The fog was thick as we loaded our luggage into the cab. I was annoyed. I was annoyed that Bologna looked as beautiful as I'd ever seen it in this pearly, morning light. I was annoyed that I hadn't listened to Susie the day before and bought some dried, porcini mushrooms at that market. I was annoyed that this trip was ending and that I was going home. If only I had but one more day here—I could buy the mushrooms and then get some images of this amazing fog.
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It was brisk and cold. It was the morning of the Feast of the Epiphany—he twelfth day of Christmas—the day that commemorates the Wise Men's visit to see Baby Jesus in the manger. The holidays in Italy extend to this day which is, perhaps the most festive of all that comprise the season. Part of the Epiphany's story includes an old woman who the Wise Men met on the way to the manger. They asked her for directions and then asked her to join them on their quest—but the old woman refused to go. After they left, she saw a great light in the sky and decided that finding the manger might be a good idea after all. But she got lost along the way. Sadly, she truly got lost—in an eternal sort of way. Now she's known as La Befana and, on the night of January 5th, she flies across the skies of Italy on a broom as she searches for the Baby Jesus. Luckily, for the children of Italy, she brings gifts to the young as in hopes of finally finding the manger. Her loss is Italy's gain as we quickly learned on this chilly day.
Bologna after dark has always frightened me. Alongside the deepening shade of afternoon, the shadow side of the city emerges. Once the sun sets and the vapor lamps are lit, the darkness reaches the city's core. A sinister element emerges. I've never felt in danger, like one might feel in an American city with its hidden guns. I've never been at risk. No, the Bologna version of darkness gives me nothing more than a good case of the chills.
“Bologna la grassa!” said the woman in the fur coat as she peered out the dirty, train window. Her head, covered by a matching, fur hat, swayed with the rocking of the car. Apparently she knew Bologna. And she knew it by one of the Bologna's many monikers—Bologna la grassa. Bologna the Fat.