my new religion

im standing on the entrance of the city center, under the ancient portico. 

this is the spot i usually find myself in when i’ve realized i can’t write any more for the day, when i need to walk the familiar route like a modern day hecate haunting the city thresholds. 

i wrote about making a religion out of my neighborhood in paris, and i believe ive mythologized my own streets here in italy too. 

so please indulge me. 

stepping into the city center – the ancient medieval wall circumferring the city outlines – there is via del pratello, my favorite street in bologna. more of a mood than a physical location, the mile-long bar-street is still suffused by the aura of the 1960s student riots. housing unruly pubs and hazy restaurants, outdoor seating spilling out onto the already too-narrow pedestrian walkway. its a street that comes alive after 6pm – when the time for post-lecture aperitivos has come – and the tables are full of people sharing plates of taglieri misti, afterwork drinks, bowls of patatines and tarelli in-between them. 

its a street i have walked often, used as i am of navigating the large cracks of the treacherous cobblestone. i walk past the infinite bikes haphazardly chained to overfilled racks, past the birrerias and red-and-white chequered tablecloths. i like walking here after long days like these, when i can’t seem to write anymore and the stream of words have ceased flowing. between the towering rust-coloured buildings i can shut of my mind, fall into step with the rest of the foot-traffic.

after the long path of pratello there is the busy street-crossing into piazza maggiore. the famous square, at nighttime lit up by the yellow glow from the surrounding streetlights and touristraps. the old church below the midnight-blue sky, speckled with white stars. usually there is always some sort of spectacle – a concert, a street musician, a protest – but tonight there is only the faint quiet of conversations in the distance. i remember my first days here during the summer when i would watch the nightly screenings of pasolini in the outdoor cinema, the city solidifying with each bike-ride home. 

past piazza maggiore there is my least favorite street in bologna. the commercial chaotic center of the beginnings of via zamboni. here one is faced with the impossible task of navigating calmly past insolent bikes, shopping-bag carrying pedestrians, and strollers. but by narrowly having escaped collisions with bodies or roadside café-tables, there is finally the long walk past the pubs. 

and here the smell hits you. 

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