The past year has seen many people across the world grapple with a very specific type of loss; the sadness of a trip not taken, the mourning of exploring new cultures, the yearning for experiences beyond the anomie of the supermarket. As that strong desire for, and impulse to, wander the world fell prey to the pandemic in a turbulent 2020, we seemed at one point to be surging toward an anticipatory dystopia. Who were we without travel? What do we have to look forward to when there is no international holiday booked for summer?
Over the course of the past 12 months, we’ve been commissioning artists, painters and illustrators from different cities all over the world to paint a picture of what they see out their windows – either real or imaginary. Most artists have been confined to these cities during the global lockdowns, and all have a close connection to the place they have illustrated. Each artist has a “GRAZIA At Home City Guide” perched on their window sill, insider guides to the cities you need to visit and recollections of moments past in these nooks of the world; how they drank in the palaces, how they wandered through the parks and how they ate and ate and ate. There’s recommendations too – local dishes, phrases and lessons – so you can start imagining your own itinerary from the comfort of your own home. Today, we’re headed to Reggio Emilia in Italy.
Google Reggio Emilia and behold the colours you will find. Large town squares hemmed in by a bright and raucous metropolis; buildings splashed in dandelion yellow, amber, ochre and melon. The birthplace of the Italian flag, Reggio Emilia’s inhabitants are brimming with national pride
“I remember the squares and the markets with the scent of bakeries in the golden hour. And when I used to ride the lion statue in San Prospero Square,” artist Silvia Castagnoli says who describes Reggio Emilia as “enjoyable, “innovative” and “revolutionary”.
The latter is very true. After the second world war, the teachers at the schools in Reggio Emilia ditched the curriculums and instead placed an emphasis on art and beauty in the classrooms. The idea was to bring more colour and activity to the lives of children of war.
“It became a method which today is known worldwide,” explains Castagnoli. “It’s the story of women and men who decided to invest the earnings from a war tank sale into building a new school, one that could teach the future generations the importance of peace, respect and the value of diversity.”
As we head into the post-pandemic era – the coronavirus being dubbed our generation’s war – Catagnoli says one phrase has been coming up more frequently in Reggio Emilia.
“’Tîn bôta!’ which means “stay strong” in our dialect is common. I’ve been saying that to friends very often during this pandemic,” she says.
Italy has indeed been one of the hardest countries hit by the virus. Catagnoli encourages everyone to travel to his city as soon as it becomes safe to do so.
“You can really eat well anywhere in this city, and every place has its own features,” she says. “You can really find every imaginable taste! But to those who are in the city for the first time, I would recommend eating somewhere you can find zdore’s (Emilian housewives) handmade tortelli. There are all different types and colours: green, pumpkin with sauce, potatoes, radicchio… and I would taste all of them if I were you.”
Follow Silvia Castagnoli @silvia.castagnoli.muttley
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