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Bologna quesitons... Would you live there? Where to stay?

Bologna quesitons... Would you live there? Where to stay?

Jan 3rd, 2012, 07:02 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2012
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Bologna quesitons... Would you live there? Where to stay?

Hi out there,

My partner and I (in our 30s/40s) are planning a trip to small cities in Europe we might want to live in some day.

On our list so far:
* San Sebastian, Spain
* Aix-en-Provence, France
* Bologna, Italy

As you can probably deduce, we love food ;-)

I've started looking at VRBOs in Bologna and have started getting the impression that the city is a bit dark and dingy. Or perhaps it is just gray there a lot? Maybe there aren't a lot of trees? Maybe none of this is true...

If you have spent any significant amount of time in Bologna, is this somewhere you would consider living 3-4 months a year? Why or why not?

Are there other safe, beautiful, walking cities in Italy with great food you'd recommend?

Is there anywhere in the Italian lakes region that is large enough that one could regularly go out to restaurants and enjoy oneself for 3-4 months? (I am bewitched by photos of the beauty of this area, but it seems unviable for longer than a week or two.)

Finally, if Bologna is, indeed, a wonderful place -- can you recommend a hosted 2BR flat with wifi and breakfast anywhere? Or a small hotel that offers adjoining rooms?

I know this is a very particular set of questions. Big thank you to anyone who can provide any insight!
bakeryday is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 08:05 PM
Join Date: Mar 2011
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I spent 5 hours in Bologna wandering around the central district. I did not find it dark or gray at all. In fact, I found it rather colorful. Many of the buildings were painted in shades of burnt orange and gold shades which I found very pretty. Also, the arcades are great for walking around outside even when it's raining.

There are some beautiful churches and amazing food in Bologna. It's very flat and easy to walk around - but watch out for those scooters, there are a ton of them in Bologna! It is also quite a young city, which was one of the first things I noticed walking around. Lots of great fashion too. Sorry I can't answer any of your other questions. Have fun!
anothertravelinsong is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 08:11 PM
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Bologna would be an excellent location for many day trips as it has good train connections.

As for an apartment, you need to state some type of budget.
kybourbon is online now  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 08:39 PM
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You might want to add Lyon, France, to your list. It's known as the France capital of gastronomy.
easytraveler is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 09:30 PM
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Thank you all for the feedback. The impressions of color, fashion, and even flatness are all very encouraging (I am a jogger and prefer to run on the flat). We are in Thailand right now, and I confess *not* to be a scooter fan, so good to know about that.

Vis-a-vis budget, we'd like to spend ~USD 200/night, but have some flexibility. Good accommodation seemed cheaper than I expected. Here's a place that looked promising:

Vis-a-vis Lyon, a friend on Chowhound commented that Lyon would be a hard place for foreigners to access -- because the long-standing social ties, etc., determine so much. Does that make sense?
bakeryday is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2012, 10:42 PM
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" Lyon would be a hard place for foreigners to access -- because the long-standing social ties"

Practically nowhere in Europe has the US culture of expecting mobility. Even in (possibly especially in) its most cosmopolitan city, London, few people are desperately interested in making new friends, so new arrivals depend on their previous social links, those that spin off from their work or study, fellow-nationals' organisations or occasionally synthetic sources (like web dating sites) to develop a social life.

Many rich-world immigrants blame the local population for this, using phrases like clannishness, snobbishness or insularity. Except possibly in a few expatriate-oriented communities (like the Iberian coastlines or the Dordogne) where there's an active English-speaking (and generally UK-dominated) culture of positively welcoming some newly arrived foreigners, I really don't think you can single out any part of Europe as different in this from anywhere else. I certainly didn't find the Italian city I lived in at all welcoming (or unwelcoming): just rather puzzled at what a foreigner was doing living in their city.

Bologna, although it's a university city, doesn't have much of a tradition of immigration, diaspora or an expatriate community. Setting up a social network in any European city is tricky for any foreigner: if you're not fluent in the local language, don't have children (schools are often a great way to build networks), and don't have a full time local job (incidentally how are you going to afford to live without a job, or surmount the legal barriers against non-European residents?), you'll find it trickier still. Solving the problem requires exceptional social sensitivity - or the ability to put up with a straitened social life. Blaming "long standing social ties" (or insularity or any other perceived local trait) is just a social inadequate's way of dumping his problem onto other people.

I doubt Lyons is any different from any other European provincial city (including Bologna) in this respect. But thinking very hard about whether the expatriate life is for you at all (not to mention why you think Italy's going to let you in) is a great deal more important than trivia like how flat a city is. Or utter non-issues like safety.
flanneruk is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 12:26 AM
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I live in Italy, go to Bologna frequently and spent an entire month there recently. While I enjoy the city, it sounds like, given your worries, you wouldn't enjoy living there. It is a medieval city at its core, and an industrial city at its rim. The center is not sunny (the streets are covered in porticoes or are narrow alleys) and the rim is 20th century concrete with lots of traffic and pollution. Although Bologna has its wealthy areas and its atmospheric areas, they can be the most expensive areas of the city to rent. There are very few trees in the city. The huge student population creates a lot of graffiti, pollution, traffic.

However, the information given above Bologna's social culture is fasle. There are 2 American schools in Bologna and a core of permanent residents who are native English speakers. There is nothing "tricky" or requiring "exceptional social sensitivity" to getting on in Bologna. It's residents are some of the least parochial in all of Italy, commonly fluent in more than one language, highly educated and well-traveled themselves.

There are other wonderful destinations for food in Italy you might consider. Tops on my list would be Trieste (lots of trees!), Torino and Napoli. If the food of Emilia Romagna interests you particularly, Modena might be more congenial than Bologna as a place to live. Likewise Parma.

Before I moved to Italy, I considered moving to beautiful San Sebastian in Spain, but ruled it out for weather and desire not to have a car. I live in the hills in Liguria, and very much like the food around here. but it is quite different from Emilia Romagna, where pasta is supreme.

If you are interested in Lyon, the British writer and editor Bill Buford moved there from London, and you might want to read what he thinks:

zeppole is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 01:06 AM
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@ zeppole -- thank you for such a useful response. I really appreciate it!

I will read more about Tireste, Torino, and Napoli. Being a bit of a car nut, I am quite curious about Modena (Ferrari!).

I will also take a look at the article by Bill Buford.

Thank you!
bakeryday is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 01:25 AM
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PS: I don't know how much you have traveled in Italy, but if you are picking destinations on the basis of food, you need to know that stores and restaurants generally limit themselves to offering what is extremely local in terms of traditionally typical of the region -- so you better really like the food wherever you live because you'll be eating it every day. Many of the dishes I love to eat in Liguria are not available in Bologna, and vice versa. Although I adore many Bolognese pasta, I couldn't possibly face eating food every day that relies so much on meat-fat rather than olive oil, and I would have a hard time putting together the kind of fresh fish diet I prefer, which is the norm where I live. If you like seafood a lot, think about living on Italy's extensive coastline. Lots of choices. In almost all of the interior, fish is inferior, canned or frozen. People normally cook with meat-fat in the center of Italy, and butter in the north. Very rare along the coasts and in the south.

I've never found in Italy the marvelous array of delicious bites available nightly in San Sebastian or Madrid. Sicily, Napoli, Torino and Trieste have the greatest variety in their cuisine that I have experienced in Italy (Trieste the most). In cities like Bologna, where there is a large immigrant population of East Asians who run the grocery stores, you can get some decent Indian-Pakistani-Bangladeshi food and restaurants. The students like to eat cheap Greek food, so that's available too. Milan is also an interenational city. But overall, expect to eat distincitly Bolognese food in Bologna, distinctly Ferrarase food in Ferrara, distinctly Paduan food in Padova, -- even though they are only minutes apart by train.

For 2 years in a row I've planned to visit Lyon, only to decide at the last minute that its high-fat cuisine just didn't appeal to me. (Someday, I'll buck up and go for the architecture and hope to be surprised by finding something appealing to eat). I'm much more tempted to go to Dijon.

My experience of the food of southern France is limited, but so far, if I want an olive-oil and garlic cuisine, I'd rather be in Italy or Spain. Wine is better in France, however.
zeppole is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 01:38 AM
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We were posting at the same time.

You might find Modena a much more congenial base than Bologna, and probably more affordable too. Yet you could go shop in Bologna whenever you wanted. It's just 20 minutes away by train.

I live in Italy so I won't need a car, so can't help you there. I will point out, however, that Torino has a great food culture and a great car culture, and it is a very pretty city if you like 19th c. architecture. It's well connected by train to many interesting places, including the Riviera and the Alps, and the great rice fields of Italy if you like risotto, as well as having Italy's best red wines.

Trieste is the very best walking city and a very unusual place. It can be turns remind you of Spain, Austria, Turkey, Paris, and yet it is very, very Italian. It's a very dynamic place for young people, at the cross-roads of lots of emerging markets. Very multi-lingual.
zeppole is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 01:43 AM
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Bill Buford British???

Every Italian city has scooters and people who ride them, often late at night. Naples probably has more than most.

The Ferrari Museum is in Maranello; only Ferrari owners can visit the factory. In any case, how often are you likely to visit the Ferrari Museum?

Which three-four months? Bologna is hot and humid in summer, cold and often foggy in winter. You can't visit a town in May and decide you'll like it in January.

If you go for 90 days or less (in all the Schengen countries combined) within a 180-day period, you don't need a visa. If you go for more than 90 days, you do.

What is a "hosted" flat? A rental owner is not likely to make restaurant reservations for you; s/he is certainly not going to make you breakfast.
Zerlina is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 02:03 AM
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I meant to add that I know people and groups of people who don't own Ferraris who have visited the Ferrari factory.
zeppole is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 02:25 AM
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Oh, and lookeehere:

A rental flat in central Bologna where breakfast is served to the apartment renters at an adjacent hotel and where they also have access to the full services of the hotel's concierge desk:


Gosh. Such things do exist in Europe.
zeppole is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 02:36 AM
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@ zeppole -- thank you ;-) You've posted a lot of stuff that's very relevant. I need to digest it all. The question of diet is a big one for us as well. Vis-a-vis San Sebastian, I have a good friend from NYC who fell in love with a Basque woman and moved there permanently, so we are going to visit them and scout things out as well.

We're just headed out to dinner now, but I will respond more this evening or tomorrow. Again, thank you very much for the info.

And I had no idea Bill Buford edited Granta...is that right? Bill Buford who wrote Heat?
bakeryday is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 02:39 AM
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I think once you have decided on a place you should really spend some time learning the language if you want to get the best from the experience. We moved to France 17 years ago, and spent a lot of time in night classes improving our much forgotten high school French. That, and a willingness to be open and participate in local activities, invite people in for drinks, etc., usually ensures that you meet people and are accepted. When we first arrived in our village we invited everyone we had met - plumber, electrician, neighbours, real estate agent, etc., to an open house/party one Sunday afternoon. A number of our (now) friends still talk about this, and how unusual it was. For us it was normal to try to meet people in a new situation.

I think you will find that many people will say it's hard to make friends and fit in. We were told that 'French people dont invite you into their homes' French people don't accept foreigners.'The French people we met didn't seem to know that. But we know English speakers who have taken 5 years to be invited in by French person. And really, would you invite people to whom you couldn't talk, who hadn't bothered to learn the language and customs of where you live?

So don't be put off by people who say that you won't fit into Lyon, if that's the place you choose. You may have to work at it a little, but I don't see any reason why you wouldn't fit in. You will always be different, and if you are only there 3-4 months a year, it will be harder. But if if were all the same, why would you want to be there?

And Bill Buford is American, despite his time with Granta.
Carlux is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 02:41 AM
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You'll have to ask Zerlina! I'm obviously not much of an expert on Bill Buford.
zeppole is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 05:29 AM
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Interesting, Carlux...we did the same thing and it sure turned heads, particularly since it was 4th of July weekend and we attempted to integrate some of our American holiday customs into the gathering. I'll never forget the faces on our new neighbors when I served corn on the cob! Of course, being a French speaker helped enormously, but we were still perceived as rather strange to do this. And yes, people in the village still talk about that gathering.

I don't know if Lyon has a reputation for being particularly insular or not, but I'd guess no more than anywhere else in France. It certainly has a fine gastronomic reputation and a host of fascinating attractions.
StCirq is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 06:03 AM
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bakeryday, please ignore any snarkiness amidst all of the good information above.

My hub (may he rest in peace) and I visited quite a few cities in Italy over the years. We made Bologna a base one time and loved the food and the city in general. (We had the same reaction to the food in Turin.) Anyway, after a day or two, we took a day trip to Ravenna and both remarked about how light the town seemed. After some discussion, we decided that the many porticos in Bologna did indeed block out the light somewhat. With its high population, it obviously doesn't bother everyone.

We based in Aix and loved it for its student "vibe", the markets and the art scene. We found bus travel easier than train from Aix. Montpellier is perhaps a more convenient city in which to base. It too has strong student population and the train station is very easy to get to.

Our Lyon trip was cut short but the food we did have was quite good. Fois gras to die for and we even tried marrow. Much larger than Bologna though in case that's a factor for you.

Carlux, your thread reminded me of one of the Peter Mayle books. He couldn't get all of the people working on his home to finish, so he had a big party and invited them all. Magically, the work was all completed in time.

Only got to Barcelona in Spain so can't give an opinion about San Sabastian. Good luck! And I'm jealous that you'll have 3 months in one place. As I'm typing this I see another thread by you about Aix. See you over there.
TDudette is online now  
Jan 4th, 2012, 06:10 AM
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I so would not live in Bologna big dingy euroindustrial uni town that lacks the charm that is Italy.As a foodie/wino I
would choose www.lucca.info beautiful intimate and cheaper.
internationalliving.com escapeartist.com good tips
Ragusa Sicilia my #2 warmer in winter cheaper nicer beaches
GREAT expatcommunity.
qwovadis is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 06:16 AM
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Via Cesare Boldrini, 4, Lame, Bologna
booking.com from $60 where I try to stay
5 minutes from train station
qwovadis is offline  

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