Semester Abroad, Global Correspondents The Learned, The Red, The Fat
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November 14, 2023
Alice Andrews, CAS '25
SA: Bologna Consortial Studies Program
Alice, one of the Semester Abroad Global Correspondents, shares her experience abroad during the Spring 2023 semester. Follow along with the group of correspondents on our blog and look out for their images on the @pennabroad Instagram feed.
Anyone who has traveled, studied, or lived in Bologna has heard the city’s famous slogan “la Dotta, la Rossa, la Grassa.” This roughly translates in english to “the learned, the red, the fat,” a reference to Bologna’s academic roots, the iconic red terracotta roofs and warm-colored buildings of the city (and some even argue, the communism in the city), and Bologna’s gastronomic excellence; it's truly a living canvas of tradition and modernity.
At the heart of Bologna lies the University of Bologna (UniBo), proudly boasting the title of the oldest university in the world. The city's nickname, "la Dotta," speaks to its scholarly legacy, attracting minds from every corner of the globe; in fact, nearly a fourth of Bologna’s population is composed of students. My experience being enrolled in UniBo has been immensely different from my experience at Penn. For instance, the common “quarto d'ora accademico,” or “academic quarter,” means almost always starting classes 15 minutes later than the actual start-time. I’ve also found it’s much less common for students to speak up in class here, unlike Penn where discussion and engagement are strongly encouraged even in larger classes. Perhaps the biggest academic adjustment, however, was the shift to having no homework or attendance in my UniBo courses––often your final grade is the result of a singular oral or written exam at the end of the semester.
Since arriving here this fall, I have slowly fallen in love with the city. The vibrant colors of nearly every building seem to contradict Bologna’s rich medieval history and antiquities. Everything about Bologna gives a warm feel; the kindness and hospitality of the Bolognese people overflow into the community and even the food of the city. Within the first few weeks of arriving here, a few friends and I found a quaint local restaurant that served traditional Bolognese food. We were immediately welcomed by the owner of the restaurant, Luca, who was infinitely patient with our broken Italian and diligent about ensuring my friend with allergies could find something on the menu that she would enjoy. The tortellini with ragù was an incredible dish and I could immediately tell that it was made with love rooted in generations of strong family and community ties.
This is one of my favorite ways to explore a new city—tasting the local food. Recognized across the world for its cuisine, Bologna is the birthplace of foods like mortadella, tigelle, ragù, and tortellini. And not only is the food unbelievable, I have found countless affordable options catered towards the many students in the city. Ordering a pizza from my favorite pizzeria in the city, Il Portico di San Donato, usually comes out 6 euros, a very reasonable price for a casual dinner out with friends. Even the fancier restaurants in Bologna don’t tend to surpass 20 euros a person!
In Bologna, where history and academia meets enchanting red rooftops and rich local cuisine, every cobblestone street is a new path to discover. "la Dotta, la Rossa, la Grassa" is not just a slogan but truly a reflection of the city's multifaceted identity.
The Semester Abroad (SA) program offers undergraduate students the opportunity to study in a new global community through extended study for a semester or year. Penn Abroad partners with top institutions around the globe and collaborates with Penn’s undergraduate schools to offer programs for students across academic disciplines.