My EVS officially ends on the 2nd of August, although I had already finished work and taken the last week off, since I still had some vacation days left.
So here I am, revisiting some of my favorite places in Bologna, eating and drinking at my favorite restaurants and pubs, walking the streets I walked for the past 10 months. It’s sad having to leave a place you’ve grown so close to. I spent here only 10 months, but it has become my home very fast, a place where I felt good and comfortable, where I was able to cultivate my deepest feelings, where I’ve grown and learned, where I met friends.
But I’m not saying farewell to Bologna. I will come back and not once, of that I’m sure. And who knows what the future holds anyway?
Now I’m going for a week-long vacation in Ravenna, after which I’ll come back one last time this summer to Bologna to pack all my things and take the infamous bus connection of 17 hours back to Poland on 11th August.
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:
So, in the last months I have been working on my own project within my EVS in Bologna. Every volunteer has the right (not the obligation though) to develop their own project as a part of the main one they are doing during their voluntary service.
Since I’m a graphic designer, I have decided to use my skills and prepare something I always wanted to do, but never had a good enough idea to create: an infographic.
To explain the thing shortly — it’s a visual representation of data revolving around a specific topic. It can be presented in various ways, starting from charts that you can create in Microsoft Excel and ending with complex graphic designs consisting of various information and containing a layout created specifically for this purpose.
My infographic is an attempt on reflecting the information about all the previous editions of Festival della Zuppa in Bologna. It has taken me a lot of time to gather all the data as I had to go through the archives (that were not always very well organised) and find all the numbers I needed. But it gave me also a lot of satisfaction as I was discovering how many soups were presented each year and finding out about the European projects that my association took part in along with organisations from Germany, France and Spain.
Finally I had everything I needed to present the development of the festival throughout the years. I added my own knowledge of the topic regarding this year’s edition, putting in also some interesting facts about how many litres of coffee we drunk during organisational meetings and so on.
Following all this, I can now present you with the fruit of my work (click to see the full size):
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.
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.
One of the main things I was worried about before starting my EVS in Italy was whether the money I’m going to receive from the project is going to be sufficient. ‘Will I have to save on food?’, ‘Will I be able to buy meat only from time to time?’, ‘Will there be any chance of travelling?’ — those were some of the questions I was asking myself.
Eventually I also found some people online, ex-volunteers who did their EVS in Italy. I was mainly looking for Poles, cause in this way the information they would provide would be more adequate for me. One of the people I contacted told me, that I would probably have to save some money and be careful with it, that I won’t probably be able to eat meat every day (laugh all you want, but for a Polish person, meat is essential). Fortunately it’s not THAT important for me to eat meat each day for lunch (we don’t have evening dinner in Poland).
Anyway, to keep it short: a lot depends on your own needs, because I for example am not a person that goes out so much, so I don’t spend money on drinks, eating out etc. That makes it easier for me to save for other things and small joys, like nicer food from time to time. Also, you have to remember that not every volunteer receives the same amount of money each month. First of all it depends on the country you do your EVS in and then you have to also remember that different organisations handle money differently. Some will provide you accomodation that is already paid for, some will give you money and make you manage it yourself. Some will give you the full amount of money for the month, some will give you less, because for example you’re having lunches and dinners at your organisation every day (happens mostly when you work in retirement homes, refugee houses and so on).
If you want to know more about the amounts of money for each country you can do an EVS in, you will find it in the official Erasmus+ guide (available in various languages). And if you have more specific questions about how it really is for a volunteer in Italy (or in Bologna, more specific), you can write me in the comments or contact me via the Facebook page.
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.