|A Bologna porticoed sidewalk|
Friday, May 13, 2011
When we tell people about our plans for our year in Italy, they often ask, "Why Bologna?" It's just not high on the list of places to visit for most Americans. But for those who are interested in architecture, culture, and good food, Bologna offers an abundance of pleasures.
In 2000, after taking a few Italian classes in California, I decided that it would be helpful to take some language lessons in Italy, and for reasons that neither one of us can quite remember, we chose a school in Bologna. It turned out to be a great choice, and we're looking forward to returning.
Bologna has three nicknames - La Dotta, La Grassa, and La Rossa: la Dotta (the learned) because the University of Bologna, founded in 1088, is the oldest university in Europe; la Grassa (the fat) because Bologna is known for the quality and richness of its cuisine; and la Rossa (the red) because of its red tile roofs and also because Bologna has traditionally been on the left /Communist side of the political spectrum. It's big enough to have lots to do but small enough to feel manageable. When we're looking for activities, we can visit an array of museums, historic churches, parks and gardens. When we're hungry, there are wonderful food markets and restaurants. When we need a bit of culture, there's music and opera at the Teatro Comunale. If we want to go farther afield, Bologna is on a main railroad line, so it's a good home base for visiting other places in northern Italy.
One of our favorite activities in Bologna is walking the porticoed streets. These porticoes first came into use in the Middle Ages as a way to provide housing for students at the University by building out over the sidewalks, and today they are found throughout the historic center and beyond. They have the very practical advantage of providing shelter in bad weather, but they also create an air of refinement and a pleasant orderliness and continuity.
Once we arrive, we hope to document some of the things that make the city so appealing, and if you follow our blog maybe you'll find out "why Bologna."