How Bologna Seduced Me

When people ask me why I chose Bologna, I’m always a bit ashamed to admit that I didn’t actually choose Bologna.

The truth is when I first came to Italy I dreamed of starting a new life in Florence. Renaissance charm, surrounded by the beautiful Tuscan hillsides – bella Firenze! It was for me, as for many others, the most beautiful city in Italy. Love at first sight.

As fate would have it, Firenze and I were not meant to be together. When I first moved to Italy, I was living in Florence, searching for a teaching position. After two months of job hunting, my bank account was running pretty low. I knew I had to take any job I could get. So when I was offered a job in Bologna, I desperately accepted. There was also the added fact that the school that hired me had two locations: one in Florence and one in Bologna. So I thought after a few months, I would be able to transfer to Florence.

But here I am, two years later, still living in Bologna. I could have moved by now if I wanted to, but I haven’t. You see, Bologna not only chose me, it seduced me.

I wish I could take credit for using this idea of “seduction” to describe my relationship with Bologna. Unfortunately, I’m borrowing it from someone who came before me, another victim to Bologna’s seductive powers.

Mary Tolaro-Noyes and Sarah Dowling

Mary Tolaro-Noyes and I at an event called “How Bologna Seduced Us”

Her name is Mary Tolaro-Noyes and she’s the author of a book called Bologna Reflections.

Like me, Mary is an American who sort of stumbled upon Bologna, without really expecting to fall in love with it. She first came to Bologna in 1994. Although she now lives in California, every year since then she has returned to Bologna.

Recently, I had the honor to meet Mary. We spoke about Bologna and how it seduced us. Although she’s old enough to be my Mom, we share a very similar sentiment about Bologna. We didn’t choose Bologna – Bologna chose us. It wasn’t love at first sight. Yet somehow through a series of what I like to call “aha!” moments, we fell in love.

Thanks to a fantastic non-profit organization called Bologna Connect and the Hotel Accademia in Bolgona, we were able to share our admirations for Bologna at an event called “How Bologna Seduced Us”. I was very proud and honored to be a part of this event and to have the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. Grazie a tutti!

How Bologna Seduced Us

Laura Bizzari (far right), the founder of Bologna Connect, introduces Mary Tolaro-Noyes (far left), interviewer Andrea Bernardoni (middle), and Sarah Dowling (right).

How Bologna Seduced Us

Sarah Dowling, Mary Tolaro-Noyes, Antonella Orlandi (Bologna Connect), Laura Bizzarri (Bologna Connect), Daniela Ciccardi (owner of Hotel Accademia), and Andrea Bernardoni



2 comments on “How Bologna Seduced Me

  1. Sarah, I fully understand. I am a neighbor of Mary’s in San Francisco and for years she’s been pimping for her seducer, as it were. Just this year the stars were right and I had the privilege of spending 5 weeks in that wonderful city. I’ve stayed in Florence & Rome many times, and in Venice, Vicenza, Ravenna, visited Urbino, Mantova, Rimini, Siena, Padua (I’m a retired art history teacher!) among others. Nowhere else have I felt truly at home or been treated with such welcoming arms. The others all have their charms, even blockbusters — but I found Bologna works on you more subtly, is more consistent in its rewards. And like any wise seducer, it takes its time. I know I will be back! Thanks for reminding me why!!

    Don Yates

    • Don, isn’t it strange how we feel a connection with one city but not another? Anyways, yes. I always joke that going Bologna is like going to grandma’s house. Everything is old but functional, you’re always protected by its porticos and you’ll be very well fed. ;)