Buongiorno a tutti!
I’ve been on a Blog Tour! Never heard of one of those? Neither had I until a month or so ago when I was invited along as part of a tour by Romagna Fulltime and the Camera di Commercio di Forlì to explore the city of Forlì (note the accented “i” which means you pronounce it Forleee!). There were only seven other fellow bloggers here with me so I felt thoroughly honoured to be invited along. As it turns out I’ve been following some of these bloggers for years so it was lovely to meet them in person and I’m thrilled to have discovered some new blogs too. We were a diverse bunch, each with our own individual perspectives. My fellow bloggers are experts in art, history, wine, food and architecture and then there’s me of course, more of a jack of all trades and master of none!!!!!!!!! Anyway, to hear what the others have to say about Forlì, check out these blogs:
As a bit of background, Forlì is a city in Emilia-Romagna (the next region to the north of Le Marche where I live). It’s a nice city. It doesn’t have the grandeur of places like Rome and it’s definitely not quaint. In fact, the city initially has a bit of a utilitarian feel to me. From a purely superficial standpoint it would be easy to overlook Forlì because of that, but don’t! It’s interesting BECAUSE of that. It’s the architecture, and the history behind it that sets it apart from other Italian cities and makes it well worth a visit. Apart from the cultural and architectural aspects, the town authorities are passionate about Forlì as a base for art and exhibitions. I visited Forli for the first time earlier this year to see an exhibition of one of my favourite artists Giovanni Boldini, an absolutely amazing portrait painter from Ferrara (one of the nearby towns). It was an excellent exhibition so I was already somewhat pre-dispositioned to like Forlì from an artistic perspective anyway. However, we had a whirlwind tour of three other exhibitions (some of which served to further my confidence in my own artistic abilities!) and it’s only added to my esteem in that regard.
As an aside, if I’ve got any of the information in this blog wrong, then it’s entirely my fault. The talks and the Guides were excellent but my Italian translation skills at speed, particularly after wine and massive meals sometimes leave a little to be desired!
Anyway, here are some photos taken around the town…
This is Piazza Saffi. This was taken on market day, it’s usually less busy!
And the ice-rink in Piazza Saffi. I made two new Italian friends – both about 5 years old, Davide and Sofia. We chatted in English (mainly numbers and days of the week).
This little girl was absolutely captivated by this ride in Piazza Saffi
They have a rent-a-bike scheme in Forli. It’s so flat it’s easy to get around with a bike and they’ve got quite a few cycle lanes.
Piazza Saffi at night with the Christmas lights
And the shops are all set up for Christmas too.
And there’s even a cute little Christmas Market.
Architecture – Fascist and otherwise
We had a very interesting walking tour from Bernadette, our guide, focusing on the architectural side of the city. If you want to do this yourself, everything is in very easy walking distance of the center and there are lots of maps to help you find your way at the Information Tourist Office.
Mussolini, the Italian Dictator, was born 15km away from Forlì in a town called Predappio. I don’t think this was adequately impressive enough as a town in its own right so Forlì took on the role of being his more public “home”. It was an important place for him and his regime and there are a lot of reminders of that around the city . There are a lot of people who like Mussolini in Italy, including most of my neighbours. We learnt about him in school in the UK, none of it particularly good, so it was a surprise coming to Italy and hearing about how many still to hold him in such high regard. However, in Forlì, I can see why people might have liked him and still do. There were vast parts of Emilia-Romagna completely under-developed and covered in bogs. Mussolini extended railway networks, built schools and housing and developed industries on otherwise unused land.
The ex Casa del Balilla. This was a school designed by a famous Italian architect of the period (Cesare Valle), all very well equipped and developed for the fascist education of children. It’s been recently restored. They couldn’t get the colour quite right – there was no recipe of the local materials used to make the original paint!
This private house was built in the 1930’s and is typical of the period. Due to the political situation at the time, materials needed to be gathered locally and one of the common colours of the period was this green.
This is one of my favourite buildings in Forli, it’s the Post Office. Again, built in Musolini’s era.
Taken under / through the Post Office…
My favourite part of the tour though was a stop off in what is now a school but previously, was the ex Collegio Aeronautico (Aeronautical College, Piazzale della Vittoria). A series of black and white mosaics cover the walls and show the history of air travel from start to finish (well, not quite “finish”, things have carried on a bit since then). It was fascinating! Click on the images for more information…
Recognise the horse?! It’s the Ferrari horse. Did you know that Ferarri took on the horse after a request from Francesco Baracca’s (a well-known pilot in the war) mother? She suggested it should be put on Ferrari’s cars as a symbol of good luck (hmm, Francesco died in his plane, I’m not convinced of the rationale there). I should add that Asso means “Ace” not “Ass”.
The Wrigt Brothers!!!!! WRIGT! There was a ban on all foreign words in Italy during the war period. Apparently they either made an error with the spelling here, or they were deliberately misspelling it!
“Live Dangerously” it says. This mosaic was dedicated to Mussolini’s son who was killed in action. The mice are his symbol and were on his plane – it’s striking because of all of the mosaics only the mice were coloured.
If you’re interested in Fascist Architecture, then check out the Atrium Route. It’s a tourist itinerary connecting several countries in Europe which have cultural heritage of different totalitarian regimes. Forlì is on the route, as is Predappio (Mussolini’s hometown). The pack we received as part of the tour is pretty extensive and comes with information cards for each of the main sites. I’ll be keeping it in mind if I venture further afield.
Though there was a focus on the Fascist architecture on the tour, actually for me, of note are the number of houses that have frescos just beneath the roofs, all with different designs. Really quite pretty. You don’t see that in my area!
All the frescos seem to have quite different designs
This is another one of the frescos
A lot of houses have these frescos just under the roof. I was struck by these alarming looking cherubs, I can only assume they were used to warn people off coming!!!
The Verzocchi Collection at Palazzo Romagnoli
This exhibition was in Palazzo Romagnoli, an interesting building in itself with frescos on almost all of the ceilings. It’s a nice place to wander around. Verzocchi was Forlivese (meaning someone that comes from Forlì) and an entrepreneur. He commissioned paintings with the theme of “Work”. There are about seventy all in all and they show not just a slice of history in terms of the type of work back in those days, but also the style of paintings. They all had his brand “V&D” painted into the picture, usually on a brick. It’s quite a challenge to find some of them! My thoughts on this exhibition? I really like the idea that this entrepreneur requested paintings from people with only two criteria – the theme and the brand. There should be more of that! From a wanna-be-artist perspective, I found this collection an odd mix of inspiring and frustrating. I’ve included below three of the ones I found most inspiring/frustrating with my rationale.
Ennio Morlotti (Riparatrici di reti – net repairers) If I had painted this and presented it to my art teacher at school (not my current one who is almost a bit too liberal), I would have been laughed out the door. I like it, but I do feel a sense of injustice. Perhaps I need to present with more confidence what I consider my disasters.
Umberto Vittorini (Donna che lavora – woman who works). So this one, I think is inspiring because her right eye is clearly all wrong. And yet it’s in a gallery. I have hundreds of drawings and paintings where the face doesn’t quite look right and I remonstrate myself each time! I never thought to just hang it up on the wall anyway.
I didn’t make a note of the artist I’m afraid. But this woman appealed because I too am part way through my life drawing class. I think it’s good, but a similar painting is not beyond me, so in a way, I find it inspiring too.
So, in summary, I’m always worried to present myself as an “artist” but no more; if these guys can get away with it, so can I (and now you can see perhaps why I’m not a famous art critic). On a separate note, there’s little information about this collection online. If you’re interested, visit!
Afro, Pensieri nella mano at Musei San Domenico
This building is ideal for exhibitions. It’s a converted ex-convent and where I saw the Giovvani Boldini exhibition a few months back. Currently the downstairs is dedicated to the works of Afro Basaldella, an Italian painter (1912 – 1976). Afro seemed to do a bit of everything; painting, tapestry, jewellry makingand printing.
One of the paintings (or I think it might have been a screen print)
One of the tapestries
His works are a bit too abstract for my liking but I appreciate his diversifying into different mediums!
Steve McCurry at Musei San Domenico
Now this was spectacular. I suspect many of you will know some of his most famous photos, even if you didn’t know his name. The exhibition is entitled “Icons and Women” and is a photo journal of his time travelling the world. His photos are amazing. The subject matter, the composition, the photos themselves… they’re just absolutely stunning, each and every one. Our guide was very knowledgeable and was able to recount the stories behind many of the photos making it even more interesting. The exhibition is breath-taking. I thoroughly recommend going!
The next exhibition at the San Domenico Museo is dedicated to Piero della Francesca, Indagine di un Mito (Investigating a Myth) from the 13th February 2016. We had a sneak peak at some of the paintings (or at least, photos of the paintings) that would be included in the exhibition and there are some I recognised from other exhibitions in the area. I think my favourite painting of his is of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino. I always thought with portraits that you’re supposed to paint your subject with an element of flattery. Poor Duke. Piero must have been a brave man. Anyway, it’s an interesting style of portrait. You don’t often see portraits in full profile and the vast background makes it pretty unique. I’m hoping to go back to Forlì to see the rest of the exhibition.
My neighbour has drilled it into me that I must visit every church I come acrosss. I did my duty in Forli. Evidence included below.
She often tells me that the churches are where most of the artistic masterpieces are and she’s right. This is my new favourite statue…
Where better place to keep your creepy looking lion?
Where to eat
As part of the tour we ate at a couple of restaurants. On the first night we went to Salume’. It’s highly rated on TripAdvisor and I can see why. The food was great. They had some good vegetarian options too and a massive selection of wine it seemed. The service was good and the restaurant stylish and intimate. The mascarpone cream desert was gooooooood.
The next day we had lunch in Eataly, a chain of restaurants and seller of Italian food products. The Eataly in Forlì is the first one I’ve come across but there are others around Italy too. It was in a superb location, in the main square (Piazza Saffi) and there are great views from the piazza from the third floor where the restaurant is.
Where to stay
We were based in Hotel Massini which is a minute or so walk from the main piazza so very central. The service was good. They didn’t even complain when I forgot to check out!
It’s easy to get around the center in Forli just on foot but there are bikes to hire if you’d like and if you want to go further afield, there are buses and good train links to the local area.
All in all, it was an interesting couple of days and I’d certainly recommend a visit. If you’re coming from outside the area then it would be easy to combine it with a tour taking in Ravenna (click here for my review of Ravenna!), Rimini, San Leo and San Marino (I went to those in one fell swoop – read about it here). There’s even a Romagna Visit Card which will allow you to get into some of the main sites at a discount or for free.
Finally, something that made me chuckle (but not the woman at the stall)…
Forli is the only place I know of where you can buy wallets made of man skin (ok, OK, I can see that perhaps the more likely translation is that these wallets are made out of leather and are for men but I prefer my version!).
If you have any questions on Forli, or if I’ve made any heinous errors, or if you’d like to invite me on a Blog Tour (I would like to make it clear that I’m available to travel abroad too… the Maldives, the Bahamas…), then please get in touch!
Have good weeks all,