New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve

Friday, January 4th, 2019

Like almost every city or town in the world there is public celebration in Bologna. The major piazza is Piazza Maggiore and that’s where the people gather to celebrate a variety of things. On New Year’s eve the major event is the burning of an effigy that represents the year past. In this case, the “vecchione” literally the “big old man”.  An interesting aside is that they do the same thing in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A guy at the gym told me that in alternate years in order to give equal weight to women they burn the “vecchia”. I did a web search and found a reference to a “vecchia” only in leap years and it’s not clear that this admission of women to the tradition still continues. I guess that I’ll have to go there at the end of 2020 to find out. I did find that the the effigy must be at least 12 meters high.

Laura and il vecchione in the afternoon.

Reading the info about the celebration in Piazza Maggiore I found that they would admit only 10,000 people into the area through 4 checkpoints and it was best to be there before 10 PM if you hoped to be admitted. So my friend Laura and I arrived at about 9:30. I was glad to have some long underwear to be there for about 2 1/2 hours at a temperature of 32 degrees. I do think that it was actually warmer than that in the piazza since 10,000 people, even bundled up, exude a fair amount of heat. How do they limit the number of people to 10,000 you might ask. Well, when you enter they give you a coupon. When there are no more coupons, they know that that many people have entered. They also ask you to return the coupon when you leave, I’m not sure why. Perhaps to confirm that you entered legally or perhaps to be assured that nobody else remains in the piazza.

The coupon to enter.


The sea of people in the piazza (the basilica of San Petronio in the background)

There were some light shows and music from DJs during the wait but much of the music was dance music of not great interest – you know the type, heavy drums and banal lyrics. Still it beat nothing whatsoever to provide a distraction.

Moving lights on San Petronio


DJ stage with video monitors

And now the main event. I took a couple of pictures and got some from the website of a local newspaper taken from a vantage point high above the crowd.

My photo as il vecchione starts to really burn


Photo from on high gives a better idea of the crowd

No fireworks unfortunately. I suspect that the issue is that in the center of an old city there is too much risk of setting a building on fire even with the almost universal tile roofs.

As we made our way outside of the piazza we found the street full of people. I would guess that there were several thousand more in the streets near the piazza.  In the piazza it was all orderly and relatively tranquil. In the street it was a different story. There were quite a few people who had too much to drink or otherwise imbibe. After drinking the contents a lot of bottles wound up broken in the street. I was glad when we got out of that area.

You can see the street full of people beyond the fountain of Neptune.

It was a fun experience (except the standing around for 2 1/2 hours) and I’m glad that we went. The next time I might see if it’s being shown on local TV.

Oh yes, one more thing, we had lentils and sausage for dinner on New Year’s eve. An Italian tradition, the lentils and slices of sausage resemble coins and therefor are meant to bring luck in the new year. I’ll go for a different choice rather than the traditional cotechino sausage the next time – too much fat for my taste.

2 Responses to “New Year’s Eve”

  1. Cynthia Says:

    Thanks for the description and pics, Joe. And Happy New Year to you in your new life. (When I lived in NY, I went (once) to Times Square and froze my tail off. Couldn’t imagine ever doing it again!)

  2. Joe Says:

    Thanks for the comment Cynthia. I didn’t freeze but don’t think that I’ll do it again.


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