This weekend, I was going through one of my bookshelves, and I came across a book that led me travel back in time. The book is called “Viaggio in Emilia-Romagna” by the late Luigi Ghirri.
This 127-page photobook features the beauty, the landscape, the architecture, and the people in one of the richest and most colorfully historic regions of Italy: Emilia-Romagna.
Before I talk about the book, here’s a little geography lesson. The region is located in northern Italy between the Po River in the north and Apennine Mountains in the south. It has a population about 4.4 million people. The capital of Emilia-Romagna is Bologna, which is the 7th largest city in Italy and home to the oldest university in the world, University of Bologna (according to Wikipedia). In fact, the expensive carmaker Ferrari is manufactured in this region.
This book is very special to me because it was a graduation present from one of my father’s cousins and his wife, who live in the region. As I sifted through the colorful pages, I was enthralled by Ghirri’s magical, photographic ability to capture the essence of the region. In each photograph, Ghirri, a native of Scandiano near Reggio Emilia, reveals the true identity of Emilia-Romagna with its breathtaking views of the farmland, the ancient buildings, churches and statues from cities like Modena, Parma, Bologna, Ferrara, and Ravenna. In fact, the region’s president wrote in the book:
This trip, through wonderful pictures and measured words, is intended to bring pleasure to a wide variety of readers in the hopes that, from page to page, everyone may find food for cultural enrichment.
My parents and I visited the Emilia-Romagna region six years ago, and I remember falling instantly in love with my new surroundings. In a way, the earthy landscape reminded me of home. We have relatives in Bologna and Ravenna, and so we were fortunate to have them show us around. On a car ride to a restaurant, I remember one of my relatives pointing out to me the house that Italian radio inventor Guglielmo Marconi lived. I had a fantastic time, and I will treasure those memories and book forever.
However, the fond memories don’t quell the sadness and worry that I have in light of the 6.0 magnitude earthquake that rocked the region. According to the news reports, the earthquake happened early Sunday morning near Bologna and Ferrara. As of this time, at least 5 people are dead and many are wounded and missing. The pictures on television of the rubble are heartbreaking. A sharp contrast from the ones in the book. Centuries-old churches, castles and other buildings are either gone or heavily cracked. Half of a clock building is still standing. One man said he came outside in his underwear to figure out what happened.
I’ve reached out to a cousin of mine in Bologna, but so far I’ve heard no response. I pray that she and her family are OK. I pray for the families who have lost loved ones in the quake, for the wounded to regain their strength, and for the region to return back, with time, to the majestic beauty it’s commonly known for.