Saturday, 11 May 2013

Sweet home Bologna, Italy (2)

You do not know what you have got until it is gone. I have been so frustrated at times with daily life in Bologna, that I did not always appreciate the upside of it. But now, after walking around Bologna these past few days, I have completely and utterly fallen in love with the city all over again.

Walking through the centre of Bologna is like walking through a museum. Everywhere you look there are beautiful medieval buildings, awe inspiring towers and countless century old churches. The sun glows warm on the ochre and terracotta coloured facades. Traffic is roaring, people are shouting and nobody seems to be following any rule. It does not matter one bit that you have to be on your guard for dog turds, thiefs and busses trying to run you over. The sun is shining and the cappucino tastes heavenly wherever you go!
Five years ago, I was heartbroken to leave my beloved English friends and my perfect English life behind to start afresh in Italy. It took me a while to come to terms with my loss and start again. I struggled with the noise level, was easily frightened by people shouting and terrified my children would be run over. The fact that I found myself in a city where I could not make myself understood made me feel very isolated.
Until -and is that not always the case? - I met this wonderful French girl R. who was much braver than Me, throwing herself at learning to speak Italian and making it work. Together we found a wonderful Italian teacher who took it upon herself to teach us. And Slowly, very slowly I did learn Italian, at least enough to get by.
I saw her again, my French friend and it was wonderful. She still lives in Bologna, speaks fluent Italian, makes her girls join in with local after school activities and feels completely at home in Italy.
Four years ago I chose to work fulltime at the International School of Bologna, which made my life less Italian than it could have been. Working five days a week, did not leave me much time to enjoy Bologna, or to perfect my Italian. I loved the little school though and being around my own children as well as teaching others, turned out to be very fullfilling.
It came at a cost though. Having to queue endlessy at the post office, or the bank in my short lunch breaks, having to drive to a megastore every single Saturday for the weekly shop, or having to take the day off work to battle with Italian bureacracy were the unpleasant side effects. Never having enough time to laugh about such matters made life a bit of an uphill struggle at times.
Now though that I have a few days to rediscover Bologna at a leisurely pace, I feel oddly at peace with noisy Bolognese life.  So much so that it makes me want to freshen up my Italian and come out here more often.
I share some wonderful laughs with my Italian friend E., who very kindly invited my daughter for a sleepover and a dinner with all the girls from her old class. Around midnight E. sends me pictures of four rosie cheeked Italian girls and one Dutch one, giggling and dancing. It almost makes me cry.
Both the children, my husband and I all feel like we are coming home. Or, more to the point, like we never left. How lovely it is to discover how Bologna has crept under our skin, without us even noticing it. It has been lying in wait, ready to be released in these few precious days. What a great privilige it has been to have lived in Bologna and forever hold a piece of it in our hearts.