My first week in Bologna has been a busy one. In the days following my arrival, I met everyone in my program, found an apartment with awesome roommates, started language classes, and am officially bike-riding the narrow city streets. Seeing as the last time I rode a bike was when I was seven, let’s just say that the commute to class is a wobbly one, accompanied by a slew of worried sighs whenever cars pass me by. Bologna is a very diverse city, and in my daily walks under its tall porticoes I see people from all over the world. Many come to work and take advantage of the inflated euro. I for one am all for getting a job here, and have heard that as an English tutor you can make around 10 euro an hour—which is about 15 bucks in the US.
At this point in my life here in Italy I find myself experiencing what I like to call “The Movie Phase.” When coming to a completely new place, we all experience a bit of culture shock, “The Movie Phase,” or as some like to call it, “The Honeymoon Stage,” is when one is in a state of complete awe over everything they see. Everything stimulates the senses, what locals may see as a dingy graffiti covered wall, others see as a modern Da Vinci masterpiece. A day in the eyes of a Bolognese is a day filled with cobbled streets, quaint piazzas filled with students relaxing against church walls, and so many people on bikes that Cornell’s bike community is put to shame.
What may seem like city secrets to tourists come as common knowledge to those who live here. For one, Bologna has a whole underground graffiti culture, and it’s a rare occasion when one doesn’t see a wall splattered with spray-paint. Graffiti crews have three different types of illustrations: tags, throw-ups, and pieces. Tags are usually a quick signature of a crew; Throw-Ups usually take longer and are somewhat bubbly letters; and Pieces are time consuming artworks that are big and detailed to display the skills of a crew. When my friend told me this I started noticing the different types strewn all over the city, and felt a little bit enlightened about something I pass by every day.
When searching for a bike, there seems to be only one place to go: Via Zamboni. Unlike in the US where bikes are bought in sport stores or found used on the internet, in Bologna bikes are bought stolen. If you walk along Via Zamboni on a hot summer night, you are accompanied by the hushed chants of “bici, bici…”—and if you answer you can get a bike for as cheap as 10 euro ($15). There are even times where they tell you to wait five minutes—five minutes so that they can go steal the bike right then and there to sell it to you. Seeing as almost everyone gets their bike stolen at least once while living in Bologna, you come to find that the cheap bike you buy one day is the same cheap bike someone else will buy a week later.
So all in all, Bologna is a city with a particular personality all it’s own, a bit quirky and a bit sketchy at times, but all in all my home.