Bologna Inside - Second Edition

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Ann Gagliardi portrait photo

Ann Gagliardi, Teacher/Writer
Athol, MA, USA


While many cultures have a national or regional identity, Italians usually define themselves by their native city. Bolognese are no different and tend to stick close to home, looking for la casa near parents or in-laws, sometimes even in the same palazzo. When young couples are getting started, it is not uncommon for parents to help purchase their first apartment, which helps explain how many Italians get by in this affluent city, where rent can exceed monthly wages.

Culturally, Italians are homeowners and tend to be wary of renting and accruing mortgage debt. However, the thousands of students attending the University of Bologna fuel a substantial rental market, pushing up demand for centrally-located apartments. If student life is not for you, avoid advertisements for a posto letto, or you will find yourself sharing a room with one or more young co-eds!

The historical center of Bologna is laid out like the spokes of a wheel from the two towers to the twelve city gates, once connected by a surrounding wall. To get your bearings, why not climb to the top of Torre Asinelli for a bird’s eye view? Try not to get your hopes up when you see the marvelous rooftop terrazzi scattered across town - it is unlikely that these gems are for rent or will be within your budget. Instead, take note how the south and west sides of the city rise into the colli and the north and east sides stretch out into the plains. Try counting how many other towers were once a part of the Bologna skyline before being lopped off by a rival family. See if you can identify the Roman cross in the otherwise medieval architecture. Then spend some time walking the city to get a feel for the neighborhoods, keeping an eye out for the words affitasi or vendesi wherever you go.

la casa = home
il palazzo = building
un posto letto = bed in a shared room
i terrazzi = terraces
i colli = foothills
affittasi = for rent
vendesi = for sale