With the summer months officially here, it is more than suitable to introduce another “How to: destination”. This time, with one of our editors having spent the spring semester in Europe’s oldest university, in the vibrant Northern Italian city of Bologna, we decided to reach out to the locals to share some insights beyond the city’s three joyful nicknames: la dotta, la rossa and la grassa.
Best website/app/crystal ball to use when you are looking for a place to live?
Vittoria and Carlo: “I know websites that are used only in Italy, like Tecnocasa and Immobiliare.net. (Vittoria) But that’s only to buy a house. If you are a student and you want to rent a place, you can use a website called Immobiliare.it or Idealista.” (Carlo).
Enrico: Facebook groups. But even in the groups, it is very difficult to find a place. When I arrived here in 2018, it was a little bit easier. But now it’s crazy. And there are so many groups, so you never know where is the right group to write. But my advice would be to contact the landlords fast, and to be yourself but a little bit formal and polite (but not too much).
Which tourist attraction is actually worth it?
Vittoria and Carlo: “Depends on what you like and whether you are more of a nature person or a museum person. But if you have to choose one, it would be Le Due Torri, so the Two Towers which are called Asinelli and Garisenda (Carlo). But also there are a lot of hills around Bologna where you can see the city, like Villa Ghigi if you prefer more nature (Vittoria).” Also San Michele In Bosco is a must during the sunset” (Carlo).
Enrico: It’s difficult because there is not really an attraction. You know, Piazza Maggiore maybe, but it’s not so worth it. So I think the best attraction in Bologna is the night lifestyle and the lifestyle of the students of Bologna. It’s the attraction that is really worth it to experience.
The easiest way to save some money like a true Bolognese local?
Vittoria and Carlo: “It’s pretty tough, and we are not very good at this. However, if you want a cheap drink, you can go to Da Ken to have a spritz for 3 euros. They have two locations at Via Irnerio or next to the Piazza VIII Agosto. (Vittoria)
Enrico: I would say never do your groceries in the city center. Also, buying an annual bus ticket is a good way to save money. For getting a cheap drink, there are Lupulus, Cucchiaio d’Oro, and De Ken, which are pretty famous.
A Bolognese local would never be seen…
Vittoria and Carlo: In a fascist reunion, we are all communists here! Haha, I don’t necessarily share this ideology; I’m not a communist, but this is a strong stereotype, and you can see all around you that people are living in a “communist” way. (Vittoria). A lot of people in Bologna think, dress and act the same way, and you could say all have a similar mindset. In the sense that people don’t really think whether it is the right way or not, you do it since everyone else does it as well. (Carlo).
Enrico: Never seen going to the beach to swim. They’re going to the beaches in Rimini or Riccione to dance, and that’s a totally different way to go to the beach. We (in Sardinia) go to the beach to stay at the beach to swim, you know. So Bologna people would never be seen at the beach swimming unless they are also partying.
Best place to escape to if the city gets a bit much?
Vittoria and Carlo: Well, one of the best places is Giardini Margherita. (Carlo). But if you also go a little bit out of Bologna, you can go to the colli bolognesi. There you can find Ai 300 scalini, where you see all of the city. You can ask anyone in the city, and they would probably know this place.
Enrico: There are a lot of places. San Luca first, and also Giardini Margerita. If you still want to stay in a city, you can go to the other cities in the region like Dozza, Modena, etc.
I wish people would have told me… about living in Bologna
Vittoria and Carlo: Ok. Well, I don’t really know, since we have lived here our whole lives, but I know some say that here it’s not really easy to meet new people. But it seems really weird to me, because you know, you see and meet people everywhere. Like, even if it is a small city, during the night, it is crowded with students (Vittoria). But even though there are a lot of parties or raves organized by students, a lot of them are private parties, so you have to know the right people (Carlo). But in my opinion, it is really easy to meet new people. (Carlo).
Enrico: That is not easy to make friends and stay with the same group. Because a lot of people only “pass by” the city in the sense that they come here to study and then move out. The percentage that stays and lives here after university is really small. So it is hard to create a friend group that lives and stays in Bologna.
Bologna politics are…
Vittoria and Carlo: “Communist”. Well, on the left. And that’s the thing I was saying before that some only have this mindset for the other ones. So people are affected by what other people in the city think, and they follow that. I wouldn’t say it is a bad thing necessarily, but for me, there isn’t a “left,” and there isn’t a “right”. (Carlo). But also Bologna is the place in Italy where a lot of culture was created, so we also accept a lot when compared to other cities in Italy. For example, LGTBQ+ rights are here much more accepted than elsewhere in Italy. So I would say Bologna is also very progressive in this sense (Vittoria).
Enrico: I think it’s worse than in the past but still better than in other places. It’s still better since we stick with certain types of liberalism and with left politics. Like people in Bologna are more open, they want to live freely and without shame and think outside of the box. In Italy, this makes Bologna a really peculiar city and, in a way, very European. However, it is worse than in the past because Italian national politics are going in a certain way, and of course, even the local politics follow that pattern. You can see that it is more strict now with, for instance police control. In student parades, you see more fights between the police and the students, and this is something that in the past never happened in Bologna because the power of the students in the city was really strong. Now it’s less the case since the students are not as into politics anymore as in the past.
How (and where) to flirt like a Bologna local?
Vittoria and Carlo: You can do it everywhere. During the night, you can go, for example, to Piazza Aldrovandi or Piazza Verdi. But maybe Via del Pratello and Piazza San Francesco have a nicer atmosphere. (Carlo). How to flirt, I would say also depends on the person.
Enrico: If you want to flirt with foreign people, you have to speak not-so-good English and make small mistakes. It’s like Italian English, “macaroni, spaghetti”. But I can say that if you want to flirt with Italian people, and you have to speak Italian, you can go to Santo Stefano. I think it’s really nice to walk in Santo Stefano and continue to Giardini Margherita, buy ice cream, and walk, walk, walk, and talk. I think that’s the better way for the first date.
Which stereotype about Bologna locals is actually true?
Vittoria and Carlo: The people who wear Birkenstocks. Another true stereotype is the “punk people”. This means that many people express themselves and want to dress differently (in a more punk style), but in the end, they all end up dressing somewhat similarly.
Enrico: They are a little bit classy, you know, snob. And I am now talking about the people who are originally from here and have properties, for example, at Via Farini or Saragozza. And this is another reason why the politics in Bologna changed because since the students are not so powerful anymore, the Bolognesi who stayed in the city now are the ones with good jobs and money, whose children are really different than during the previous generations.
If Bologna were a person, who would it be?
Vittoria and Carlo: Elton John. Who understands understands.
Enrico: Platinette (Italian drag queen). Italian people will know him. He’s kind, cultural, and a bit weird – like Bologna.