Category Archives: Italy

Really, there was a conference…

And just in case you doubt that I actually did go to Italy for work, here I am presenting my paper at the conference Memories of Stalinism at the University of Bologna’s Istituto per l’Europa Centro-Orientale e Balcanica (Institute on East-Central Europe and the Balkans).


Italia, ti amo

Ah, Italy.  Here are a few of my favorite moments.

Watching the Simpsons on television – Homer says “doh!” even in Italian.

Walking past a shop where a real tailor was cutting a suit jacket.

Asking for orange juice when ordering breakfast at two different pastry shops and being asked, “is it okay to have fresh-squeezed juice?”  Hmm, let me think about that one…

Asking an Italian colleague at lunch if he would like me to pour him a glass of water.  His response, “why should I drink water when I could drink wine?”

Real Italian Food

When I attended the first conference for this project last March, the Italian participants went out of their way to inform me of the ways in which Americans do Italian food incorrectly.

  • There is no such thing as alfredo sauce in Italy.
  • No self-respecting Italian would eat spaghetti bolognese because spaghetti comes from the south and bolognese sauce comes from the north — and one must never mix pastas and sauces from different regions.
  • Pizzas should only have one or two toppings – the whole idea of a supreme pizza is anathema.

On Sunday afternoon, our Italian friend and colleague fixed the most delicious meal — real Italian food.  Here’s just the antipasti course, which was followed by pasta, meat, salad and tiramisu.  And, of course, everything was accompanied by excellent wine.

Sunday in Vicenza

We spent Sunday in Vicenza, a small town outside of Padova (Padua).  While our hosts had a break from tourist activities and fixed lunch, the four of us from the U.S., Lithuania and New Zealand explored the town.  Our favorite discovery — a food festival in the main square.

Choosing wine for lunch

A Sigh of Dismay

Capitalism has its benefits and its drawbacks.  In Venice, there is currently an example of marketing receiving priority over everything else.  The Bridge of Sighs is one of the most famous landmarks in Venice.  Built in 1602, prisoners crossed over this bridge on their way between the interrogation chambers and the Rio de Palazzo prison.  The palazzo is currently under re-construction that requires a facade in front of it.  The facade has a small cut-out so that the bridge is still visible.  While I understand the need for the facade, I think that they could have come up with something less commercial and intrusive to protect the view of the bridge.

This is how The Bridge of Sighs looks without the construction facade:

Photo from

This is the view of the bridge that I had:

Life in Venice

Waiting for the water taxi

Laundry day

Temporary raised sidewalks ready for the next high tide that floods the streets

Venice Scenes

Venice is famous for its carnival masks

Our gondolier striking a pose

The winged lion holding a book is the symbol of Venice

A Beautiful Day

Last Saturday, I took the train from Bologna to Venice with a Lithuanian doctoral student who was also participating in the conference.  We met up with an Italian doctoral student whom we met through the project, his wife and her cousins from New Zealand.  After waiting in line for an hour to drop off our bags at the left luggage office at the train station, we walked out into Venice in the sunshine.  Over the next five hours, I had one of the most beautiful afternoons that I have ever had.  Venice is packed with tourists and we did see the most famous sites such as San Marco Basilica and the Bridge of Sighs.  But mostly we spent our time away from the crowds, exploring the narrow streets of the city.  We walked for four hours and I don’t think that we crossed the same little bridge or walked through the same square twice.  Plus we took a gondola ride!

All Academic Conferences should be in Italy

This week I am in Faenza, Italy participating in a conference at the University of Bologna’s Istituto per l’Europa Centro-Orientale e Balcanica (Institute on East-Central Europe and the Balkans).  Today I am presenting a paper entitled “Freedom for Lithuania” or “Freedom for Hippies”? Nationalism, Youth Counterculture and De-Stalinization in Soviet Lithuania. The conference is part of an EU-funded project “Memories of Stalinism.” My host university in Lithuania, Vytautas Magnus University, is one of the organizing partners. I have to say, academic conferences are basically the same everywhere – but here you get to walk out of the meeting room and into Italy, with good food, good wine, and beautiful architecture.

A Lithuanian grad student friend and I came to Italy the weekend before the conference so that we could travel around for a couple of days.  I’ll post photos and stories from our adventures in Italy after I return from the conference.

Faenza is a small town near Bologna