by Rich Landesberg
Our second full day in Florence was spent taking a day trip to Bologna. A little more than half-an-hour away, the train travels through the mountain snow and past many pretty little villages. This is a town many know about (think spaghetti Bolognese) but view Americans visit. In Florence, you hear as many people speaking American as you hear speaking Italian. It is a beautiful place with much to see that informs our study of the European Union.
Despite the rain and cold, we walked all around the town to view the important places. In addition to the usual palaces, Bologna is home to the oldest university in the western world, dating to 1088. We stood on the spot where Christopher Columbus is thought to have talked about his adventures in the new world. We also learned that every student got his or her (yes, in the early days women could attend the university) coat of arms on the university wall. Students paid a bit more than the required tuition with the extra going to help those who couldn’t afford tuition. And students who did not live up to expectations could face punishment as harsh as execution. This might make for an interesting discussion at our next faculty meeting.
The university was also one of the first to really explore anatomy.
Students would start dissecting a body at 4 am and continue for 24 hours straight with no break for food or the bathroom. In the modern classroom, many students seem unable to go 24 minutes without walking out and using the bathroom. Have our bladders been shrinking over the last 600 years? The rest of the day was spent exploring the museums, market, shops and restaurants on our own.
Next: our last days in Florence