Name: Sarah Dowling
How long have you been in Italy?
Almost two years…although it feels like longer.
Where do you currently live?
I live in Bologna (pronounced BO-LOW-NYA). And yes, there is some correlation between Baloney ham and Bologna but we’ll get to that.
What is your favorite thing about your city?
The bohemian, young vibe. There’s this wonderful patchwork of cultures, ages, and architecture in Bologna that I don’t think you find in many other Italian cities.
What bothers you the most?
There’s a lot of air pollution, but also in recent years a lot of young people who don’t take care of the city.
Have you attended school in your city? How would you rate your school and experience?
I attended one year of university at the Univeristy of Bologna – the oldest university in Europe. On the one hand, it helped to improve my Italian massively and I got a glimpse inside the true student life in Italy. On the other hand, it was a real culture shock and it was difficult to get used to the way university functions in Italy. I remember having to fight for a seat during lectures because there weren’t enough seats for everybody. Also, everyone took cigarette breaks in the middle of the lessons. They would be rolling their cigarettes during the lecture! You would never find that in the U.S. (You can read more about my mortifying first day of Italian university here: http://italyproject365.com/my-first-day-of-italian-university/
I also attended an intensive Italian course at a school called ARCA in Bologna, which also helped to improve my Italian grammar and helped me make new friends and connections. I would definitely recommend studying Italian in Bologna because there are many opportunities to immerse yourself in the language.
What job do you do? What are some of the jobs you’ve had in the past? Any job advice you’d give to future expats?
I teach English but I don’t really consider myself an “English teacher”. I’d much rather consider myself a writer/blogger.
I think finding a job in Italy depends a lot on who you know, but also on luck and being in the right place at the right time! I can recommend a few things for job seekers. For non-Europeans, make sure that you have the right legal documents (if you don’t know what i’m talking about, please visit my page on Italian immigration: http://italyproject365.com/so-you-want-to-move-to-italy/
)). Persistence is also key. Always follow-up on your application as things tend to get lost in Italy. Lastly, find your niche. As a foreigner, you have something special you can offer to Italy and you should try to highlight that.
What are the top five MUST SEE things in your city?
1. San Luca – a monastery/church way up in the hills just outside of Bologna. You have to walk through nearly 600 archways to arrive at the top – for me, it’s an incredibly peaceful and beautiful zen experience.
3. Piazza Maggiore – the main square in Bologna – I recommend that you see it at all times of the day as the atmosphere completely changes from the morning, to the afternoon and into the night
4. Quadrilatero open food market on Via Pescherie and Via Drapperie
5. Climb the Asinelli Tower
What tourist attractions do you think are underrated or over-rated?
In general, Bologna as a city is quite underrated! Nevertheless, even in Bologna we have tourist traps. Any menu that has tortellini with panna (cream) or spaghetti bolognese is probably not authentic so stay away! Tortellini is typically eaten in brodo (broth) or with salvia e burro (sage and butter). Spaghetti bolognese is not an authentic Italian dish, but rather you should look for Tagliatelle al Ragu!
What are your favorite restaurants or places to eat?
For dinner, I love Osteria al 15 or Trattoria al Biassnot, both of which have very traditional Bolognese food. Still, I think the best atmosphere is at Osteria del Sole – the oldest bar still standing in Bologna where many of the locals go to hang out. They serve wine, but you have to bring your own food. I usually go to the open market nearby and pick up a few snacks and then go there with friends. It’s really unique!
What is your favorite supermarket, farmer’s market, butcher or bakery?
In the summertime, we have Mercato della Terra, an open farmer’s market in front of the Cinema Lumiere every Saturday morning. For fresh pasta, I recommend Le Sfogline (Via Belvedere), for salumi and cheeses Simoni (Via Pescherie) and for bread/desserts, Paolo Atti & Figli (Via Drapperie and Via Caprarie). All of the shops in the Quadilatero Food Market are fantastic!
Favorite Aperitivo bar?
Favorite thing to do at night?
In the summer, there is the outdoor cinema in Piazza Maggiore that is free and open to the public. There are also some amazing outdoor clubs such as Cavaticcio or Vicolo Bolognetti where you can listen to live music and dance. During the cooler months, there is nothing better than a having a traditional Bolognese dinner in good company. For an after dinner drink, I recommend Camera a Sud.
Best nightclub in your city or place to drink and dance?
Arteria, Cavaticcio, Vicolo Bolognetti.
Places to avoid? Why? I try to avoid the restaurants and bars close to Piazza Maggiore. They’re usually overpriced and full of tourists. I also stay away from a lot of the bars on Via Zamboni. They are usually jam packed with students and tend to mimic Irish or American bars.
Favorite place to buy clothes/shoes? Specific stores or general areas?
If you’re on a budget, Via dell’Indipendenza is full of shops – but most of them are major brands like H&M and Zara. Via Farini is more of the high-end designer stores. We recently got a COS (Via Farini) which is a nicer version of H&M that I love. There are also some really interesting clothing boutique stores on Via Oberdan and Via San Felice, but they’re a bit more pricey.
What are the best ways to meet interesting people in your city?
I think the best way to meet people is to join a club or a group. I’ve met a lot of interesting people through my gym or at Internations events, but also just by chatting with people at bars or during an aperitivo.
A great place to find a date?
Any internations event? I find that in Italy, it’s not uncommon to meet someone on the street. Men tend to be quite forward here.
Advice for dating in your city?
I can’t really offer much dating advice other than be yourself (however non-Italian that may be).
What’s your favorite day trip destination?
Dozza! Its this fantastic little town 30 minutes outside of Bologna that is famous for its vibrant murals, amazing piadinas, and is home of the official Enoteca of the Emilia Romagna region. Check out my post on Dozza for the scoop: http://italyproject365.com/dozza-emilia-romagna/
Favorite local food or products that everyone should try out? For example, oil, wine, or a specific dish?
We are really lucky in Bologna because many famous products come from this region. Here’s my list:
Mortadella – Baloney’s sophisticated cousin – it’s basically a big pink pork sausage sprinkled with delicate spots of fat throughout. It’s ten times better than American baloney so don’t diss it until you try it!
Lambrusco – fizzy red wine
Crescentine – fried pockets of dough, typically eaten as an appetizer with salumi and cheese
Piadina – a flatbread sandwich usually filled with prosciutto, arugula and squarcerone cheese
Fresh Pasta: tortellini in brodo, tagliatelle al ragù, or lasagne bolognese
Torta di riso – a sweet, custardy rice cake
What advice would you give to students, new expats, or vacationers in your city?
Get lost underneath the porticos – it’s the most beautiful part of Bologna and you won’t find any other city in the world with architecture like that.
What are your top five favorite sources for information on Italy or your city in general?
1. Other Italy bloggers
2. 101 cose da fare a Bologna – a great book that lists 101 things you can do in Bologna…I’m still crossing them off
4. Bologna Magazine – I love this magazine because they have beautiful photos and highlight some of the lesser known things of Bologna
5. My Italian students – The jackpot of Italy information!
Favorite blogs, newspapers, or events lists?
Bio: Sarah Dowling is an American living in Bologna. She is the writer and editor of ItalyProject365.com
and author of Inside the Italian Kitchen