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Porchetta and Bologna

Every year around the time of the celebration of the Assumption, the popular Ludi della Porchetta party is held in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore, the main square of the town. In the beginning, however, the party, complete with horse races, wasn’t isolated to such an important, historic location, but occurred throughout the streets of the entire city. The urban spaces were transformed through the construction of temporary structures and sets for the party. During the Porchetta celebration in the Piazza Maggiore, a temporary theater was built between the city hall and San Petronio church, occupying the entire square and facing all the surrounding buildings.

Over time, the Piazza Maggiore became a creative center, a shrine of all the arts, the prison of the imagination, ready to open to the public on Saint Bartholomew’s day. The theme of the festival varied each year from theater to music. The sets and stages were constructed in great secrecy in the courtyard of the Palace of Legato, and partially assembled in the courtyard of the Archiginnasio and finally set up in the square a few days before the big event.  The party was held August 24th, Saint Bartholomew’s day, and was the climax of a festival that began 10 day prior. It is believed that this typically medieval festival was born to commemorate the victory of Bologna against the imperial army in Fossalta and the arrival of King Enzo in the city of August 24, 1249. A second story suggests that the festival was created in celebration of the storming of the fortress of Faenza in 1281 following the betrayal of Tibaldello de Zambrasi, robbed of a young pig.

This famous local festival combining art and food has given rise to a substantial number of reports, prints and miniatures, documenting its evolution over the centuries. Only the arrival of the French army was the annual festival interupted. Thanks to the work of Umberto Leotti and Marinella Pigozzi, with an enlightening introduction by Marcello Fagiolo, contributions and insights by Maria Cristina Citroni and Franco Bacchelli, and an irreplaceable bibliography edited by Lorraine Bianconi, we can now flip through more than 300 pages of iconography related to this guarded party from archives and libraries in Bologna. Their book allow us to "read" the evolution of popular rituals related to food due to a substantial documentation that, according to the authors, will be enriched with a second volume. This unique document allows us to learn about one of the most interesting culinary traditions in Italy. 

La Festa della Porchetta a Bologna. Fra tradizione popolare, arte e pubblico spettacolo. (The Porchetta Festival in Bologna. Popular traditions, art and public theater.)

Edited by Umberto Leotti and Marinella Pigozzi. Loreto, Edizioni Tecnostampa, 2010. In-4° album (30x24); paper with a colored dust jacket, 328 pages with 44 color illustrations and 82 full-page black and white images.

Distributed by  Libreria Garisenda

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