How I Went From Squatter to Mayor of #Blogville

“You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” – Giuseppe Verdi

I’ve just spent an unexpected week in Bologna at Blogville, an innovative project dreamed up by Kash of Budget Traveller, Melvin from Travel Dudes and the Emilia Romagna Tourism Board. The concept of Blogville is to provide a home base where writers can pop in for a few days or more, make themselves at home, cook together and explore the rest of the Emilia Romagna region at leisure. The tourism board provides the accommodations, local ingredients in the kitchen and tours as a way of sharing the region with bloggers who might not get a chance to visit otherwise. (From my perspective as a former travel publicist, I think it’s genius and won’t be surprised to see other tourism entities and DMOs following suit in the near future.)

But how did I end up there? It certainly wasn’t in the plan. (Anyone else noticing a theme in my life? Plans are so 2011!) I woke up on my last day of scheduled Travel Bloggers Unite activities with no inkling where I might end up that night. Fortunately, TBU was chock full of last-minute plan-wingers like me, so in about 5 minutes it was determined that a rough-and-tumble pack of us would head north a few hours to Bologna, where we’d help Kash kick off the first night of Blogville. I expected to remain for two nights at the Art Hotel before heading to the Leaning Tower of Pisa or maybe a spa in Switzerland or outer space, perhaps.

Two days passed and I was still in Bologna, lurking around Blogville and making friends with all the roomies. When Jodi & I were invited to crash at the apartment for a night or two, the housemates shuffled beds and made space for us in the loft above the living room. Never were squatters made more comfortable! But still I planned to leave in a few days…

I don’t know if it was the way the light streams over the uneven stones paving the street or the famous Italian hospitality or just the promise of a cozy bed surrounded by folks that get me… but it wasn’t a hard sell to get me to stick around just one more day.

Then another. And then somehow it became a week. Suddenly I was the Mayor of Blogville on FourSquare and the resident with the most seniority. Pretty ridiculous for someone who was homeless a few days prior, eh?

Blogville’s Master of the House, Nick, devoted himself to the revolving cast of roommates, taking us to all his favorite local spots. From the rustic bar jammed with communal tables where you bring your own picnic to the apperitivo joint with all-you-want couscous, tapas, finger sandwiches and tomato salad, Nick (a footballer/kind soul who could be Armani model – he’s exactly the kind of Italian guy you want to meet, you know what I mean?!) showed us Emilia Romagna not just from a tourism perspective, but with the pride of someone born and raised in the region. Unfortunately Emilia Romagna is sometimes overlooked by travelers in favor of silver screen star Tuscany, ancient Rome or Clooney hideaway Lake Como, but Blogville gave me the opportunity to explore this less visited Italian destination.

Bologna’s extensive historic foundations and current youth culture form a seamless juxtaposition, with miles and miles of arched porticos, centuries-old towers and the oldest university in the world founded in 1088. Bologna is effortlessly approachable while still radiating that distinctive Italian glow that puts a soft, mysterious fuzz on everything — even when you’re not drinking local wine.

It could be 1476 or 1732 or present day, but you get the feeling that Bologna’s character is unchanged throughout history.

So what did I do for a week in Emilia Romagna?

Gelato. Ferrara. Climbed the tower at Castella Estense.

Interview with Italian Cosmopolitan. Comacchio Eel. Sophia Loren.

Gelato. Bird-watching in the Po Delta. Bicycling in a skirt. #AngieWeighs.

Late-night girl talk with Legal Nomads. Instagram. Hashtags and #Kashtags. Press conference in the living room.

Gelato. San Petronio spa girl talk with one of Two Oregonians. Scusi? Babbedi Boopi. Gelato.

The warm Italian familiarity you hear about became second nature to everyone at Blogville. With up to eight people (some friends and some strangers) living in the apartment, sharing one shower (not all at one time – this isn’t MTV) and acclimating to a new environment and way too much food, we became a Bolognese family quite fast. The whole experience was effortless.

We cooked dinner together, coordinated shopping trips for huge blocks of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, chunks of mortadella and tiny bottles of aged balsamic vinegar, and shared tips on favorite destinations, gelato flavors (BOLOGNA RIDE!) and WordPress plugins. Given the often exasperating nature of 2012 so far, my time at Blogville was as rejuvenating as it was fun.

Thanks to Kash for the invite, to Nick for the brilliant glimpse at life in Bologna and to the Emilia Romagna Tourism Board for reaching bloggers in a completely new way.

As I said at the press conference, “I know I’ll come back to Emilia Romagna. I haven’t eaten everything yet.”

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Check out more Blogville coverage:

Two Oregonians

Runaway Jane 

 

We’ll return to Italy later in the journey… for now, back to our regularly scheduled programming and the next stop on the list: South Africa!

COME AWAY WITH ME!
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  • May 04, 2012

    Great to hear it lives up to the hype! I hope there’ll be more to come too. It’s a really great idea!

    • May 07, 2012

      I hope so, too. Nice to see a great concept come to life!

  • May 04, 2012

    Great writeup and so glad we got in more of those late night talks! Safe onward travels and see you in a few months 🙂

    • May 07, 2012

      I’m glad, too =) I’m missing our marathon late-night sessions!

  • May 04, 2012

    Love this idea, what a great way to see a city and meet great people.

  • May 04, 2012

    Looks like a lot of fun staying with like minded individuals. Love the idea of Blogville.

    • May 07, 2012

      Really fun! I hope to see more efforts like this around the world…

  • May 06, 2012

    Such a cool concept. Can someone start talking to the tourism boards in South America about this?

  • May 06, 2012

    Sounds like a wonderful idea and a fun time! By the way, I LOVE that babbedi boopi made it on your list.

    • May 07, 2012

      We got some big laughs out of that clip =)

    • June 17, 2012
      Bas

      April 24, 2012 pm30 15:22 Have fun everyone! Bologna is such an ainamzg city and the food is just awesome! Nicholas is a great guide, you’ll all enjoy the stay very much.Wish I could join as well!bestJuliane

  • May 06, 2012

    Any tips about how I can get involved on the next round of Blogville? Sounds like an awesome experience!

    • May 07, 2012

      Blogville Emilia Romagna continues in Remini once the Bologna one is over, but I’m pretty sure it’s all booked up. Can’t hurt to contact the tourist board to find out though if you’re in the area.

  • May 07, 2012

    That sounds like heaven! So is this Blogville a permanent thing in Bologna now?

    • May 07, 2012

      No, I believe Bologna lasts about a month and same for Remini.

  • May 07, 2012

    Angie! So much fun to be apartment-mates for a week. Blogville misses you. I miss you! Let’s have more adventures together… Safe travels. xx (P.S. Love your photo of the church! Something about it is just gorgeous…)

  • May 08, 2012

    I love when last minute plans turn into something fun like this. Sounds like a great time!

  • June 17, 2012

    OH. My. GOSH. Angie I could make a thousand cnmemots like, is Anthony wearing suspenders?! And did you have to bring a UHaul to get all that sweet stuff out there? Oh and do you just want to dress me for the rest of my life? I need to get that outfit shoes, dress, sweater, necklace basically, let’s Freaky Friday switch or something. hahaha.

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