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27 May 2020 - Day 46 – Modena, Reggio Emilia, and Parma

Today has been busy. In addition to my camera and journal, I needed to carry my copy of #CathedralsToTheGloryOfGod with me, as I was meeting Elisa and wanted to share my book. I checked out of the Donatello in Bologna to walk to the station and was on time for the 8:50 train which deposited me in Modena half an hour later.

Middle platform, so I hefted the roller down a flight of stairs and through the passageway up another flight to the station. Exited out the south side, pushing my luggage a kilometer plus to Via Canalino to stow my bag for the 3½ hours I’d be in #Modena. The guy at the tabaccheria was friendly and efficient. On my way, I’d seen the bell tower for the cathedral, Torre Ghirladina, which I planned on climbing. Coming back, I turned in at the Piazza della Torre and walked around the back of the apse on Piazza Grande. Then up the south side (the orientation is actually closer to southwest) still Piazza Grande to get to the western façade on Piazza Duomo.

Looking at the front, with the tall nave center section of Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta e San Geminiano, the sides are about half as high and slope smoothly to corners. Across the entire front is a pallidal porch with small arches with two columns creating three arches in each. A large rose window is above the tympanum over the central entryway. Two small hexagonal towers support the Romanesque façade’s higher reaches. The bell tower is set back on the north side, square to four levels, and then octagonal to a pinnacle. Two entries on the south Piazza Grande side, are the Royal Gate and the Prince’s Gate, while on the north by the tower is the Fish-Market Gate. Relief carvings abound on the exterior. There are three entry doors at the western end, the center bracketed by Roman lions.

[For those interested in Arthur and the Round Table legends, the porta della pescheria on the north side of the cathedral includes reliefs thought to be from that story. The Wikipedia entry for the cathedral expands with an explanation.]

The interior of the cathedral is fairly dark. Darker gray and red stone and brick have been used to face the walls and construct the columns. The nave (central aisle) is not quite double the side aisle width. The high vault is unlit. At the presbytery end, it is two levels, with an upper high altar and a lower crypt. There is limited natural light. There are brilliant mosaics in the 3 half domes and curved apses.

Out the Fish-Market door, I found my way to the stairs to climb La Ghirlandina. A clear day as today was a splendid time for viewing the countryside of #EmiliaRomagna. As I got ready to descend, I texted Elisa to see when we could meet up. By the time I was halfway down, she was on her way to the Piazza Grande with her dog Lulu.

By the time I got to the Piazza Grande, I’d spotted my auburn-haired concierge. Elisa, Lulu and I set out for the Piazza Roma, which I’d passed on my way to drop my bag.

Facing the Military Academy, with shooting fountains bubbling up near the main entrance, we saw a few youngsters in uniform. Across the plaza beyond the statue to Ciro Menotti (politician and patriot, died in Modena 1831) within the arcade

of the buildings was a new shop that delighted Elisa – Modena is known for its vinegars, and Acetaia Malpighi, a designer producer, has a shop there that we looked at.

Nearby we found an outside table at Caffè dell’Orologio for a “spritz”, a Veneto drink. Lulu curled up against the wall, and I pulled out the photobook. Elisa expressed a little disappointment that I only had the cathedral of Trieste to represent Italy (that’s what this trip will fix!), she loved the cathedral pictures I’d taken in Spain and France. It was too soon before I had to go collect the bag and head to the station, but Elisa and Lulu accompanied me as far as the Parco Giardino Ducale Estense, where Lulu could have some off-leash time.

At the station, I found the platform for the 13:02 which would take me to Reggio Emilia. A very short ride, I was back on the new platform in 13 minutes.

Again, stairs and a tiled tunnel to get me to the front of a fairly modern building on a rotary.

And just east of the station was Bicibox, a bicycle shop which temporarily holds luggage. And they have a really cute puppy who smelled Lulu on me.

The #ReggioEmilia cathedral, Cattedrale di Beata Vergine Assunta, is in the heart of the central core. About a kilometer and a half walk, I was there at 2pm, however, the building would be closed until 4. I’d just be able to view the exterior, plus perhaps visit a few other sites before returning for a 16:42 train onward. From the rotary at the station, I headed to Piazza del Tricolore, which looked like a place I’d never want to drive through, before heading west and northwest into “downtown”. The street gradually became more and more commercial as I approached the center.

Via Toschi brought me a block off the south side of the church. The intervening street was merely an alleyway, covered at points. Piazza Camillo Prampolini, filled with white square café umbrellas sits beyond the western façade. The cathedral front is included in a solid wall of buildings facing the plaza, with the cathedral’s extending out a meter or two. Originally Romanesque, the lower portion where the three doorways are has had niches with the city’s four patron saints added. A broad brick octagonal tower lantern sits over the foyer, while a dome is situated at the crossing, but is barely visible.

Not much to see. I couldn’t even see the sides or the apse. Not the first time I’ve been locked out, and my notes suggested a visit to the Basilica della Madonna della Ghiara. About a third of a kilometer, I strolled across the square, along Via san Pietro Martire.

It ended, and a right took me by the Palazzo Ducale to the rear of the basilica. Built in the early seventeenth century, the footprint is a Greek cross (equal arms) with a dome and lantern at the cross. Although officially closed, a funeral was letting out, and I was able to get in for 10 minutes.

Back out on the street, I contemplated what to do. If I waited and got into the cathedral, I’d be rushed to get back and grab my bag and the 16:42 train. There was another train 35 minutes later. In Parma, I was 15 minutes from the station, and then the cathedral was practically next door and closes at 7pm. But I wanted more time in Parma, since I leave early tomorrow.

I punted. Checking the train schedule, I could catch a 15:37 train. So I hightailed it to Bicibox, got my roller, and headed to the station. Five minutes to spare, I was hauling the bag down stairs and through the tunnel, and up more stairs so that I could watch the train pull in. In the 19 minutes it took to get to #Parma,

I caught my breath. Yes, stairs again – I promise I’ll stop complaining next time. My route was basically east 4 blocks and south 8.

Arranged through, B&B Palazzo Bianchi was a flat with a bedroom and a sitting room. I’ll admit that my initial impression at the street led to some skepticism, but once I got buzzed in from the street, I went to the back staircase and up a level, and my room looked cozy.

After the necessary show-and-tell, the photobook and roller got left with the couches and I was locking the door. Back a block, around the corner and the cathedral was in front of me.

Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta fronts onto a plaza, Piazza del Duomo with diocesan offices and a Baptistry on the edges of the plaza. A tower in the southwest corner and a dome at the cross, buttress-like supports are over the side aisle roofs aiding the nave vault. I took a few outside shots from the plaza and headed inside. I was able to join the last tour of the day!

A ninety-minute guided tour – there’s a great deal to see. As we walked down the south aisle, we were directed to look across and up at the loggia above the north aisle, confirming my observation that it looked like a palladium. The frescoes on the aisle walls and ceilings, plus the elaborate gilt plaster work enhanced the complete over-the-top aspects of the Baroque decorations. Some of the chapels are family mausoleums. Others are reliquary shrines. Large oil paintings in frames hang in spaces where a fresco might have been. At the crossing, we mounted steps – the crossing and the presbytery are above the level of the nave floor, to allow for a crypt.

With the unhooking of a restrictive cord, we were able to venture into the sacristy. Organ pipes hung on the walls; the lecterns rose above out heads. The two altars were a contrast: newer Vatican II forward towards the nave was a slab resting on sets of rose marble columns; the older high altar a mix of multiple colored marble, carvings, gilding. The famous Correggio Assumption fresco was on the apse wall, surrounded by gold columns. Crossing to the north transept, we saw one of the chapels for the reserved sacrament, with a gold tabernacle on a black, gold and white altar. Descending first to the nave floor, and then down into the crypt, our guild told us about the mosaics that had been discovered, probably from a cult temple of the 3rd or 4th century. He pointed out the pediments and walls which were part of the earlier cathedral, severely damaged by earthquake in 1117.

Returning to the nave, we were guided through the chapels on the north aisle. More overwhelming decorative art just kept appearing. I think I was in sensory overload by the end of the tour. I had replaced my camera battery for the second time today, there was so much to try to see and remember. I returned to a chapel I’d seen with statues of St Joseph and St Anthony; I lit candles and prayed for my mother and her father, and then just sat for a bit to contemplate the spirituality of this church.

Too soon, they were clearing the nave. Gathering up my gear, I headed out onto the plaza. I knew that I should have more time just in the cathedral. There was so much more to see, so I knew that I’ll have to return. Too early for dinner, but needing some time for my journal, I cast about for a bar/pub.

Behind the baptistry building was a sparkly modern place, Tcafé, which served nibbles and wine, as well as coffee and desserts. An outdoor section filled a sidewalk and I chanced on a table just as two women were leaving. I asked for olives, cheese, bread and almonds to go with my glass of Castel del Piano, a vermentino nero. Pulling out the journal, I began trying to record what I remembered from this day.

The couple at the next table were Germans, and had been in the city all day. We started talking, as they were intrigued by my English, my journal, and the red wine. Learning I was from the States, and alone, they asked how I planned my trip, and had I been to Germany? Explaining the photobook and my obsession, and this 12-week trip, I wound up getting a second glass of wine, this time a Garagisti di Sorgono, a cannonau. Georg was intrigued that I would try wines I didn’t know – I told him that if I didn’t like it, I could always get another. And hearing about their adventures in Parma convinced me a full day (or more) is needed.

We left together, after Uta asked after my evening plans and hearing all I would do is find dinner.

A bistro surfaced, Borgo 20, which looked viable. It turned out to be perfect, because we were all sharers – we’d order something and split it. Two small pizzas: Pizza con base bianca, crema di zucca e salsiccia; prosciutto, shave truffle and arugula; and a plate of raviolis with pesto and cream. Just enough to satisfy without feeling stuffed. But we all have a sweet tooth, so the noisette was a definite. Dark chocolate and raspberries – I’d find room, somehow.

Georg craved a beer after all the wine, and a neighboring table recommended we head down past the cathedral to Dubh Linn, an Irish pub.

He got his Paulaner and I got a Kilkenny, while Ute got a cider. The place was half filled, mainly Irishmen and Scots. Fun way to end an evening. We parted, and I headed back to my flat. Once upstairs, I got settled in and began my routine. While the photos were downloading, I finished the journal. One camera battery in the charger, and the third one, in the camera, got charged from the netbook. The phone had complained about being hungry as Google led me home, but fortunately there was just enough juice. Then I started with this creative rambling. Just now finishing, and pictures to pick, but I’ll get this whole shebang uploaded and then get to bed. Early train, and 2-hour ride in the morning.

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