The truth is when I first came to Italy I dreamed of starting my Italian new life in Florence - you know, the typical Under-the-Tuscan-Sun drama. Renaissance charm, elegant architecture, surrounded by the beautiful Tuscan hillsides - bella Firenze! It was for me, as for many others, the most beautiful city in Italy. Love at first sight.
As fate would have it, Firenze and I were not meant to be together (one of my first of many experiences in Italy that taught me that some things in life simply don’t go the way you plan them to). When I first moved to Italy, I was living in Florence, searching for a teaching position. After two months of job hunting, my bank account was running pretty low and I knew I had to take the first teaching job I could get. So when an English school in Florence offered me a teaching position at their other location in Bologna, I accepted.
I thought after a few months, I would be able to transfer back to Florence when a position there became available. Of course, I never did and here I am, more than two years later, still living in Bologna. I could have moved by now if I wanted to, but I haven’t because you see, Bologna not only chose me, it seduced me.
I wish I could take credit for using this idea of “seduction” to describe my relationship with Bologna. Unfortunately, I’m borrowing it from someone who came before me, another victim to Bologna’s seductive powers.
Her name is Mary Tolaro-Noyes and she’s the author of a book called Bologna Reflections. Like me, Mary is an American who sort of stumbled upon Bologna, without really expecting to fall in love with it. She first came to Bologna in 1994. Although she now lives in California, every year since then she has returned to Bologna.
Recently, I had the honor to meet Mary. We spoke about Bologna and how it seduced us. Although she’s old enough to be my Mom, we share a very similar sentiment about Bologna. We didn’t choose Bologna - Bologna chose us. It wasn’t love at first sight. Yet somehow through a series of what I like to call “aha!” moments, we fell in love.
Why do two American women like us love Bologna? For starters, there’s the amazingly rich food - fresh handmade egg pasta, rolled out and cut into long golden tagliatelle ribbons or cut into squares, stuffed with pork meat, and carefully shaped into the famous tortellini bolognesi. The mortadella (baloney’s glorified, much tastier cousin) melts in your mouth like butter.
OH and the butter! I mean, they use butter instead of olive oil here. Where else in Italy do you see butter?
Then there’s the incredibly unique architecture - did you know that Bologna has more than 40 kilometers of covered walkways? Thanks to the protective portici or archways, one can freely walk around the city, rain or shine, always covered.
Another amazing fact about Bologna is that it is home to one of the oldest universities in the world. It’s a city full of history, but also young life, which maintains a bustling, alive atmosphere, but also an affordable cost of living.