Oldest University in europe, Bologna
Bologna: the alternative city
This is the website of travel writer, Michael Turtle. After working in broadcast journalism for a decade in Australia, Michael left Sydney to travel the world indefinitely and write about his discoveries.
Living in Bologna, Italy
Every few weeks I seem to find a city that I think I could live in for a while. These decisions are always accompanied with pronouncements to anyone nearby. “You know what? I think I could spend a bit of time here. It’s got a great vibe about it, ” is normally how it goes.
The poor people who have been pronounced at normally mutter polite affirmations but, I assume, think I’m only saying this because I’ve been caught up in the moment. Perhaps they’re right – I can’t even remember half the cities I’ve said that about.
Perhaps my impression of Bologna will change after time has rubbed away the sheen of my week there. Or maybe it really is one of Italy’s best undiscovered cities.
I use the word ‘undiscovered’ in a relative sense. By that, I mean it is no Rome, Florence, Venice or Milan. It is not swarming with tourists and hawkers. It has not sacrificed its soul for the foreign dollar. If anything, it has nurtured a soul in harmony with its rich history and its poor student population.
I’ve dubbed it ‘The Alternative City’. Not just because it is an alternative for the travellers who are looking for something to explore away from the tourist hotspots. Not just because it is an alternative place to stay for those who would like a base to visit places like Florence, Milan and or even the beach. But also because the young student population is at the forefront of the alternative Italian lifestyle that’s emerging in the 21st century.
You can see it in the streets with the fashion and the haircuts. But it’s at a deeper level that the real shift is happening. Some recent university graduates I speak to one night tell me that many of the young people are moving away (literally) from the older values that insisted they stay at home with their families. This generation is less likely to follow into the family business and more likely to create its own jobs within new economies. Gay and lesbian culture, for instance, is much more acceptable in a city like Bologna and the modern art and music scene is developing much faster here than in other parts of Italy.