Ciao e benvenuti a Bologna! I’m spending my junior fall away from The Argus office, in Bologna, Italy, where Nicole Boyd ’18 and I, members of last year’s Features team, will be taking courses, seeing the sights, eating great food, and, best of all, reporting it all back to you.

Where can we begin? Having only arrived in the city two weeks ago, I can’t say that I am an expert just yet. We have toured a few of the main sites, but the famed “seven secrets of Bologna” have yet to be revealed to us. We’ve almost completed our language-intensive course and are beginning our classes at the University of Bologna, one of the oldest universities in the world, this week. The student (counter)culture seems eerily similar to that of Wesleyan. Namely, hipsters abound.

There are only 16 of us participating in the Eastern College Consortium (ECCO) program, which accepts students from Wesleyan University, Vassar College, Wellesley College, Bucknell University, Oberlin College, Williams College, and Connecticut College.

Within our group of students, I’d say that we’ve all experienced our fair share of culture shock, some more than others. Having arrived in Italy later than most, I think I experienced a double dose that has substantially subsided as I’ve integrated into both the ECCO and greater Italian society. The city feels less like a vacation destination and more like a community in which I will successfully live for the rest of the semester.

The one thing that I am sure of so far, however, is the food. The Italians were not messing around when they gave Bologna the nickname la grassa (the fat). They also call it la dotta (the educated) and la rossa (the red, for its signature color scheme), but personally I’m most interested in the cuisine. The first question that I get from people back home is always about the food. Well, I’m glad to report that I’ve yet to eat anything that wasn’t absolutely delicious.

I still reminisce about the first meal I ate in Bologna. I was jet-lagged after a three-hour flight delay, a nearly missed layover, and seven hours of flying halfway across the world. I was lucky enough to stumble upon another ECCO student when I first arrived at my studentato (University of Bologna student residence), whom I joined for a plate of homemade spaghetti with tomatoes, olives, and capers. Despite having been awake for a day and a half at that point, I don’t think I will ever forget how fresh and tasty that pasta was.

We’ve since indulged in traditional Bolognese dishes, including tortellini in brodo and ragú alla bolognese, as well as more dolci (sweets) than I could possibly describe. I realize a gelato a day cannot be very good for you, but it’s the only way to try all the flavors. It’s always a tough choice between the creamy, chocolatey flavors and the refreshing fruity ones, so we just have to get as many as we can fit in our stomachs.

Every day, there are inexpensive lunch options that span from pizza slices (I seriously recommend the tiny but fantastic dacci un taglio if you ever find yourself in the city) to panini to piadine, a type of flatbread sandwich that at this point I’d consider my favorite.

Being a fairly international city, Bologna also offers dishes outside of the traditional fare. For example, Dutch fries and arepas are some of our cheapest and most convenient lunch foods. It’s safe to say that you will not starve in this country, and especially not in Bologna.

Hopefully, we’ll continue to eat our way through the city, and maybe learn a few things in our classes, too. Stay tuned to hear more about our travels, trials, and temporary lives as Italians!

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