Bologna as a Place to Study

Bologna has three nicknames: la dotta, or the learned; la rossa, or the red; and la grassa, or the fat. All three are well-deserved, and no thumbnail sketch of Bologna can do without a brief explanation of each.

The capital of the northern-central region of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna la dotta is a city of about 500,000 inhabitants, including approximately 100,000 university students. The Università di Bologna, founded in 1088, is the oldest in Europe. Eminently prestigious, it boasts a diverse and cosmopolitan student body, since the university attracts students from all regions of Italy and from countries around the world. As a thriving center of student life, Bologna has a flourishing intellectual climate and all the amenities that one would expect in or near a university community: theater, films, performing arts, live music, and a reportedly diehard club scene in the nearby beach resorts along the Adriatic coast.

From an architectural point of view, Bologna la rossa is a stunningly beautiful city in a country renowned for unparalleled beauty. The university is located in the heart of the rather large medieval quarter, a veritable maze of narrow, winding, portico-lined streets. The burnt reddish tones of the building facades and the red-tiled roofs—hence, la rossa—are characteristic of Bologna and give the city an almost storybook quality. Today, however, the color red evokes notions of the local political climate, for, during most of the post-World War II era, Bologna has been the showcase for Italian Communism. Translated into early 21st-century terms, this means a city committed to political engagement, social service, and a brand of political awareness that seems to complement the intellectual life of the university.

Located in Italy’s breadbasket, Bologna is also the home of some of the finest food to be found on any Italian table. No Italian would ever dispute the deserved preeminence of Bologna’s cuisine. Thus has it earned the last of its three nicknames: la grassa. It is not uncommon to find in the city’s various osterie or trattorie some appreciative Tuscan from Florence (one hour south) or Lombard from Milan (two hours north), enjoying some of the fabulous food for which Bologna is legendary.

In short, Bologna is an ideal destination for study in Italy. Without the hordes of tourists that plague other cities, students are required to negotiate the city on its terms and in its language: Italian. With its population just under half a million, Bologna is large enough to offer diversion, yet not so large that it suffers unduly from the kinds of problems that often accompany life in larger urban centers.


The program will house students in university residences with same sex Italian or International roommates within a reasonable distance of the city center. All residences have cooking facilities.