The origins of Bologna Inside was a confluence of events that unfolded in 1998. The spring of that year brought together a small core of women, led by Julie Wade, and included Ann Gagliardi, Elizabeth Garvey, and Ann Rathkopf, to talk about starting an organization for English speaking women living in or near Bologna. The purpose was to provide a forum for information exchange, creative expression, and mutual support. These early discussions led to the inaugural IWF meeting in October of the same year. During this same time, Bologna was designated one of nine European Cities of Culture for the year 2000. Each city was given a theme around which to create projects symbolizing Europe’s passage into the third millennium. Bologna’s theme was “Information and Communication.” Our intrepid early founders quickly connected the dots between the IWF’s mission and an opportunity to fund a project that would be of tremendous value to newcomers seeking “everything you need to know to make Bologna home.” The November 1998 issue of the IWF newsletter, vox@bo, features a call for proposals from members. Clearly, the special Comune committee to review and choose projects appreciated the value of the IWF proposal and in 2001, the first edition of Bologna Inside was published.
On a personal note, I felt I was the poster child for which Bologna Inside was designed. I attended that IWF inaugural meeting a week after my family and I landed in Bologna from California. We knew no one in Bologna, our Italian language skills were minimal, we had yet to find an apartment, the kids needed to be enrolled in school … we had to set up a bank account and figure out health insurance … to say it was overwhelming is a gross understatement. The IWF and ultimately Bologna Inside, led to lifelong friends and the context and guidance to gradually figure out how to settle in. I still smile when I open up my dog-eared copy of Bologna Inside, signed by Ann Gagliardi, which through habit, opens to the page of the first photo, taken by Elizabeth Garvey, featuring my kids and me with my trusty bike.