Biblioteca Salaborsa is located in the historical Palazzo d’Accursio in Piazza Maggiore, Bologna, where the main market and most important public buildings of the city used to be. To this day, residents generally say “let’s go to the square” when they mean Piazza Maggiore.
Since 2001, the palace that was once home to Bologna’s city hall has welcomed the special library in its 19th-century, modernist, cast iron and glass structure, where a crystal floor exposes layers of ancient settlements, and multimedia areas showcase not only books but also audiobooks, videos, newspapers, magazines, CDs, CR-roms, maps, and databanks.
In a way, the memory of Emilia-Romagna’s capital city now resides in Piazza Maggiore, inside Palazzo d’Accursio and the Salaborsa: “During the 1950s,” says Luigi Lepri – an expert on local culture and dialect –, “the center of Bologna was invaded by countrymen every Friday; they came to Piazza Maggiore, to and around the exchange, to buy and sell livestock, seeds, and produce. The heated arguments leading to a deal, made with a mediator’s help and a strong handshake, were often dotted with good-humored name-calling and insults” (L. Lepri, “Fantèsma di ritorno. Seconda passeggiata semiseria nel dialetto bolognese”, Pendragon, Bologna 2006).
And while today some things have changed – everything changes, after all – this ancient heart of Bologna continues to beat to the same rhythm as always.