I moved to Bologna in 2002 and joined the International Women’s Forum shortly thereafter. At my first meeting, I met both Kathryn Knowles and Susannah Tillson, and a longstanding friendship with both began to flourish. Kathryn had boundless energy, long vision and an uncanny ability to rally a diversity of international women, including many Italians from Bologna, into fundraising for and contributing to the second edition of Bologna Inside, building on the foundational pillars of the first edition, completed in 2001. While many enterprising women contributed stories, anecdotes, professional expertise and crucial information, the tedious work of putting the 2nd edition down on the page and editing it into actual book form was mostly undertaken by Kathryn and myself in the summer and fall of 2006.
Looking back over our notes on how to proceed, we had agreed we wanted to retain basic design and editorial framework of the 1st edition . . . why change a good thing? But we decided to add new vignettes and photos and expand the existing chapters with new and updated information, not to mention fact check existing info. We also added three new chapters.
It was a busy time for me on the family front — I had one toddler already and had just given birth in February 2006 to a second child, my daughter Cecilia, who I was breastfeeding, so brought along to Kathryn’s home in San Giorgio di Piano, where we researched, edited and paginated. We would set her on a colorful baby blanket with a variety of rattles, blocks and toys and she would sit or lay and play contentedly as we sweated over the details at Kathryn’s computer, picking her into my arms to breastfeed as we worked on, in the true sisterhood spirit of how women often get things done when there are no men present. I remember in the fall, as our deadline to get the text to the printer’s was nearing, we were desperately trying to finish the book before Cecilia started to crawl, because we both knew that her new mobility would mark the end of me being able to concentrate on the work at hand!
There really was very little available publicly on the internet regarding living in Italy at the time, so much of the research involved calling the actual offices for info, or relying on members themselves or their significant others or friends to help point us in the right direction. My daughter started crawling literally the week after we finished. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and so it was with Kathryn and my friendship after struggling through the last print-ready files of Bologna Inside together!
Looking back over the guide, I am struck by how much Italy has changed in two decades. Yet there are passages that seem timeless and still very relevant today, perhaps no more so than the line: “If you’ve navigated the Italian bureaucracy this far, complimenti. You now have everything you need to know to make Bologna home . . . pass this guide along to help others do the same.”
That a new generation of international women in Bologna are updating yet another edition of this valuable guide lifts my spirit and reminds me of what a wonderful, dynamic place we’ve chosen to discover and embrace. I know this is the future Kathryn would have wished for — this important collaboration of savvy women of the world, learning everything they need to know, however fleeting or permanent their time here may be, to feel a casa in Bologna.