Bologna Inside - Second Edition

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In May each year, the Catholic month of the Madonna (Virgin Mary), a painting of a black Madonna is brought down from the Basilica di San Luca to the cathedral of San Pietro on Via dell’Independenza. After a week of visits from the faithful, the Madonna is carried back up to her home. This tradition traces back several centuries when the Madonna was brought down in an attempt to end the plague. Although no miracles occured during her initial three-day sojourn in the city, it started to pour rain during her return and the plague disappeared. Nowadays, it almost always rains during the return procession.

In the summer, nightlife moves all’aperto (in the open). Since 2005, the city, together with the university, has sponsored Bè - Bologna Estate (Bologna Summer) a vast program of arts and entertainment events that runs June-September. Open-air film festivals (see this chapter under ‘Cinema’) are held in the city’s piazze and courtyards. For more information visit the city’s website: If you are up for a short drive into the country, you’ll find good, inexpensive food and local entertainment at the Feste dell’Unità and sagre (food festivals) organized throughout the province from spring through fall. See Chapter 9: Provincia for more information.


While the largest Christmas markets are in Trentino, Bologna has its very own along Strada Maggiore under Santa Maria dei Servi and on Via Altabella. Items for sale include presepi (nativity scenes) and traditional holiday sweets such as torrone. The season is characterized by the smell of roasted castagne (chestnuts), in Bologna also known by a less delicate term, i marroni.

On Capodanno (New Year’s Eve), Bologna casts off the passing year by burning in effigy a large wooden man known as il vecchione (old man). This huge bonfire lights up Piazza Maggiore and is quite a spectacle. Better to leave kids home as the party can get rowdy. In February, Carnevale (Carnival) is celebrated in the city and throughout the province. The most spectacular costumes are to be seen in Venice, but closer to home, you can go to Cento, just over the border of the Province of Ferrara. For more information see:

As they say, the grass is always greener... I’m a New Yorker and when I’m in Bologna, I always seem to have the itch to be in NYC. Call it that “New York state of mind.” It’s funny, though, I’m starting to realize that Bologna has its own state of mind. About two weeks into my stay in New York I have a sudden craving to return to BO for a stroll through the piazzola. I want to have coffee with friends at Sala Borsa and I wonder if the trees and flowers are in bloom in Giardini Margherita. I miss Friday night aperitivo, tagliatelle al ragù, ice-cold prosecco and riding my bike through the piazza.

Nina Vellucci