The sidewalks of Bologna, Italy are shared by hundreds of people every day, many of them expertly engineered and covered as a part of the city’s treasured porticos. Throughout the many kilometers of portico walkway that extend over the city, residents and visitors alike find this facet to be a unique and essential part of the Bologna experience. Along the stretches of the portico are many bars, restaurants, cafes, stores of every kind, tourist stands, apartments, and entrances to churches and museums. When living in Bologna myself, the porticos were part of my daily routine, as my front door was located right on a portico-covered street. On my morning jog to the gym, to the numerous cafes, my class at the university and the main plaza, Piazza Maggiore, I was always comforted by the overarching structure of the portico. The character of the portico is brought out by the lively activities of people that take their daily walks throughout the city, cycle in between the many pedestrians and gather to enjoy un caffe, meet for aperitivo or dine al fresco.
In the recent months, as citizens all over the world have had their daily lives restructured by the effects of Covid-19, I have seen hints of resemblance in the U.S. to the Bolognese culture of which I had grown so fond. Within my small hometown of Cumberland, RI, residents have come together to embrace a new style of living in the days of social distancing and quarantine. As people were confined to their neighborhoods and homes and businesses unable to function in a typical fashion, residents found a creative way to embrace the new social norms. The streets of my small town have filled with people running at all hours of the day, groups of young adolescents out on bike rides and families congregating within the parameters of social distancing in backyard picnics, drive-by celebrations and walks in the park. In this same light, restaurant owners came together to put fences up in the parking lots and build patios to extend off the building in order to allow customers to dine at their restaurants in the open air. It is in this time that I have been reminded of the culture of the portico that I grew to learn about and love during my time in Bologna. There is a true beauty in seeing the ways in which a society can become a community that I believe is learned best through the culture of the Italian portico.