One of the off-beat things my sweetie and I like to do on our trips is to visit local cemeteries. I think it’s really interesting to see the different ways our beloveds who die are honored. My very limited experience is that in France, Italy, and Mexico, cemeteries are contemplative spaces with interesting sculpture and stories. The Maryland cemetery my grandparents are buried in is so boring – the headstones must be flat so the grass can be properly mowed, there are rules about flowers and trinkets that can be left, and very few people wander around. In contrast, we always see people at foreign cemeteries wandering around looking at the graves.
Certosa Cemetery is in Bologna, outside the walls of the city. It was previously a monastery, founded in 1334, and closed 1n 1797. In 1801 the cemetery was established, and the monastery was remodeled and incorporated into the design as the mausoleum. It’s a beautiful cemetery with amazing art and sculpture, and was visited by Dickens, Byron, and Stendhal on their grand tours of Italy. For more information see the Associations of Significant European Cemeteries website.
One thing I really liked about this cemetery was the photographs of people on the graves. It makes the grave seem less anonymous, and gives us a tiny glimpse of who the person was. There were lots of real flowers on the graves, and we saw a number of people tidying them. Sadly, my grandparents’ graves probably haven’t been visited, much less tidied, in years. I suggested a picnic at the cemetery one time but my cousins thought it was a bizarre idea.