I was quick to form first impressions about Bologna. Certain words sprung to my mind with very little or no searching; red, arches, solid, old, smart yet rugged.
They call Bologna " la citta rossa " (the red city) because of the warm reds, deep oranges, dark yellows cloaking the buildings, which from afar or in the blur of motion become a soft pinky red. It's a fairly accurate description and makes for a beautiful, warm city to wander around. "Bologna, The Fat", they say. It would be more polite to say "Bologna, the capital of a region of so many famous Italian delicacies". However, my first impressions are that the locals love these foods as much as those they are exported to and that has to be a regional cuisine's biggest endorsement.
They also say that Bologna is the home of "The Learned" as it is regarded as the home of the world's first university nearly 1000 years ago. My first impressions only slightly allude to a bustling student population - the odd eclectically dressed group of young people, the odd bespectacled person reading a book intensely at a bus stop - but I think this is because I've not yet explored the right areas. I look forward to amending this. What I can say is that people seem polite and warm to one another, and they often do me the honour of answering back to me in Italian when I do my best to speak their language.
Everything feels old. From the centuries old but stubbornly still bumpy cobbles to the stocky castle-like civic buildings, it almost bamboozles my mind that these buildings have been so immovable and ever present for so long. They have surely seen generations of people, changes and even trees come and go.The so-called portichi - covered pavements propped up grandly on tall arches - which line so many of the streets are still surprising and fascinating me. There are so many of them and they are so the grandest sidewalks I've ever strolled down. What vision the architects and town planners must have had. And ultimately, what consideration for its people and their future descendants...
There are more bikes here than I expected. Many are the old rickety, town bikes I love so much about my new home, Amsterdam. They have trams here too and strangely they and the buses are orange. This all brings a smile to my face.Somewhat sadly, I quickly noticed more than a few people begging on the streets of Bologna. But they are polite and quiet with handwritten signs conveying their message.
And finally I do not feel foreign here. Or rather I do not think people look on me as foreign... Whether this is because I happen to look Bolognesa (more "Learned" than "Fat" I hope...) or whether it's because tourists and foreigners are considered the norm and welcomed here, I don't know. Maybe I'll find out soon enough...
Bird was staying in Bologna as part of BlogVille.
Frances M. Thompson
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