The famous Festa della Porchetta (Porchetta Festival) was celebrated in Bologna on August 24th on the occasion of Saint Bartholomew’s Day.

Porchetta Festival has been celebrated in Bologna for more than five centuries. It is believed that this medieval festival was born to celebrate the victory of Bologna against the imperial army in Fossalta and the arrival of the prisoner King Enzo – son of Frederick II – in Bologna on August 24th 1249. Some others suggest that it was born to celebrate the transition from summer to autumn and the start of the rainy season.

Whatever its origins, it is possible to establish the duration of this tradition. In fact, the first statements date back to 13th century, while the last celebration was in 1796, when, due to the French dominion, the annual festival was interrupted. 

Porchetta Festival lasted all day long until late night. The morning was dedicated to religious ceremonies in the church of Saint Bartholomew, in the presence of the highest representatives of the local government.

In the afternoon, many shows were performed and horse races were organised throughout the streets of the entire city. Finally, the official cook of Palazzo del Popolo (the current Palazzo d’Accursio, the city’s Town Hall) threw to the crowd a big roasted porchetta from the balcony of the Palace, while the nobility threw game, sweets, sugared almonds, gold and silver coins and a river of red and white wine. Before to be cooked the porchetta paraded over a horse, cheered by the happy crowd. 
   
   


   
Over the centuries, the shows became more and more elaborate: during 16th and 17th century in Piazza Maggiore a temporary theatre was built and many plays were held with the participation of even 150-200 characters.
    
   

  
  
In 1708, a symbolic representation with 5 elephants took place, while in 1751 the square was converted into a fake sea.

After centuries, from 2002 this ancient tradition has been revived thanks to the churches of San Bartholomew and Gaetano in Strada Maggiore. So, Bologna keeps celebrating the feast of San Bartholomew every year on August 24th with free distribution of bread, wine and Porchetta for everyone!

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