Honestly I never expected to miss you after our brief engagement yet here I am writing to you and admitting you caught me by surprise. I think of you and wish I was with you again. Visiting you made me question once again my relationship with Helsinki, the experience of belonging to her at this point of my life. I know I will recuperate as the time slowly but surely leaps forward, but right now I cannot shake off the feelings you embraced in me.
The conference you hosted reminded me of how exhilarating pleasing it is to connect with people in a heartbeat and share stories that even the friends you have been lucky enough to have do not know about you. I remember before coming to you I was slightly intimated of meeting you and all other fifty people, none of you having the slightest idea what I am. I imagined withdrawal, alienation and solitude. It had been months, perhaps even years since I had to meet so many people in a new context. I had forgotten what strong capacities us humans have to bond with complete strangers.
And for you my Bologna, as much as it saddens me to concedes this, I had no inclination despite the polygamous character of my relationship with cities. You were no Florence or Venice or Rome that everyone so warmly speaks of. I envisioned yet another city who so foolishly strives to convince all the foreigners of his worthiness. I even booked my flights so that I could stay one night more in Italy and see the actual Italy that so many tell me about. But I never left you in spite of my plans.
You took my heart and made it yours.
And you gave me yours and made it mine.
Your vibrantly majestic and lush Parco Montagnola embraced wholeheartedly the smiling people that strolled in perhaps your most beautiful part of body. Students spurred out from every corner as you boasts with the knowledge of being home to the oldest university in continental Europe. Graffiti paints your lukewarm orange, red and yellow walls and doors that have seen so much more than any person in the world. Torre degli Asinelli and Torre dei Garisenda proudly stand in the middle of your historic centre, watching over people who call you home. For its visitors enchanting Basilica of San Petronio tenderly awakens in their minds the feeling of comforting serenity. But what makes you so special are your porticos that you so proudly carry. The most stunning and lengthy roof structure over a walkway mesmerised the world I owned. The stroll up to Santuario della Beata Vergine di San Luca with 666 arches was one of the tiresome but simultaneously rewarding hikes I ever did in my life.
But besides the beauty you are born with, I so much enjoyed the very essence of you that one cannot see eyes open. I truly appreciated how the two major streets are closed from traffic on Sunday so people can enjoy their strolls where cars and buses once drove while taking pleasure in the countless street performances that make days of those people who have not too much heartache, or very least bring upon a fragile smile.
The way you love diversity melted my heart. Your people told me you are one of the most progressive creatures in the entire of Italy, if not the most advanced when it comes to love, embracing differences and ensuring the well being of others. You are perhaps the kindest city I have ever encountered in the short period of my life, my Bologna. I fell in love with your care for others and your will to accommodate the needs of those particularly vulnerable. You have the gift to make people feel loved. With you the world celebrates divergence like never before. I had never been to a bear party where famous Italian ice cream is served for free, so thank you my dearest.
Apart from falling in love with you I did not expect forged friendships that I would carry with me for the rest of my life. It was not the first time I attended a conference and over the years I have lost even the remotest contact with virtually everyone whom I had met in similar conventions. Partly because at one moment of my life I had to start over and disconnect with every(thing)one who reminded me of him. I told you about him, in a lengthy matter as well. And I shared my heartache with others who were there, too, perhaps too much in detail. Regardless of the differences between how I felt my ability to fall in love with another man and the way they perceived the situation, I seized genuine love and care from people who barely knew what I am.
It is funny how difficult it was for me to come to you and the in the end I wished I never had to leave you and all the other beautiful creatures with whom I had forged long-lasting bonds. During the last day people started to feel sad, including me, but I tried to tell others (and myself) that we should not cry because it is over but smile because it happened and we met each other. I do like that quote of Dr. Seuss very much, my Bologna and I try to live according to its essence. I will not deny my emotions and pretend to the rest of the universe that I am at the happiest right now because there is a hint of melancholia wallowing in my collarbones, but that does not prevent me from feeling blessed.
I do not know when I will see you again, my dear. Maybe never. But unlike previous times in my life I will not dwell in the sadness about what is over. I have beautiful memories with you, moments that I will never forget and I truly enjoyed all you had to offer. Despite all odds and expectations, you might just have been the best thing that happened to me this year. You restored my faith.
Keep loving & caring, my Bologna.
No matter how far away I am I will always feel it.