Welcomed by the locals, their mascot Strinu and 23*C sunshine, we found ourselves at our first stop, Bergamo, which for it’s contribution to the Italian unification movement is called city of the thousand.
After arriving at our hosts home we went for a city tour with the whole antenna, driving up to the Città Alta which composes the city with its old walled core, using the funiculaire and passing by the Lavatoio di Viao Lupo – the ancient washhouse – that led to the growth of the city in the 19th century. Further on we went to the Piazza Vecchia where the church oversees the state making a culturally highly important stop at the birth place of stracciatella ice cream which gets a solid 10000/10 from us. Our first day ended with a magnificent sunset over the Città bassa – the lower city – and a diversity of Bergamo’s traditional dishes ranging from ravioli filled with bacon (casoncelli) to cheesy polenta (polenta taragna).
Strolling around the city it is unmissable that there is a lot happening in Bergamo. Graffitis and posters address human rights, classism and political views and with the upcoming local and European elections in Bergamo we came at the right time discuss the future of Europe.
During our stay we gave three workshops on youth participation, two of them in a high school. The third one, open to the public, was divided into our session on youth participation and AEGEE-Bergamo’s introduction into the EU taking place Edone, a youth center.
Throughout the workshops participants expressed their interest in topics such as migration, sustainability, education and human rights. As for the question how to become active citizens in these fields the consensus was that getting together to learn, make connections and create safe spaces is a fundamental first step. In an interview at Edone Simona (22) and Stefano (25) explained that they personally see a crucial importance in making an effort to improve equality.
Looking at the upcoming elections and the need for a rise of young people participating, Stefano, who is especially interested in technological improvements and sustainability, says that even though of course the digital world can play it’s part in highlighting the elections and information about it, it won’t be able to tackle the challenge. The root of the problem he sees is in young people not being aware of the importance and the direct consequences of not participating e.g. in the European Parliament elections.
Simona, who studies to become a teacher, highlighted the importance of education. For her it took an Erasmus year to come to the conclusion that European politics affect her life and that she’s not only an Italian citizen but also a European citizen, if not even a citizen of the world that carriers responsibility.
When we interviewed Bergamo’s major Giorgio Giori he stated that part of people’s disaffection towards Europe/EU comes from the complexity of the democratic processes within the European Union. The heavy bureaucracy of political decision-making and the technocratic ends make Europe feel more distant instead of being in the hands of Europeans. Europe should be interesting – if not popular in his eyes, especially to people from difficult socioeconomic realities. He considers this group to be most dependent on opportunities given by political and social systems – one of them being the European Union. When we asked him how he sees the future of Europe, in particular after elections, he took a moment and explained that the EU is in a continuous process of development. Right now we, Europeans, are risking to lose the progress that has been made in the 70s and the difficulties that have been solved through out three generations of European citizens. Giori doesn’t want young people to only believe in the EU but also to be louder than Eurosceptics, that paint nationalist pictures, and to deeply understand that the EU is *the* opportunity to create a future. He spoke about the kind of future that holds a diversity of job opportunities, that combats climate change, tackles border security and can only be realized through ambitions for the unity of our continent. He believes that once there is an understanding for this, young Europeans will find themselves having more energy to defend the precious European construction. For this it requires small steps and big steps. A small step he and the municipality assembly recently took was that they gave out European flags for free, addressing the importance of the upcoming local and EP elections. On the other hand a big step he and other majors from Lombardia are talking about is the reintroduction of civic education as a school subject.
Bergamo, being our first stop on our journey and talking so intensively about youth participation and different responsibilities, makes us wonder what it takes to have these conversations in a fruitful and sustainable way. What it takes to make civic education a reality and what it takes to fill the gap between decision-makers and young people organically. We leave Bergamo with new questions in our minds, stomach full of stracciatella ice cream and hearts full of love from the AEGEE-Bergamo local group.
Udine – you’re next <3