Student vists the “Alley of Love,” experiences Italian culture

Kayla Handy- Editor In Chief

One of the challenges when studying abroad is the culture difference. The language, the atmosphere and the respect that the locals in Bologna, Italy was not only shown differently, but viewed differently.

For example, while I traveled abroad in Europe, one of the customs of the people was to not tip your waiter/waitress after eating a meal because it was not only considered rude, but that it meant the service was bad. Asking for separate checks was another phenomenon that was not only disregarded in general, but was looked upon as a nuisance.

Another larger culture shock that I personally faced while studying abroad was the openness of one’s sexuality. Italy in itself is a very open-minded country.

When addressing simply the sense of style that locals have, I could tell that appearances matter highly. The way that people, women especially, dressed could indicate your social status, family background and even education level.

First impressions are lasting impressions in Italy. Throughout various streets and alleys, there were top-notch fashion and accessory stores, stores whose price ranges, even in euros, made me feel privileged to stare through the front window glass.

The Italian phrase “bella figura,” or good image, was inscribed above several store archways, emphasizing the notion that not only looking fashionable and well-put together is important, but that being in shape, toned, having a good sense of confidence and positive demeanor is demanded of you too.

Italians are extremely open-minded individuals when it comes to their sexuality. I was most uncomfortable when it came to how openly random strangers I talked to or met would blatantly talk about deep and personal content, let alone how proud they were in flaunting and showing off their bodies.

A lot of women and teens that I saw walking around Center City Bologna were dressed in flirtatious and flamboyant outfits, outfits that I would not even dare to try on. Having struggled greatly with personal body image, it was so very hard for me to walk around Bologna knowing how important image was, and how obvious locals were judging me for what I wore and how I carried myself.

However uncomfortable I felt with their view on personal sexuality, I found more comfortability with Italian view on love and relationships. I honestly could sum up their cultural views on relationships by visiting one place: a lone alley beside the University of Bologna.

This alley that I speak of does not have a formal name, at least not one that I could find, so for my sake, I shall dub it the Alley of Love.

Located slightly off the main roads leading to the university, this alley featured 12 pictures of men and women kissing, looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, of men and other men and women and other women doing the same thing. Beneath each photo was the caption “Love is love.”

Earlier this year in May, Italy approved same-sex civil unions. However, same-sex activity has been legal since 1890. According to a poll conducted by Italy Eurispes, 82 percent of Italians consider homosexuals equal to all others and 62 percent approve of same sex unions and marriages.

This belief and favor I, too, saw throughout the city; male couples walking through museums holding hands, women kissing each other in front of the Eiffel Tower, pictures of men and women sharing the same beloved expression. Despite the uncomfortableness that I felt in my own body in a country where beauty is everything, I did find comfort in my personal beliefs regarding relationships, that despite other cultural differences, love was still love no matter the shape or form.

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