On a sunny autumn afternoon in Bologna, one will find all manner of life congregating in the Piazza Maggiore, avoiding the areas bathed in shadow by the imposing basilica. As the sun tracks across the sky, so too will the people track across the piazza, following the warmth. Finding a place to sit takes a bit of manoeuvring amongst the locals and tourists draped on steps and curbs.
The Piazza Maggiore in Bologna is one of the largest and oldest squares in Italy and a place where la dolce vita can be observed up close. People gather in twos and threes, some taking a break from a shopping expedition, surrounded by their bags. Students greeting each other exuberantly, cigarettes dangling from gesticulating hands. Parents gossiping amongst themselves while their children chase the ever present pigeons. Cyclists slowly gliding around people, taking their time to see what’s happening on their way through.
People are eating foods bought from stores in the lanes surrounding the piazza: biscotti, pizza, gelato. A duo play the trumpet and tuba, providing a backing track to the animation in the piazza.
It almost feels like a meeting place, people standing and looking around. But there is nothing to wait for. The aim of the afternoon is to languidly watch and enjoy.
The only real energetic activity comes from the fearless pigeons, looking for fallen pieces of food or flying low over the heads of observers when a child gets too close for comfort.
The piazza is surrounded by gorgeous medieval buildings, the upper levels predominately used by government, with boutique stores and cafes on the street level under Bologna’s famous porticoes.
The Basilica across the piazza is fascinating for its unfinished, dual façade. Pink and white marble form the lower half, up to the rooflines of surrounding buildings. Detailed brown brick finishes the façade, stretching tall into the bright blue sky.
If you find yourself with some time on a sunny afternoon, I recommend making your way to a piazza, find yourself a step or curb and just sit and watch life go by.