Intimacy and a square? Isn't it an oxymoron? I believe not.
Because if you look Bologna from above, it is made of a big square with the city all around: from one side the hills described in one of the most famous songs of the pop group from Bologna Lunapop, and from the other side the "lower" Po Valley.
To enter the city you have to go through real doors and then, without too many questions, following the flow of the main streets, you will end up in the biggest square, the Maggiore (main) one.
Once arrived there, it is not rare to see some "youngsters" talking to his/her personal computer: it is not an artistic performance, but thanks to wireless coverage one can access the Web while sitting on the steps of S.Petronio church, or under the arcade, or everywhere else. The image of students, tourists and Bologna citizens talking to the rest of the world is very common.
Students, tourists and Bologna citizens: these are some of the categories of people that in the city rarely meet and mix except for in Piazza Maggiore. Only there, in the shadow of the Town Hall, where there is a pharmacy opened 24/7 and a public fountain, where there is the Sala Borsa, the Stock Exchange Room, a place where people were buying and selling and today turned into a library, everyone feels part of the same city.
My view over the square is privileged, or at least it was until a short time ago, since I have been living 50 meters from the square for about 3 years: early in the morning I used to go out to go to work and the square was already busy. I came back home in a hurry to have lunch and met the musician of the moment or the puppeteer.
Because, as in every respectful square, people meet in Piazza Maggiore: here there are demonstrations, strikes, concerts and the summer cinema with its magic. And politics: this year, before the elections, I attended every election meeting as if it was a challenge: Bossi, Tremonti, Grillo, Bersani, Vendola, Prodi…everyone passes by, but the square remains there, always the same and always different because Piazza Maggiore is a symbol.
There, in that rectangle of 115x60 metres, the inhabitants of Bologna, the new ones, the presumed ones and the old ones, feel at home.
Then, Sunday comes in Piazza Maggiore: the "umarell", Bologna men of a certain age, become the protagonists. They all gather in a corner, always the same one to be sure, to talk about politics and football; usually they have their newspaper underarm, gesticulate and speak in Bologna dialect.
Around them, an indefinite series of small events follow one another in a never-ending performance: among my favourites, there is a Jazz group with double bass, banjo and drums; then, a blues duo with guitar and voice; there is a clown who gives smiles and balloons to children, and more and more often, to my amazement, a keyboard intonating Eastern music. Thus, in a short time, blond people with worker's hands happily forget that the day after is Monday.
For me, passing by that place had become a game, a challenge: watching a remote-controlled drone taking pictures of the buildings or meeting a group of Japanese tourists was a Fellinian moment that accompanied the melancholy of a silent place. Just as when the folk singer with blond dreadlocks plays: her name is Spring and her voice, accompanied by an acoustic guitar, just right after dinner, always in the same corner, lulled me.
To this place popes and rock bands came, but it is the people who make this square the Main one (Maggiore, in Italian, as the name of the square).
These few lines written by me are my small and humble tribute to Bologna which, even after 15 years, never stops to lull me.