A trip to Italy: Europe’s aging beauty

One big advantage of living in Austria is the close proximity to Italy. I spent a long weekend in Bologna, the home of Europe’s oldest university and Italy’s anti-fascist resistance.

La Grassa

Bologna is also called La Grassa, the Fat City. It is famous for many dishes and products, such as tortellini, lasagne, tagliatelle, balsamico, and mortadella. Honestly, I never ate so much amazing Italian food in such a short time. If you want to experience the best food in Bologna, search for a trattoria. These family-owned restaurants are usually filled with locals customers and they offer special home-made recipes. I usually do not do a lot of shopping during my travels but I could not resist buying a range of specialties at local stores in the medieval “Quadrilatero” area.


The best view

Bologna’s architecture is stunning and you can enjoy an amazing view from the religious complex San Michele in Bosco. Although it is not far from the city center, it is a secluded spot.


Europe’s oldest functioning university

Bologna’s university was founded in 1088. Famous persons, such as Petrarch, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, Nicolaus Copernicus , and Paracelsus, belong to its alumni. Laura Maria Caterina Bassi (1711-1778) was among them, too. She graduated in philosophy and was the first woman in the world who holds a professorship at a university.
Although you cannot enter all halls of the oldest part of the university, there are a few spots and a museum.
In this area, there are some interesting graffitis, too. Many of them carry political messages. Traditionally, Bologna is a center of the intellectual Left in Italy. It organized the resistance against Mussolini.


The aging beauty

While exploring Bologna by foot, it becomes evident that many buildings are not in a good shape. Although the city is located in Italy’s wealthy Northern region, a local guide explained that many Italians face serious financial problems. And its future does not look bright. The current youth unemployment rate stands at 31.6. After Japan, Italy has the fastest aging population in the world. Many young Italians move abroad because of limited job opportunities.

These social issues and a high number of migrants from the global South have brought a populist government into power. It currently tries to dismantle the European Union. One of their key allies is Steve Bannon. For example, he openly supports the right-wing Roman Catholic Dignitatis Humanae Institute nearby Rome. Obviously, Bannon’s strong support of radicals in the US is not enough. He now tries to destroy democratic structures all over Europe. Italy is a place where this can be recognized in a very dramatic way today.

Although many young Italians are free to move abroad and that there is probably no bigger place on Earth without an Italian restaurant, the Italian government treats poor migrants very harsh within its own borders. The first action of this government was to reject boats which had rescued migrants.

During my visit, I could spot many Chineses, Bangladeshi and West African migrants working in small shops and bars. They make up a big share of Italy’s future generation. If the government wants it or not, they are needed in order to fill jobs in the low-paid sector. For instance, Italy’s agricultural sector employs many migrants from Romania and African countries. They earn very little and face terrible conditions, according to a study by Amnesty International. However, many Europeans are openly xenophobic and consume Italian fruits and vegetables produced by exploited migrant labor at the same time.


More info:

JM Walking Tours is a great way to explore Italian cities, such as Bologna, for free. Donations are used to support people with disabilities.

3 comments on “A trip to Italy: Europe’s aging beauty

  1. Beautiful post and wonderful information. Italy is a favorite destination and I have been to a few places.

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