The Moment of Conception Photo Tour

Last November I returned to Northern Italy to visit a few of the locations in Moment of Conception – Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, and the center of the action in the novel; the charming medieval town of Dozza, the site of an international art festival, and Matt’s ancestral city; the Hermitage of Ronzano, the fifteenth-century monastery, the home of the Order of the Servants of Mary; Urbino, a walled city on an acropolis, where Pierangelo and Flora seek safety with cousin Ugo. I hope you enjoy these photos even a little bit as much as I enjoyed my tour.

Flora spoke fondly of her memories of the town. She’d once had family in Dozza and Giovanni had courted her here. She talked almost incessantly as she strolled the streets with Ronni and Matt.

The three of them enjoyed a relaxing lunch all’aperto, in the lengthening shadow of the imposing Rocca Sforzesca, the Sforza Castle.

Moment of Conception, Chapter 37 – Family

Dozza’s brick-paved streets were narrow and steep, taxing the legs, forcing a leisurely pace. Had the streets been broad, smooth and level, one’s pace would have remained unhurried, by choice if not by necessity. One couldn’t help but pause frequently to admire the brilliant murals covering the walls of the medieval buildings, the famous muri dipinti of Dozza.

Moment of Conception, Chapter 37 – Family

Matt and Pierangelo walked together in the vineyard.

La maledizione,” Pierangelo said. “The curse.” He spat on the ground. “I’ve seen it too many times, since I was a boy. At first they are only confused, then they disappear, slowly, slowly, over the years, like the murals of Dozza, until only outlines remain, with no colors. If we didn’t know them, if we didn’t remember who they were, they would be unrecognizable. Poor Flora.”

Moment of Conception, Chapter 46 – Maledizione

It took five minutes for Clara to convey the concept of bourbon and ginger ale to the bartender in the lounge of the Internazionale Hotel in Bologna. Once she succeeded, he kept them coming as Clara hammered one search term after another into her laptop. After an hour and three bourbon and gingers, she was familiar with nearly every publicly known fact about Dr. Magnani.

Moment of Conception, Chapter 38 – Precaution

Pierangelo patted Matt’s hand. “You must go see your cousin Dario.”

“Dario? Is he here?”

Pierangelo chuckled. “No. He is not here. He is in Ronzano, at the hermitage.”

“What’s he saying?” Ronni asked.

“I’m not sure. He wants me to talk to a cousin, Dario. But I don’t know him. And he lives in…” He turned to Pierangelo. “In un monastero?

Si! E un frate dell’Ordine dei Servi di Maria.”

Matt turned back to Ronni. “He lives in a hermitage. It’s like a monastery. He’s a monk in the Order of the Servants of Mary.”

Ronni and Matt were speechless as Pierangelo looked at them expectantly.

“You can go today,” Pierangelo said. “He’s there always. He can help.”

“Pierangelo, I know what you’re trying to do, and I appreciate your concern. But I don’t think that spiritual counseling is what I need at the moment.”

Pierangelo gave out a short, exasperated sigh. “You don’t understand. Dario will introduce you to the director of the foundation.”

“The foundation?”

“Yes, yes, the European Genetics Foundation. They are located at the Hermitage of Ronzano.”

Moment of Conception, Chapter 29 – Ronzano

Matt and Ronni drove through the Italian countryside, along a switchback road, past orchards and vineyards, to the top of the central hill of Ronzano. Ronni scanned the panorama. The hill sloped away from the road, dotted with stone structures among green pastures, stretching to a distant mound topped by a domed church, the city of Bologna spread out below.

It’s breathtaking, she thought.

Moment of Conception, Chapter 29 – Ronzano

Matt and Ronni entered the chapel. It was plain, almost crude in appearance, with whitewashed walls, some decorated with frescos in varying states of decay. There was a vaulted ceiling over the altar, but over the pews there was no ceiling, only exposed beams and the underside of the tile roof.

Moment of Conception, Chapter 29 – Ronzano

The three of them left the church and walked toward the head of a narrow path.

“Brother Dario has told us about you. He remembers you as a child.”

“I’m afraid I don’t remember him. I haven’t been to Italy in more than ten years.”

Alessandro looked at Matt over his glasses. “He remembers you. And he prays for you, as we all pray for you.”

The path led to the edge of a field. A few friars with broad hats were scattered among row upon row of meticulously tended vines.

Fratello Dario! Vieni!” Alessandro cried. The friars poked their heads above the tops of the vines. One raised his arm and made his way toward Alessandro. As he approached, a look of surprise and recognition brightened his face.

Cugino Matteo!” He embraced Matt and kissed his cheeks. Dario was older than Matt, and a little heavier, with skin darkened and aged by the sun. But he had Matt’s gray eyes and Matt’s thick, dark hair. They shared the same features. If not for the difference in their ages, they might have been mistaken for one another.

Moment of Conception, Chapter 29 – Ronzano

Pierangelo drove Flora to a park outside the city wall. By the time they arrived, Flora had calmed down; after ten minutes in the sunshine, she was chatting happily. Flora held Pierangelo’s arm and called him papa. He smiled at her and patted her hand, stopping occasionally to wipe away a tear.

Flora and Pierangelo walked in and out of shadows along the footpath, winding among the trees, as the wind rustled the leaves.

“Papa, I want to go to Bologna. Can we go to Bologna today?”

“No, dear,” Pierangelo answered. “We’re far away from Bologna. We’ll go back to Urbino after our walk, to Ugo’s.”

“Ugo.” Flora stopped walking. She closed her eyes, a tear rolling down her cheek, her lip trembling. “Ugo. Ugo. Papa, I don’t remember…” She turned and looked at Pierangelo as if she were seeing something completely unexpected. She nodded. “Yes,” she said. “You’re right, Pierangelo. We must stay with Ugo.”

Pierangelo exhaled with relief. They turned around to walk back to the car. After a few steps, Pierangelo felt Flora’s hand pulled forcibly from his arm. Before he could turn, a blow to his head threw him forward, sending him sprawling face-down on the path.

Moment of Conception, Chapter 55 – Urbino