BabyOregonian, Italy

Back in Bologna: A Return to Italy with babyOregonian

June 14, 2014

Perfect timing: Lucie’s passport arrived on the same day we made a return trip to Italy!

Well, make that Italy in Portland

Maybe you’ll remember our Portland + Bologna Sister City post from a while ago?

In 2012, Ted and I had the privilege of staying in north central Italy for several weeks during our trip around the world, and while there we happily discovered that our very own Portland, Oregon has a formal sister-city relationship with beautiful Bologna.

Bologna gave us a taste of life in everyday-Italy. A city within reach: easy to navigate, easy to absorb, easy to fall in love with…

twoOregonians on adventure in Italy. Side note: see the pineapple pendant I’m wearing? I bought it in Bologna and wore it around the world. Pineapples are a symbol of hospitality, and it seemed a fitting celebration of the warmth and welcome we received. Later, back in the U.S. and pregnant with babyOregonian, I wore the same necklace as a reminder of the sweet culture of hospitality I wanted to cultivate in my own heart.

We Americans easily recognize names like Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan, much like Italians know about L.A., New York, Chicago, and Miami. But what about the Portlands of the world? Quirky, approachable cities with distinct character. As someone from the Pacific Northwest who loves introducing foreigners to a taste of American life in Oregon, I’m equally eager to recommend Bologna to friends visiting Italy.

All this talk of Bologna, and the flood of memories came back. I couldn’t resist digging up some photos:

Like Portland, Bologna boasts great people, great food culture, great landscapes (and great apple and Apple stores*, too, by the way).

(*After slugging my MacBook Pro through South America for months, dealing with a quick-draining battery and zero support, it was terrific to walk right into Bologna’s Apple store and get a replacement battery on the spot. Hooray for tech-friendly university towns, eh?)

Fast forward to this spring.

On the tenth anniversary of the official signing of the Portland/Bologna sisterhood papers, we’d been invited to come meet the delegation of Bologna representatives visiting Portland.

Lucie’s passport had come in the mail on a Friday afternoon, lending to the air of adventure as we packed a bag with essentials and stepped out the front door.

The Italian Associazione Lavitabella assembled #CasaBologna over Portland’s Rose Festival weekend, putting on a gracious series of events showcasing the best of a typical “Bolognese Home” and spreading out the proverbial welcome mat for their Oregon family.

Lucie took her first ride downtown on the MAX, smiling at fellow passengers and watching the world whiz by outside the windows. Ted eagerly spied a glimpse of the ships along the waterfront for Rose Festival Fleet Week. And just a few blocks from the station, we followed signs to the entry of #CasaBologna.

We met so many lovely folks, both visitors from Italy and local members of the Portland Bologna Sister City Association (PBSCA). Lucie was a champ, offering smiles to anyone who would meet her eyes, and Ted’s and my ears perked every time greetings of “Ciao!” bounced around the room.

The Associazione Lavitabella is a publicly funded Italian organization charged with raising awareness of the culture, tradition, art, local products, and spirit which distinguishes the inhabitants of the Bolognese Apennines (a.k.a., the citizens of Bologna). Their motto (loosely translated): We bring the Apennines in the World and bring the world to know the Apennines!

Italian accents and hospitality, Italian wine and food and photos…

They’d fulfilled their mission, for sure.

It was as if for the evening we’d stepped back across the Atlantic.

A photo from Associazione Lavitabella’s Facebook Page. Ha. Don’t laugh at the white legs. The sun was shining in Portland, and the idea of Mediterranean summer made me do it. When in Rome, or rather, When in Bologna…

One of my favorite parts of the night: perusing the photo project assembled by Sara Colombazzi.

Culture Between Faces and Books of Those Who Love Bologna
Read between the lines: the real reasons why do books exist.

An archive of images that has been enriched over the time with new shots, to tell people about a territory and about a complex and extraordinary city like Bologna. People known and unknown, faces marked by the seasons, young faces, different gestures, different looks, different skills…

People with Bolognese roots were invited to bring a favorite book and sit for a portrait. This one in particular caught my eye: Sara explained the fellow was a 92 year old from Bologna, as smart and sharp as ever.

The project was based on the tradition that Bolognese families have of inviting guests to look through their family photo album when they come for a visit. (This is so true! Ted and I got such a kick out of looking through our friend Nick’s family photos when he took us to his mom’s house…)

Aperitivo on the Rooftop

After the downstairs visit and photos, we moved to the rooftop for Aperitivo, featuring an impressive buffet of Emilia-Romagna regional dishes prepared by chef Giorgia Lambertini.

Throughout the night, we enjoyed chatting with Italian immigrants, Portlanders who spent time living and working in Bologna, and the Italian ambassadors representing their region and building ties with ours.

Lucie did pretty well for her first night in Italy. No spilled wine glasses. No meltdowns.

Maybe after this introduction, a visit to Bologna is in her future?

Each summer, as part of the effort to foster lasting relationships between citizens of the sister cities, the Associazione Lavitabella and PBSCA organize a two-week youth exchange program for families in Portland and Bologna interested in offering a homestay experience to students from the opposite country.

Once you live somewhere and make friends, that place becomes a part of you who are, no?

With Lucie’s passport here, why wait? We brainstormed with Francesca, Bologna’s head of International Relations. Bilingual childhood? Primary school exchange? You never know…

For now though, baby steps…

Food is most certainly the gateway drug to travel, and Lucie loved the Bolognese risotto.

Many thanks to Associazione Lavitabella and PBSCA for inviting us to join in celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Portland/Bologna Sisterhood.

For more stories from Italy and information on Portland ties:


Have you been involved in any sister city events in your area? If you’re an Oregonian, do you know about Portland’s Italian sister city? Would you travel overseas to visit relatives? Would you invite them to your home and share the family photo album?

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  • Reply Lindsay June 14, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Ooh, where will you take her now that you have her passport in hand!?

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians June 14, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      First off, Jimmy and Madeleine’s wedding in Canada… Gotta start somewhere! :)

  • Reply GrandmaBeckyL June 14, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Looks like you had a good time and Lucy has got a taste of Italy! Thanks for sharing your evening in word and photos. The food looked delicious!

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians June 22, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      Mmm…the food was absolutely delicious! I wish I had more of the recipes… :)

  • Reply Carmel June 15, 2014 at 2:29 am

    How fun! Portland has some great sister cities. I think Guadalajara, Mexico, is also a sister city….both city of roses!

    I’m pretty sure you have to go to Italy now. :)

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians June 22, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      Yes, I think you’re right! Wouldn’t it be fun to pay a visit to all the Sisters?? ;) Sign me up for that trip. I think Lucie would make a pretty adorable ambassador…

  • Reply Portland ve la raccontiamo noi | Matteo Lepore June 16, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    […] Il racconto da un altro punto di vista, quello di Bethany e Ted una coppia di blogger dall’Ore… […]

  • Reply kirsten June 20, 2014 at 7:46 am

    It might not be as good as actually being in Bologna but how very wonderful to have an event to celebrate the city right in your own home town!! And bravo that you’ve gotten Lucie a passport already :)

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians June 22, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      Thank you, friend! I felt such giddiness when I opened the passport envelope. My mom took me to get my first passport when I was 16; Lucie already has quite the head start. I can’t wait to see where she’ll go and who she’ll meet… The world is so full of grand surprises!

  • Reply ursulamarie June 25, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Looking forward to hearing about Lucie’s future travels. P.S. I’ve given your blog a shout-out here:

    • Reply Bethany ~ twoOregonians June 29, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      Aw, thank you! I’m looking forward to being able to share the tales. (Also, I’ve not forgotten: My eventual Morocco post will be dedicated to you when the day finally comes to post it!) Thanks for the shout-out, too. I enjoy following along as you write your stories. I’m often reading on my phone and don’t get the chance to comment, but I hope you keep on sharing as time and life allow. :)

    What say you?