Bologna, Italy is a Medieval town, and it was somewhat closer to the Middle Ages (the early 1990s) that I spent a year there, sitting in a high school classroom, not understanding much of anything.
What I did understand, though, was the city’s history. Even today, I can walk through the streets in my mind and see the places as if traveling back in time: the Piazza Maggiore, the Fountain of Neptune, the seven churches of Santo Stefano, the terracotta sculptures of Niccolò dell’Arca. Even the Roxy Bar.
The reason I know these things so well is because it was impressed upon me that I should know them by our host father, Konrad, who himself was an outsider and who felt that you should be ashamed to live in a place whose history you don’t know. It’s a value I have always tried to practice, and which now has seen itself play out in an unexpected way, in a city on this side of the Atlantic, in an app.
New York City is where one my host brothers, Benedikt, found himself living several years ago. And in trying to research the history of the place in a satisfying way, he was shocked by the paltry and shallow selection of guidebooks on the subject. He thought about writing such a guidebook himself, but ultimately decided that an app could do more with less. So without an inkling that the next few years would be spent compiling information and photos and digging up the hidden history street corners across the city, he and a friend Nicola (also from Bologna) began working on the app that has just been released: New York: History of a City, a huge and invaluable resourse, with 132,500 words of original content, over 400 sites, some 700 historic and current photos, and nearly 14 hours of audio, not to mention, the interactive functions, “Walk-by” notifications, timelines, missed sights memory and more.
So if you happen to live there, or plan to visit, and want to put the pieces of the past back together, now you can walk around the city and not feel ashamed by all the things you don’t know. You can either get it from the website here or see it in the App Store here.