Bologna, as the regional capital of Emilia-Romagna, the home to the oldest university of Europe (founded in 1088) and a thriving engineering and food industry, is a wealthy, lively and intellectually stimulating city, configurating as a perfect place to study and learn Italian language in Italy. Bologna offers all the elements marking out the international conceptualisations of Italian cities (namely history, art, architecture, fine dining and wines) embedded within easy walking distance and without the hordes of tourists plaguing the more obvious Italian destinations. As a prestigious centre of university life, the city hosts a number of foreign students and teacher (about a fifth of the total population) and the Medieval cityscape, as well as the renowned gastronomic tradition, attract a lot of visitors: the result is an international and dynamic environment which exempts from many of the problems people has to face in larger urban centres.
So…why study Italian in Bologna? Who better than an international student could answer this question? We asked Susi, a Californian girl living in Bologna in the last six months: let’s explore together which aspects of the city contributed to her decision to study here and why would she (not) recommend Bologna as a learning destination for other foreign people!
Why study in Bologna?
I chose to study in Bologna because Unibo is the oldest university of the Western world, whose alumni include Dante, Petrarca, Pasolini, Thomas Becket and Copernicus, to name a few. I have already heard about its reputation and then I found out that it also offers many international programmes and support for international students like scholarships, facilities for accommodation and so on. Furthermore, the location is amazing because you can travel within Italy and outside of Europe, it is kind of extremely convenient hub for trains and for flights.
Why do you think Bologna is particularly suitable for international students?
I think Bologna is a lively, super chill and super friendly college town; there is always something going on culturally, in the art and music sector. You live with Italians and eat Italian food; you get the whole experience. I really recommend Bologna if you are looking for a full linguistic and cultural immersion and living the Italian lifestyle. There are relatively few native English speakers living here as compared to Florence or Rome, making speaking Italian on a daily basis achievable and enhancing engagement in the new cultural environment. There are many opportunities to get the real taste of Italy!
What are your favourite places in Bologna?
My favourite places in Bologna are Piazza Verdi, Santo Stefano, Piazza San Francesco to chill out during the evenings as well as Giardini Margherita, San Luca and Parco Cavaioni on the Bolognese hills to enjoy nature and landscapes. I also love to shop at Via Indipendenza, Via Ugo Bassi or in the chic boutiques of Via D’Azeglio and to just stop and reading books on the recliners of Sala Borsa, the biggest library of the town.
Which experiences or traditional food in Bologna would you recommend to other foreign students or people?
I definitely recommend trying tagliatelle, tortellini and crescentine with prosciutto crudo or mortadella. Bologna is undoubtedly not a paradise for vegetarians but the quality of food in the supermarkets and markets (especially Mercato di Mezzo near Piazza Maggiore and Mercato delle Erbe in Via Ugo Bassi) is astounding. For a true Bolognese tasting you also must try the countless “osterie” and “trattorie” populating the maze of streets of the city centre and have a glass of a fizzy fruity wine like Lambrusco or Pignoletto. Enjoying an “aperitivo” in Via Zamboni or Via del Pratello is also a very fun and typically Italian experience: for the cost of a drink, unlimited munchies are all available at no extra charge and these customs have become some of my favourite pastimes. Another “must” is to climb the Asinelli Tower, the tallest of the city (but you can’t do it before being graduated) and to walk under the porticos, which allow visiting the city on foot no matter what the weather.
What do you think about Bolognese people?
Bologna is easy to settle in and get around, it’s a friendly environment. The most pleasing discovery I have come to find out since moving to Bologna is that Italians, and Bolognese guys in particular, are some of the easiest, kindest and generous people I’ve ever met, perhaps because Italian culture requires being social or “simpatico”, as you say. My biggest surprise so far has been making such great friends so fast. Come to Italy and to Bologna guys, we are waiting for you!