Why I Can’t Be a Travel Writer and Other Thoughts on Bologna

I can never be a travel writer. Why? I have a fatal, writer flaw. I compare everything to Portland (where I’ve never been before). Providence is like a smaller and Rhode Island version of Portland. Portland, Maine is like an East Coast version of Portland. Lisbon is like the European rendition of Portland. But Bologna? It’s not like Portland.

I went to this bar (in the sense of a coffee shop plus bar) last night with a friend and was confronted with the weird sentiment I’ve had in a lot of places in Bologna. A lot of venues feel like they may as well be in the States. This, in turn, makes me feel like I’m not actually experiencing Italian culture but am, instead, just seeking out home abroad. However, after visiting a handful of these spots, my mind is starting to change, and it’s made me feel dumb in the process. Funky and offbeat places aren’t American. They’re just universal.

One of my favorite places so far has been Modo Infoshop. I stopped here the other night with a friend to look at some Italian books and comics and there was this “avant-garde” spaceship ambient noise DJ performing. That aside, this place has really cool, Italian books, t-shirts, and a big graphic novel section. After learning about fumetti last spring in my Italian class, I decided that I should buy one to read, also thinking that it might be easier to read than a full-blown novel. I asked the guy who was working there for a recommendation of where to start and he promptly handed me a tower of books, explaining that they’re all by contemporary, Italian authors. I chose one for now, but will definitely go back to the store soon.

IMG_5015Before going to the bookstore, my friend and I went to Camera a Sud. In this bar, books line the walls, a goldfish sits on the bar, and you feel like you’re in somebody’s house. It’s a little bit pricier than some other places (though reasonably so), but it’s a perfect place to meet up with somebody for a coffee or drink, and it also seems acceptable to sit there and do some work when it’s not crowded. A runner-up for my favorite so far is ZOO: not quite as homey but incredible chocolate cheesecake and really cheap americanos (not to mention free refills).

IMG_4905A really great place for aperitivo is Cicileo. The bartender Claudio is really friendly and gave my friends awesome recommendations as well as generous tastes of different drinks (which could amount to an extra drink) to help us decide what to order. The snacks they serve here are great (like pesto in these little pretzel things with a bite of salmon on top), and it’s an overall great place.

Finally, I went for a walk around the city the other day and ended up at the street market in Piazza Santo Stefano. As it is, this Piazza is one of my favorite parts of the city. It feels particularly medieval with the seven church complex, grass poking out through the rocky ground, and the porticos forming a small square. There was a huge antique/flea market in the square this past Saturday and Sunday. It was fun looking around and people watching, but I found one vendor selling hundreds of stickers out of this old suitcase (5 for a euro!). That in and of itself was enjoyable, and I found some little presents to give friends and family. IMG_4978

So, no. Bologna is not Portland. Bologna is thoroughly Italian and a really fun, university city.

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