If you have ever tried to find an apartment for rent in a popular city or town, you will know it is not for the faint of heart. After doing some travel around Europe for a couple of months, my husband and I arrived in Bologna, Italy, our home for the next six months.
Bologna is a beautiful city, the capital of Italy’s Emilia Romagna region and the birthplace of both pasta with ragu (known as bolognaise in the English speaking world) as well as the oldest university in Europe. It is famous for its over 60 kilometres of pretty porticoes, its medieval ‘due torre’ (two towers) and half completed façade of the main basilica in the Piazza Maggiore.
It is a student city – of its population of almost 500,000, it is estimated that 100,000 are students. With such a transient population, rental housing is in abundance and we figured finding a double room would be like shooting fish in a barrel.
Not being entirely clear on when the Italian semester started, we decided to arrive in Bologna at the start of September to give us three or so weeks to find a place and settle in. Having not stayed longer than three nights in any one place for the previous two months, we were looking forward to finally unpacking our bags.
No matter, we turned our attention back to our more modest selection and decided upon a number of possibilities. Despite visiting a number promising places, using the university services on two occasions and getting to the final stage of accepting and paying for a place, we were beaten by other starving exchange students also going through the slim pickings of six month accommodation.
Feeling like Tantalus in Greek mythology – whose eternal punishment was to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree, only to have the fruit and water move away from him as soon as he tried to eat or drink – we did what every other despondent house hunter does. We headed for the bar.
After the medicinal effects of a few bottles of wine, we approached that buffet with renewed effort and desperation. No more modesty, we greedily grabbed anything and everything that remotely resembled food, sending out enquiries far and wide. We strayed under the neon sign and attempted negotiating. With plates piled high, we hoped and prayed for that one morsel to allow us to sate our hunger.
And finally, success! The desperate greedy, sweeping approach provided us with two delicious looking options that didn’t jump away when we tried to take them back to our table. Upon the final test, one of the two was perfect and we got our cake and ate it too.