Bologna has many legends, traditions, and beliefs. However, there are plenty of stories with little basis in fact and some that are just pure fantasy. Do you know which ones?
Students on the Two Towers
The view from the Asinelli Tower is certainly beautiful, but be careful if you’re about to graduate! According to an ancient superstition, university students are warned not to climb to the top of the famous Bolognese tower before graduation. The risk (again according to superstition) is that they might not graduate at all. This isn’t the only danger students must watch out for. Another legend says they should never cross Piazza Maggiore diagonally, or they risk the same fate as the fool who climbed the tower.
Men and New Year’s Day
This belief has mostly disappeared in modern times, but it was once very popular. Apparently, it was good luck on the first day of January for a man to wish you a Happy New Year in the morning. Where does this belief come from? The New Year was seen as a time of change and hope for a better life for oneself and one’s family. For women without a husband, a man offering the first good wishes of the year was a good omen that might possibly bring her a potential husband within the next 12 months.
This tradition then resulted in another, which has also nearly disappeared: young boys running eagerly from door to door on the first of the year, waking everyone with their best wishes for the new year. To thank the boy for bringing them good fortune (he can technically be considered a man, albeit a very young one), each family would offer the boy a coin or sweets. Then, once his pockets were full of loot, the boy would generally go home to share his earnings with his other siblings.
No couples climbing to San Luca!
The view of Bologna from San Luca is quite romantic and the Sanctuary is an evocative setting, but tradition says you should never go up there for a date! According to this belief, going up the Colle della Guardia with romantic intentions would be the death of your relationship and the end of any hope for marriage.
Does that sound worth the risk?
The lovers at the Baraccano
Speaking of love, an ancient Bolognese tradition has it that the newlyweds should go to the Church of Baraccano on their wedding day to ask the Madonna for protection. The Church of Santa Maria della Pace del Baraccano, takes its name from the “barbacane”, an ancient tower that was located along that stretch of the city walls. There is also an image of the Madonna and child painted by Lippo Dalmasio and later restored by Francesco del Cossa. Legend also remembers the famous day in 1512, when the Madonna miraculously survived a bomb that fell nearby during a siege.
Although several centuries have passed, the Church of Baraccano and its Madonna still retain a romantic charm for the newlyweds who come to ask for a long and happy marriage.
Every day numerous tourists search in vain for the famous arch 666 under the portico of San Luca! What they don’t know is that they will never find it because… it doesn’t exist! The portico only contains 658 arches because the connecting arches at pedestrian and road crossings are not considered in the official numbering.
The history of San Luca’s portico goes back to the 17th century when it was built to shelter the many devotees on pilgrimage to the Colle della Guardia. The portico has also provided crucial protection for the Madonna di San Luca when she descends into the city each year. It still stands to this day, the longest in the world, with all the majesty of its many arches.
Spaghetti alla bolognese
If you ever see this on a menu, run away! Yes, Spaghetti Bolognese is a famous dish that exists all over the world… but not in Bologna.
The Bolognese might love a generous serving of tagliatelle smothered in meat sauce, but they would be appalled at the very idea of using the same sauce on spaghetti. Yet that is exactly the dish that continues to be associated (in its very name) with Bolognese and Emilian cuisine.
This is just one more (very!) false belief about Bologna.
Do you know of any other unusual legends or beliefs about Bologna?
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