Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Exploring his new home -- in running shoes

Jogging was not big in the Middle Ages.

That explains in part why Bologna -- whose first settlements date back 3,000 years -- is not at first glance a runner's paradise. Delicious food, stunning architecture, fascinating history, yes. Also cobblestones, narrow streets and traffic -- anathema to joggers.

Tristram above Bologna
As Anna Ottani Cavina, professor of art history, can explain, medieval city dwellers sought protection in numbers and so built compact cities that brought citizens together inside walls. Outside was nature -- equated in the medieval mind with danger.

More recently, Bologna's civic leaders have gone to great lengths to preserve both the medieval city center and the green outskirts. So while there is not much grass or many trees in the historic heart of the city, the surrounding countryside is protected by tough zoning laws and offers impressive vistas just a few minutes from the center.

Tristram Thomas has discovered as much. A student this year at SAIS Bologna, Tristram is an accomplished runner. He did not let traffic, pollution or cobblestones get him down.

Off and running
"If running is a passion, the apparent dearth of running routes can be discouraging," he writes in a compendium of running routes he has already traced. "However, moving to Bologna is an adventure. And like any good adventurer, I set out to explore my new home -- in running shoes."

Tristram's trails wind through parks and streets into the hills, or colli, that flank the city to the south or onto the Po plain that stretches north. Some are short, others longer.

He and some fellow enthusiasts are starting a running club -- one of a host of associations run by students. Tristram's club will cater to all levels.

His ability to adapt and and spirit of adventure will carry him far.

Nelson Graves

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