Settling into Forlì
September 5, 2010
So I finally arrived in Forlì on Friday, September 3rd!
First impression: gorgeous little city, calm and quiet, not far from the Adriatic coast. The rolling Apennines–the mountain range that runs along the length of Italy–happily greeted my one hour-delayed flight.
The University of Bologna’s Student Association, which helped me find accommodation in Forlì, picked me up from the airport and whisked me off to my new apartment. Right in the center of the city, it’s a street over from my university, a 5 minute walk to the main square (Piazza Saffi), and a maximum 20 minute walk to anywhere else of importance.
After unpacking and settling in, my new flatmates Chiara and Paola– who are graduating this September as International Relations majors–welcomed me to the apartment with a delicious dinner! We began with a salad and purè (mashed potatoes). Then, Chiara, who hails from a town in central Italy (Umbria), made a pizza with arugula and stracchino, a soft white cheese that comes from her region of Italy. The following day, they made me try real, authentic, home-made pasta carbonara. It was so good!!
On Saturday, I walked around the city to get familiar with the streets and shops. Of course, I walked towards Piazza Saffi, Forlì’s main square which features the 12th century cathedral, San Mercuriale and its 75m-tall belltower (one of the tallest in Italy!). I mainly walked down Corso Garibaldi– one of the four main arteries of the city. Palazzo after palazzo, piazza after piazza, I began to get the feel of this picturesque city.
Founded in 206 BC, and the site of the ancient Forum Livii, Forlì has a rich history. The region itself has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era. It is currently an important agricultural center and primarily focuses on the manufacture of silk, rayon, clothing, machinery, and metals. The city itself has many buildings of architectural, artistic and historical significance, many of which include beautifully restored frescoes. It is also the seat of the University of Bologna’s Roberto Ruffilli Faculty of Political Science– which is why I’m here!
I was quite confused when I first saw the Forlivese coat-of-arms; it featured a German eagle……which–I think– perfectly reflects the colorful history of the city. It became a republic for the first time in 889 AD and offered its loyalties to the Holy Roman Emperors in order to keep its independence. This was no exception in the case of Frederick II, one of the most powerful Holy Roman Emperors of the Middle Ages (and also a king of the German Hohenstaufen dynasty). In 1241, Forlì aided Frederick II in the capture of its rival city, Faenza, and was presented the Hohenstaufen eagle as a token of gratitude.
Forlì is also home to many known artists throughout history, who collectively created the Forlìvese School of Painting (famous for its sophisticated use of perspective, foreshortening, and color.) The most famous of these artists was Melozzo da Forlì, a celebrated Renaissance painter and architect. (He was the first to practice foreshortening with much success and one of the most outstanding fresco painters of the 15th century.)
However, probably the most famous Forlivese native is Benito Mussolini(!) He hailed from this region and became actively involved in local politics in the 1920s, before becoming a powerful dictator who would rule over Italy for almost 20 years. Eeek….
So, who knows? Maybe Forlì is the ideal place to cultivate art as well as politics…