Mind-blowing..

We also indulged in two culinary traditions of Bergamo.  We ate casoncelli which is ravioli in a butter sauce served with bits of bacon followed by stracciatella which is ice-cream with chunks of dark chocolate in it – the original home of choc chip!

Three things are bothering me in class:

  • Students don’t know how to dispense of rubbish no matter how many decorative recycling bins are placed around campus
  • Talking and packing up while a lecturer is talking seems acceptable to a lot of students
  • Power points are hard to find

On the first two I’m remaining calm and trying to work around the ‘culture’ of others.  The third I’ll place in a suggestion box at the end of my stay.  BUT course content is interesting!

I attended a guest lecture about the current state of Italian art and culture in relation to politics and policy-making last night.  It was fascinating to hear and appreciate how much Italians value their culture and mobilise to pressurise the government to support it, how far back their historical buildings and art can reach and how much money and how many people are resourced to care-take, catalogue, manage and fund these pieces of art.  The lecture was about how diminished these things have become that the Italian government is starting to request and accept private ownership of artefacts and buildings for profit by independent owners…and of course the ethical debates that surround that ensued at the end of the lecture.  For someone for whom these issues are over-whelmed by much more basic political issues (like #feesmustfall), it was a welcome opportunity to engage a different mental gear.