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  • Most large, modern cities quickly distinguish themselves upon first view, whether you’re flying overhead or driving in: New York City with its skyline, St. Louis with Eero Saarinen’s arch, Seattle with the Space Needle and so on. But it is rare to find older, more intimate cities that identify and distinguish themselves immediately upon entrance, without signage or symbols. We found one last week while in Italy-Bologna, a city of 400,000, located in the flat and frequently grey central Po Valley in the Emilia-Romagna region. This is a region known more for agriculture than for architecture. But Bologna’s design and visual character give a striking impact the moment one enters the main street, which is a mixture of age, classicism, humanity, irreverence, character and a ubiquitous earthy rose patina. In Italy, the city’s character is defined as la grassa, la dotta, la rossa (self-indulgent, smart and red). Bologna has had a history of being a progressive city since 1088, when the first university in Europe was founded there. It’s also been a centre for arts, legal scholarship, resistance during the German occupation and, of course, food, claiming mortadella, tagliatelle and tortellini among its innovations. Food is taken so seriously here that Bologna is said to be home to the Learned Order of the Tortellini, which has a formidable membership, all dedicated to the preservation of this traditional pasta. 

  • The most striking design feature of Bologna is its arched passageways, which traverse the city and provide 23 miles of elegant community walkways. The beauty of these arches is that they were designed not just to look handsome, but to fill an important social function. This region is marked by heavy rainfall in the winter and intense heat in the summer. These elements are good for crops but not human interaction, for which the friendly Bolognese people are known. The covered archways allow the locals to casually stroll and mix with others without fussing with umbrellas, sunshades or other distractions. The system has the advantages of an indoor mall without any of the limitations or disadvantages. The nature of an arched walkway, as opposed to that of a flat-ceiling hallway, is such that it takes the eye upward in a celestial manner. The arches lift the spirit, like mini cathedrals for pedestrians, but you can’t get carried away with your gazing, as Bologna is also the dog capital of the region and curbing one’s pet is not a habit of the locals.

  • There are historic buildings and piazzas peppered throughout the city; some are singular monuments that rival many others in Italy, historically and architecturally. One gets the feeling that other Italian cities have worked to keep Bologna out of the spotlight. We learned that there is actually historical precedence for this. Construction of the amazing Basilica di San Petronio, which dates back to 1392, was halted by the Pope, who was apparently jealous of its scale. So now it sits, with massive brick construction over the finished marbled first floor, an utterly curious example of Western architecture. It’s as quirky as the bawdy Fontana di Nettuno and the tilting Due Torri. There are many contemporary works as well, such as the graphic installation celebrating Nazi resistance members that serves as a cultural precursor to Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
    For more Bologna arches and architecture, go to http://www.dwr.com/images/newsletter/bologna3.html.

  • Equally compelling about Bologna is the overall visual texture found on the Roman streets. Compositions of colours and surfaces dating back 1,500 years mix easily with contemporary living, as if Bologna were a laboratory for civilization. Small details awaken one’s eyes and senses to things that most of us do not normally see or notice, like a pleasantly decorated cappuccino in an alley café. It is easy to understand why the painter Giorgio Morandi was content with Bologna as his home and why the Pope may have worried about the sensual goings-on in this place, which Europe aptly designated as one of its Cities of Culture for the year 2000.

    For more Bologna texture, go to http://www.dwr.com/images/newsletter/bologna4.html

    Text courtesy of Design Within Reach

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8 Day Gastronomical Tuscan Cooking Adventure

Immerse yourself in an unforgettable 8 day culinary and cultural experience at the historic Villa Pandolfini estate, on the hills over Florence. Enjoy an intimate interaction with the owners as you discover the Tuscan way of life first hand and tantalise your senses with the flavours of the estate. You’ll love discovering the estates private villa, wine cellar and olive grove. Under the guidance of our professional chefs, gain hands-on experience as you learn the secrets of Tuscan cooking, preparing 5 course meals. Explore some of the region's most picturesque and unique destinations on the many included tours of the program.

from 2972,11 US Dollar

Pisa, The Mall Outlet Shopping Experience and Chianti Wine Tasting Tour

Pisa, The Mall Shopping Outlets Experience & Chianti Wine Tasting Tour 

By far the most famous of the Tuscan wines, Chianti is a red wine produced in the Chianti region and is made from the Sangiovese grape, giving it a note of summer fruit and spices. Your excursion will commence with a drive through the breathtaking Tuscan countryside straight to Pisa as you delve into the heart of the Chianti Classico region. Our experienced guides will be with you every step of the way, teaching you about the wines and the best ways to taste them. In addition to Chianti Classico the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) wines, you will be able to enjoy the IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica).
According the availability of the wineries the wine tasting will be before or after Pisa.

from 130,77 US Dollar

Badia a Passignano Visit and Chianti Tasting Experience

Tucked into the enchanting hills of Chianti is an ancient Benedictine Abbey, la Badia a Passignano. Surrounded by a sacred and spiritual atmosphere, the abbey reflects the presence of Florence and the strong influence of the Medici, who summoned famous artists to decorate the complex. The monks residing at the abbey promoted scientific research through vine growing, which is still one of the main activities in Chianti. A tour of the abbey is followed (or preceded in the case of afternoon visits) by a visit to a winery for a wine tasting.

from 63,01 US Dollar

Chianti Wine Tour from Florence

Discover the amazing heritage of Chianti. Immerse yourself in the true atmosphere of the Chianti area in Tuscany with a 5,5-hour tour from Florence. During this tour, you will travel by minibus or GT coach to visit the charming and authentic Chianti towns of Castellina and Monteriggioni, plus visit wine cellars, and have two superb Chianti wine tasting sessions along with some food tastings.

from 95,11 US Dollar
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