It’s been a year since I left Bologna and came home from my semester abroad. With finals underway here at Bowdoin, I thought it would be nice to reflect on something that was a bit of a challenge while in Italy: finding places to study. While the library works for some, I accomplish most work in a busy coffee shop where I can linger for a few hours, get drinks, and people watch if I want to distract myself for a few minutes. Spaces that are so quiet that I can hear myself think don’t typically work well for me, so this posed a bit of a problem while in Italy because it’s not very acceptable to hang out at a coffee shop for more than ten minutes. If you’re approaching finals in Bologna and are a type like me, there are some places that you can find that will make do.
ITIT–I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with this place. Italy hasn’t had Starbucks, though that may be changing in the near future, and ITIT was Bologna’s closest thing to an overpriced, chain-feeling shop. They botch a number of American-style espresso drinks with the effect that their regular Italian coffee isn’t that great either. They have an American drip coffee maker behind the counter, but I don’t think they use it, because the “coffee” they sell is still just an americano. Also, expect to pay much more than a euro for any coffee here. Everything here is too expensive, and the Wifi often doesn’t work, but it’s biggest redeeming quality is that you can spend hours inside and it’s usually okay. Their chocolate muffins are decadent with a cream inside and are the best thing they sell.
La Gazzetta fares a bit better in my books. It’s right next door to ITIT on Largo Respighi, but this cafe has big wooden tables where you can hunker down for a while, and both their food and coffee taste better and are more economical options. The only downside is that sometimes you might get kicked out or asked to move if an event is going on, which is often the case when students are graduating throughout the year.
Fram Cafè–A bit more removed from the other options, Fram is probably the last cafe where it’s acceptable to crack a book open inside and linger for a bit but without sitting inside a completely generic space (that is trying to emulate Starbucks in the case of ITIT). They have great coffee and their pies and baked goods are also worth trying. In a similar vein to Fram is Zoo, a restaurant/cafe/bookshop on Strada Maggiore that can be impossible to find. I’d be less likely to stick around here for a while, but it’s worth stopping for some time and enjoying a slice of their cheesecake.
Salaborsa on Piazza Maggiore has the vibe closest to a student union that you will find (once a friend and I went to the Unione near our dorm and found this silent study space too intimidating because if we moved our pencils too loudly, people looked at us). This library has quieter rooms, but there’s an open and airy lobby with glass floors so that you can see Roman ruins underneath. Additionally, there’s a cafe off to the side with cheap sandwiches and decent coffee, but their tables have a two-hour limit and they will kick you out if you overstay your welcome–it doesn’t matter how much you buy, it’s about letting other people have a seat. If that’s the case, there are some funky chairs that also function as desks lining the perimeter of the library that you can migrate to.