We say, “Bologna: la dotta, la grassa, la rossa,” which means, “Bologna: the learned, the fat, the red city.”

Because this city is home to one of the oldest universities in the world, one of the richest cuisines in the world, and a unique architecture made of bricks the color of maple leaves.

But Bologna is so much more than this.

Bologna is the Italian city where diversity is embraced.

The city where you can sit in the middle of a square, barefoot, playing guitar for new friends from all over the world.

The city where you can find men holding hands without disapproving looks.

The city where the culture is not an elite idea but a shared and popular value.

So, actually, I would say, “Bologna: la libera.” “Bologna: the free city.

I’m not going to talk about the monuments, the ancient churches, or the medieval leaning towers.

That’s a kind of beauty easily seen in pictures.

I see Bologna’s beauty beyond the physical landmarks — the beauty in the human heart, the kindness, the authentic friendliness.

A city’s beauty is always directly proportional to the love of its citizens.

That’s why Bologna is unique. Its people truly love their city and treat it as a strong and gentle woman. They embrace its history, but also know how modern and progressive it is, and they are proud.

You see Bologna’s warmth when you ask for directions in Piazza Maggiore and people smile at you and try to speak English the best they can in order to help.

You see its pride when you’re searching for a flat and the owner opens a window to say, “You can see the Sanctuary of San Luca from here. Isn’t it amazing?”

You see its friendliness when you go to dance at Cassero and you enjoy the best party music you’ve ever heard, finding yourself speaking English or Spanish or French with Erasmus students in line for the toilet.

Trust people from Bologna: they’ll be honored to guide you through the hidden beauties of the city, like the secret window of Via Piella showing the so-called “Little Venice,” the view from the panoramic terrace of the Basilica of San Petronio, or the stunning landscape from the Two Towers, the symbol of the city.

Free your mind. Walk through the ancient porticos and arcades in the city centre. Marvel at the maple-colored buildings. Immerse yourself in the food and culture. Embrace it.

Bologna is not a city to be visited. It is a city to be lived.