Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples are the most popular destination amongst the Americans. Yet, there are so many other cities worth a visit, but I feel that tourists sometimes are like sheep: they follow the herd.
I try as much as I can to be a traveller more than a tourist, so I decide to go to Bologna. I don’t understand why I know so little about this city considering that there is so much history here and why I’ve always felt so little attracted by it. It is also true that I don’t know much about a lot of other places in Italy but I’m trying to find a remedy to this deficiency of mine.
When the train from Milan pulls into Bologna’s station, I’m excited to spend my day here. The city is not very big and one can visit the downtown area by strolling along its streets. The thing that impresses me the most is the presence of many arcades everywhere. I read somewhere that just in the historical center they reach an impressive length of thirty-eight kilometers.
One of the things I have to see is Torre degli Asinelli that used to be part of a hundred towers medieval complex. Nowadays there are only about twenty of them left. I try to take of picture of it in all his length and I need to twist myself so much in order to do it that I even consider laying flat on the street without worrying too much about the pedestrians and the cars around me. I manage somehow to take my shot and I keep going towards Piazza Maggiore, where there’s also the Basilica of San Petronio.
Bologna is also home to one the most ancient university of the western world and looking around one may think there are only young people living here. The square is in fact full of smiling newly graduated wearing their academic robes and caps, surrounded buy their friends and family ready to celebrate this important time of their lives. I sadly think they are going to be soon part of the multitude of unemployed people since the Italian economy has not been very strong in the past years.
This is the country with thousand resources, the country of arts, the country of fashion, food, luxury cars and music. This is the country were eminent people were born over the course of centuries and now it’s in disrepair.
I keep walking the streets of the city center, looking for a place where I can get a bite to eat. We are in Emilia-Romagna, the region where Bologna is, and this is the land of lasagna and tortellini, of prosciutto and Parmesan. After a juicy snack, I start heading towards the train station again, Stazione Centrale, that became tragically famous in the eighties because of the most sanguinary terroristic attack in the history of the Italian Republic: on August 2nd 1980, eighty-five people died and more than two-hundred where injured.
One of the clocks at the station has stopped at 10:24am to remember the victims of the dreadful Saturday.
But Bologna the fat, the red and the erudite as everybody calls it because of its food, its political orientation and because of its prestigious university is like a phoenix that rises from the ashes and it’s definitely worth a visit.