Finding 'real' Bologna life in Piazza Maggiore

Monday, 8 June 2015

You don't have to deviate far from the path to discover real life in Bologna. The centre of Bolgna's main sights, Piazza Maggiore is also the beating heart of everyday life in the city.

On our first day in Bologna we were thrust immediately into weekend festivities - bands, buskers, and entertainers performing in all corners of the square and down the lengths of the streets leading from it which, on Sundays, become joyfully pedestrian only.

But if we thought such sights were put on for weekenders and tourists, we were wrong.

Staying the Bologna for a week, we soon made spending our evenings in the Piazza Maggiore a habit. Throughout the week the square came alive of an evening, with locals choosing spots in the central square to sit, eat and gather after work. Happy commuters would stop their bicycles to listen in on whatever performance or event was underway, pausing for a chat or to enjoy some music before launching off home.

The tourist-bothering mimes were replaced by experimental musicians - such as the man playing this mysterious electronic device*. As the crowd grew he happily showed off how his machine worked, allowing his fascinated audience to try the device while he explained the mechanics to a particularly enthused individual.

On Thursday and Saturday afternoons, the square becomes the meeting place for a civilised yet passionate group of speakers, who come together for a public assembly debating, it seems, all manner of topics. Anyone was allowed to take to the stool and have their voice heard uninterrupted and unchallenged. Unchallenged until the next speaker took their stand, of course...

Although warmly welcomed by the group, we declined the invite to put our decidedly scant Italian to public scrutiny. Instead, we shared in the generously offered crate of cherries and watched freedom of speech at work in this famously politically active town.

Notable by their absence was Bologna's student population. At the Piazza Giuseppe Verdi they also took to the floor; a cross-legged mass congregating to eat, drink and debate their own issues. The energy and synergy in both squares was infectious - I'm so happy we had the time to stop and soak in it across the week.

*I just cannot identify this amazing, crazy instrument - can anyone help??

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