The Hole in the Wall

Not so long ago, I’ve mentioned on Facebook, that a group of American film students accidentally discovered il b.u.c.o. (where I’m doing my EVS) and decided to create a short documentary about the place as their study project.

I have to say I was very surprised and obviously quite unprepared when they walked in asking if they can interview me about the place and the organisation, but I guess it didn’t go as bad as I could expect. Actually I’m pretty happy with how I did. Well, anyway, judge yourselves:

Bologna‬ é ‪Pride‬

How does it happen that the nicest things come and go in a blink of an eye?

The Pride weekend is over, but it was a wonderful experience. The parade started at 16.00, but we went a bit earlier to check out the stands of LGBTQ organisations and walk around enjoying the view.

Then we met with some friends with whom we later did the whole parade. The percourse wasn’t a long one (basically just two streets), but since we were in thousands, it took two hours to cover the whole path.

I brought my Polish flag with me as a sign of support, but also as a reminder that Poland is in the same point of the fight for LGBTQ rights as Italy — with no law regulations, no civil partnerships, marriages, adoptions, well… no rights in general. And as I was making my way to Piazza Maggiore, I was being stopped by random people who either asked me what flag it was (sad to say, but many Italians don’t generally have a good knowledge of flags of other countries) or who were not believing I’m truly Polish (sic!) or who just simply were Polish themselves. Enough to say that I was attracting a bit of attention.

But then of course it was a crazy big crowd and I think that when we all finally got to via Indipendenza, that is the main street of Bologna, we for sure covered it all with people wearing rainbow colors, carrying flags and dancing to the joyful music played by the DJs. People were waving at us from windows and everytime the crowd saw an old lady on her balcony clapping to the rhythm, they were simply going crazy.

Foto Nucci_Benvenuti / Corriere di Bologna
Foto Nucci_Benvenuti / Corriere di Bologna

The long awaited day

I’ve never been to Pride before.

That basically explains my excitement before this Saturday, when I’m going to attend the Bologna Pride, organized in the city since, many years. When I discovered how gay-friendly Bologna is, I was truly surprised (positively of course). And it’s not the only city in Italy, where the Pride is being organized this year. There are actually many of them: Rome, Turin, Milan, Bologna, Verona, Catania, Palermo, Naples, Genova, Perugia Pavia and more (see all the locations here: Onda Pride).

It’s seriously shocking for me how many people attend the prides in Italian cities. Looks to me like the Roman one attracted much more participants than the Equality Parade in Warsaw this year (they took place on the same day). See for yourself:

Photo: Roma Pride
Roma Pride, 13th June 2015 / Photo: Roma Pride
Photo: Parada Równości
Warsaw’s Equality Parade, 13th June 2015 / Photo: Parada Równości
Photo: Bologna Pride
Photo: Bologna Pride

It’s funny to think that Italy, the country of Vatican and the Pope seems less conservative and catholic than Poland. It’s sad for me to say so, but Poland is still in the tail of Europe when it comes to gay rights and while in Italy the legal situation is no different it looks to me like the Italians will anyway be the first to take a step (or more) forward. Well, at least the nation’s attitude is much friendlier.

Practical info (2)

Here we go with the second part of my very precious pieces of advice about life in Bologna (or Italy in general). Hope you find it useful and remember it’s my own opinion (as always)!

1. Be clever about shopping
Not only about how to spend as little as possible, but also how not to get pissed standing in the line in the supermarket. There is a simple solution: go to the supermarket during lunch time (which in Italy means around 12.30-14.00). I can guarantee you that there will basically be no one there. Just you and some other foreigners that are either as smart as you or they just have lunch at a different time of the day. This rule applies to the whole country, not only Bologna I guess. Just check first if the shop you want to go to is open during lunch time…

2. Carry a map of the city
You will always look like a tourist, but at least you won’t get lost. I have a good sense of direction and in most of the places I visited I could find my way around quite easily, but Italian cities are particular. Streets are narrow, rarely paralel to each other which would make it less difficult after taking a wrong turn and then it might be tricky to find the plates with their names (go to Salerno, you’ll know what I’m talking about). Believe me, it’s better to have a map, even after a couple of months when you think you don’t need it anymore.

3. Do your laundry in the evening and/or on the weekend
It’s something that I still don’t understand completely, but you need to know that using water and electricity in Italy is a bit like parking in the city center: cheaper in the evening (usually after 20.00) and on the weekends (ok, in Poland&Italy parking in those days/hours is completely free, but you know what I mean). For some reason you spend less, so it’s a good thing to schedule your laundry time cleverly. Of course it can happen that on the weekend your laundry machine is getting a hiccup from all the work (you, your flatmates, your flatmates girlfriends/boyfriends), but anyway, it’s cheaper. Keep that in mind.

Practical info

Considering the fact, that I have been here in Bologna for already 5 months, I think I’m a good source of information that a newcomer might need. That’s why I decided to put here some of my observations that might prove useful for someone who has just arrived here.

1. Avoid the bridge on via Libia
Bologna is a city of bridges (even though there’s not a single river in the city), so every once in a while you’ll have to cross them, but this one is especially tricky. For the bicycle users this bridge not only is a general b*tch for it’s “steepness”: there’s no bike path and the sidewalk can barely fit one pedestrian, so of course you have to use the street. And the street is so narrow that if two cars are passing each other with also you on the side, you’ll most definitely end up crashing your bicycle into the ridicuolusly high kerb. Trust me, I know. Just don’t use that way, there are others.

2. Take warm sweaters…
…if you’re planning to stay in Bologna over the winter. I haven’t listened to people when they told me and I only took one or two things that are really warm and now I regret not taking more. I’ve noticed a weird thing in Italian houses and apartments. They have no ventilation. Plus: they only heat up their houses up to 18-19 degrees (because apparently heating costs too much). All this results in having a chronic cold (in my case at least). I come from a country where the winter is real and we heat our houses up to 22-23 degrees usually. Italians start panicking when it snows a bit in the winter, but at the same time they don’t see a problem in freezing your ass off in your own house.

3. Don’t ever expect people to understand what bike paths are for
Bologna is a city of students and thus a city of bicycles (also because distances are not so big and driving a car around here is a true pain in the ass). Thanks to that there are SOME bike paths (don’t expect Italy to suddenly become the new Netherlands though, most of the paths end abruptly in the middle of the street). Usually they are just randomly drew on sidewalks, so invest in a bell/horn if you don’t have one yet. But even then people will not understand what is your problem when you honk at them. And if you run into a woman with a stroller she is more likely to tell you that she has wheels as well than to move away to the proper part of the sidewalk.

How to start reading books in Italian?

The answer to this question is easy: you just have to get a book in Italian and start reading it. And what is the best way to get a book in Italian? WIN IT!

This at least what I did, in a situation of pure coincidence though.

So, I have been quite sick in the last days. You know, end of February, spring is coming and all this stuff. First my flatmate, then my girlfriend, so obviously I was next in line. Anyways, I came back to work this morning, still with some sore throat and a bit of running nose… Well, let’s just say that the day didn’t seem like a good one at all. While on break, I went on Facebook (which is the modern way of having a snack I guess) and I saw that my girlfriend is taking part in a contest where you can win a book by sharing a photo on your timeline. Another way was to share the same post on Twitter. So, since she doesn’t have Twitter and I do, I thought I’ll double her chances (I’m that nice, yes) and retweet it.

And it didn’t take long when a response arrived:

To put it short, I won and they are going to send me the book by post.

And only later I discovered that A. wanted to simply help promote this book, because one of her friends works for the publishing house that published it and he translated it from English. Now she’ll have to bear me while I read it, cause she will become my official translator from Italian to English when I have problems in understanding.

Free haircut

Ok, I already mentioned that there are many hairdressers in Bologna (and probably in Italy in general) and as confusing as it may be (where to go, which one is the best, where do they serve you also coffee…), there are certain advantages of this excess.

I went to have a haircut today and it was free. Yes, you read that right, it was absolutely free, I paid nothing. Why? Because there is a promotion in February at this hairdresser’s school in Bologna where you can get a haircut/dye your hair free of charge. Where’s the catch? Well, it’s a school, so the people who actually work on you are students, not professionals.

I know what you think: it’s a risk. They are only learning how to be a hairdresser, they can f*ck up your hair and then you’ll have to shave your head or something. Well, I have short hair that don’t really require much work, so I thought I’ll take that risk. Also, when I went there I noticed that the students have a supervisor who helps them, teaches them and just generally supervises their work at all times. And they can’t do anything without his consent. Of course the downside here is that it all takes ages, cause they are around 10-12 people and the teacher is only one, but at least one can feel fairly safe.

Also, let’s remember that I don’t speak Italian at a level that would allow me to explain everything in detail, so it was twice as tricky with me. But the girl that cut my hair was very cautious and I think in the end she did a good job considering my indecision and a general lack of idea about what I want to do with my hair.

All in all, I had a fairly good haircut absolutely for free, so I can’t complain. And in case you are in Bologna this month and you’d like to cut or dye your hair, check out this Facebook event to get more info on how to take an appointment and reach the place.