Via del Pratello is one of the few streets in Bologna showing the original appearance of the city centre. It is situated in the neighbourhood of Saragozza and gives its name to its immediate surroundings.
The street is covered by porticoes, except in some small areas, and is long about 600 meters. It is one of the main gathering places of the city, especially during weekends when it fills up with young people and night-life with its restaurants, pubs, beer pubs and aperitifs.
In via del Pratello we can also find workshops and artisan shops, herbalist’s shops, barbers and private social clubs where different activities take place: dance lessons, theatre companies and cinemas.
Via del Pratello was originally out of the second ring of walls, the so-called ring of the Torresotti, and was therefore immersed in a natural area surrounded by fields (“prati”). Some maintain its name comes from these fields, other yet consider that the name comes from it being surrounded by pear trees, from which “peradello”.
During the Roman Empire via del Pratello was actually a very rich area, but lost importance and relevance when it was excluded from the city centre. Its revival took place around the XI century, when Bologna slowly overcame the high middle ages period and the area started to be used by students who wanted to study at the University. Many found this area of the city cheaper and thus slowly repopulated it.
In those days the street ended at a gate which was walled-up in fear of an attack from the Milanese Army, and never opened again. In its place now stands the Oratory of San Rocco, which has hosted pilgrims throughout the centuries.
Due to its popularity among students this area has been stage of the great student’s protests during the 60s and 70s. Radio Alice had its seat right on this street, one of the first free and open radios in the city, which was used by students to exchange information and opinions. The story of Radio Alice is linked to the most violent episode of those years: the death of Francesco Lorusso on March 11th 1977 in via Mascarella during a rally.
People who were in the radio’s rooms immediately gave the news and kept updated those who were still on the streets. The following day the local police broke into in the radio and destroyed everything at hand.
The area is surrounded by extraordinary monuments, such as the Church of Saint Francis. Unfortunately, nowadays we cannot admire its full decorations because the church was severely damaged by the bombings during World War II. Yet, its almost intact façade still shows the magnificence of the building.
A big square opens right in front of the church, Piazza San Francesco, another gathering point for young people at weekends. At its rear side, the tombs of the so-called Glossatori rise. The Glossatori were professors of the ancient University of Bologna.
Via del Pratello flows very near another particular street of Bologna, Via della Grada; both have been crossed for a short time by the Reno river. The waters were subsequently moved towards Via della Grada, leaving 4 mills in via del Pratello which were turned into houses.
Via del Pratello also houses on numbers 34 and 36 a prison institution and the Juvenile Courthouse, where many volunteers work every day offering activities for the young detainees.
Every year, on the 25th of April, the street gets crowded and full of people. The rally “Il Pratello R'esiste” has been taking place there for over 10 years, offering and proposing different activities open to everyone, as long as the motif is union against fascism.