1. people greet each other with "salve". Francesca says it's just a way to avoid doing an instant evaluation of one's relationship with someone so as to decide between the informal "ciao" or the formal "buongiorno", but it sounds wonderfully Latinate to me. Also it reminds me of starting Latin when I was about 12 at school; when the teacher came into the room she said "salvete puellae" and we all said "salve Mrs Washington".
2. there's this slight air of the 1950s. Everyone smokes, and women have little feet and wear fur. On the buses there are tiny elderly ladies swathed in glossy furs, and I have to resist a terrible, patronising impulse to stroke them. There are two fur shops on the street where I live. One is large and pretty posh. It has things in the window which look rare, leopard-like, but surely they can't be? They cost several thousand euros each. Most disconcerting are the ones made of lots of loose furry bits, looking like a legion of hamsters is clinging to the coat, perhaps as part of some hamster-smuggling wheeze. The other shop is tiny and last time I went past there were two big (alive) Alsatians squeezed in among the clothes.
3. people bring their dogs into shops. I like this, personally. Not sure the dogs are enjoying it much.
4. it's a beautiful city without being at all pretty. Almost everything is built in local red brick, often very roughly finished, and the buildings harmonise because of this, and also because the architecture is quite straightforward. (The picture above is one of the nicest bits of my walk to work.) The city is mostly flat but there are hills all around it, which mean there are lots of beautiful views. Also there are towers. At some point in the late middle ages local merchant families took up competitive tower building. Only a few are left but apparently once there were about 180, all with their only entrances about six metres up, and galleries around them; it must have been like something out of sci-fi. And a lack of anything hugely startling means Bologna isn't really on the tourist trail, not compared to Florence and Venice, so it's rather more like a real city.
5. the people are mostly very friendly. Sometimes an attempt to speak Italian gets a really positive reponse.
6. my flatmates are great. Giorgia speaks some English but is out quite a lot. She looks like Alexa off of Popworld. Federica speaks almost no English but is really friendly. She says my Italian has noticeably improved over the last few days, and yesterday we had a conversation about what I do and I explained what palaeography is, which gave me a sense of achievement. Also we have just had a long talk about Pete Doherty (consensus: over-rated). She has exams coming up, because she is doing some sort of postgraduate degree in economics, but after that she says she is going to cook proper lasagne for me and Giorgia. Figaro the cat is also good; his role in the house is suddenly to do something charming but very inconvenient, so that one of us goes "Oh, Figaro!" like in the Felix adverts.