To meet and talk with Albana Temali we went to the old centre of Bologna, where she lives and works. We knew from her site www.albacenter.it That she has become a reference point for Albanian art and culture in the world but I had never met her in person.
The appointment under the Neptune Fountain, near the center, San Petronio and the Asinelli and Garisenda towers had hinted that it would not be an ordinary day. The sunny Bologna morning made it more fascinating and we found Albana while she was photographing the fountain.
We were greeted by an elegant and gentle lady who immediately threw us a subtle challenge: “I have invited you here because we are in an area with important monuments. You like art? I would like to firstly bring you to the Church of Santa Maria della Vita to see the terracotta statues from the second half of the 1400s created by Niccolo del’Arca, and then to the Archiginnasio, the public Library of the first university in the world and the hall of the Stabat Mater – where Rossini premiered this work under the direction of Donizetti “.
And as she said these words, it was clear that our response would have been the yardstick by which we would be judged and which our relationship would develop. A measure of love for art, culture and human creation. The best part of mankind is when we remember the value of life and are not lost planning wars and destruction.
I was excited to visit the first university after 50 years as an Italian, thinking of all students in the course of centuries who had gone before us in those corridors, the time they had devoted to study and to investigate the life of the world and of its people. Their clothes, their customs and language have so different in the course of nearly 10 centuries since the founding of the university.
Albana has been a pioneer in understanding and promoting the importance of small artists and artisans and helping them to grow and prosper. Her path preceded and is parallel to ours, born from love for art but also by the need to make sense of her dual personality of being native Albanian but with a life spent with her Italian husband.
We sat down to eat at a restaurant behind San Petronio where we represented an example of multiculturalism and integration: an Australian, an Albanian and an Italian in love with life and beautiful things that man can create. Lovers of stories and secrets that surprise and lead to unexpected beauty.
“You know that Bologna has 45 km of porticos? And do you know why they were built?” Albana asked of us. I had not the faintest idea – apart from the obvious protection from rain and cold moisture of the winter. “Because when
the first students began to arrive in Bologna and tried to rent rooms, the Bolognese have seen the need to expand their homes. They could expand only out into the streets but they had to respect the fronts to the shops on the ground floor. So they built the ‘rooms suspended on pillars’ and the porticos and arcades were born “.
To which the pragmatic Australian observation was “a bit expensive for just one room but then they have had over 700 years of rent and if so they have been well rewarded.”
We left ‘Cultured Bologna’ with the certainty that the relationship with Albana was born under a lucky star and is set to continue both on a personal and also professional level. Albana, thanks for what you have done and for having unveiled some of the pearls of Bologna.