The annual Feste dell’Unita’ (Festivals of Unity) offer a glimpse into Bologna La Rossa (Bologna the Red). Beginning in May, these fundraisers organized by the Partito Democratico (Democratic Party) take place throughout the province. Open to all political persuasions, the smaller feste culminate in September in Parco Nord with a month-long mega-festa. You’ll find good, inexpensive food and local entertainment, with the requisite polka and line dancing. Larger feste may also offer bookstands, concerts and lectures. Entrance is free with an option to donate at the door. These events are Emilian phenomena and a characteristic element of Bolognese life.
There are a number of other kinds of festivals underway all year long as well, such as Casalecchio di Reno’s Festa degli Aquiloni (Kite Festival) in May and Ozzano dell’Emilia’s Agosto con Noi (August with Us) to raise funds for the National Ramazzini Institute. Many rural towns also host fiere agricole (agricultural fairs) showcasing the latest farm equipment and prize-winning rabbits. For more information on local festivals see the following sites:
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 in 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 occurred 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 from June to September. Open-air film festivals (see the section Cinema & Film Festivals) are held in the city’s squares and courtyards. For more information visit the city’s website: www.comune.bologna.it/cultura.
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. For more information, check www.travelemiliaromagna.it
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 (nougat). In the recent years, Piazza Minghetti has hosted the delicious and festive French Christmas Market in the month of December.
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: www.carnevalecento.com.