New Year’s Eve in Bologna: “Rogo del Vecchione” and other things to do in town

bologna skyline at dusk

Bologna is a youthful and exuberant city, full to the brim with nightlife and hosting the famous University of Bologna. On New Year’s Eve, bars and restaurants are open until late and thanks to the famous network of archways throughout the city, you can walk comfortably through the city in cold and rainy weather. These archways span a total of 38km in the historic center.


The main spectacle in Bologna on New Year’s Eve centres around Rogo del Vecchione in Piazza Maggiore, a tradition in the city dating back to the nineteenth century.

Rogo del Vecchione is a huge puppet of straw and rags, filled with firecrackers and set on fire every December 31. For the last twenty years, the creation of ‘the Vecchione’ has been entrusted to local artists, who choose a different theme to represent the year that has just passed.

There are some special rules in place, however! ‘The Vecchione’ must not be shorter than 12 metres and the crafting of the puppet must be made entirely with non-polluting materials such as wood, paper, cardboard and natural fabrics.

For New Year’s Eve 2020, going into 2021, Rogo del Vecchione was transmitted digitally by illustrator Chiara Rapaccini as a short film. It was accompanied by two big names in Italian song as protagonists, both born in Emilia: Vasco Rossi and Gianni Morandi.

Here’s what the Vecchione looked like on a past New Year’s Eve:


bologna's archways
The archways of Bologna

There are many things you don’t want to miss in Bologna. Located under the Salaborsa Library in the main square, Piazza Maggiore, you can go to see some ancient Roman ruins. Just across from the library is the majestic Palazzo d’Accursio, an ornate building that serves today as the town hall, but also has a series of chapels inside and a fine art museum!

On the western side of this square, you can enter one of Bologna’s most dynamic spots, a labyrinth of small alleyways with restaurants and bars. It is also home to the Mercato di Mezzo, an indoor food market selling food made from fresh and organic food of the highest quality. You can get anything here – aperitifs, all kinds of fresh pasta, tasty sandwiches, local beer and wine – the list goes on! You can also buy fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables.

basilica di san luca bologna
Basilica of San Luca, Bologna

We can also recommend a venture out to the Basilica of San Luca, a beautiful chapel located approximately 4km outside of the city centre to the south-west. The unique thing about it is that you can walk the whole way there under archways! It is an outstanding building with a panoramic view of the city and valley below, so this is an absolute must to tick off the list.

You’ll have your schedule full in Bologna, the vibrant city that it is. Also possessing a youthful and energetic atmosphere, it is hard not to be impressed by all it has to offer. Bologna is also well-situated if you want to extend your trip before or after New Year’s Eve – either into northern Italy or to either of the coasts. Florence, Cinque Terre, San Marino, Rimini, Venice, Verona and are all relatively closeby!



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