Be still, my heart! Bologna got me almost as much as Marseille did and I was, of course, ready to move there on day 2. Life in Bologna, filled with endless pasta, pizza, wine, mortadella and cheeses sounds too perfect to be true.
But it was my reality for the last 5 weeks and I loved every moment and bite of it.
Our neighbourhood & accommodation
Our top-floor apartment was located on a quiet residential street (just around the corner from the main party street) within the Old Town walls. That meant it was walking distance to everything we needed but quiet enough to enjoy our time there.
The apartment itself wasn’t bad – wasn’t great either – and we absolutely loved the balcony. It was perfect for morning coffees, evening date nights with Italian wine, reading books and writing articles.
Living within the Old Town walls meant stricter recycling rules with a schedule for plastic, paper and mixed rubbish pick up. For glass, we had a big underground bin next to our building, which is understandable. Looking at the number of wine people consume here they wouldn’t be able to wait a week for the next pick up day.
Life in Bologna had a pleasantly slow pace which in turn had a relaxing effect on us. People were friendly, the weather was fantastic, the food scrumptious and wine aplenty. Real la dolce vita if you ask me.
Impressions about Bologna – likes & dislikes
It’s Friday, Friday…
Bologna felt like Friday afternoon every single day. From around 4pm people started populating outdoor terraces and tables with drinks in hand and great moods. They stay until late, chatting with friends and having the best stress-free life. Something I associated with Fridays (you know, Friday drinks, starting the weekend with a bang) happens in Bologna daily.
I always pick walking over public transport whenever possible and Bologna made it really easy for me. Not only the footpaths were mostly wide, but they were also covered with porticoes protecting people from the strong sun. Altogether there are around 38km of porticoes just in the city centre.
Growing up in Poland I heard some horror stories about mortadella and always considered it the evil meat only extremely poor people eat as punishment. Never cared enough to investigate. Bologna showed me what mortadella really is and now I’m obsessed. It’s delicious, full of flavour, smells fantastic and I pretty much lived a lie until now.
Bologna is a one pretty city. The pastel orange, yellow and pink colours of the buildings. The porticoes. The fancy lamps. The surprise window to a different world. Even the tit-shooting fountain in the Piazza Maggiore. I’m in love.
Home to the oldest university in the world, the namesake of the bolognese sauce and the seventh most populous city in Italy, yet many people don’t know about its existence. When we were leaving Gdańsk, our chatty taxi driver drew a blank when I said we’re off to Bologna. So I happily explained to him Italian geography and connection to spaghetti bolognese which blew his mind (he should be glad I didn’t start the topic of Trentino next).
Non parliamo italiano. But we learn fast. We were picking up new words every day – some were similar to other languages we know, some completely new but sounded adorable. Language is the number one reason I would pick Bologna over Marseille – I feel like we’d become fluent in Italian much faster than in French (even though we have a head start on that one).
It was easy for us because most locals speak at least a bit of English (once again extra points over the French). We never had any problems communicating. Worst case scenario, we had to stretch our Italian capabilities or use GoogleTranslate.
PS. We better not forget what we learned because we’re going for round 2 of Italy in September – this time to Florence.
In June 2019 100 EUR cost us around 160 AUD (at the same time, it would be around 111 USD).
For day to day grocery shopping we usually went to our local Coop or Pam. There was also a Conad but we found that one to be more expensive than the others. And if anyone wonders if there is an Asian grocery store in Bologna, the answer is yes – Asia Mach is pretty well stocked and we were able to buy all items we wanted.
How much do groceries cost in Bologna? For example:
- 1.5L sparkling water: €0.25 = 0.40 AUD
- 6 eggs: €1.50 = 2.43 AUD
- 250g pack of cherry tomatoes: €1.65 = 2.68 AUD
- 100g of mortadella: €1.65 = 2.68 AUD
- butter: €1.69 = 2.72 AUD
- beer (0.5L IPA): €1.99 = 3.23 AUD
- rosetta bread roll: €4.65/kg = 7.49 AUD/kg (around €1.46 for 4 rolls = 2.35 AUD)
How much you should expect to pay for:
- one small flat white in a cafe: €2.80 = 4.53 AUD
- a big pizza from a local pizzeria: €8-12 = 12.98-19.39 AUD
- a fancy restaurant meal for two with a bottle of wine: €112 = 181.66 AUD
- 0.5L beer in a beer garden or a pub: €5 = 8.09 AUD
- a fresh handmade pasta: €6-8 = 9.77-12.98 AUD
- A glass of prosecco: €4 = 6.49
How much we spent in 5 weeks (2 people)
Accommodation: €1774.47 = 2 836.27 AUD
Groceries: €507.07 = 820.71 AUD
Eating out (we went out for meals or snacks 29 times): €489.70 = 794.14 AUD
Coffee: €88.80 = 143.91 AUD
Alcohol: €475.97 = 771.61 AUD
Transport (public transport, Uber, Taxi): €33.45 = 53.90 AUD
Entertainment (cinema, museums, tours etc): free with our Bologna Welcome Cards which were gifted to us by the tourism office
SIM: we’re still using our Hungarian SIMs
Total: €3 369.46 = 5 420.54 AUD
Sideways power sockets
It was a first for me. I knew Italy uses the typical European two-pin plugs and while looking around the apartment I spotted only one or two places where I could charge things and a whole lot of small holes all over the place. It turned out the weird holes were sideways power sockets which I then spotted in every Italian city I visited.
Italians sure love their dogs. Almost everyone seems to have one (mostly small dogs) and they take them everywhere – trains, restaurants, shops, bars – you name it, there’s a dog for sure.
My “favourite” category. Smokers. Both Hubby and I get really angry when someone is making our lives miserable by smoking next to us. And Italy has some addicts. People smoke a lot and, what was really weird to us, it’s allowed at train station platforms (only those outdoors).
OMG! Do they just hand out driving licences in Italy as soon as you’re 18? People seem to have no idea how to drive properly and not be a danger to themselves and everyone around them. Indicators? Nah. Driving between lanes. Yup. Driving after a few? Why not.
Refuelling on Sunday
Would you like to refuel your rental car before you return it? If it’s Sunday, you may have trouble doing so. We went to a couple of service stations and drove by many that were closed before we were able to do so. Some of them seemed closed but turned out to be self-service. We didn’t have enough cash and they wouldn’t accept cards. You’d think they would at least have an ATM on site.
After many misses, we finally found one that took cards but the instructions were only in Italian and we would take much longer to figure it out if it wasn’t for a friendly local who helped me figure it out.
Happened this month
What a start to our stay in Bologna – right after landing I received an SMS that our bags were still in Amsterdam and that we should go talk to the service desk. After confirming we wouldn’t see them for another 20 hours, we headed for a quick check-in at our apartment and then straight to the shops.
Our insurance allowed us to claim €200/person on emergency clothes, shoes, personal hygiene items, cosmetics and food. So thanks to KLM we now have some brand new clothes (I’m obsessed with my yellow dress which I wear almost every day and which you can see me wearing on most photos).
After 3 days in Bologna, I left for 5 to attend my first Traverse conference in Trento. If you’ve never heard about Trento don’t feel bad, I had to look for it on a map when I decided to buy the conference ticket. It’s about 2h north of Bologna on a fast train, past Lake Garda, by the Dolomites and close to the Austrian border.
The conference, as well as all the pre-conference activities and nightly parties, were great. It was also a perfect opportunity to reunite with friends and to make new ones. I was buzzing with positive energy for weeks after!
Weekend in Rome was one of those bucket list things forever and we finally had the possibility to visit. It was part fun, part work for me (and you can read about that here) but nevertheless, it had some mind-blowing moments. Especially for me, art school child, who drew the Pantheon and its elements hundreds of times and now finally was able to see it in real life. I had goosebumps and teary eyes.
We walked more than we probably should have in the over 30°C heat and we ate some delicious food. The culinary side was a success mostly thanks to Heli who recommended us a perfect dinner-date restaurant.
Emilia-Romagna road trip
On our last weekend, we rented a car and went on an epic road trip around Emilia-Romagna region. The trip included a short visit to San Marino where, of all places, we stumbled upon a Japanese Festival and discovered a locally brewed craft beer. Then, my research skills came through once again with a perfect B&B (which by a weird chain of events turned out to be a quite unreal deal – more on that soon), quaint villages and epic castle. I’m the best trip planner you’ll ever find.