Whenever I get to a new country I try to go into the supermarket or drug store to find new products. There is something in my mind that says, “This is your new home, stay a while. Smell like they smell, walk where they walk.” I have this odd default fantasy brain that compels me to act like I live wherever I end up. This has caused major difficulties in life. One being, I have no idea where to live. I want to live everywhere all the time, at the same time. I sense there are many people who relate. Now, don’t think for a second that I have the ability to live wherever I want. Nope! I can’t afford any of it. Therefore there is this fantasy upon arriving, say Bologna, that this is my home! At least for a tiny bit of time. In saying this, I tend to want to blend in and buy the products of the place, especially the soap, the detergent in hope that I might smell like everyone. I figure at least my clothing will smell like everyone and I will belong. I will be part of something. I will not be an outsider.
So, my goal is “smell like the old men of Florence”. Because I look at “old timey” products! Yes, I go for the old man / old lady smell! Just think Eau de Cologne, think OLD SPICE for American men and BRILL CREAM. Think CHANEL NO. 5 for the ladies. No one can deny when they breathe in these scents, they are not catapulted back to another time. Not this time. Not the present. But the past. Long ago moments. We improvise, but we transform in the moment!
I appreciate Italy because I normally find such great old school packaging such as the old powders and old Eau De Cologne bottles that are sold still quite cheap because I sense they are made for old men who still use these alcohol products for their hair and shaving. And to be honest, no one buys them! Whenever I travel, I always look to the shelves to check out the Eau De Cologne and every year, I find less and less. Berlin? In 2013 there were 3 types. Now, there are none. Well, 4711, but that is for another post. But old people are dying and so is the scent of the past.
While wandering through the porticoes of Bologna, protecting the people from the hot sun, I realized how much I love this secret city. Bologna is much more appealing to Florence, simply because it had less Americans and had a more authentic feel. By that I mean, when you would go to a cafe or restaurant, there was no English translation. That is my kinda place. Even though I too had no idea what anything meant, I prefer this to the loud, selfie-stick “on their phone” “Americanos”.
I also have some photos of some of the spaces. Bologna still has some old time Tabacheria shops, still with old signage. I’m a fanatic for old signage, signpost, neons, etc.
The Tabacchi/Tabacchino is for me the core of the Italian city. The joy, like in France, is the sense you can get your pack of cigarette, your lotto ticket, a packet of mints, licorice, but also an expresso and an aperitif all in one place. How civilized is that? American once had the cool Drugstore concept. God knows how that died a lovely corporate death, with all the BIG BOX stores! Thank you American Corporation Destroyer of all things small business and elegant and civilized!
In saying what I just said, I will contradict and mention TIGOTA.
This shop was found in Bologna and Florence and I guess is all over Italy? It has everything you need in the way of shampoo, soap, detergents, if you want to bring home some Italian scents as I do! And I did find two “old man” Eau de Cologne’s which sadly I did not photograph. But this shop has it all and cheaper than the small “mom and pop” shops which I still visit and buy from. Keep buying from the small shops!
I tend to focus more on the men. Italian men have a sensibility for their hygiene. The cologne is always splashed, the hair has its brilliantine sheen. One day in Florence I passed a fish shop, and there was one of the most gorgeous 80 something year old men I had ever seen. The silver hair shone, his t shirt was a la Brando and this guy could melt any female heart, even a lesbionic heart as mine!
He was still sexy, fluid, alive and kicking, From a vast level of aesthetics, I was truly moved. The spirit of virility and verve found in a man who was self aware in his caring for himself. But it was also self respect and joy. One can feel that. It was a bit of ego but mostly a beautiful sense of caring for one’s appearance and a code of honorable self respect. What happened to that? Especially with men? (My answer is always: SWEAT PANTS. The end of EVERYTHING!) “Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants.” — Karl Lagerfeld. Thank you Herr Karl. No one wants to see the derriere of some guy hanging out no less a pair of dirty entrenched “sweat” pants!! No sense of self respect just convenience and “who cares” vibe.
I digress again!
Cologned and scented, like the incorruptible saints. This goes a long way in making a celebration on a simple level of being alive and smellin good! And shoes. Good hand-made shoes helps too!
But in describing the men, you just get wiped away by the level of elegance and sophistication of the ladies both old and young. The same self respect, and honor to “look good” no matter running out to buy some milk and a paper or out for the evening, the same standards apply: look good/make an effort! I loved staring at the pasta mamas all making their way to the market with their baskets and carts. It is becoming so common to see women with backpacks, with trainers/sneakers and just looking “dowdy” and “common”, i.e. not caring just wanting to look “comfortable”. Aesthetically this is a horror show. So when I see women, with their Anna Magnani handbags, and Sophia Loren lips stained with a Dolce Gabbana lipstick and La Dolce Vita sunglasses, WOW! I applaud the Italiano energy and aura to stand out and banish all this “comfort” over elegance, refinement and grace! And for the record: you don’t have to be posh or rich to have good taste, style and originality over boring conformity. And, get this milenials, you can still be comfortable! Watch Monika Vitti in La Aventura and learn!
Santa Rita Day!
On May 22, I noticed many people selling roses by the ton. I had no idea what was going on. Was this a flower market for just roses? A few people tried to explain it was the holy day for Santa Rita who was supposed to have performed some miracles that had to do with something being turned into a rose? So roses everywhere. It was very humbling to watch so many Bologna people making their way to mass. I sat and watched. It was a gorgeous day and had its emotion. Two young girls while trying to explain to me the meaning of the day, started to weep a bit because I was too. It was strange, but I think honoring something profound yet simple in our IPHONE society does move us and make us more vulnerable to our sense of self and time and living and dying. The mortality of this life and just taking the time to ponder and honor a moment was quite wondrous and sweetly emotional.
And then along with the wonder came a revelation while passing a very animated cafe. I realized LUCIO DALLA, the amazing Italian singer was a born Bologna person. And I found a cafe that had his image plastered all over with memorabilia. I believe it is in the same area where he was born. This is a tidbit from “expatsblog” by Sarah Dowling on moving to Bologna and some secrets found:
The Shadow of Lucio Dalla – Lucio Dalla, a Bologna born jazz singer-songwriter, is pretty much considered a musical legend here in Bologna. Dalla is so highly renowned that you often find artwork dedicated to him throughout the city. In fact, there is one particular piece that is really beautiful, yet so subtle that you wouldn’t know it’s there unless someone pointed it out to you. On the corner of Via D’Azeglio and Piazza dei Celestini, across from the church, turn your eyes upwards. Can you see the shadow of Lucio Dalla playing his saxophone to the birds?
and a bit from other sources:
On the morning of 1 March 2012, three days before his 69th birthday, Dalla died of a heart attack, shortly after having breakfast at the hotel where he was staying in Montreux, Switzerland, having performed in the city the night before. He was in the company of Marco Alemanno when he died. An estimated 50,000 people attended his funeral in Bologna.
Dalla’s 1986 song “Caruso”, dedicated to Italian tenor Enrico Caruso, entered the Italian Singles Chart after his creator’s death, peaking at number two for two consecutive weeks. The single was also certified platinum by the Federation of the Italian Music Industry.
I had a deep appreciation for this man over the few years I had learned of him. Oddly enough I always sensed he was gay, but only after he died this came out. Still, the Italian culture suffocates when it comes to LGBTQ. I have enough gay Italian comrades in their 30s / 40s that believe they cannot come out to their families in Italy. Deeply religious and deeply shaming still! But, step by step.
Take a look at the gorgeous plazas and overall intimate city of sexiness and sweetness. I truly fell in love with this city. I could definitely live here and Milan, and Trieste and Naples, and and and… For now, I think I’ll just try to smell like the gentlemen and gentleladies of Bologna … just for today!
And I will leave you with this wonderful shop, for doctors and hospital supplies. I chatted with the gentleman who still had the casanova energy within him, a passionate artistic man. His family had the shop since the 1920s and you can see this in the signage and construct. But within the shop, you notice the cash register and the old clippings, family photos, life passing through the years all displayed within the sidelines of the shop. And best, the view of the plaza out of these very large wonderful windows. Watching life through those windows. Wondering during the 1930s and 40s what this shop was like, what it contains with the walls and the ceiling and the floor. All the words, sounds, cries, laughs resonating within this space is alive and well when you wander within the mystery of this memory bank of a space. Thank you Contraini Amedeo for letting me into the shop to take these photos and for your time!
And to end this Bologna post, we have our friend the stunning maestro Mr. Dalla. Happy May 2017.