Before my exchange begins next week, I have been travelling around Bologna and the Adriatic Coast (a mere hour drive).
Bologna has been a fantastic destination. It is a student city that is very close to the airport, so I highly recommend it for travellers looking for an easy and accessible city to visit. The city itself is beautiful with grand buildings and an old world charm. Don’t bother going out early in Bologna, everything comes alive at night here. Locals are out from 8pm to the early hours of the morning. Hundreds of Italians sit around for hours nursing their Aperol Spritz and cigarettes. I highly recommend skipping the pizza and ordering the local specialties: plates of mozzarella, ham and tigelle. I spent three days in Bologna and that was a perfect amount of time: it doesn’t take long to navigate around the whole city.
Also, take a drive up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna. It is a large monastery built on top of a hill near the city. The drive takes you through the bologna countryside, where you have panoramic views of the valleys. In my opinion, Bologna is a great alternative to somewhere like Rome- it is less touristy and boasts an amazing array of eateries and bars.
However, being a student city, there are some issues I came across in Bologna. Some areas of the city, along the outskirts of the centre, are places best avoided at night- or at least travel with another person.
The Adriatic Coast is the next stop I have taken. This coastline has been a wonderful relief from the heat of the late summer. The beaches are flat, with the smallest swell – perfect for relaxing into the afternoon. There are no sharks, but there are some large jellyfish. Note that a lot of the stretches of the beaches are reserved by hotels, but you can easily sit down on one of their lounges when the beach is not busy. Again, Italians in this area stay up late with the streets extremely busy at night.
One Beach Tip: You don’t burn in the sun as easily as you do in Australia. I have pale skin so I usually burn quite easily, but I have been in the sun all day, for 3 days, and I have not burnt noticeably- maybe just a little red on my arms. One annoyance is that I could not find proper sunscreen anywhere. The best I could find was 20 SPF, and it was around $15 for a tiny tube. WARNING: most sunscreen products here contain TANNING PRODUCT. I nearly bought a ’30 SPF’ bottle (the highest SPF is 30 here), and then realised it was also for ‘bronzing’.
One Nation-wide Negative: Smoking is everywhere. Smoking whilst driving. Smoking whilst cycling. Smoking inside cafes (not actually legal but alas it still happens to my dismay). Smoking literally everywhere possible. If you don’t smoke, like me, be prepared to be engulfed in it.
One Food Tip: Be prepared for pasta, pizza, and bread. There is so much heavy food that I have been struggling to eat anything but carbs. I’ve realised that a lot of Italians don’t seem to eat lunch, just a few snacks. I have adopted this approach because having a huge carb meal twice in one day seems a little much. Check out the local supermarkets for a good range of snack foods, fruit and yummo yogurts.
One Language Tip: Most Italians can speak some English, mostly broken, but you can get by without knowing the Italian language. The younger generations are more likely to have a better grasp of the English language and are happy to accommodate hopeless Italian speakers like myself.
Bachelor of Law and Communications (Creative Writing)
Ca’ Foscari University of Venice