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Season’s Greetings From Bologna

December 24, 2015

As of this foggy but warm December 2015, my hometown of Bologna, in northern Italy, is only about 2,500 thousand years old.


In Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore, the landmark Fountain of Neptune and this year’s Christmas tree (Valentina Pasquali)

But it is not only the city that is aging, its residents are too. For decades, Bologna has displayed very low birth rates. In 2014, there were only 8.2 live births for 1,000 people, below the already lagging Italian national average of 8.3 (data from Istat, Italy’s equivalent of the US Census Bureau). In comparison, the United States had 12.4 live births for 1,000 people (latest data is for 2013, from the National Center for Health Statistics). As a result, Bologna is growing older while its children are becoming an increasingly smaller percentage of the population. This trend is slated to continue in the coming years.

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Age composition of the population of Bologna: 2014, 2030 (Valentina Pasquali)

The truth is that things would be even worse if it weren’t for immigrants and their generally higher fertility rates. Municipal authorities recently estimated that a Bologna without immigrants would lose about 40,000 residents between 2015 and 2030. Instead, the city’s overall population is growing, albeit slowly. As the percentage of foreign residents increases, so does the city’s diversity.


Bologna’s growing immigrant population, 2000-2014 (Valentina Pasquali)

There are many positive things about the influx of young foreigners to an aging city. Among them is that they can only add to Bologna’s already extraordinary culinary heritage. In 2014, Bologna was named the second best city in the world for food by the lifestyle website Thrillist, ranked only after Bordeaux in France.

Of course, we people of Bologna beg to differ. We are without a doubt number one. And with that, Happy Holidays!


Bolognese women prepare “tortellini”, the city’s trademark Christmas fare (Valentina Pasquali)


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