Bologna Inside - Second Edition

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Carol Sicbaldi portrait photo

Carol Sicbaldi, Cycling and Walking Tour Manager
Boston, MA, USA


They say Bologna is a two-faced city, with one half looking up at the foothills of the Apennines and the other out toward the plains of the Po Valley. In fact, her provincia extends from the industrial outskirts of the city across a vast and diverse network of outlying towns and hamlets in the montagna, colline and pianura, each with its own regional distinctions, culinary flavor and traditions. Outside city limits, most administrative affairs are handled by each local comune, many of which also have smaller frazioni under their jurisdiction.

Don’t assume provincia means provincial. In fact, the boundary between the city and what used to be separate distinct towns is increasingly blurred, just ask anyone who lives in Casalecchio di Reno or San Lazzaro di Savena, with their efficient public transportation and modern shopping centers.

On the other hand, in the more distant and rural campagna, you might experience a more earthy Emilia Romagna, with its time-honored ways. In this Bulagna, elderly men play cards and talk politics in the bar and shopping at the weekly open-air market is a ritual. If you speak with Italians over the age of 70 in the province, you’ll find that memories of war are still vivid.

A few things hold true no matter where you go outside the city: the lines at public offices are shorter, the air is cleaner and its easier to find cuisine fatta in casa. On the flip side, you may have to commute to work, nightlife is dull and foreign language newspapers are hard to come by. If you hunger for tradition and full immersion, try spending some time in the province - your Italian is bound to improve and you may even pick up some dialetto Bolognese.

la montagna, le colline, la pianura = mountains, hills, plains
una frazione = smaller town under the municipality’s jurisdiction
la campagna = countryside
Bulagna = Bolognese dialect for Bologna
fatta in casa = homemade
il dialetto Bolognese = Bolognese dialect