HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF IMOLA?
Before I start in on all of my outings, I thought I'd update you on my current surroundings. I live in Imola. Have you ever heard of it? No? I didn't think so. I hadn't either and most people wouldn't unless they're into our one famous thing...car racing. That's what you'll get if you google it. I know because my dad told me that he kept googling Imola to figure out where I live and all he could find was information about a circuit. A racetrack if you will. An Ex-Formula 1 track at that right here in my little town. It's no longer used for something so fancy, however, they still do racing of various varieties. I've never gone to see it first-hand, but roaring engines and squealing tires are an incessant sound all through the town on almost every weekend in Imola from spring through summer. I'm not a huge race car fanatic, but I am a fanatical about walking and biking and therefore, I've had the chance to enjoy the track by both bike and on foot when they open it to the public a few times a month. It's about five kilometers long and hillier than I first expected. I always thought racetracks were flat, but this one isn't, so I've only ever made one breathy lap around on each of my many treks abound. It's kind of fun to walk where they race and see the skid marks that have left their trace, think of the past races won and lost, the many dreams achieved or squashed, hope gained or forgotten.
When I talk about my little town, I'm talking about a town that Wikipedia says has almost 70,000 people, which really isn't that small. It just feels like it is. It feels very similar, in fact, to the town I grew up in - Poulsbo, Washington, which back in my day had about 7,000. It has that small town feel where you know people by name and can't escape seeing them at any or every town function. I'm a teacher too, which means my contact with people is higher than usual. My students seem to seep from around every corner of this hole in the wall town and as one of the few Americans here, I can rarely flee without being seen. This can be both delightful or dreadful depending on my mood. Not because I don't love my students because I do, but because, you know, I like my private time too.
Like all good Italian towns, Imola has a glorious castle complete with an ex-moat and drawbridge also. It's still used for small tours, weddings, and its best attraction: a summer time open-air cinema. The castle was believed to be built in the 1300's and instantly makes your mind wander at the past history surrounding its vigor. Who lived there? How did they live and what did they do? Who in the world created such a magnificent structure able to withstand so many years of change, weather, and other? Here she is, the Rocca Sforzesca di Imola by night basking in her thunder:
One of the other impressive constructions in the city center is the Duomo. Just look at this grandness. Churches around Italy are remarkable in their magnitude and detail as well as their richness, and this is another one that doesn't disappoint the masses. Although I don't spend a lot of time in churches for religious purposes, I do occasionally find myself slipping into these sanctuaries to admire the architecture and sit in their silent holiness. Religious or not, witnessing these incredible creations is well worth a visit.
Imola has a typical historical center with narrow roads and secretive side streets strutting off in different directions. Cars are excluded from making a presence. There's a large central piazza where you can sit and eat at outdoor cafes and bars or chase your kids around the expansive public stone yards.
Imola residents live well. It's an organized and functional city with a surprising amount of work. There are many international companies selling everything from ceramic making machines to dental equipment, which provides both myself and my school with an enormous and continuous need for English study and development. This is why on any given day, my coworkers and I may find ourselves teaching at public schools, doing private individual lessons, or instructing group courses at large companies in the area. It's dynamic and the lack of native speakers in the area has made it a gold mine for the few of us that are here.
Imola is probably not the town that I would've chosen maybe for the simple fact that it's not next to the sea or made up of anything particularly extraordinary. It seems, however, to have chosen me. It's where I landed when I arrived in 2010 and where I've set up camp as my home to be. I'm happy here because I have everything I need, but I'm not immersed in the middle of a dense city where I no longer wanted to be. I appreciate the fact that Imola takes me back to my pre-Seattle city girl days as a child living amongst the trees and uniting with nature in all its glory. It also reminds me of the summers spent with my aunt and grandparents in rural southern Oregon territory. In summer, it's hot here day and night just like it is there and the countryside rich with crops and tall grasses spans as far as you can see. The enormity of the sky unblocked by buildings hovers over you in this blazing blue mass of immeasurable quantity. It's not always hot though. The winters, which are similar to Seattle, are cold, dark, dreary and occasionally even snowy. Humidity is rampant all year round bringing chills to your bones in December and non-stop sweat running off you in summer. The heat is extreme in my opinion, in both directions, and much more so than I was used to back home.
Italians always ask me how I ended up here. It's a long story as we know, but Imola has become my Italian home. It's a family town and a good place for my daughter to grow. You've got mountains just a few hours to the north, Florence 30 minutes by train to the south, and you're lined by seas on two sides. You can hop on over to Bologna in no time at all or take a walk along the river for a relaxing stroll. I also feel safe here in simpletown even though there is some property theft and crime. I've had my bike stolen more times than I can now recite, but I can tell you, that personal crime is more or less non-existent. I tried to look it up in fact to give more credible information, but couldn't find anything relevant.
Somehow in this little nook, I've managed to create a lovely group of English girlfriends, meet many interesting Italians, and set up home with my daughter in a nice little apartment. Life here keeps me moving in many directions from my morning office job to my afternoons and evenings spent teaching English. Eight years in, it would seem that Imola's charm has worked its magic in capturing me as a permanent resident, so I'll keep staying here to live what Italy has to offer and updating you on how it progresses.